Cloud Gaming has been one of my hot button topics over the past few weeks. While I plan to continue testing the benefits and hindrances that cloud gaming presents, especially in MMOs, I was actually quite excited to see how well GeForce Now handles Guild Wars 2 in both casual and competitive play. While results will undoubtedly vary based on a number of factors, the results of my Guild Wars 2 GeForce Now test was not what I expected.
I’ve had the opportunity to test several Cloud Gaming platforms over the past several months. GeForce Now is a service that I feel gives a best mix of performance and value in comparison to others such as Shadow Cloud and Stadia. Guild Wars 2, like most MMOs over the past decade isn’t a graphically taxing game, nor does it require a high-end PC to run well. My expectations when I booted up Guild Wars 2 on GeForce Now was simply that, I would probably have similar performance to my PC, with roughly the same visuals that I’m accustomed to, with the rare occurrence that input lag or dropped packets would hinder my enjoyment periodically along the way.
The first thing that I noticed immediately when booting up the GeForce Now version of Guild Wars 2, is how different it looked on all max settings. On my gaming PC, and even when I play Guild Wars 2 on Shadow Cloud, the game looks pretty similar, the colors are bright, though at times it can feel washed out. GeForce Now’s color palette somehow felt much richer to me than when I play elsewhere. This is likely due to GeForce Now utilizing HDR, with the capability for additional filters, that likely improved my visual experience.
The next thing I noticed, after the initial loading lag that happens, even when I’m on my gaming desktop, is the general performance. GeForce Now is hands above what Stadia allows for, with settings that can give you up to 120 FPS (frames per second), but the resolution required for that is less than 1080p, and it doesn’t particularly look as great, even though it does get me to my near-desktop FPS. Instead I opted for a balanced game session, which is 1080p, and caps out at 60FPS. Generally speaking, the game performed quite well on this setting, giving me a nearly flawless framerate light skirmishes, on all high settings.
Performance wise, Guild Wars 2 has always kind of been finicky for me. In PvE, you can have instances where there is a lot going on around you, with dozens to even hundreds of players loading (or not fully loading) on your screen, with a little stutter marking your course when a new area or a lot of models get loaded in. GeForce Now was a mixed bag when it came to PvE encounters. Under normal circumstances where there was little to no network glitches, and not a ton of people, it looked great. When you had a ton of players together, not only did the visuals start to take a hit due to the compression, but the FPS took quite a hit too. There were times during a large boss fight that I was getting 20 FPS. That in itself was very disappointing. I tested my connection speeds several times during my game session to ensure that my network wasn’t underperforming, and I always averaged a solid 300 Mbps. In addition to that, my ping was also somewhat variable. At times I would have a ping as low as 20, and sometimes it would go all the way up to 75, which made the game feel slow.
In conquest PvP, where there were a smaller number of players and not as much going on in the environment, the game averaged much better. This is where I routinely saw my FPS increase to near 60 FPS, with much less compression. Usually you would expect much poorer performance in a competitive capacity, but what surprised me was how well I actually performed. The main problem, when I had a problem, was in the ping, which refused to stay steady, leaving some of my attacks to feel sluggish yet once again, but that was few and far between in comparison to the massive issues I noticed during my boss battle PvE exploits.
Something else that is important to note, is that, I never really had such performance issues utilizing Shadow Cloud for Guild Wars 2. For Shadow Cloud, even if something happens and I briefly lose connection, the character and game still stream directly to the Shadow PC, so the character itself can still perform actions even if you don’t necessarily see what is going on. In addition to that, load times are substantially faster on Shadow, and FPS is much more consistent even under high load. While I can’t help but be a proponent of Shadow because I’ve used it for a long time, GeForce Now still does have some benefits, even over hosting Guild Wars 2 on my gaming PC at home.
Because Guild Wars 2 is hosted on GeForce Now’s servers, everything is updated and ready to go when you launch the game. On Shadow and on my gaming rig, I have to constantly update, and since I don’t always play Guild Wars 2 every single day, it can be frustrating when you want to pop on to play with friends, but find out you have a dozen gigs of updates awaiting you. Secondly, the visuals, when they aren’t marred by performance and compression problems, are actually above what I see when playing on Shadow. Lastly, as with the previously mentioned peccadillo about having to update your game every so often, GeForce Now is a great space saver to PC’s that are running low on hard drive space. This allowed me to test the game on both my laptop and PC, without taking up gigs of space. Even Shadow has a space cap that will cost you if you intend on expanding it.
My Guild Wars 2 test on GeForce Now is definitely not what I expected. I figured I would get better performance in heavily populated areas, and terrible performance in competitive areas. In reality, I actually performed better in a competitive capacity than I did when GW2 decided to slow to a slideshow during a world boss fight. I do, however, intend to keep utilizing GeForce Now for Guild Wars 2. It makes sense to remove the space heavy game from Shadow Cloud, and keep it installed on my gaming PC here. I would likely only use Guild Wars 2 through GeForce Now based on my current experience for some light questing on my laptop while I hide away in bed on a lazy day.