Sequels in entertainment media are always a dicey affair. For every Godfather II, there’s a Mortal Kombat Annihilation. For every Ghostbusters, there’s a Ghostbusters II. You get the point.
And it’s not like sequels are a new concept to the video game genre, or even to the MMORPG genre. There’s EverQuest and EverQuest II, Lineage and Lineage II, Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV, Jumpgate and Jumpgate Evolution (eventually), Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 (for a while) and probably a few that I’ve managed to forget and will no doubt hear about at length on the forums.
The point is that in a number of these scenarios, there is a strong argument to be made that the original game was actually the stronger of the two, while the sequel fell short of expectations.
So, that leads us to the logical question as to whether or not Guild Wars 2, as a sequel to its predecessor, will follow that trend, meet expectations, or even possibly exceed the expectations of the genre.
To my mind, the original Guild Wars holds a significant place in the history of the MMORPG. Let’s take a trip back in time:
In November of 2004, the world saw the debut of what would become the singular defining game for the MMORPG genre, an MMORPG based on an extremely popular and successful RTS franchise: World of Warcraft.
When WoWt hit shelves it took the gaming world by storm, making the MMORPG genre, which had until that point occupied only a small niche of the video gaming market, a much more popular and visible companion to its video game cousins. In fact, it was hard to throw a stone in any gaming community without hearing something about the world of Azeroth.
There was only one catch. Mixed in with the folks who adapted quite readily to the idea of paying a monthly subscription fee for access to an MMORPG were those who just weren’t ready to commit. Long time gamers who really liked the idea and concept of a large scale fantasy game that they could play with both friends and complete strangers, sort of an MMORPG-Lite. Those people were out of luck until April of 2005 when NCSoft and ArenaNet launched Guild Wars.
Now, there is an honest argument to be made that the original Guild Wars was an MMO-lite, with its heavy use of instancing and lack of a truly open world, but honestly, that was exactly what the genre needed at a time when it was just beginning to move into the mainstream of gaming, and while World of Warcraft often gets the credit for introducing a generation of gamers to the diverse array of MMORPGs that are now available, Guild Wars remains another unsung hero of that battle.
Reacting to market trends in much the same way that they did in 2005, the folks at ArenaNet have identified a niche in MMO gaming that isn’t being filled and are currently moving to fill it.
While theme park MMOs based on the EQII / WoW model have been the norm and fill the current market, old-school fans have been clamoring for a deeper world experience more akin to the sandboxes of old, ArenaNet has opted to provide something in between. Not a true sandbox, but not a typical game on rails either. With a bold strategy in terms of providing a living, changing game world, Guild Wars 2, like its predecessor, looks to set itself apart.
Will this sequel live up to the expectations of so many gamers who first cut their MMO teeth on the game? only time can really tell.