Guild Wars 2 Review
Guild Wars 2, arguably the most anticipated MMORPG of 2012, hit the markets August 28. The game claims to be the next gen MMO that will set the standards for the genre in the years to come. Made by Anet, the same people who made its predecessor Guild Wars, the game brings some exciting new elements to the table, including fast-paced dynamic combat and exciting new twists on the typical fantasy MMO features and the classes that we’re accustomed to.
Interface design is usually one of the more overlooked aspects of this genre but could make or break a new MMO. Guild Wars 2 has managed to exceed expectations in this regard; the interface is marvelously designed and coded, sleek, comfortable, easy on the eyes, the text is readable and formatted nicely and the buttons are responsive and perform well. It’s an interface that makes playing easy rather than making players struggle to make heads or tails of it.
You are flung into a beautiful world that comes to life; gone are the days of textures with pixels the size of keyboard keys and the avatar that looks like it’s green-screened on top of a bad background. The terrain and environment are amazing, the player and object models stellar. The graphics team did a really good job on the character animation as well; the fluid and seamless character animation has no awkward position resets or jitters, leaving you to focus on the gaming without distractions or trying to make sense of the product of poor animation work. The developers did a stunning job as well on particle effects, which bring those magic spells and attacks to life, although this can sometimes cause performance issues in big WvW or PvE groups as well as cause targets to turn into a bright white blob of light when focused on by many players.
The classes of the game are diverse and allow for different styles of play, not only between different classes but within the same class as well, giving the player a rich experience and many choices on how to play their chosen class. From DPS glass canons to support builds or CC builds with the right tactics, there’s almost nothing that can’t be achieved with the wide range of choices available.
The Classes offered by the game are as follows: Ranger, Thief, Guardian, Warrior, Elementalist, Necromancer, Engineer and Mesmer.
Made with a distinct strategy and play style, each class brings something new to the table, making the classes completely unique, each in its own way.
One of the main and most marketed features of Guild Wars 2 is the breaking up of the so called “Holy Trinity”; by removing healing classes from the game and giving every class self-heals (some classes still get some lightweight area effect heal skills as well), Guild Wars 2 attempts to break the classic DPS, Healer, Tank system. This new system has its ups and downs; it does introduce a certain balance in Player versus Player and Dungeons in that a team or group can function perfectly without a dedicated healer keeping them alive. It also makes solo PvE and leveling much more doable in comparison to other games, where you have to rely on potions to heal yourself during combat. It does however remove a certain element of teamwork from the game; since every member can sustain themselves, team composition in Dungeons and World vs. World decreases in importance and inter-class dependencies are reduced.
Whether it’s Elementalist, Thief or Warrior, no player needs to worry about running out of Mana, because there is no Mana in the game. Guild Wars 2 has done away with Mana as a resource system and switched to a cooldown-based system. There is also a unique class mechanic for every class such as adrenalin for warriors, clones and shattering for Mesmers & initiative for thieves, each functioning in a completely different way and making each class truly unique in its play style.
What sets GW2 apart from other MMO’s is that it’s a completely different combat and playing experience; there are two types of skills in the game, Weapon skills and Slot skills. The weapon skills are your main bread and butter and are specific to whichever weapon you are equipping; this makes weapon selection a strategic choice based on play style, rather than just an item with better numbers on it as we are used to in the MMO genre. Slot skills are your trump cards and have the power to change the tide of battle; each class is able to choose from tens of profession-specific ways to bash their opponent’s skull in, make a quick getaway or immobilize their enemy.
A big feature that was advertised heavily and anticipated was Combo Moves between players. Although it can come in pretty handy, this particular mechanic feels kind of lacking in terms of visuals and importance. The only way you know that you’ve scored a combo move with another player is via an icon that pops up, similar to the scrolling combat text, but it is however not to be underestimated in PvP, where that extra bit of damage or healing can decide who wins the fight.
There are a number of new features introduced in this game that change the combat from what some might be used to in other MMO’s, making a the combat experience much more than just standing in front of your enemy doing auto attacks. For one thing, the combat is highly positional, and players can dodge both targeted and area attacks by double tapping a movement key but they have to be careful of when to dodge, since dodging uses a resource system called Endurance which recharges at a moderate pace but could leave you losing a fight if you use it up unwisely.
Questing and Leveling
Although Guild Wars 2 boasts a unique questing experience, it was surprisingly similar to what we’ve seen before with just a few convenience tweaks. The quests are divided into three main categories: Normal Quests, Events and Personal Storyline.
When doing a normal quest, forget the hassle of talking to npcs and going all the way back so you can collect your experience points; the quests are area based, which basically means that you enter a certain area and the quest objectives start counting and in the end of a successful quest you receive your experience points and gold instantly; you can however choose to go back to the npc in charge of the quest for some unique rewards once the quest is done that you can purchase with karma points, another resource obtained by doing quests of all kinds.
An interesting twist on the conventional questing mechanics is that you can complete quests by accomplishing different objectives, which makes the experience a bit more interesting than just walking into the forest and killing X amount of giant rats. That, combined with not being able to see the exact count of objectives you need to finish adds a certain something to psychologically keep you going, since players can only see a progress bar.
Events are the things you wanna be constantly on the lookout for throughout your stay in Tyria; they are random initiating quests that provide better than average rewards. As you advance through the game, you will be able to take part in large event chains that offer great rewards and make changes to the zone you’re in.
Last but not least is your own personal story. This is an instanced quest-line that progresses with you until you reach endgame. And although each player goes through the same milestones and ending of this story-mode, you can choose different paths on how to get there, each with its own pros and cons.
It is however quite easy to “fall out of sync” as it were with your level zone; you can sometimes find that you have completed all there is to do in a zone and be 1 or 2 levels behind the next zone, which can sometimes be problematic, but easily remedied by doing the personal story or completing a couple of events.
Although the questing to reach endgame can be somewhat tedious after a while, the leveling rate is surprisingly fast compared to other MMORPGs, making it quite easy to reach the level-cap after a week or two.
The dungeons of Guild Wars 2 are massive, beautiful and give splendid rewards. Each encounter is a new, interesting and unique experience especially with the new class dynamics of the game. Heavily influenced by lore, the dungeon experience can be a turnoff for casual players or people who just don’t care for the story of the universe much, and the rewards to be had from the dungeons, although worth having, require a lot of grinding that can be boring and repetitive after a few times doing the same dungeon over and over. There are currently no dungeons in the game that are designed for more than 5 people, and there doesn’t seem to be plans to add some in the future which will leave many PvE oriented players somewhat annoyed.
Player versus Player
Surely the crown jewel of this game, Guild Wars 2 provides two different pvp experiences suited to players from all over the spectrum of the gaming world. Whether it’s epic large-scale sieges and magnificent battles or smaller team based matches you’re surely find something to intrigue you for hours to come. The game offers 2 distinct pvp modes; the first is structured pvp or spvp for short.
In this entirely skill and strategy based mode, gear and grind are the least of your concerns, you are teleported to a special “lobby map” where you are leveled up to the max level, granted all the skills of your class and have access to special pvp gear which is of the same level for all players making this mode a true test of skill by removing gear as a factor. In the Heart of the Mists only those with lightning fast reflexes and strategic prowess will triumph. For now the only mode available is 5v5 point capture, but each map has its own twist on it, providing different opportunities to get an edge on the opposing team.
That said, the Spvp progression seems a bit underdeveloped. Since all you really acquire from playing is weapon and armor skins, and what you do in Spvp cross over to your character outside of Spvp. Upon leaving The Mists, your avatar is reverted back to its original level and none of the items and skins there are available outside of the Spvp area. The mode also seems to be lacking in some sort of lasting bragging right, like some sort of leader-board or rating system to reward those who put a lot of time and effort into this mode.
The second mode of player versus player, and certainly the most loved and well received by the Guild Wars 2 community, is World vs. World vs. World. In this mode 3 servers are pitted against each other on 4 massive maps in a week-long struggle for dominance. In this mode, numbers, strategy, leadership and server cooperation and unity are most important to win the non-stop, ongoing, 24/7 battle.
From commanding hordes of players to flying solo or with a small elite team, WvW is diverse, exciting and the most addictive aspect of the game. In this mode you are able to deploy siege weapons and take and defend camps, towers, keeps, and there’s even a Castle that’s under constant contention.
Upon entry to one of the WvW maps, your character is scaled up to the maximum level, but unlike Spvp, your gear and the spells you have unlocked matter and will be a deciding factor in the battles to come, so be prepared. The massive WvW zones also feel like a standalone part of the game, so much so that some of the more pvp oriented players choose to adopt it as their home, leveling up there from start to finish and rarely, if ever, relying on the PvE aspect of the game. There are plenty of opportunities for the solo player or the tiny band of comrades to thrive on the WvW map; with a good deal of non-PvP events as well as small objectives like camps and towers there’s always experience, loot and glory to be had.
This massive warzone is not however without its setbacks; similar to other aspects of the game it still doesn’t feel complete. The role of guilds certainly feels downplayed in the grand scheme of things, not to mention the lack of character advancement. We also see a lack of a ranking system for guilds or players and a lack of rewards that are specific to this game mode, something that says “this player has dedicated a lot of effort and time fighting for the glory of his Realm”. Apart from a few passive bonuses achieved through accumulating points in WvW, the amount of effort a realm puts into coordination and teamwork seems unrewarded.
If I can come away from the PvP experience of Guild Wars 2 with something it’s that despite its flaws it certainly has the potential to be the best. Since the game was only released a short time ago, it’s definitely reasonable to expect that Anet will be expanding its PvP modes with new content updates and responding to community feedback.
Long Story Short
The Game is definitely worth the price you pay especially because no subscription is needed to keep playing, and although it still feels unfinished in many aspects (especially in endgame) it certainly feels like the next gen MMO we’ve all been craving and the setbacks described are nothing a content patch or two can’t fix. The game certainly has the potential to grow and offer the best PvP experience in the genre.