The MMO community has seen its fair share of competition over the past year with the release of several new games and updates to current ones. From BioWare, we got Star Wars: The Old Republic at the end of last year followed by The Secret World by Funcom. ArenaNet’s Guild Wars 2 has been out for a few weeks, giving players who have been burned out on ‘theme-park’ gameplay a chance to indulge themselves in more old-school tactics.
With a focus on PVP, the latest addition to the MMO scene takes us back to a more traditional fantasy world surrounded by magic and ogres instead of blaster pistols and swanky posh clothing. Still, the trip to nostalgia doesn’t come without a price, both figuratively and literally. Glitches, exploits and some missing key features gave this title a rocky launch, while the repetitive gameplay has even made some of the most enthusiastic players to call it quits. Still, the game and its community continue to push forward.
Taking a more in-depth look at Guild Wars 2, let’s talk about story. One of the defining elements of this game is that players are able to choose their own little adventure before starting out. Picking your race, origins and whatever tickles your fancy in the character creation screen adds a touch of personality to the game before you even begin.
This is great if making a comparison to a similar setup in SWTOR, which only develops your personal story after you create the character and not before. Based on these choices, you’re then able to set out on your own, be it as a noble human who lost his parents along the way or having some freaky dreams about a large deer before being birthed from a tree. These choices alter the rest of your gameplay, though I did find some of it just to be fluff. Speaking from personal experiences, the good stuff doesn’t happen until later in the game, around level 30.
Once in the world, you’ll seriously hit the ground running. There’s little explanation as how to fight, but the simplicity of the combat makes is so that you really don’t need a guide telling you what to do. In the previous impression pieces before this review, I touched on how the combat works. Skills are based on what you’re wielding, with two different sets of weapons that can be swapped back and forth on a short timer.
Based on those weapons, your skills will change. When dual-wielding, your skill bar is divided between your main hand and off-hand. This does allow for more variety, but I found that unless you’re in a group, you might tend to stick with what you’re most comfortable with. Most of the time spent on my Guardian , I had a shield equipped; only switching between a more DPS-based main hand sword and a more tank-based main hand mace.
While some players consider this game to be more of a ‘sandbox’ MMO, I did not find much of a difference between this and other theme park-style games. Enemies are selected, hotkey buttons are pressed for skills with cooldowns and the bad guys die. This gameplay is highly repetitive with a rinse and repeat way of leveling on the field. To top it off, there isn’t much variety in the mobs either. Even wandering through the different starter zones, you’ll still see the same handful of monsters over and over again.
While I thought I had at least made a dent in the centaur population, as I continued to level and circle the map, I realized that I hadn’t even scratched the surface. While it’s true that the different areas do offer their own flavors of monsters, they eventually start to overlap into this large zombie-ridden, centaur-controlled and bandit-occupied mass.
On the other hand, if you’re not interested in the field questing as you are in other things, there’s better news on that front. Crafting in this game is rather easy, especially with the Trading Post finally up and running. While crafting itself doesn’t really give you a lot of experience, achieving a new crafting level, on the other hand, turns out to be a bit overpowered in the amount of experience points that you’ll get.
ArenaNet has acknowledged this fact and states that they will be working on finding a balance in the future. I’m not really sure when that future will be, but there are constant updates to the game already. I would suggest getting it while you can. PVP is another way to level, as the fight is everlasting. You can escort carts, defend or overrun an enemy’s keep. If you just can’t get enough of zerging the mess out of your rivals, you’ll have an amazing time.
I wouldn’t call the PvP skill-based, just as I wouldn’t with the dungeons and open events. Guild Wars 2 seems to be more about throwing as many warm bodies at something as you can. It’s victory by sheer brute force instead of tactics. Keep in mind that this game doesn’t use the trinity system, and there isn’t anyone who has the assigned roles of Healer, Tank and DPS. On the upside, players can do what they want without any restrictions, but on the other hand, players can do what they want without any restrictions. If you’re the type that finds comfort in knowing your role, you might have a hard time adjusting to this game.
However, if you love the idea of not being held back based on the classes you pick, then this game will make you giddy like a school girl. You’ll have a great time tearing through mobs, rushing players in the PVP and throwing yourself against giant open-world boss fights. You may even get a few kicks out of how the dungeons are setup, as there are no wipes. If you die, you just get sent to a teleporter and throw yourself against the boss over and over again until it no longer has any HP.
While I hate to say that this game is the anti-MMORPG, it definitely goes against the growing trend of being punished for failure. Also, keep in mind that the reason I mention throwing yourself into the fight is also because the mobs aren’t that easy to take down the first couple of times. There’s still a learning curve of knowing your limitations, skill usage and boss mechanics, but without the fear of failing and having to start over.
Since the game is a few weeks out, I won’t be hung up too much on the rocky head start issues that were mentioned in the week one impressions piece. For those who might have missed it, the title launched missing quite a few key features including the Trading Post and forums on the website. They continued to be offline until recently, as ArenaNet claimed security issues with both. Still, the Trading Post is taken down quite often for quick maintenance still as you can read on the official Twitter feed.
Opening launch also had several glitches including map and party issues, problems with overflow transportation and other general issues that have mostly been addressed. Still, I find myself teleported or spawned into closed off buildings at least a few times during every gameplay, but no game is without its fair share of problems. It’s how the company handles minor issues during the game’s lifespan what matters the most, so long as it’s nothing game-breaking, things are fine.
Overall, Guild Wars 2 has been solid but still feels incomplete. It’s a good start that can go either way with future expansions. Hopefully, we’ll see some more variation in mobs and questing as well as a better way to get around (crossing my fingers on the introduction of mounts). The voice acting is superb, casting many of the same industry veterans that BioWare did for SWTOR, including fan favorites such as Nolan North, Yuri Lowenthal and Neil Kaplan.
While I can’t see myself playing this game daily, the buy-to-play model does mean that it’ll stay on my hard drive as an alternative to my regular schedule. Perhaps the end-game will draw me in more than the beginning and middle of the road leveling experiences, but until then, I can only truly recommend this game to those who are unhappy with their current MMORPG line up and who are looking for something else to spend their time and money on.
Here’s the Rundown:
+ Beautiful open world with lush scenery
+ Fantastic character creation and customization
+ Fluid combat and gameplay
– Questing is grindy and repetitive with only a handful of mobs
– Leveling system may leave you feeling unaccomplished
7 and 7.5 represent a game that overall manages to be worth a playthrough, just not worth the full price at launch. These scores are for games that are relatively good or even really good, but generally worth waiting for a sale or picking up as a rental when possible.
Guild Wars 2 was developed and published by ArenaNet. It was released on August 28, 2012. A copy was provided by the publisher to RipTen for the purposes of review.