Guild Wars 2 Review: An MMO Apart

There’s a New Event Nearby, and it is in a little game called Guild Wars 2, the latest offering from ArenaNet. Fans of the original Guild Wars and its expansions likely wept tears of joy when it was announced and queued up for the head start weekend.

I was not a fan of Guild Wars. I played all of 20 minutes of that game and never logged on again. It simply did not do it for me during a time when I thought I was looking for an alternative to World of Warcraft. Based on the zealous recommendation of a trusted friend, I shelled out the $60 to preorder, gain access to the closed beta, and unlock the three day head start weekend.

Combat

So, here I am, in this arena, my level 2 Guardian (think paladinesque) Char (think furry) ready to do battle with some badass legionnaire kitty cat. My little quest indicator quietly suggested that I be higher level to attempt this feat. Bah. No challenge no glory or something, I thought. On that note, I put my well used sword and shield in my backpack, and whipped out my staff. Unfortunately, I had yet to use my staff, and, since in Guild Wars 2 you learn more powers the more you use a particular weapon, I only knew the very basic auto-attack power. Oops.

So, this pussycat charges at me, weapons ready to descend upon my own sad kitty forehead when…I moved. I simply did what was natural and got out of the way. And he missed me. In an MMO! He didn’t magically divert his charge into me, or apparently hit me from 10 feet to his left. In this situation, actively participating in single combat was rewarded! I then proceeded to kite him around the arena, blasting him occasionally with my very, very short ranged, not auto-targeting, staff attack. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t easy, but it was damn effective. And when he did get close, I soaked up a few quick attacks, and then simply moved when he wound up for his high powered attack. Perfection.

That is what I am talking about when I say Guild Wars 2 does not want to be “like” any other MMO. Wait, I haven’t said that yet? Well, a lot of other people have and it is simply true. Something as simple as character collision or attacks that do not auto hit is enough to make it feel like a different game. A player is rewarded for using more than one button in an MMO. What a novel idea. Going toe-to-toe with an enemy and alt-tabbing to update Friendster is no longer really possible.

Questing

The changes have expanded to questing as well. In Guild Wars 2, you have a story quest persisting in the top right of your screen, reminding you of a party you have to spy at or a trial you must prosecute. Then, when you are in certain areas, various situational quests will appear. Quests like, “Help Sergeant Bilco by killing centuars, disrupting their supplies and freeing imprisoned soldiers.” Near Bilco’s location, you’ll likely find the means to do all that, and you can go about enforcing the kingdom’s will on the centaur dogs to earn the favor of our good Sergeant. In return, you get some pocket change and karma points, both of which can be used to purchase items.

Afterward, you might get a “New Event Nearby” message flashing on your screen, and you’ll find out that the centaurs didn’t take too kindly to your recent attacks. They are preparing to assault the military camp, and they need you to help defend it!  The battle ensues, and waves of centaurs come. If you are victorious, then everyone’s happy. If you fail, you lose control of the camp and will probably get a new event in a little bit requesting you help retake it. They call these Dynamic Events, aptly so, due to how the world changes based upon success or failure. Granted, it is just a small area but, for instance, if there is a teleporter in the camp, it is not useable until Sergeant Bilco and his soldiers have complete control. I imagine (hope) that success and failure will have greater repercussions at higher levels.

These events are a lot of fun and perfect for keeping me playing after I meant to quit. I am just about to log off, and then those pesky centaurs are back, so I feel obligated to play just five more minutes. Sure, maybe there’s a bunch of other players there to take care of it, but, even though we are not an actual party, we all get credit. We can all benefit from the buffs thrown around. I cast a flame pit near some centaurs, and the archer who shoots through it gets extra fire damage on his arrows. We can each resurrect each other when we fall. The game encourages teamwork by not forcing the issue, and due to that, I have found myself working collaboratively with strangers far more often than I ever did in any other MMO.

In addition, there are random world events. For instance, I logged in at one point and received the standard “New Event Nearby” notification. Turns out, some fool named the Shadow Behemoth was stirring up trouble in the swamp. I rounded a corner and saw a black, shadowy skyscraper of a creature surrounded by dozens of players all focusing on killing it. Combat went through several phases where chunks of the behemoth fell off and spawned portals which we had to destroy. My mage died once but was resurrected by a nearby character. Did I mention that every character can resurrect fallen allies? Pretty sweet, right? All in all, it was a satisfactory fight, similar to defeating the green dragons that would occasionally spawn near the portals in World of Warcraft. One part sticks out to me though: The fact that I was never in a party, nor was I ever invited into one. We all just put the work in and got full credit. There was no game mechanic forcing us to work together in order to benefit. Awesome.

Crafting

My friend who got me to buy the game insists the professions are “amazing” and the game has the “best crafting of any MMO!” My experience with it is very limited comparatively, as he crafted throughout the beta to get the hang of it and I only just started. Guild Wars 2 has your normal professions: tailoring, leatherworking, jewelcrafting, etc. I read in General chat that you can actually learn all of the professions, but you can only ever have two active at once. That would be pretty cool if true.

Basically, you take the raw materials, work them into crafting materials and combine them to create basic items. However, to make magic items, you take those basic items and combine them with something called an insignia. That insignia, depending on its type, will give the item magical properties. So, a Malign Jute Insignia on a sword increases the damage from damage over time effects your character places on enemies. As far as I understand, there are no random attributes placed on crafted items like in some other RPGS (*cough* Diablo III *cough*), which is a good thing. In addition, there is a mechanic to discover new recipes, which actually sounds pretty cool. Apparently, you combine a variety of ingredients in a special window, and the game tells you if you can create something from them. However, since crafting it pretty much the last thing I get into in any RPG, I have not yet dabbled with it sufficiently enough to provide a strong opinion on it.

Conclusion

All of the above make Guild Wars 2 a great, rewarding game. The combat is exciting. The story quests are engaging. The crafting seems interesting and encourages the player to work at it. Beyond the above, there are dungeons, which I have not yet experienced, world vs. world PVP that levels you up to max level no matter what level you start at, or even the fact that the first few weeks of a brand new MMO have gone off without a hitch, more or less. Sure, the party interface apparently has some issues. The trading post has not been working. However, there were none of the devastating bugs or ridiculous queues that seem to plague new MMOs.

Guild Wars 2 gets a strong recommendation from this Robot Viking writer. If you are an advanced MMO player, there are plenty of things to bring you in, not the least of which are the novel crafting and the world vs. world pvp. If you are new to MMOs, you could definitely do a lot worse than Guild Wars 2. Star Wars: The Old Republic might beckon you due to the familiarity, but it really is not that great of a game. Guild Wars 2 is a great game, and not only is there plenty to explore, but you are in fact rewarded for taking the time to investigate your surroundings. Definitely consider it.

2 Responses to Guild Wars 2 Review: An MMO Apart

  1. One of the coolest things about Guild Wars 2 is that leveling doesn’t seem to matter a whole lot. For instance, with WoW, I would constantly watch my xp, hoping to get to that moment when I can get another talent point or get some new powers. Leveling just kind of happens in GW2. Half the time, I don’t even realize I’ve done it and find I have a small stockpile of points saved up to put into powers or talents. Pretty sweet.

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