Guild Wars 2

8.6 Overall Score
Gameplay: 10/10
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 8/10

Character Creation | Story and Lore | Renown Hearts(Questing) | Leveling

What is Guild Wars 2?

Guild Wars 2 is a MMORPG released by ArenaNet/NCSoft. It has been touted as a re-imagining of the genre. Released in August 2012 it received universal acclaim by many. Set in the world of Tyria you set out to destroy the five Elder Dragons who have awoken since the time of the original Guild Wars. The player is tasked with reuniting the members of Destiny’s Edge in hopes to slay Zhaitan, the undead Elder Dragon.

Character Creation

In this aspect of the game ArenaNet excelled greatly. When I first set out to create my character I was almost overwhelmed by the customization provided. First off you pick from five races: Charr, Human, Norn, Asura and Slyvari. Each of these Races have two or three different back stories you can choose from later which changes your introduction and quest-line upon entering Tyria.

Once you have chosen your race you then pick from eight character classes: Elementalist, Warrior, Guardian, Engineer, Ranger, Necromancer, Thief and Mesmer. There is some overlap from the previous Guild Wars here and there are also new classes to go along with it. I like this approach to a sequel game. The fact that I can still be familiar with what some of the classes are all about is nice and at the same time I can jump into something totally new and different. Do not confuse what I am saying here.. the classes that did come over from the original Guild Wars have changed but at least I know what type of character I am expecting to play.

After you pick your class you then dive into your characters appearance. As per most modern day MMOs you have an assortment of sliders. From height to physique to brow thickness it is all there. One of the unique aspects of Guild Wars and now Guild Wars 2 is the ability to dye your armor. It is here where you can also choose you base color for your armor. As you progress through the game you can collect rare color and change your look as you progress.

Once you are done customizing your character’s look you then move on to the “custom” background options which change your starting story. (Around level 20 you are basically on the same story as everyone else but this is a nice change and allows you to play the same race more than once without getting bored out of your mind.) There are a few steps in this process and each one leads you down a slightly different path with quest-lines than the other. These background choices determine what pet you may start with or how you handle yourself in social situations. All in all the background options give your character a little flavor that makes you feel a little more invested and personable.

At the end of it all of course is where you put your character name.. of course for me I choose to go with “I Have Big Boobs.” I know… original….

Gameplay

As with almost any MMO you play this category can be huge. I am just going to go over some of the more “game changing” things that Guild Wars 2 provides to the genre.

1. Questing: Remember all those other MMOs.. you go and talk to Billie and she wants you to slap some bandits around then come back and give her their severed fingers as proof. Once everyone else sees how well you can take care of business about half the town pops up with exclamations above their heads in hopes that they too can have you do something for them as well.

In short Guild Wars 2 does not get rid of this concept. You are still killing things and collecting things just like the other MMOs but there is one big significant change that to me I think should be in all new MMOs from now on: Renown Hearts. These are also known as renown regions or tasks in game. What happens with these is when you get close to a renown heart a quest pops up in the upper right hand side of your screen. It tells you what you can do in order to accomplish the goal in the local area. These take the place of traditional quests with the difference that rather than consisting of a checklist the player needs to do in sequence, they are simply a list of actions or activities that will all contribute to the progress of that heart. For example: I run into the area and I have a few options I can Take out Inquest operatives(kill stuff), sabotage their golems and experiments(click stuff), destroy lab equipment(click more stuff), and rescue prisoners(talk to stuff). This allows me as the player to choose what I would like to do to complete the area. If I like to kill things all day then I can just do the kill stuff part of the heart. If I do not feel like fighting I can go and sabotage things. Or if I want I can do both. In either case I get XP for killing and sabotaging things so both are feasable. Once I kill enough things or sabotage enough stuff the quest completes and I am on to the next thing. I didn’t have to talk to anyone or turn anything in. Awesome!

2. Experience: Lets go back to remembering for a minute. Lets say a recent expansion came out for a very popular MMO. To get from level 85 to level 86 you need 13,000,000 xp…. 13 MILLION for one level. HOLY SHIT BALLS!! Anyways you go along your business and beat the ever loving shit out of tons of pandas until you level. Now this is a little exaggerated.. you can also hop into a dungeon and beat the ever loving shit out of stuff until you level as well. Completing quests also give you boosts in xp but really for the most part you are killing things to level. This is the standard MMO system.

Guild Wars 2 again uses this same system but then adds so many other factors to it that I literally for the first time in my MMO career could level at nice pace throughout first level to max level. It was satisfying to me that I was advancing at a steady pace. Instead of climbing a cliff I was jogging up a hill. It was nice.. it felt smooth and here is why. YOU GAIN EXPERIENCE FOR ALMOST ANYTHING YOU DO. Aside from sitting on your ass to talking in chat you gain XP for everything else. Killing monsters, completing hearts, discovering new areas, completing dungeons, completing skill challenges, finding points of interest, discovering vistas, completing maps, harvesting materials, earning achievements, reviving dead people and crafting. Literally everything you do gains you XP. The second thing here is how much you gain. Alot of the activities you do give you a percentage of XP based off level. Lets say you decided to do a dungeon, when you complete it you gain 70% of the xp of your current level’s XP… 70%!!! One dungeon .. boom already 70% leveled. Same thing goes with anything else i mentioned. This allows people to really do what they want in the game and not really have to worry about grinding out those levels to advance. I can run around the map collecting materials for crafting half the day then craft the other half and gain levels doing it. I know other games give you XP for gathering and crafting but its 10 times slower than grinding out monster kills. This XP system is KEY to Guild Wars 2 success IMO.

3. Level Gap: Surely you have had a buddy start a MMO and play it till he/she hits level cap THEN invites you to the game to play with them and never wants to help you cause they are too high level and don’t have anything to gain from it. I been that buddy… a ton of times. I know.. I’m a douche.

Guild Wars 2 solves this problem a few ways. The first being that any zone your character is in auto adjusts your character level and stats for that zone. Say I am level 80(currently max level) and I want to help my good friend Noobtastic who is only level 5. I run to the level 5 zone and I am now level 5. I have the hit points and stats of a level 5 character so I do not completely overpower the zone. I gain XP like I was a level 5 there in the zone. One big difference is I get to keep all my skills I have earned from hitting level 80. These skills scale down but still give me a slight advantage over the normal level 5 character. This concept again is a good one and has been implemented in other MMOs. However I have mostly seen it the other way around. The games will boost you to your friend level and boost your stats but you have NO skills appropriate for that level. This works but not nearly as well as its reverse again IMO.

4. Skills: I mentioned this very slightly in the last segment. Just like in other MMOs you gain skills as you level. When you level in Guild Wars 2 you gain skill points and you buy whatever skill you want to use on your skill tree. Guild Wars sets itself apart from the other MMOs by allowing you to choose what skills you will learn first instead of you just learning them as you level. While there is still a tree aspect to skills you do have some ability to choose what skills you want in the different tiers of the tree. The BIGGER deal with you main skills in Guild Wars 2 is this: Whatever weapon you are wielding changes your base skill set. So lets say I am wielding a staff on my necromancer. When I wield the staff I have a set of skills that are mostly AOE attacks. However if I switch to a dagger and focus weapon all my skills now change to close combat attacks that deal bleed, drain and poison attacks. This system is unique to the MMO world as of now and it works really well in providing a “on the fly” spec change in the middle of combat.

5. PVP: Last but definitely not least is how Guild Wars 2 handles PvP. Most current MMOs have level based PvP. If you are level 29 you get put into a queue with others around your level and you go fight against each other. Guild Wars 2 takes a page from its origins and levels everyone to 80 and sticks them in the same queue. The obvious disadvantage of this I already touched on earlier. As a level 80 you have the hit points, stats and armor of a level 80 but you are lacking the good gear and skills a normal level 80 has. The only upside to this is around level 30 you essentially have one of each skill type so while you may not be as versatile as a normal level 80 you can compete. Lets get back to the plus sides.

Guild Wars 2 has both arena and world v world(WvW) pvp. I will not really touch on the arena aspect as it is very similar to most of the other MMO arena systems. However WvW is a completely different beast all together. WvW consists of three entire servers fighting against each other to take control of four maps. You can traverse any four of these maps and take over keeps, castles, resources and other such things. As you take over key places you gain resources that allow you to create war machines and upgrade your defenses. The more points you earn in WvW the bigger XP, reputation and other bonuses you gain for your server. These bonuses work while you are on your server doing different PvE things. It is a nice boost to have and really gives the PvP a little more meaning that just slaughtering people all day.

The second thing that is really nice about PvP is that you can level almost as fast as PvE and sometimes even faster. I dropped my Necromancer into PvP at level 30 and did not leave until I was 80! The PvP is so fun that I was not bored at all during that time. It also allowed me later to take time playing the rest of the PvE game due to the fact that I was already max level and didn’t feel rushed to hit 80.

The game really does a good job on improving some of the more boring elements of an MMO. The grind to me is gone for the most part and everything feels like it is advancing you in some way. Where was this game five years ago?

Graphics

This is where I suppose as a computer nerd I can get a little more technical and maybe a little nit picky. Guild Wars 2 graphics are great don’t get me wrong.. but they are really nothing to write home about. I like the more realistic feel they have over the more cartoon looking MMOs. ArenaNet seems to have taken alot of time on the models and armor in the game but really for 2012 they are pretty much the norm for most games. While this is not a bad thing there also really isn’t anything spectacularly innovative here. Spell effects look nice and when you surface from swimming you have a watery effect on your screen for a few moments. Other than than it looks like any game should look in 2012.

Overall

Guild Wars 2 is a really great MMO. I think that it will hold up for many years to come. The gameplay keeps you engaged and you never really feel the grind. If you get bored killing monsters you can sit in town and craft all day to level. If you are bored with that go and PvP to gain your levels. I didn’t mention this before but there is no subscription fee which keeps you less focused on if you got your money’s worth this month and more focused on having fun. I hope that if you are looking for a new MMO for 2013 that you give Guild Wars 2 a shot. It is and will be a favorite of mine for years to come.

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