Guild Wars 2 has finally landed, heralding a new generation for the world renowned series after the long running success of its predecessor Guild Wars. Having already clocked in over 2 million units sold and well over 400,000 players concurrently online (peak) within its first week, it’s already safe to say that Guild Wars 2 has been commercial success. But it's numbers like this that caught my attention to pick it up and see what all the fuss is about.
I've been a fan of RPG gaming for a long time, but I've never really gotten into the whole MMORPG side of things, likely due to time constraints with work and family life. After following news story after news story about this game for many months and combine that with the fact that all my friends rushed out to buy it, I didn't want to miss out on all the fun with Guild Wars 2.
Guild Wars 2 was developed by NCsoft and was under development since early 2007, so with 5 years on the clock I don’t doubt the developers have put every bit of effort possible into creating a well thought out game. Set in the lands of Tyria the games story follows the reappearance of something called Destiny’s Edge, who are a guild dedicated to fighting the Elder Dragons, who are a race creatures that have taken over control of the lands. It’s a fairly typical RPG formula but one that is tried and tested, evil creature/being/person causes issues, a group of people happen to be fully qualified for the job and step up to take their boot to the issue, simple yet effective.
Rather than follow your typical a to b formula, Guild Wars 2 runs in a fully online persistent world, we're treated with more dynamic missions instead of the usual quest system and the game responds really well too, given that the game is persistent it’s nice to see that your actions can have a lasting effect to the overall story of the game rather than just play along with it.
There are a few really nice touches to the game that I do like though, such as the implementation of Vistas (no not the operating system, but more to do with sightseeing). Go wandering and exploring and you can discover these vistas. Doing so will earn you a nice little cinematic view of the area and experience points for your troubles. It helps make those long wanders that little more rewarding.
The character creation screen has a few interesting features too, aside from the usual customization and class options you can choose seemingly random facts and information about your character. Such as why you do or don't like wearing a certain piece of armor and the game works it all into your characters personal back story. It adds a nice little personal twist to each person’s story.
Combat has been tweaked this time around too, with much more fluid combat and an easier to understand skill set for each class. While this does leave the characters with a jack-of-all-trade feel to them, it keeps things fairly equal and prevents one person from not being able to do something the other cannot, but as far as truly unique skills and complex raids goes, it does leave a little void there that I know hardcore WoW fans will miss.
Gone are the systems of waiting for spawns of beasts to tag your kill and earn your EXP only to find someone else got the first hit after shoving you out of the way. Instead is an open loot system where anyone who lays the pain on a foe gets the rewards, it’s as simple as that. Sure it takes a lot of the competition out of it but it also makes the whole thing a more pleasant and co-operative friendly experience.
One of the more interesting new features to Guild Wars 2 is the introduction of a dynamic level system, one that is no doubt going to anger half the fans and please the rest. It's always been an RPG staple that when you're a high level player, you can trundle back to the early parts of the game and lay waste to the simple beasts that inhabit it, either for cheap XP or to just let off some steam. You could also go back and help lower level players or friends with the early missions and put your strength to good use. This is no longer the case, if you're level 40 and wander back to a level 10 area you will be granted an "effective level", which is area level + 1, so you're still a little stronger, but it keeps the playing field as level as possible. This of course doesn't work in reverse, step into a higher level area and you won't rank up to match it.
Quests now flow dynamically, automatically triggering when the time and place is right which leaves you free to explore the world and generally mingle, its saves from having to find the one stupid NPC hiding in a building to give a certain quest and means you can focus on the core gameplay elements of the game. You can also find things like the Skill Point challenges, such as hunts for certain special and often tough enemies that keep you exploring the further reaches of the games environment, either way, there is always something to do. But even with all the multiplayer focus on the gameplay, there is nothing stopping you from jumping in headfirst all by yourself, even most of the quests here can be completed solo, but with well-balanced characters throughout, it’s easy to pair up with almost anyone of any class to complete a quest together, most of the time it’s just simply more fun to bring a few friends into the mix when heading out on missions.
Visually the game doesn't fail to impress, as NCsoft have clearly worked their fingers to the bone creating a beautifully realised and expansive world, which is really brought to life with a robust game engine and some superb animation throughout. Sure the voice acting can be a little off the bat some times, but it’s a tricky thing to keep in balance when you’re working on such a large scale with so much dialogue and races, but if the trade-off way this gorgeous looking game engine, then I can live with that.
There really is something for everyone here are far as an MMO goes and while it may not fully fulfil the desires of the hard core MMORPG crowd with its somewhat simplified levelling system and classes. It definitely goes a long way to making a more unified gaming community that you really want to spend time in exploring and actually working together with people in. The inclusion of some great new PvP features and even its World v World modes helps liven up this new format also, with all players on a level playing field with max stats or a grand battle in WvW that sets three servers in an all-out war from controller of a large map.
Gone are the days of fighting against the system, grinding the world till you feel your brain turn to mush, or having to find some high level tank to help you on a particular quest, it’s all about bringing whoever you want to the party and having fun and its exactly this that is going to appeal to the mass audience, it’s also what has me hooked to this game. I don't feel lost within its world and can take my own approach to the MMO genre, sure not all of its perfect, but it strikes one of the best balances in combat, action, story and social play that I've ever seen in an MMO.
But in the spirit of saving the best thing till last, my favourite feature about Guild Wars 2 has to be its price, you pay the retail on the disc/digital download and that’s it, with no monthly subscriptions you don’t feel obliged to pay and play on a month to month basis. Something that always put me off titles like World of Warcraft is the fees and it’s something that makes Guild Wars 2 superb value for money. I highly recommend you check out Guild Wars 2, especially if you’re new to the whole MMORPG genre.