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Guild Wars 2 review

Excellent
AT A GLANCE
  • The dynamic event system
  • Action-based combat
  • The lack of a monthly fee
  • A steep learning curve
  • Bugs and glitches
  • Random missing features

The first few hours of Guild Wars 2 are going to confuse you, but it’s not because the game is actually confusing. Guild Wars 2 is similar enough to other massively-multiplayer online games to lull you into a false sense of familiarity, which becomes problematic when things diverge--fairly quickly--into unfamiliar territory. Character creation is pretty much the same as every other MMO you’ve played, the opening areas are familiar, and then, suddenly, you’re tossed into an open world that doesn’t act like any open world in any other game. And you’re confused.

But it’s there, in those confounding opening hours, that Guild Wars 2’s greatest success lies: In ignoring standard genre tropes and formalities in favor of chasing superiority. For veteran MMO gamers, this means relearning basic mechanics you thought you knew well. And for the rest, Guild Wars 2 presents a refined online experience that frees the player to engage with the game world in the best way yet.

Watch the video review

Nearly every element of the MMO genre has been greatly modified. Mail can be sent and opened anywhere, there’s no competition for crafting materials scattered in the world, and though there’s no traditional trading (an oversight you’ll likely become frustrated by), being able to access the in-game trading post from anywhere is a nice touch. But even more important than basic quality-of-life upgrades are the leaps and bounds ArenaNet made to questing.

With exception to story missions, which aren’t all that interesting, basic quests in their traditional sense are gone, replaced with open-world events that can be completed either alone or with other players in the area. Since everyone who contributes to a kill or an event gets experience regardless of their group (and level, since Guild Wars 2 downscales you to the appropriate level for every location), players naturally work together to complete these events, taking down centaur armies or defeating rampaging dragons.

And when you fight these battles, both on the surface and underwater, they’ll be more enjoyable, thanks to action-based combat. Guild Wars 2’s battles are not as twitch-based as a typical action game, but the emphasis on movement and dodging makes encounters more enjoyable, and makes each weapon skill more important.

Skills are another area that diverge from the norm, with most being granted mid-way through your 100+ hour trek to level 80. What’s more, half are attached to the type of weapon you’re using, and change depending on what you currently have equipped in each hand. What’s more, only a dozen or so abilities are active at any given time, eschewing the complexity of having a screen half-full of square icons representing marginally dissimilar abilities.

Though this might seem oversimplified, you’ll find that different combinations can lead to drastically different builds, even within the same class and especially when other factors--like traits and items--are factored in. By changing up a few skills, you can, say, focus your Necromancer on area-of-effect spells or damage-over-time abilities, or turn your Thief from a ranged assassin to a stealthy ninja.

The abandonment of the traditional MMO “holy trinity” is a big deal, removing reliance on healers or tanks and allowing every class to be fun in and of itself. Each class has a heal, and any player can resurrect another at any time--you're even able to resurrect yourself, as long as you take down an enemy in the fleeting seconds between being knocked down and dying.

These mechanics, in conjunction with group events, create a strange dynamic that sets the community of Guild Wars 2 apart from those of other MMOs. Most players are surprisingly helpful, and people are almost always willing to save you when you’re in need or to resurrect you when you’ve fallen. Players will often go far out of their way to help you even when you’re not in their group, because everyone benefits from there being more people in the world. The flip side of this, however, is that there’s far less traditional grouping, making for a more social game that’s remarkably impersonal.

It’s a trade-off you’ll be willing to make when you see what it allows you to accomplish. Players aren’t encumbered by the formalities of grouping or the fear of losing out on experience by helping nearby players, which creates massive armies of players capable of taking down even the toughest opponents. Public events aren’t new to the genre, but the ones found in Guild Wars 2 are the best in their class, rewarding you for your contributions in the giant battles you’ll literally walk into in the open world. They’re wonderful, and every bit as massive as we’ve seen in any other MMO. Better yet, they happen so frequently that you’ll be able to experience raid-sized bosses and 50+ person battles on an hourly basis.

Because leveling is so fun, and you’re allowed to stay in a zone far after you’ve outleveled its content, the game becomes more about completion than blindly racing toward the level cap. Guild Wars 2 breaks down all of the important objectives in any given zone--skill point challenges, discoverable vistas (which often require precarious platforming to uncover), points of interest, and area events--and tracks how close you are to completing it all.

Check out a group event in progress

Before long, you’ll find that “100%ing” each area on the map can become as addictive as anything found in any other MMO. You’re given achievements, in-game items, and experience for scouring the zone and uncovering its every secret. And since the content you’re finding is so enjoyable, it never feels like a chore. Typically, MMOs acknowledge completionism--Guild Wars 2 rewards it. There’s still a fairly traditional MMO end-game, with harder versions of the game’s dungeons and content gated off for any players under level 80, but it takes a backseat to simply wanting to do everything. Well, and to kill more people in player-versus-player combat.

PVP is actually available from the start, and comes in two distinctly different flavors. The first is called “The Mists,” which is a competitive mode where all players are stripped of their gear and leveled to 80. This puts everyone, regardless of level or items, on an even playing field, making for a more clean, competitive system. At the same time, it also works against it by making it so gated off that it feels almost like a separate game, as rewards earned in The Mists stay in The Mists.

The other mode is World-versus-World-versus-World, which pits three servers against each other in a massive, nonstop battle. It, too, feels like a separate game, but for the better--WvWvW takes place on a different persistent map, featuring dozens of capturable bases and castles to attack and defend. It sometimes gets laggy, what with hundreds of players on screen at any given time, but it’s a ton of fun, giving hardcore PVP players a 24-7 warzone that rewards coordinating with massive armadas of players. Loot, experience, and even server-wide buffs are rewards for success.

Many predicted that Guild Wars 2 would lack content because it forgoes a monthly subscription fee, but this couldn’t be further from the truth--in fact, it’s actually a better game for it. There are no mechanics built solely to keep you playing once you’ve played enough, or to lock content away to force players to constantly remake new characters. Just about everything is available on one playthrough, making a more complete game that’s less stingy with its content. There’s also a cash shop for cosmetic items and boosts, but besides charging for keys used to unlock lootable chests (that give stuff you can buy in the cash shop), and it's arguably beneficial, but not at all detrimental.

Guild Wars 2 is everything a massively-multiplayer online RPG should be. It’s original, massive in scope, and wonderfully social, removing many of the gates that held back the genre in the past. Being able to play with friends regardless of level or class is a gigantic leap forward, and one that, when mixed in with all of the other innovations in the genre, make Guild Wars 2 one of the best MMOs currently available.

More Info

Release date: Aug 28 2012 - PC (US)
Available Platforms: PC
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: NCSoft
Developed by: NCSoft
Franchise: Guild Wars
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Blood, Use of Alcohol, Violence, Mild Language

Topics

MMO

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16 comments

  • Paintitblack - November 30, 2012 7:21 a.m.

    I've started GuildWars just because I didn't know what to do with the paysafecard vouchers I got for my birthday but I tell you what... It's an amazing game, much better than I've expected! I really loved the graphics, the characters, the story, the quests - everything. My friends and I quit playing Diablo 3 because of the GuldWars. And lots of people I know did the same.
  • lazer59882 - September 12, 2012 2:23 p.m.

    i played the first one and it's the only MMO i've played to date. the graphics were nice, but i couldn't care less about interacting with people, and most of the time i found having other people around doing dance moves and talking in internet-speak just distracting. and playing an MMO while hating all the other players and wanting to do everything alone gets incredibly boring incredibly quickly, so i was done within 5 hours. this sequel looks good but maybe one day NCSoft will make a single player RPG for the rest of us, since they won't be busy gouging money from people every month, WoW style
  • neely-stewart - September 12, 2012 10:35 a.m.

    This game is a 10/10 and here's why. Aside from the new combat (if you think it's simple your not really using it to it's full potential, and you'll die in a dungeon, horribly, over and over again). There is a learning curve for those of us who are used to "stand in a corner and heal or dps" or "stand still" and spank. This isn't WoW. And it takes an adjustment (I'm still learning how use this more complex but less button system to it's fullest). Aside from the making grind quests, i.e. go collect 50 pig snouts and 80 worm anuses, into collect 50 pig snouts, OR 800 worm anuses, OR put out these fires. So no more kill boars in the forest to reach level 60 ala South Park. Aside from getting xp for everything you do. Aside from crafting actually being fun. Aside from a personal story for your characters. Aside from the dynamic events turning into a chain that takes you across the countryside only to have the quest turn into a merchant who sells you those lovely worm anuses as a necklace that boosts your stats... Aside from all the little things, the little details, the dyes to changer your armor, the beautiful artwork, the xp and rewards for just exploring, the lack of asshattery that happens when you have that boss KS'd out from you, or have resources stolen out from under you... Aside from all that, and much more...it's a 10 because it is packed full of content that has nothing to do with your story, or the game's story or the quests. I was in Lion's Arch and I overheard two skritt talking. One about a hidden hideout. The other skritt told him to stay with her as they probably figured out he knew and closed the opening he found. He started to walk away, and I followed him and found the hideout for the Whispers group. All from listening to a random conversatin with an NPC and following where they lead. I found a chest from a jumping quest, which lead me to another small jumping puzzle to a dungeon of the Nightmare Court which held another chest. There is a Quaggan swimming in a town humming a toon, in that room is an organ shaped like a coral plant. Play the tune she's humming and a shell opens up and there's a chest. Anet thinks alot of us as players. They think we'll explore, be curious, and pay attention. That's love, and some mad respect, right there. Worried about content cuz you're not forking over $15 bones a month? Bullocks! This game is so full of content, I'll be dining on it long after the next expansion comes out. An expansion that I will happily, gleefully, cheerfully fork over some more money for. I paid $15 a month to play WoW for years. I enjoyed it. Until I was forking over $15 for months with no updates, until six months later.By then I had paid $90 to get a raid? Yeah, I am never paying a monthly subscription again. That's my money, do what you like with yours. As for me, with what Anet has given me aleady? WOW! And bored, yeah, no.
  • neely-stewart - September 12, 2012 10:40 a.m.

    Oops, sorry for the lack of edit. Conversation, not converstin. And tune, not toon.
  • Alkaid - September 11, 2012 8:18 p.m.

    Game is decent but I can say once I hit 100% with a single character I'm done as I'll have done all the stuff and I'm not a big PvP person and I don't want to reroll another guy and do everything all over again.
  • ObliqueZombie - September 11, 2012 7:44 p.m.

    Nice video review, I liked the voice over. Who did it? Because kudos to them.
  • larkan - September 11, 2012 11:09 a.m.

    I bought it, played my Ranger to 10, and honestly got bored. Probably because I don't feel the necessity to play it because I have X amount of time left before I have to drop more money to play again. That's the bad part of games like this, you don't NEED to play it to feel like you're not wasting money, so you can drop it whenever you want and not feel guilty.
  • FriendlyFire - September 11, 2012 2:04 p.m.

    Why is it a bad part? To me it's one of its best features: not feeling guilty for not playing. If I get sick of the game, I can put it down for a week and I haven't lost money. As a bonus, since the game's not focused on gigantic party-based raids and such, you're not even slowing your guild down for doing it. Dungeons are mostly 5-man groups (though perhaps the later dungeons go higher, but I doubt it'd go higher than 8), WvWvW works whether you're one, five or fifty and PvP also has fairly limited party sizes. Also, playing to level 10 means you've experienced nothing. You haven't even seen one of the large bosses outside of the simplistic tutorial one.
  • robertpopovic - September 11, 2012 11:05 a.m.

    Gawd and it's only been a week since I already agreed to myself that I would not get it. Now the temptation grows stronger ._.
  • wadesmit - September 11, 2012 1:35 p.m.

    If the reason you're holding off on the purchase is that you're scared you'll get addicted... Get it. You'll get addicted, but you know you want to ;)
  • robertpopovic - September 12, 2012 6:36 a.m.

    Nahw, it's more that I already have enough games to play without needing another huge timesink :P Still, who knows!
  • NelosAngelos - August 29, 2012 1:05 a.m.

    An incredible game. I got the headstart and have been sinking hours into it. Can't wait to read more, glad your experience with it is going well so far.
  • ray4594 - August 29, 2012 12:12 a.m.

    Regarding dying a lot, its definitely a learning curve. I am currently playing a as ranger and I only die when I get outnumbered and cannot kite, but other than that I do not die very often.
  • ObliqueZombie - August 28, 2012 2:14 p.m.

    I like this format a lot, despite what others' gripe about. I DO wish, however, that there was a way to use the arrow keys to navigate the pictures. Anyway, the format gives me digestible chunks while reading this. While I do like PC Gamer and their writing style a whole lot, I feel it's a bit daunting at times to start reading when I know I have some serious college stuff to do. (And then I suck it up and realize it's not that much at all.) Great preview as well, guys. I, unfortunately, can't get it for now. I'm still stuck on WoW and preparing for MoP, and I can't buy any other game besides the ones I've already purchased and Dishonored. I'll be getting this when I have the money, for damn sure.
  • bigwill1221 - August 28, 2012 2:09 p.m.

    Looks a bit more interesting... I should pick this up when I have the moneys >_<. Also 2 unreadable captchass gahhhh

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