Guild Wars 2 is different
Every developer promises that their MMORPG is completely different from every other MMORPG on the market, but upon release its usually apparent that, in reality, its pretty much all the same. You go to cities, get quests, kill rats, and repeat.
ArenaNet has made the same promises for Guild Wars 2, but after playing the game for over a dozen hours we actually see a lot of areas that the developer has innovated and broken the MMO mold.
The combat is action-based
Typical MMO combat is fairly monotonous. You have two-dozen skills spread out across four or five bars (though you tap on the same three throughout every battle). Its boring. Guild Wars 2 eschews this normality for action-packed combat that requires constant attention. Youll only have one bar of skills when you take to the battlefield (five combat abilities, one healing skill, three utility skills, and one Elite skill), but youll constantly be using them all while you tumble around, avoiding enemy attacks.
Its not about standing face-to-face with your enemy and tapping the same button, its about actually fighting them. Double tapping any direction executes a dodge roll that makes the player invulnerable, which leads to much more entertaining combat. When we played as an Elementalist wed constantly be rolling and running around the battlefield, casting powerful fire spells at our enemies who were trying their darndest to take us down. When surrounded we used our Elite skill, which turned us into a tornado, flinging our foes through the air. It was much more intense than games like The Old Republic, Rift, or World of Warcraft, feeling more like an action game than most other MMOs.
Different weapons grant different skills
The five combat skills we mentioned earlier arent the same for every weapon, and they arent class-based, either. Instead, each type of weapon comes with its own abilities that are unlocked with use. After a few minutes with a sword our Warrior had gained access to all of the sword abilities, but could switch to a rifle at any time as well.
The differences between these weapons was great, and makes perfect sense why would a mace and a sword work exactly the same? It adds nice versatility to any class in the game, putting more of an emphasis on the other utility skills than the combat abilities.
They abandoned the heal/tank/DPS Holy Trinity
The MMORPG (or RPG) Holy Trinity is the healer/DPS/tank combo. A big, beefy wall of shields stands in front of the bow, which fires as the staff keeps them both at full health. Its tried and true, but a little played out. In Guild Wars 2, this trinity is shattered by the removal of the healer class, replaced with every class having access to a healing ability. This lets the group dynamic be more free-form, letting nearly any group combination work.
Another reason this works (and another thing that makes Guild Wars 2 unique) is the Rally system. Once you run out of health youre knocked down, with access to a limited skill-bar that has you still actively participating in battle. When in this state you can be brought up by any ally, or you can get back on your feet by taking down an enemy. Its similar to the system Borderlands used, and works surprisingly well in an MMO.
It doesnt have typical MMO quests
When we say the game doesnt have typical MMO quests we dont mean Guild Wars 2s missions are more fun! It literally doesnt have typical MMO quests. Theyre not there. You dont go to a town, fill your quest log up with missions, and head out into the world to complete them. Instead, everything is dynamic, similar to the public quest system of games like Warhammer, Rift, and Champions Online. It takes the same idea of public quests and bumps it to the umpteenth level, with nearly every single objective being able to be completed in large, social environments without any punishments.
No more sitting around and waiting for a boss to spawn before watching another group come in and take him down before you land a blow. Its more realistic than that theres a giant monster about to take down the city. Freaking kill it. Once you do youre rewarded experience, loot, and favor that you can use to gain more items with local townspeople. Theres no stealing a players quest objective, theres only helping another player keep the world safe.
You can actually play with your friends, regardless of level or server
Anyone who has ever played an MMORPG knows that the best experience is when you play with friends, and yet, for whatever reason, MMO-makers seem to put dozens of hurdles to prevent this from actually happening. With Guild Wars 2, ArenaNet has implemented a number of systems that have the capability of completely changing this. If youre a max-level character, youre able to quest with your low-level friends without any penalties for them or punishments for you. In fact, its encouraged.
Traveling to a low-level area decreases your stats to be in-line with the areas. You still have all of you items, spells, and abilities, but itll still be a challenge to take things down as it should be. This means when your friend starts playing you can jump in with them at literally any level.
This has interesting cascading effects that sound absolutely stunning. If you and your friend make characters of different races, for instance, you can just travel to one area and complete all of the missions before going to the other one, and doing all of those. Since it scales you to the optimal level it just means that theres more content for everyone. You can even transfer between servers temporarily for free to play with friends (though your home server is still an important distinction for PvP and other elements).
Content added in the future can be perfect for any level
This is sort of an extension of the last point, but its worth drawing attention to in and of itself: in a typical MMO, a majority of the community hits level cap within a few months, leading the developers to create content specifically for them. This leaves the early and mid-level areas empty, receiving very little new content with the MMO becomes bloated and back-heavy.
Since every area scales the players down to the optimal level, ArenaNet can have its future content thrown into early/mid-level areas, giving both new and old players new content thats just as fun and fulfilling for everyone. This means that the game as a whole will continue to be improved with future patches, instead of just the end-game being improved time and time again. Its a remarkable idea, and if it works as well as it should it could totally become the norm for future MMOs.
It doesn't have traditional end-game
The pacing of the average MMO is like a racetrack with a treadmill at the end you race and race as fast as you can to get to the end, and once you get there you run in place until some more track is added. Its almost like a second game stacked onto the regular one.
In Guild Wars 2, the developers have gone to great lengths to make sure that this isnt the norm sure, there are end-game dungeons like there are in any other MMO, and there are more difficult versions of early-game dungeons available at launch, but thats not the point of GW2s end-game.
The experience that many love from an MMO endgame starts much earlier in Guild Wars 2. The developers believe the typical endgame content begins at level 1, as the entire game is about exploration, and seeing everything there is.
There are two very, very different types of PvP
Since everyone is on the same side in Guild Wars 2 theres no traditional open-world PvP. You dont need to worry about being ganked, and you dont need to fight against a rival faction. Instead, there are two-types of PvP: competitive, and World versus World. Competitive PvP consists of different arenas with different game modes, with team-deathmatch, capture-point, and that sort of thing. Here, all skills, abilities, and stats are leveled to the maximum you go in with no advantages because its meant to be legitimately competitive.
World versus World, on the other hand, is unlike anything weve seen in any other MMORPG. Its an entirely different, massive persistent game world, where three servers-worth of players are pitted against each other in a two-week long battle for world domination. There are capturable bases and buildable siege weapons, and buffs given to the winning team. Players are still all given max stats, but equipment still matters here, so it really is a battle of the servers. Its almost like the entire PvP system from Warhammer: Online was ripped out of Mythics game and shoved into Guild Wars 2, and its crazy ambitious.
Underwater gameplay expands the worlds size significantly
Even if Guild Wars 2 doesnt have the same square mileage of other MMOs (though were told its likely fairly close), the importance of underwater gameplay definitely expands the amount of world thats actually playable. Were well aware that theres stuff to do underwater in games like Rift and World of Warcraft, but in Guild Wars 2 underwater play is actually a major part of the experience.
Its not just the same as fighting above the water except you need to keep your eye on an oxygen meter, and thats an important distinction. Underwater gameplay in Guild Wars 2 looks robust, opening up a new set of skills and abilities and completely changing how the game plays.
Its full of small, convenient changes
One of the things that made Trions Rift so successful was the small, quality-of-live improvements it made to the typically cumbersome MMO formula. With Guild Wars 2, ArenaNet, too, saw to fix some of the tropes fans have grown accustom to, making for a more convenient experience. Little things, like being able to sell items on the auction house from anywhere in the world or having access to mail even when youre nowhere near a mailbox just makes for a better experience.
Other changes are even more interesting. Youre able to be in multiple guilds, for instance, a change ArenaNet said was implemented to better replicate how real-life social groups work. Some MMO guilds specialize in completing difficult dungeons, others focus on PvP, and others are more laid back. Youre still representing one guild by wearing its tabard and sporting its name above your head, but the fact that youre able to be in multiple guilds lets you experiment with different groups instead of locking yourself into one. ArenaNet also sees megaguilds taking advantage of this to create sub-divisions of itself, either by putting alternate characters in side-guilds or by creating different divisions for hardcore players, PvPers, and others interested in a niche.
There's no monthly fee, but it isn't free
Guild Wars 2 is going to live in a strange space in-between free-to-play and premium MMORPGs. Its going to cost money at launch, like a typical PC game, but theres no monthly fee. Instead, theres a cash-shop from within the game, loaded with Convenience and Cosmetic items that can only be purchased with Gems, which cost actual money. Balancing this out is the ability to exchange in-game gold for Gems, making it possible for players to both spend actual money on in-game gold and to spend in-game gold on items you could otherwise only purchase with in-game money.
ArenaNet promises this isnt a pay-to-win system, since nothing purchasable with real-money can actually grant any actual power. You can, technically, buy Gems, trade them for gold, and then spend that gold on powerful items, but those items could also be purchased without real money. It also believes that itll prevent gold spammers from becoming an issue, which is something were totally behind.