Top 100: How Guild Wars 2 trumps every other MMO

Someone came over to me one lunchtime, while I was battling away in Arenanet's MMO masterpiece and asked what it was I was doing. “Oh, yeah, I play Guild Wars 2,” they nodded as they recognised the artismal delights playing out on screen. “How many hours have you sunk in?” Knowing it'd be an embarrassingly large amount of time, I didn't want to know. But I dutifully typed in /age just to see. I'd been dipping in and out of Tyria for two years. It had become my game to turn to when I found myself between games.

It turns out I've played Guild Wars 2 for just under 700 hours.

For the record, that's almost a month of solid game time. You could fly to the moon and back 19 times and still have a few hours to log in and claim your daily achievements. I regret nothing.

I'm lucky enough, given the job that I do, to share an office with plenty of gaming folk, many of whom have sunk hundreds of hours into games such as World Of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV, or, more recently, Destiny. I hear the same lamention on an almost daily basis. “Where's the new content?” “When's the next update landing?” “I'm tired of repeating the same thing over and over...” Guild Wars 2's biggest strength, and something that makes it unique in my mind, is the sense of history being built within the game world. Every two weeks (give or take the odd occasion where more sizable updates need time to cook) a new slice of content lands. That could be all new episodic story missions, a chance to revisit timely events, such as Christmas mini­games or Halloween puzzles, or even one-­time­-only battles which change the face of the world that you're adventuring through.

A few months ago the capital city of the world, a place you'd have to have passed through hundreds of times as you progressed, was decimated by a terrorist attack­turned­invasion. Throughout a six week long chain of events hundreds of players at a time fought to prepare the city for the assault, then defend it, and ultimately evacuate the entire area, as the buildings crumpled around them. The auction house? Gone. The crafting workstations? Decimated. The lion statue you walked past a thousand times as you passed through the town's fast travel way point gates? Rubble.

Of course amenities were diverted into other areas of the game's world, but this was a monumental event for all involved. And not just for those that took part in the city's defence. I can only imagine what it must have been like for those players unaware of what was happening logging on after the dust had settled, and seeing the whole place destroyed. Can you think of any game brave enough to do something so jarring? Imagine Bungie just destroying the Tower. Imagine Stormwind as a pile of charred rocks. It wouldn't happen. And yet I was there when it did. Guild Wars 2 does that. It let's you say “I was there when X happened.”

I was there when the marionette boss happened. Here was a boss fight which kicked off every two hours for a four week period. This huge robotic lady monster was tough as a nail gun to the jubblies and it was the charge of the 300 or so players that populated the immediate area to fight her off. It took over a week for the first server to do it, and the solution was shared quickly among the others. My server, Fissure Of Woe, was having a hard time getting this boss beat. The call went out one evening as I was wondering through Lion's Arch (the capital city what got mullered). “LFM Players for marionette assault.”

I rocked along and when I arrived at the base of the valley­, strewn mountain player commanders were already barking orders to the milling troops. Our gathering horde was split into five squadrons, each one charged with pushing the marionette's minions back until we could reach her crater base. After an hour of finger achingly tough combat (GW2's fighting has none of the press-and-­forget hotkey nonsense of other PC MMOs) we were in.

From there our huge group was split into five smaller teams, each with five chosen members apiece. These smaller groups were tasked with the ultimate challenge, to survive in a tiny cordoned area for long enough to deal the necessary damage to the boss. As each group succeeded it could only stop and watch as the other groups fought the good fight against the clock. There was actual cheering, as people willed success on their fellow players. As the marionette eventually came down the sense of accomplishment was like nothing else. Her metallic corpse still sits in the snow of the mountain crater. It's not unusual to see people milling around, virtual tourists visiting the site of an historical battle... “I was there.” they might mutter to themselves.

Other games feature updating content. Other games have persistent worlds or stories. None of them are as successful at building their own histories as Guild Wars 2. All that without a subs fee or dubiously priced expansions every six months? Put that in your Cryptarch and smoke it.