Many of you wont know, but I have played my fair share of MMORPGs in the past, lets just say I know my way around a dragon or two. A few days ago I received a lovely white box with the code for a Guild Wars 2 deluxe edition inside. Exciting stuff, the first Guild Wars which launched way back in 2005 proved to be extremely popular with a fresh approach to the genre.
I found that the "grind" you have to power through in most MMO's was missing. This "grind" is what proves to be the stumbling block for many free to play online games but not Guild Wars as not only was the leveling system mixed and mingled in the games play style without you realising it was also well supported by gorgeous visuals and large scale PvP mayhem. World of Warcraft is always seen as the top dog for a lot of good reasons, despite Guild Wars large investments into the project and the hardcore following it had it couldn't take top spot. Now its time for round too and ArenaNet put their gum shields back for another slug fest with Blizzard.
Before I begin to start singing the games praises or raining hate on it, let me say just one thing....I HAD TO WAIT THREE DAM DAYS TO MAKE A CHARACTER TO REVIEW THIS GAME AND WAS VERY ANNOYED, don't lie my firewall is fine!
Guild Wars 2 looks to build on the success of its predecessor and step further into MMORPG infamy by offering more depth and complexity that could keep the most hardcore of gamers happy. If your not familiar with the story, Guild Wars 2 takes place roughly 250 years after the first installment. Time hasn't been kind as the world of Tyria has been altered dramatically since I last walked its plains.
Where the first Guild Wars lost out to against Warcraft was in the number of playable races you could choose from, this time round you get a much larger variety of races which all look fantastically well drawn. I'm going to stick with the standard human, I like to do this with my first character as I feel it proves to be a good point of reference when comparing games, animations and game play design. The customisation of these characters is pretty good too so you can make your virtual representation of yourself as comical or as straight laced as you like. Once you choose one of your five species you get thrown into your starting area which they have literally poured all the lore they could into.
The game is visual stunning as I look round the environments you get a great feel about how much hard work has gone into almost every detail to make this game look and feel great. If you get a chance to find a look out spot climb up to it and you will be rewarded with a lovely panning shot of the local area and points of interest.The environments is complemented by the character design, where hair and clothes freely move about and very life like at that. They havn't gone full toon or too realistic. A mesh of something in between which takes to the world design very well. The thing ~I like most about the visuals has to be the environmental effects. Your spells and abilities look (and sound) awesome and blend into the surrounding very well.
Good news for the Guild Wars vets. out there, the game play mechanics remain relatively unchanged on the whole. Yes every thing has had a bit of a nip and tuck to make it all worth smoother for the better but the core remains. The new spells and abilities are well balanced and work well allowing you to jump right into the combat system guns blazing while you can keep things under control with the padded out defensive changes that have been made.
Playing through the game, I found the sound quality and ambiance particularly enjoyable. Switching between peaceful towns hearing the townsfolk chatter amongst themselves (not too dissimilar to Planescape Torment that I love so much) and the heat of battle in enemy territory. It links well will minimal fuss and helps provide a more enriched and full gaming experience.
My main problem with some MMORPGS is that they focus too many only only certain letters or their genre. This is what I mean. Some games focus way too much on the massive online aspect and bend way to much to whats popular making the game around the consumer. Other games focus too far the other way and almost go pure RPG which can provide isolating experiences that may as well be offline on a console. Guild Wars 2 sits nicely in the centre, its a little more story driven than the average, the plot sees the races of Tyria bind together to combat the terrible evils that befall them all. Players however while playing through the main storyline change change their own personal story through interacting with various NPC's, good or bad beaviour also has a big impact on your own story. I'm liking this more and more. This all allows Guild Wars 2 to stick its nose out in front of its competition.
Guild Wars to has also stuck its nose out in other ways, namely by breaking away from some of the traditional MMORPG moulds. Your endless walking too and fro has been axed in favor of on the spot teamwork which comes in the form of area encounter quests where anyone in the local vicinity can pitch in for the greater good, no need for you to go back to town and look for help to take out a particularly nasty group of spiders causing chaos on a farm. The best part of this if you pitch in to help your fellow players then you too reap the rewards grouped or not. This will go a long way to making a much more sustainable and pleasant community.....well all know what barrens chat was like don't we.
The large scale battles are great fun, yes they may look like a giant fist fight drawing everyone in but the combat system allows you to crank up combos with an ally, revive each other and help each other out with resources and buffs, again while not grouped up. Very simple and effective. It takes all the dilly dallying away and gets you straight into the action. This then comes neatly to how the quests work, each quest will give you a progress bar. Dave is tired, instead of killing 10 maids to get 10 cups of coffee that has magically not spilt you can pick and choose from throwing water at Dave to wake him up, pick up bags of sugar form the store house or just kick him in the backside. That's not a real quest for the record just a vivid example that you have multiple ways to complete each quest and just my messing around in an area you find yourself completing quests by just playing the game without and real conscious effort.
What I was most looking forward to and also most fearing was the removal of the standard class system healer/tanker/spanker where you would be set in your role(s) from the day you picked your character. In Guild Wars 2 you are capable and expected to be able to do all of these which provides a refreshing game style. This can also sometimes be a little confusing if nobody steps in to heal or everyone is focused on taking names instead of taking healing potions.
At the moment you can jump into one of eight dungeons in story or exploration mode. The difference being story plays thorugh your narrative (obviously) as you progress through the area while meanwhile exploration adds difficulty to encourage more tactical playing and option choosing. A nice change form just easy and hard.
One thing I feel the game is lacking and may alienate a few people are the possibilities for large guild raiding groups as encounters are restricted to a five player limit currently. I did notice when fighting indoors in groups during Dungeons the fluidity and beauty of the outdoor combat that I talked about earlier looses a lot of its impact and can become slightly too much to get your head around so you can't really tell what is happening and where in the smaller areas. Sill the combat is fun and full of splash damage combos and critical hits to keep the fun times coming.
The large majority of Guild Wars fan form the first game will fondly remember its PvP system. This time round it was important for ArenaNet to build upon this reputation and deliver an excellent PvP system that was unrivaled in other games. If only to keep its followers in awe. There are shed loads of unlock-able goodies in the PvP system and well over 80 ranks to power through to get them. You can enter yourself into many different contests also to test your metal against other players. The way the PvP system and PvE systems are designed are for the players to reach glory through co-operative team work and applying a bit of skill at the right times.
My favorite PvP feature has to be the fact that any level progress you make is account wide so you don't have to farm your way up on several characters for days just to get a couple of items that you really like the look of.
My least favorite the the auto balancing system when players leave battles. The juggling around that follows there after can leave you at a big disadvantage. Its kind of annoying and will hopefully get patched at some point but still the PvP system on the whole is really great.
The last feature I'm going to mention is the world versus world shenanigans. This is crazy, there are spells flying all round you, lots of knock backs weapons swinging and missing by a hairs breadth which I bloody loved. It felt like you were on a battlefield. Other mass PvP in other games just felt like you were two apposing rain clouds that would slowly come together and erode each other way until both sides are broken, Guild Wars 2 is carnage. These World battles do follow a certain mission parameter siege castle, gather resources etc. Mixing all this together makes for a great gaming experience quite frankly.
Guild Wars 2 had a lot to live up to as it promised a lot. It delivers in all aspects where an MMORPG should and while using free to play template too. ArenaNet have gone full out to make you think about making the switch from other MMO titles. While installing this game I was hoping I wouldn't like it, unfortunately I can see myself throwing many many hours at this game and enjoying every second of its story, visuals and game play....dammit!
I will score this game according to its future potential and first impressions.
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