- Developer: ArenaNet
- Publisher: NCSoft
- Release Date: 28 August 2012
Back in 2005, ArenaNet, an upstart developer comprised of many ex-Blizzard developers, released an MMORPG known as Guild Wars. I was a big fan of the original Guild Wars. In fact I still am. Anyone who knows me will realise this seems a bit odd considering I don't actually like MMORPGs. However, Guild Wars is no ordinary MMORPG.
Firstly, it isn't really an MMORPG – in fact ArenaNet went so far as to define it as a "CORPG" or a Competitive Online Role-Playing Game. While I think this definition is somewhat limiting I do agree that you can't really consider Guild Wars an MMORPG. Most of the game is instanced unlike traditional MMORPGs – the only places where you can mingle with other players being towns which are pretty much glorified chat rooms. So it's actually more like Diablo except you had to be online all the time (so more like Diablo III in fact).
Secondly the game has a low maximum experience level of 20. MMORPGs are usually all about how uber your level is but not in Guild Wars. Guild Wars wants everyone to get to a level playing field quickly (instantly if you play PvP) and to reward players on defeating others based on skill and tactics, not because they simply have the best gear and highest level.
Finally, the game has no subscription fee meaning you don't feel guilty if you leave the game for awhile and come back to play again later. Definitely more economical too.
So come 2012 and after a long wait we have Guild Wars 2, its sequel. Once again, ArenaNet promised to break the mould with their most recent offering to try and attract those becoming bored of the traditional MMORPG formula and players who don't normally play MMORPGs. Is Guild Wars 2 that silver bullet?
Guild Wars 2 is set 250 years after the original Guild Wars. Humans, once the dominant race in the land of Tyria are now on the verge of becoming extinct. Their old enemies, the cat-like Charr, have now occupied most of one of their previous kingdoms, and the diminutive Asura, Viking-like Norn and elf-like Sylvari have now become prominent races of the world. Elder Dragons have also been awakened and they are slowly threatening the very existence of all races in Tyria, however all races are involved in their own petty squabbles and in-fighting to notice how close they are to an apocalypse. This is where your character comes in.
What I like about Guild Wars 2 is that they have incorporated some single player RPG mechanics in terms of your character development. Similar to Dragon Age: Origins, each of your characters will have their first chain of personal storyline missions dedicated to your character's background. With each of the five races having three separate backgrounds that gives 15 unique ways the story unravels. Eventually you'll also have a choice to join one of three orders which also offer different quests.
Yes, yes. It's your typical fantasy plot where the dragons are trying to take over the world but overall, I think Guild Wars 2 has put a lot more effort than its competitors except for maybe Star Wars: The Old Republic (but I haven't actually played it so I'm basing this off what I've heard). Definitely more than a traditional MMORPG.
First off, for those fans of Guild Wars expecting Guild Wars 2 to have pretty much the same gameplay as the original, you'd be wrong. The formula has been totally revamped and one of the biggest changes is that the game is no longer 90% instanced. Like before, storyline missions are instanced but just about everything else is now a persistent world. The only thing that has stayed the same is the fact you don't need to pay a subscription fee to pay (hooray!).
"The game seems a lot less strategic and you'll spend most of your time just spamming the number keys like there's no tomorrow."
Guild Wars 2 has decided to eschew the typical quest system that traditional MMORPGs have and have instead allowed several ways for you to gather experience points in PvE including but not limited to: renown quests, map exploration, crafting and dynamic events. I won't go into map exploration since that's pretty self-explanatory and neither will I go into crafting since a lot of games have crafting but dynamic events is a relatively new concept to the traditional MMORPG. Basically you can be wondering around in the wilderness when an event triggers that requires you to kill a certain foe or escort an NPC or help gather ingredients to make an apple pie. Successful completion of some dynamic events will even unlock meta-events, i.e. events within events – so you end up doing a chain of events. Success or failure with some events may also result to changes in the world, e.g. failure to defend a town from marauding baddies will result in the town being occupied by them. While there are plenty of haters for this concept, there's also plenty it appeals to – especially those who don't like the traditional quest system you find in RPGs. Although, for those that do prefer traditional quests, the renown quests are probably the closest you'll get to them. It doesn't take much to realise that the renown quests are not that much different from the "Go kill X rats" type of quests you would normally find in traditional MMORPGs (read "grind") but thankfully GW2 goes about them a different way and usually offers multiple ways to build renown with an NPC – some having pretty funny ones like being transformed into a pig to hunt for truffles!
Guild Wars 2 also has PvP and PvP/PvE hybrid known as World vs World (WvW). Currently, PvP consists of Capture the Flag arenas where you have one team pitted against the other. WvW on the other hand can have teams of hundreds of players fighting each other over territory where your guilds are even able to claim castles in your name (and is actually one of the more fun late-game options). You don't even need to be level 80 to either play PvP or WvW since the game upscales your stats to level 80 for you (although you may be at a disadvantage in terms of unlocked skills in the case of WvW).
So all of that sounds pretty good right? There seems to be a lot to do in this game! Well yes there is but is it any fun?
If you enjoy performing flavour-of-the-month dungeon runs, crafting, map exploration or PvP, the game will keep you entertained for a long time. However, my biggest beef with the game is the incorporating of the story with dungeons. Dungeons are usually things you do when you want to grab 1337 l3wt, usually requires a time investment of at least 3 hours and at least something resembling coordination from your party members. Guild Wars 2 has incorporated the main side story into the dungeons meaning you have to complete the dungeons on "Story Mode" in order to learn more. Unfortunately, they're considerably more difficult that your usual personal storyline missions which only require 1 or 2 extra party members, most even being solo-able. Worse, the final mission in the game requires you to complete the final dungeon in the game – so there's absolutely no avoiding it. Let me tell you that finding players who want to play the dungeons in Story Mode are almost non-existent. Most players are either playing flavour-of-the-month dungeons (that give better rewards) or are doing other PvE activities (that are less time consuming). Consequently, this is going to be another game I haven't actually finished. It's a pretty rare occurrence on Choicest Games but since nobody is interested in finishing the game in GW2 it's impossible for me to as well – which is very frustrating!
Finally, I preferred the way skills worked in the original Guild Wars better and the fact you had a wider range to pick from. In GW2 you are very limited since half of your skills are dictated by what your character is holding (e.g. weapons, shields, etc.) and the skills you can pick from tend to have multiple random effects instead of being dedicated to performing one thing. For example, in GW1 when you picked Cleave you knew that the skill would cause an opponent to bleed - and that's about it. In GW2 you have skills which have an X% chance to offer you 6 random boons! The game seems a lot less strategic and you'll spend most of your time just spamming the number keys like there's no tomorrow.
While there are some great voice actors in this game (e.g. Steve Blum, Felicia Day and Kari Wahlgren), sadly there are some very bad ones too and you'll hear the latter more often. In fact sometimes it's so bad it makes me cringe. Honestly, who pronounces "quay" as "kway" (Unless this is an American pronunciation of the word)? Also the syncing of the sounds to the cut-scenes is also poor. Sometimes the voice is omitted from the cut-scenes altogether – just as well there are subtitles!
Music in Guild Wars 2 is one of its strong points and it's Jeremy Soule's best soundtrack yet. There are a lot of new tracks that are supplemented by tracks from the original Guild Wars so there's a lot of music here.
If you want to know more about the soundtrack, check out my review.
The graphics in Guild Wars 2 are quite spectacular. There's lots of beautiful scenery to behold and you're even able to view mini cut-scenes in the form of "vistas" if you can manage to get to them. I especially like the hand-painted look they've adopted to some of the cut-scenes, the GUI and even unexplored portions of the map.
The animations are also much better than the original; more fluid and dynamic. However, the graphics aren't perfect and you do see occasional glitches and clipping but that's about it.
I was tempted to give a lower score for replay since what's the point of playing an RPG if you can't even complete the story? But I have to be honest and that there is actually a heap of replay value in this game, it's just not in the story department since I can't finish the friggin' game!
Unlike the original Guild Wars, GW2 isn't as polished. Initially there were some issues in playing with friends and ensuring you were all on the same home server. Also many quests were bugged meaning completing map exploration was impossible (a prerequisite for one of the achievements you can earn).
Score – 8/10While ArenaNet has definitely succeeded in making Guild Wars 2 different to anything else out there, it has taken away some of the endearing qualities of the original Guild Wars such as a greater variety of skills and placing a greater focus on storyline missions. For newcomers, the game will keep you entertained for awhile but long-term enjoyment boils down to PvP, WvW and popular dungeons.
If you want to get the game, you can get it off the Guild Wars 2 site.
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