Review: Guild Wars 2
Guild Wars 2 is ArenaNet’s attempt to reinvigorate the fantasy MMO genre and all things considered it definitely succeeds, albeit via refinement rather than revolution. First and foremost is the lack of a subscription fee, ArenaNet instead opting for a simple one-off payment designed to reel in normal game buying folk. And while real money micro-transactions certainly do exist as you’d expect, the buffs on offer are oddly both totally unnecessary and yet also quite handy and cheap. These items are also obtainable with in game money and a little patience, removing the need for any extra outlay at all.
Diving into character creation reveals five races and eight professions, GW2’s classes, and a few brief multiple choice questions at this point determine your character’s personal storyline. It has to be said that not all races it seems are created equal, or to be more specific: equally interesting. The Charr, steampunk war cats, the physically diminuative but intellectually fierce Asurans, and the barely decades old Sylvari plant people are infinitely more fun and inventive than bog standard humans, or their giant Skyrim-esque Norn cousins. There are five character slots with the option to purchase more.
As you traverse the large and often extremely pretty world dynamic events will happen around you. These will range from small scale collect-a-thons through to huge boss group battles. More traditional player quests are marked on the map with hearts and are always NPCs requiring aid of some kind. These missions invariably have multiple activities, usually a mix of “kill these,interact with those, bring me some of the other”, and the balance of these activities is totally up to you. All events and missions are proximity based, simply wander into the area and start participating and you’ll be rewarded to a greater or lesser degree.
Combat is described by ArenaNet as “active” and is heavily reliant on well timed dodges and smart use of your character’s skills. These skills may also be combined with other players’ area attacks, shooting through an ally’s firewall or poison cloud, for example. Every class can heal, buff and revive, which is just as well as GW2 will kill you, something the game will probably teach you fairly early on in your personal story. Large fights can become visually muddled and confusing, although thankfully the larger the scrap the less likely you are to actually get in trouble and need help. Away from these super large battles combat often remains fairly challenging as your level is dropped to match the area you’re in, although you retain any gear and skills you’ve accrued.
The biggest challenges in GW2 arrive in the form of dungeons which begin unlocking from level 30 onwards, and unlike the rest of the game these will require a tight team and verbal communication for success and, ultimately, the best loot. Speaking of which, all loot, and gathering resources, ore, wood, herbs etc, are yours and yours alone, so stealing or more importantly – being stolen from – is never an issue. Unfortunately crafting is an issue that you’ll have to deal with one way or another at some point. The potential for faster levelling or profits is something most won’t want to pass up but the repetitive nature of crafting means many will understandably abandon it in favour of simple trading.
Other minor problems exist too: the camera feels too tight, especially with the larger races, and looking up in particular feels oddly constrained as you’re forced to clip into your character model. Elsewhere, MMO newcomers will be frustrated by the lacklustre documentation: a few short videos on the GW2 website, an incomplete official wiki, and some brief tool-tip tutorialising that’s gone far too soon.
And it’s a shame the new player is neglected so because otherwise GW2 appears to be a highly accessible and friendly MMO; the action-RPG format will be familiar to most gamers, XP is earned for practically everything you do, everyone heals, everyone is encouraged to work together and there’s zero resource contention. Gameplay, providing you don’t overdose, is addictive, and hopefully ArenaNet can keep things fresh with regular themed events and future expansions. And many players will probably be perfectly happy away from the main story entirely, settling down instead to PvP in World V World V World. For those with no MMO experience but desiring some, GW2 is the obvious place to start right now.
GW2 was played for approx 120 hours, mostly as an Asura Engineer.