Arena Net’s new MMO Guild Wars 2 has been out for about a month, and this time we’ve been able to see the game for what it really is. While there are still issues with the game and bugs that need to be fixed, things have become stable enough that we can start looking at this new entry to the MMO community in a critical light.
Having spent an exorbitant amount of time in the game, I can say that Arena Net has succeeded in creating a rich and vibrant world for us to play in. The artistic
design of the game is perhaps the best I have ever seen and helps to draw a player deeper into the world of Tyria. Environments range widely across the world, from steamy jungles, to barren crystalline wastes, but everything works. Perhaps the greatest achievement is the creation of Divinty’s Reach, the Human capital city. For the first time in my experience in MMO’s, we have a city which actually feels like a city, rather than a collection of huts and vendors. The winding streets are easy to get lost in, and I have no problem believing that this is a city that is lived in, and has a storied past. That being said, there are other problems with the environments that do break down this immersion. The dynamic event system, while a triumph in game design, sometimes breaks down and starts to degrade the immersion. In high traffic areas you’ll often see the same event popping up many times in a short period. In some places, this works. When you are fighting in Orr, a place infested with the undead Risen, it makes sense that you’d have to defend and outpost often. However, I have a hard time believing that bandits can steal a rancher’s cattle, be defeated, and then reorganize to do so again in 5 minutes. Either they have the best management in the bandit world, or they are paragons of blind determination. These minor issues in the dynamic event system can largely be overlooked thanks to the larger event chains ArenaNet has clearly put their time into. Massive, zone spanning events have real impacts on the zone and set up some of the greatest and most epic moments I have ever experienced in a video game. The large scale fights against the world’s dragon lieutenants are some of the game’s best content, though there are some technical issues with them. Due to the way the game handles graphics, you’ll often fail to see many of the additional enemies in these fights, as well as many of the players beside you. Music can often be an issue as well during these fights. Jeremy Soule’s soundtrack (Which can and should be purchased here) is phenomenal, but the
operatic, stirring music often cuts out during particularly taxing encounters. Nevertheless, these events should be sought out by everyone who is playing this game, not only as an experience to relish, but an opportunity to test your skill. Skill is one of GW2’s principle strengths, and the thing that will test your ability. The game’s combat mechanics place a much higher emphasis on player skill to be successful, rather than a proper rotation of class skills or gear level. This has successfully lessened the need for players to grind their way to great armor before participating in some of the games upper level content. While ArenaNet has certainly declawed the “Gear Grind”, they haven’t completely eliminated the mentality that accompanied it. Parts of the community are still focusing on a grind mentality, and whether this is part of the growing pains of this MMO, or a facet of the community remains to be seen. There is a lot of content in this game, and for those willing to explore and wander, I’d wager you could spend a lifetime in Tyria. However, players looking for a typical ‘endgame’ won’t find the same kind of experience as they might be used to in other MMOs. The games dungeons offer the closest thing to that, with the criminally difficult Explorable Modes being one of the game’s most challenging aspects, but I imagine many raiders are going to be disappointed. There are other issues with the game though. Many bugs still exist, perhaps at this time most noticeably in the game’s final dungeon and in the algorithm used to apply diminishing returns to farming. The games absolutely massive Player versus Player mode known as World versus World versus World suffers from balancing issues, technical limitations and a case of an unruly name. It has a ton of potential, but needs to be sorted out, both by the developers and the players. The game’s player marketplace, the Black Lion Trading Post, also needs to be sorted out, though most of the issues in pricing and player ignorance will likely sort themselves out in time. (Also, major points to Arenanet for integrating the Trading Post into the game world. Small details like this are peppered throughout the game that help make the world come alive. ) Is this game a WoW killer? It is hard to say. Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft’s latest expansion has just released, and it’ll be interesting to see how the
community of MMO players casts their vote. Each game offers something quite different. Guild Wars 2 is a game that rewards exploration, out of the box thinking, people willing to try many different ways of playing the game and players willing to let themselves get lost in the world. It will not however have the same appeal as WoW to those gamers looking to crunch numbers, work towards rewards with tangible and large gameplay benefits, and competitive PvE content. Guild Wars 2 will be game that holds some players for years to come, much like its predecessor, but that many will only play for a short time. It is simply a matter of seeing how many players are actually looking for something new and different, and whether or not the new and innovative things Guild Wars 2 has to offer are what the MMO community is truly looking for. One final note; I think it is safe to say that, from a financial point of view, ArenaNet has helped to destroy the old model of monthly fee MMO play. Most MMO’s are now free to play, but cannot offer the same quality as GW2 or WoW. With GW2’s current success, I think it may be safe to say that monthly fee’s are no longer the only, or even best way to fund triple-A MMO titles. We will have to wait and see if ArenaNet can maintain their servers and content support without that constant cash flow, and if players are willing to spend their money on the game’s cash shop.