Like a lot of MMO fans out there, I’ve recently gotten into the new free-to-play Guild Wars 2 and I have to say – judging from what I’ve played so far – I’m pretty impressed. There’s a departure from some of the more stereotypical constraints of the average MMO, and it offers a lot of content for a game that has no subscription fee. Let’s take a look at my experience so far.
One of the most tedious parts of Warcraft – I’ll mention that a lot as I was a seriously addicted WoW player in the past and it’s still the most popular MMO out there – was the grinding. You literally had to grind for everything, levels, materials, you name it. I’d spend hours killing monsters for cloths and items, or mining ore and such in order to make recipes or sell them on the auction house. The problem with this was that you didn’t get experience for mining or levelling up a profession, meaning that if you didn’t get enough material in your farming session, it was almost as if those hours you worked gathering were somewhat a waste. Well in GW2, you get experience for everything. Mining, cutting down trees, everything. It makes the experience of grinding a little more fruitful, especially during the lower levels where you’re gaining experience at a rate quick enough to make that XP bar climb.
While you still get experience from exploration, GW2 has added vistas to their maps. They are interesting because they require – more often than not – a jumping puzzle to complete. Think Assassins Creed, where you needed to get to the top of a building to view a huge area, and then that area would be available on your map. Same idea here. It’s a welcome deviation from the usual ‘run around on flat ground forever’ style of WoW. You are also not constrained to where you can explore from the start. I often found myself wandering into high-level areas just from walking around and taking in the sights. Let’s be honest, this game is beautiful. On a good PC with the graphics cranked up it’s a pleasure to explore the world of Tyria, and you’re constantly wondering where you’re going to end up next and what awesome scenery awaits you there.
Another part of GW2 that I found helpful is the group questing feature. You no longer have to accept quests from a quest-giver in order to complete them. It works very much in reverse of that, actually. You simply need to walk in to an area, and you’ll see a notification of certain things that can be done. If there are other players questing there, you just need to start killing what they’re killing and you are rewarded with completing the quest that they’re working on. There were so many times that things were going on in WoW and as you discover them, you realize that it’s something that you haven’t accepted a quest for, and therefore are reduced to a bystander while the action goes down. Not any more. Once completed, you only need to return the quest giver to claim your reward and XP. It really pushes the idea that ArenaNet wants players to work together in GW2. Gone are the days that everyone hates each other for killing that rare spawn – causing them to wait until the respawn – or players stealing mining nodes from each other. All resources are shared, so basically if you see it, you can mine it, regardless of how many players are doing so. This is awesome in the first few weeks of the game, as everyone is the same level, and there are usually 4-5 people running for the same nodes at all times. Again, very refreshing.
One of the coolest features of this game though, is the fact that the holy trinity of classes is gone. There are no more dedicated healing, tanking and DPS classes. All classes can do a relatively good job at any of those, and you can switch between roles easily. I’m a ranger for instance, and usually strike from far away while my pet goes in to attack. I can switch that up if I want to though, equip a great sword and rush in for some melee combat. I also have healing and group healing abilities that can help allies out in battle. It’s a pretty solid system that adds a lot more playability to the game, and makes it more fun for the casual player, who doesn’t need to level up 3 separate characters to enjoy all the game has to offer. Couple this with the fact that you have what’s known as a ‘downed state’, a state that you enter when you lose all of your health which – instead of killing you right away – allow you to fight from your back to survive. If you kill any enemy that is attacking, you are immediately revived and can continue fighting. This is a great addition, and, though it gets a little repetitive, makes the game that much more interesting.
One downfall that I’ve noticed so far is that playing multi-player is a bit of a nightmare right now. My brother bought this game as well, and we’ve had nothing but problems playing together. The main problem is that there are so many players playing right now, that there isn’t enough server space to deal with them all, so you’re thrown into these ‘overflow worlds’ which are exact copies of the game world, but with none of the connectivity. They aren’t world specific, and you’re often left in there for 15-20 minutes at a time, where you can’t group with any of your friends. Hopefully this will be resolved or at least players will be given the chance to select their overflow world – though I imagine that will defeat the purpose of them by overloading certain ones.
The verdict: If you’re a fan of traditional MMORPG’s, even a fan of World of Warcraft, you’ll find that this is a great addition to the increasingly popular genre, and you’ll have a great time with it. Go out and get it and see what you think!