GAME NAME: Guild Wars 2
RELEASE DATE(S): August 28th 2012
Having never played an MMO before it was quite a daunting prospect going into the extremely dense and detailed experience that is Guild Wars 2. Games like WOW and Eve Online always peaked my interest, but there were always a number of things stopping me from breaking out my wallet for that final purchase. Firstly games like these require time… a lot of time at that. Taking chunks out of my day to intricately plan dungeon crawls with online buddies is not my cup of tea. Games should be played at leisure without this certain pressure, let alone the £15 monthly fee. You can understand my scepticism going into this, however rest assured, as Arenanet have rectified most of these issues and have miraculously eliminated the monthly fee. For an MMO as large as this, that’s huge. They’ve done an absolutely incredible job at revolutionising the entire MMO model which makes for a more fluid and enjoyable experience. As well as improving upon an entire genre there’s a game here that excels on all corners – it looks and plays beautifully.
As soon as you jump in you are given a choice of eight professions, none of which will be a surprise to RPG veterans. The warrior class is useful for up-close-and-personal brawls, whereas the Mesmers and Elementalists are your classic mage fare. For support roles the best choice is the Guardian, although Engineers and Necromancers are useful too. If you want to be sneaky and do damage from afar the Thief and Ranger class is for you. Our main choice was the Elementaslist as they proved to be the most adaptable in combat situations.
In addition there are five races; the alluring Slyvari, hilarious Asura, brutal Charr, noble Norn or the robust Human race. Each boasts widely different story arcs that are both rich and personal to the player. Throughout the course of the story there are important choices to be made that have a significant effect on the gameplay and events that take place. For example when you reach level 40 you will be forced to decide between three very distinct factions that differ greatly in terms of gameplay and approach. It was a pleasant surprise to find an engaging story underneath such an expansive and detailed world.
If that doesn’t interest you worry not as there is a rich plethora of activities to soak up plenty of mouse-clicking time. The map itself is probably the largest game world we’ve seen, and every inch is filled with things for you to do. There are numerous side quests, vistas, skill challenges and points of interest for you to uncover – a completionist’s dream. Finishing sections of the map and earning achievements will grant you rewards in the form of gold and unique items – there is always an incentive to see and do as much as you can.
To give you a scope on how large this map really is, our character is nearing level 50 with close to 70 hours under his belt, and we have only uncovered 30% of the map. The beauty of all of this is that you do these things at your pace in your time which makes for a far less rigid experience. You don’t have to do any of these things to move forward, but as you wander through the game you seem to find yourself compelled to finish off quests and complete just… that… little bit more of the map. In addition to this there are randomly generated events that occur throughout the world that serve to include players in co-operative type group events. These can range from preventing ambushes in small villages to full large-scale boss battles that require dozens of players. This feeling of working with others is where the game really shines. All loot and XP is divided equally which reduces competition for resources/kills and in turn benefits the game community to a very high degree.
The combat is surprisingly deep and offers a variety of ways to down foes. Different and unique attack options are available to each weapon and, depending on your play-style, can be altered in a variety of ways. For example a main two-handed weapon offers five unique attacks, a main one-handed three and an off-hand just two. These can be mix-and-matched in a ridiculous number of ways to suit your own specific play-style. With the ability to swap weapons during combat, you’re looking at a lot of ways to kill a boar. Unlike most MMOs victory in combat is not directly related to your level, but rather your actual skill at the game. You can roll, run and jump to avoid getting hit which allows you to attempt defeating higher level enemies, if you’re nimble enough.
At the highest graphics setting the visuals are stunning – if you own a high end gaming rig you owe it to yourself to play this game. Unlike most AAA titles of recent years the colours here are vibrant and varied akin to a watercolour painting in motion. The imaginative level design is also exceptional and gives a true sense of scale and history. Activating vistas does a really good job of showing this off as it gives you a panning glimpse of the beautiful surroundings a la Assassin’s Creed.
Arenanet have done well with large scale scope, but it’s even more impressive when you zoom in and observe the incredible minute details. From the plush vegetation on ground level to the intricate pattern designs on your armour you really get a feel for the time and care that was put into these aspects of the game. Another worthy mention is the beautifully epic and fitting soundtrack that gels well with both the visuals and gameplay.
There are a few issues such as the poor customisation options – facial and body types are limited and the armour generally looks the same through earlier levels. When undergoing a role-playing experience it is important to stand out aesthetically, especially in a multiplayer setting – although you can unlock a variety of dyes to mix things up a bit. Another small issue is that some of the side quests seem quite dull and unimaginative at times, mainly due to the repetition of objectives.
Guild Wars 2 revitalises and reinvents the genre giving those hesitant to delve into the MMO scene reason to do so. It’s issues are minor in comparison to the sheer amount of quality content it gives to gamers, and the gorgeous visuals and intricate design make for a very enjoyable experience. Arenanet are active developers that care for their audience and promise to deliver consistent content for years to come, such as the recent Halloween update. Best of all? The fact that you get all of this great content for just one down payment. Those that are even remotely interested in the MMO or RPG genres owe it to themselves to play this game.