So I’ve been trying out Guild Wars 2 with the group I play GURPs with, and below are my thoughts/recommendations. (You can skip to the end if you’re only interested in my final thoughts/analysis).
Obligitory World of Warcraft Comparison
Since all of us come from a WoW background at one point or another, I’ll start with the obvious question: How does this compare to the behemoth in the room? Overall I’d say that this game is an appropriate substitute for WoW if you’re seeking a game to pick up and mess around with at any time without concern for one major element: raiding. Raiding and storytelling are two elements which WoW has over GW2. Since neither of these elements interest me greatly at this time, I’ve outlined a few elements of the game below with my overall thoughts at the end.
Free to Play
Now with no monthly subscription this was my biggest concern, and maybe yours as well, how is the Free to Play model for Guild Wars 2? Well overall I’d say it’s a relatively good model. Granted, I haven’t done PVP and it seems like those who pay would have an advantage due to increased funds, but overall I haven’t experienced any sort of “pay to progress” roadblocks. My biggest concern would be if I started trying to play the PVP competitively that those who spend money can be at an advantage with smaller effort. It seems like this would only be the case because they bought gems, then gold, then purchased/crafted more than I could without grinding out gold at max level. Overall though, I’m very pleased with the F2P elements in this game thus far (far far far better than archage imo, if anyone has experience with that).
Arguably, one of the most revolutionary parts of Guild Wars 2 is the level scaling it incorporates into the game. This element has HUGE benefits to the entire game. The first and most obvious element is that anyone can play with anyone. Tank got on the other day and brought his level 80 to play with my level 16, both of which got experience appropriate to their level. While the quest rewards and item drops weren’t level appropriate for Tank, any objectives (such as 100% completing a zone) gave level appropriate items.
Another benefit of this is leveling. How many times in WoW or any other game did you hit a point where you really didn’t want to continue in your current “questing path” due to boredom or being too low a level, hell even too high a level? Many many times the latter has happened to me. In GW2 whenever you “outlevel” an area, instead of having to leave and go find a level appropriate area, you get scaled down to the max level for that area, and are still given level appropriate experience rewards. Why is this important? because the ENTIRE GAME gives you level appropriate experience regardless of your level. This is huge! At max level getting experience still gives you skill points for each time you “level”, which means at level 80, you can go to a level 1 zone and quest for experience.
A counter to this, which is a valid question because I hate this in video games, is then will I never feel stronger, part of the fun of these games is outleveling a zone that kicked your ass then going back and stomping it 20 levels later. While this is true, that you won’t outlevel a zone, you’ll always be max level for that zone, plus your gear will be scaled down to be “the very best” you could have at the time, essentially still making you a badass (This is my assessment, this may not always be the case).
Races and Classes
Guild Wars 2 feels very much like a stereotypical Fantasy MMORPG, there’s the generic fantasy races, although spiced up with differing names and back stories which adds a lot of flavor. Classes on the other hand, I’ve tried to boil them down to the stereotypical fantasy classes and struggled, which is a good thing because that gives some variety to a usually bland choice, although that also makes it much more difficult to pinpoint each of the typical “roles” associated with an MMORPG.
The one big “negative” that I have in comparison to WoW is that GW2 feels very… directionless. I started playing and ran around and numerous times ended up in areas that were far too high for me to be in, so I’d end up backtracking to find out what I had missed. This is largely due to a huge positive in the game, which is their questing system. If you think about WoW and the “QuestHelper-esque” areas that they added to quests (You pickup a quest, and it highlights on the map where that quest can be done) then take that and remove the “getting the quest” portion, and that’s how Guild Wars 2 questing behaves.
To explain it simply, quest giving text is simply flavor text, you don’t need to speak to the quest give to begin or end a quest. Now my initial experience with this was negative because I still hadn’t learned the game, the hand holding you get in WoW is beneficial when you’re in a new area you know nothing about. However, as I’ve been playing more and becoming more accustomed to this it’s actually been really nice to just run into an area and start killing/gathering things.
Crafting is about as interesting as I would have thought, a big difference between GW2 and WoW is that questing gives a lot of experience and crafting to get some levels is actually done frequently, especially on alts. There is some streamlined UI elements that are really nice, such as from the crafting window being able to go to GW2’s version of the auction house and purchase a missing ingredient. You still have to run and get it from the AH people but it significantly improves the speed at which you can check for items. Overall I haven’t done a lot with crafting, I did a bit of Leatherworking and got a few upgrades, but overall it seems to have some niceities that I can see being beneficial if I ever got serious enough into the game to level each crafting.
One last note, there are no “gathering” professions from what I’ve been able to tell, you simply buy a pick/axe/sickle and go.
Inventory / User Interface
Now this is one where I have very differing opinions on. I’m going to give GW2 the benefit of the doubt and assume that I’ll get better at inventory / equipment management as I get more accustomed to it, but as I’m not in these menu’s very often they are somewhat cumbersome to me.
The largest reason I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt is because there is A LOT of customization options when it comes to the inventory / equipment management. I only just recently found out that you could change your inventory from being split by “bag” (which i despise) to being one unified inventory. Also, the equipment management has a lot of filters to look through equipment by slot which I’ve used a handful of times and it’s been nice.
Overall I’m pretty happy with the inventory aspect of this game, the shortcomings I’m going to chalk up to inexperience and give this aspect a positive grade.
I like combat so far, there’s some elements to it that I question, such as when my character does a flip over the monster (which is awesome) but my camera doesn’t realign, so mid jump I have to turn my camera mid-jump to actually still be facing the monster.
Combat in general goes more towards an active fighting mechanic, there’s no simple “auto-attack” but you can put certain abilities on “auto cast”. My Thief (my only character as of writing this) has points that he can expend on special attacks, and a single attack that doesn’t take any of these points to use, so in general I spam the free attack while occassionally throwing in special attacks, pretty general combat. A big positive to the combat system, which is always of the utmost importance to me, is it feels fluid, i’m not attacking, then waiting to do anything until that attack animation finishes, which I ABSOLUTELY HATE (RIP AION).
So combat gets a good grade as well, although I could see it getting repetitive over the long haul (which I imagine most systems would anyway).
PVP / Dungeons
As of this writing I have yet to get into PvP or dungeons. Annoyingly, PvP isn’t available until you hit level 22 (why 22? I don’t know). Dungeons are not available until you hit level 30, yes, I said THIRTY. Right now my character is level 25 and I’m still grinding to get 30 to experience dungeons, which honestly could make or break my assessment of this game entirely. One of the biggest enjoyments I get out of this is taking a group of friends (or a few friends with some random idiots) and running dungeons and getting loot / experience. Testing our skills against the dungeons supplied by the game creators. If dungeons are poop, honestly I wouldn’t recommend this game unless PvP was amazing, as there’s not much to do endgame from what I understand except PvP / completionist.
For the completionists out there, you know who you are, GW2 delivers. Each “zone” has different objectives (Quests, Vistas, Points of Interest, Skill Point Challenges..) which have a counter and completion percentage right on your map. Also completing each zone gives you a chest reward that is level appropriate. This was one of the most interesting parts of questing / exploring for me.
One cool element of GW2 is that the abilities you have are based on the type of weapon you have equipped. If you have a bow equipped it automatically swaps to ranged bow abilities, if you have a 2 handed axe equipped it switches to appropriate abilities. This gives your weapon choice much more depth than just number crunching. My thief uses daggers and I equipped a sword that, stat wise, seemed better but I quickly swithced back as I preferred the dagger abilities over the sword abilities.
There’s also skill point and ability trees that I haven’t fully explored, I haven’t fully felt the need for this as I’ve mostly been group/solo questing and the base abilities you get have been suitable for this type of gameplay. These elements seem to add more depth to characters similarly to talents in WoW.
Overall, I’ve been really enjoying my time with Guild Wars 2. I’ll continue dipping in, especially until I fully experience the PVP and dungeons aspect of the game. I’d recommend anyone who is interested in hopping on and doing some random questing / crafting / dungeons / PvP to give it a go, I don’t feel like the free to play aspect limits any of this in any major regard at this point.
One of my largest reasons for putting so much time into my analysis of this is that I’ve had my WoW account open for ~3 months now and, as is natural, I played it a lot when I first opened it and haven’t played it nearly as much in the last 2-3 weeks. When considering closing the account and deciding not to because going back and doing some dungeons / quests seems interesting enough that I might do it, but I don’t know when. The free to play element gives that freedom without the cost of a monthly subscription. However, these types of games have been very limiting from my experience, hence the complex review.