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Guild Wars 2 Review
An MMO in development goes either one of two ways. You can be just like WoW but provide a fresh view with all the included features or you can be something totally different. Lately, MMOs are attempting to tear apart the expectations of what this genre plays like. We’ve had games like DC Universe Online and TERA Online change the entire battle system to more of a 3rd person action RPG. We’ve also seen story come to the forefront of the adventure with Star Wars: The Old Republic. Finally, we’ve seen the entire class system thrown out the window in The Secret World in favor of a more player-driven character progression.
What do they all have in common? They managed to still be the same. The delicious apples inside of the pie were the same no matter what shade of brown the crust came out. Sometimes we would get cinnamon-coated apples but the joy of that wears off pretty quickly and they start to become just apples again. The MMO genre has failed to make a change. Developer after developer has stepped up, challenged one aspect of the genre, and sat back down after either being crushed or enjoying a very low presence in the market share.
People wonder why World of Warcraft is still king, but they shouldn’t. None of the games mentioned above nor the ones I did not mention succeeded to do what they set out to do. They gave us illusions. At the start, our minds thinks that we’re playing something drastically different. We start to think, “omg, this is so new! Genius!” Yet, after the first couple of dates, we start to see the flaws in the illusion. Everything is still the same but with a different flavored coating.
WoW does not hide what it is. It never did. It is a traditional MMO. End of story. In the 8 years Azeroth has been online, it has remained constant and never tried to break through with some radical new system to complete change the genre. Its only made it better with age as Blizzard learned from experience.
So while all of these new MMOs continue to test and test, WoW just sits there with everything an MMO player wanted. Until Guild Wars 2 came along.
Guild Wars 2’s development was very interesting. Most of the people who pre-ordered had got excited about it pretty recently. A minority of those who were here since the start of pre-orders had known about the game since its first announcement back in 2007. Yes, the game has been in development since then and for quite awhile, the team over at ArenaNet was very quiet about it. Fans received no word about the game other than a few concept art shots and an early logo for about two years. Finally in 2009, ArenaNet and NC Soft showed off a game that was looking pretty interesting but very early.
Then the information started to come out after that and it began to look like Guild Wars 2 was going to surpass the first one in every aspect. With the announcement that the game would feature a much more open world and still maintain a free model after the initial purchase, expectations for the game rose significantly higher. This was when people started telling their friends and their friends told their friends.
Why such hype? Guild Wars 2 meets the quality level of World of Warcraft and any other top tier subscription MMO but without the subscription. This was supposed to be the MMO to lead the genre into the new frontier. A frontier where subscriptions would be abolished and the quality wouldn’t take a hit because of it. ArenaNet was set to be the pioneers of this new frontier.
So did they match the expectations? Could they do what so many people thought was, at one time, impossible? Read on and see!
Design is a weird first subject to talk about with an MMO. There is just so much content to talk about but Guild Wars 2 employs a very unique and stylish design that it must be at the forefront.
The design of this game is what really makes it stand out to people. When they start to watch an official trailer or look up art for the game, they see a wonderful yet erratic display of paint blotches and splatter with soft pastel colors and rare deep hues. This is featured throughout the entire game with menus and pop-ups. This unique design helps Guild Wars 2 look like something you’ve never seen before.
The splatter style also really complements what the story of the game is all about. The world of Tyria is in disarray. The Elder Dragons have awoken and the five major races still don’t fully trust each other enough to come together and combat this grave threat. The world literally doesn’t know what to do and chaos is mounting everywhere. That is what the splatter style really conveys: chaos. In the character concept images, you can clearly see a character model showing off a design for a profession (class) but the splatter in and around the model makes the artwork look distorted and erratic.
Aside from the splatter style, the in-game design is absolutely gorgeous. The concept art is very colorful and you should be prepared to see all of these colors used again in-game. You won’t always be looking at deserts, forests, plains, or ice. Those may be the major scenery backdrops but you’ll see plenty of assorted areas that will just wow you. The main cities come to mind right away. Places like the human’s Divinity’s Reach and the Charr’s Black Citadel really shine through. You can’t help but be taken aback when you step foot into the Black Citadel for the first time. The place is sprawling, complex, and absolutely huge. It is a wonder to look at. When you see the loading screen for the Black Citadel, you’ll look at it and doubt that it could be that huge and technologically advanced but when you load in and begin to walk through, I’ll tell you, my jaw dropped.
There are places like that all over the world. Even some arena-type areas where an important fight or boss appears can make you stop in your tracks and just gaze for a moment.
ArenaNet must be proud of their work, too. They’ve added in collection-type points called Vistas that show off different interesting sections of the world in a cinematic-like camera pan. Not only do these Vistas reward you with XP but it gives you a chance to see amazing pieces of the world up close and with great camera angles.
There are five major races in Guild Wars 2 and each of them have their own starting zones, cities, and stories. It is also important to note that design effort went into this part of the game, as well. The races look amazing in both male and female variations and I really can’t say that I’d change any of them.
The Humans were the only playable race in Guild Wars 1 and they return here with absolutely amazing models. I actually believe these are the best human models in any MMO. Both the males and females have great customization options and it is hard to create an ugly character. The humans begin in Queensdale which is nestled right outside of their city, Divinity’s Reach. It is here that Queen Jennah resides and you’ll be seeing plenty of her and the two protectorates housed inside: the Seraph and the Ministry Guard. Your human character will become friends with the Seraph captain in missions of treason, murder, spying, and war with the Centaurs. Overall, I really enjoy the humans’ starting zones, events, and story. The personal stories and those have happen afterward are fun to play and I got excited when I reached the level recommended to do them.
The Charr are perhaps the most interesting race to play if you were a fan of Guild Wars 1. These guys were the main enemy of the game as they attempted to reclaim their land and destroy the humans. Playing as them now feels weird but it ties into the notion that all races must combine efforts to stop the dragons. Don’t be fooled though, a flimsy treaty with the humans have not made the Charr any nicer. This race is generally mean and straightforward. They are a race born and raised on war and they certainly act like it. The starting zones should bring a mix of nostalgia and triumph. Nostalgia belongs to relics, ruins, and characters that you will see that you may remember from Guild Wars 1. The triumph comes from realizing that you are playing the Charr now and they have conquered Ascalon and now seek to keep it for good.
The Norns are basically Viking badasses that cherish their history and animal gods. Playing through these starting zones really makes you get into this “faith” the Norns believe in as you’ll hear all about from NPCs and quests. This is a race built on pride, strength, and belief. Everything about the Norns screams epic, especially the intro which has you scouring a forest for a trophy from a large foe to grant entry into the Great Hunt. It is there that you face a giant ice wurm as your test. Be prepared for intense storylines and events. It seems nothing passes by the Norn lands without trying to destroy something sacred or defile it.
The Asura are the coolest race in terms of lore, attitude, and quests. Everything about the Asura just bellows out confidence and superiority. They believe that due to their massive advancements in science, technology, and magic that they will one day rule over Tyria and be triumphant. Even your character feels that way about himself. Right from the start you will tell everything you talk to that you are a master crafter and it is only you that can clean up the mess someone else made. It is never your creations that go out of whack. It is this exuding confidence that makes playing the Asura a blast. Thanks to the focus on radical technology inventions during quests, the areas and events are typically very fun to play through.
The Sylvari are the weirdest race in the game. They are not born, they are grown. They do not hatch until they are ready to exit the Dream and come into the true world. It is in this Dream world that you begin your adventure and it is quite hectic. A nightmare has awoken and you must push it back in order to escape the Dream. What kind of nightmare? Well, duh, dragons. The Sylvari are plant people, if you didn’t get that with the growing and hatching words just above. They are a caring yet powerful race and they’ll do anything to protect nature and their environment. They do this with the same vigor and violence you see in the other races. The dragons’ awakening has woke you up early from the Dream. Now you have to stop them and their corruption and this sense of urgency is found throughout the starting zones. It is quite fun, although I was surprised by that. I didn’t think I would like this race.
Professions are the classes in Guild Wars 2 and every one of them are fun to play. In fact, readers of Leviathyn might remember that I had some issues picking which one to settle with first. Well it took me about 10 hours to finally pick but that just goes to show you how much each profession brings to the table in terms of gameplay, traits, and fun.
The Ranger is the class I spent the least time with, to be honest. It’s cool and all but if you’ve played a Marksman Hunter in WoW, you’ve played this already. There isn’t enough here to feel unique among other hunter/ranger type classes in other MMOs. Out of every profession this one feels like it goes against what the rest of them try to do and it gets stale pretty fast. It says something when I brought it up first just to get it out of the way. I realize there are some people who enjoy this class but I’ve talked to about 5 different level 80 Rangers and they all said they leveled it not because they have fun with the class but because it was easy. Hey, that sounds just like WoW Hunters!
The Warrior is a sick profession to play. They are very strong and can use a ton of weapons. That means a lot of skills to switch between. I don’t want to keep bringing up the Ranger but it is pretty sad that a Warrior using a Shortbow or Rifle can do more damage in the ranged position. That’s how versatile this Warrior profession is. There’s a lot you can test out here and it all feels fun. Myself, I switched between the Greatsword and the Rifle. Magic is cool in this game but sometimes you just want to tear things apart with your melee weapons and the Warrior does that the best.
The Guardian is like a Paladin but with much better damage skills, defense skills, and AoE healing. The Guardian can be whatever you need it to be. With a switch of a weapon set they can go from DPS to meta-tank and that can be extremely helpful. Guardians have very high survival chances while leveling and the Sword/Torch combo is extremely powerful with a Greatsword in tow and skills and traits focuses in Spirit weapons. This profession can be fun to play but you’ll begin to think you are unstoppable not too long after creation.
The Elementalist is a very hard profession to play. Some people think the Mesmer is the hardest due to Shattering and whatnot but I truly think the Ele takes the cake. In order to fully utilize your Ele, you need to get good at element swapping and get good at it fast. An Ele has access to four different elements: fire, water, earth, and air. Every weapon they use in their main hand gets access to three (or five if you are using a two-handed weapon) abilities for each element. That means an Ele holding a Scepter has access to 12 skills just with that weapon. You need to switch between them to take advantage away from your foe and onto you. The elements are you friend, remember that! This is not an Arcane Mage with a two button rotation. You will have a huge hill to climb in terms of difficulty.
The Engineer uses kits and elixers to stay versatile in combat. Elixers will grant you boons (buffs) or outright heal you. They are very important to an Engineer’s survival and potency in battle. Kits actually replace your currently equipped weapon skill set. You can use things like Flamethrowers and Grenades and it is quite fun. The Engineer takes a bit to become fun, though. The first 8 levels can be boring and slow but it is around there that you can finally choose a kit to mess around with. Flamethrower Kit is very, very powerful and it took me 8 levels to unlock it with the help of Skill Point Challenges on the map. Once you get moving though you’ll be enjoying the Engineer. It’s a very creative profession.
The Thief is very powerful but also very squishy. It is also extremely fun. You’ll be zip-zagging through enemies and shadowstepping all over the battlefield. If you use a Dagger/Dagger combo, you’ll be fading in and out to evade attacks while hopping over enemy heads to hit weak spots. Even a Thief using a Shortbow is very dangerous due to the onslaught of arrows raining down and high potency for AoE damage. As of this writing, Thieves just got a little nerf with today’s patch. It comes after the Heartseeker dagger skill which can be used as a spam ability once an enemy gets below a certain health point. The nerf just makes it so Thieves have to wait a bit longer to use that skill to its highest efficiency. This really doesn’t damage the profession or its usefulness in group and solo content.
The Necromancer is my favorite profession in the game and currently my main. There is so much hubb-lubb on the internet saying Necros are underpowered but I truly think they just don’t know how to play them. Necros aren’t meant to be burst damage but instead rely on bleeds and other conditions to weaken foes. Right now I am very comfortable with my Dagger/Dagger Necro with a Staff on my swap for packed groups. I throw down so many bleeds and conditions it is insane. This profession is a lot of fun to play with sick animations, skills, and survivability thanks to the Death Shroud mechanic.
The Mesmer profession is tough to graph but very rewarding when you finally do. Don’t feel bad if you go through a chunk of the game and then find out from someone in a dungeon that you’re doing it all wrong. This profession is really weird and unconventional and it will naturally take a while to finally understand it. The Mesmer uses illusions and teleports to not only stay alive but to also hurt the enemy. Mesmers can summon either Clones (non-damaging illusions) or Phantasms that take the heat off of you and keep you standing. Mesmers die fast so you have to stay mobile with teleports and letting your illusions take the brunt of the fight. Trust me, when you finally get this class, you’ll love it. I’m not maining it right now but I still love the class. Every time I see mine just sitting there, I feel like Googling a guide and giving it another try. You’ll probably drop the profession and pick it back up once or twice because you finally get into it.