The one year anniversary of ArenaNet’s popular MMO sequel Guild Wars 2 is nearly upon us and it’s always nice to look back and see how far a game with such a massive and constantly evolving scale has come in just a year’s time. I’ve played through a healthy amount of the self-titled “living world” which Guild Wars 2 offers players and I’m here to tell you what works, what doesn’t, and where I think the game is headed.
What Guild Wars 2 Does Right
Even before a player gets into the game proper, Guild Wars 2 kicks off with an incredibly immersive character-creation process that puts their character front and center in a personalized origin story that ties into some of the greater threats that are facing the world of Tyria.
A healthy number of different player races such as Humans, Charr (the beastly race that served as central antagonists in the original Guild Wars), and Sylvari (Guild Wars 2’s version of Elves) can be selected and paired with a number of different professions such as Warrior, Ranger, Thief, Necromancer, and Engineer.
There are no race/class restrictions so if you want to be a nature-worshiping Sylvari who also lays down mechanical turrets as an Engineer, a punitive yet cunning Asura (the game’s gnome-esque race of tinkerers and researchers) decked out with a Warrior’s heavy armor and two-handed weapons, or a lumbering Charr who can also skulk about as a Thief, you’re more than welcome to.
Each class has its own weapon specialties and available skills and powers but the current list for each isn’t quite as robust as they were in, say, the original Guild Wars so there isn’t quite as much room for experimentation in regards to class builds. On the flip-side however, a condensed pool of available skills and attacks (only eight skills can be selected for use at a time) makes it easier to come up with a custom-tailored playstyle that can be useful in both solo and group-oriented situations.
ArenaNet has been doing a pretty good job keeping the world of Guild Wars 2 fresh with bi-weekly updates to consistently add new content including new explorable areas, characters to interact with, and even world-wide events. Sadly a majority of these updates have only been temporary one-off affairs but ArenaNet has promised that future updates will contain more and more permanent content.
Even without the constant updates, Guild Wars 2 still manages to keep a majority of its existing content relevant thanks to its “scaled” leveling system. Even if a player’s character outlevels a particular zone, they can continue questing there while receiving appropriate rewards thanks to each zone’s ability to “scale” the character’s effective level to one appropriate for that zone. If a level 50 character wants to go back and work through a couple level 20 zones, their health and effective power will be scaled to that of a level 20 character (but they’ll still retain all of their unlocked skills and powers) and they’ll receive level 50 rewards from any monsters they slay or quests that they complete.
In some instances, the scaling also works in the opposite direction. If a player wants to engage in the game’s PvP modes such as the instanced “Structured PvP” (sPvP) battlegrounds or the more persistent “World vs. World” (WvW), their character will automatically be boosted to an effective level of 80 (Guild Wars 2’s current level cap) for as long as they remain within the PvP-specific zones or areas. Certain PvE events such as those introduced by the bi-weekly updates also sometimes scale a player’s character level up to an appropriate level for the duration of the event.
Since Guild Wars 2 utilizes a buy-to-play (B2P) business model, as in you pay a flat price for the game and have unlimited access without the requirement of a monthly subscription, it also comes with an in-game cash shop through which players can pay real money for in-game items. However, unlike many free-to-play games, Guild Wars 2’s cash shop is about as far from intrusive as a cash shop can get. Many of the items offered (such as temporary boosts and bonuses) can also be earned via in-game means and the various mini-pets and weapon/armor skins are merely cosmetic.
Where Guild Wars 2 Could Improve
As fun and as great a value Guild Wars 2 is, it isn’t without its flaws. The myriad of outdoor PvE events and quests that are available do a great job of scaling to the number of players who undertake them but ArenaNet still clearly designed them as social events in which many players are meant to participate which can often be frustrating for a solo player, especially if that player is playing a more group-oriented class like the Mesmer or Engineer.
There are many different crafting disciplines to take up such as cooking, blacksmithing, tailoring, alchemy, and jewelcrafting and, much like virtually every other activity in Guild Wars 2, crafting awards XP when used. However, the crafting interface is not very user-friendly and can be especially confusing for those not already familiar with crafting in other MMO’s. If ArenaNet were to implement a more newbie-friendly crafting tutorial, it would go a long way towards getting more players involved in the crafting market.
While Guild Wars 2 has a healthy number of different dungeons and “mini-dungeons” called “Fractals”, the average solo player may not ever see any of them as ArenaNet has yet to implement any sort of Looking-For-Group (LFG) tool for those who’d rather not join a guild or manually form a group (thought they have promised that one is in development). This may not seem like such a big deal for those who play with friends or are in a large guild but it should be considered by any potential players who want to experience all that Guild Wars 2 has to offer.
If you’re looking for a fun new fantasy MMO to play without having to worry about a monthly subscription fee, you could do a lot worse than Guild Wars 2. While it retains many of the core elements that appeal to both casual and hardcore MMO fans, Guild Wars 2 also manages to break away from the standard mold and ArenaNet is always striving to make the world of Tyria an inviting place for MMO newcomers and seasoned vets alike.
Whether you’re looking to get immersed in the game’s living story, scratch your completionist itch through earnable achievements and other in-game accomplishments, sate your PvP bloodlust with a few rounds of sPvP or WvW, or just blast through content with a couple buddies without having to worry about out-leveling each other, Guild Wars 2 has you covered.