Guild Wars 2 is something of an oddity in the gaming space. It’s an MMO, but there’s no subscription. It’s free to play, but you have to buy the game. It’s a unique model, and one that has been successful. The goal of this article is to look at the game itself and review its component parts in a neutral manner.
|Type of game:||Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game|
|Total Play Time:||Roughly Infinite|
|System Requirements:||CPU: Intel i3 or Equivalent
GPU: GeForce 7800 or equivalent
RAM: 2 GB
OS: 64-bit Windows Vista or newer
HDD Space: 25 GB
The World of Guild Wars 2
Guild Wars 2 has been a fairly successful MMO, one of the few to really gain traction in a post-World of Warcraft World. Figuring out what makes this game work means taking a look at its various parts. In this review, we’ll discuss the game’s setting, its characters, its storyline, and the additional content that has been released since the game was originally launched. Players and critics have enjoyed the game so far, but it still deserves a closer look.
Atmosphere & Location
The setting of Guild Wars 2 is a world called Tyria, a fairly typically high-fantasy world that has been beset by a number of major disasters. It was once home to a prosperous human nation, but events in recent history have thrown the power balance of the world into chaos. The changing face of the world makes for a good transition from the first game to the second, with a number of absolutely beautiful settings that stray just far enough from the fantasy norm to feel fresh.
The game owes quite a bit in terms of both its look and feel to the original Guild Wars game. It’s also got a number of elements lifted from other fantasy MMOs, including EverQuest and World of Warcraft. There’s nothing close enough to the other games to feel like it’s been lifted wholesale, though, as the unique art direction really does give Guild Wars 2 a feel of its own. It still follows most of the basic MMORPG “rules” for design, but in a way that helps to push forward the genre a bit.
As is common with MMORPGs, there is no true ‘main character’ of Guild Wars 2. Instead, every player takes on a singular role that impacts on the story. This means that the main character is split among thousands of different people, all of whom experience the story in a slightly different way. Making things even more difficult is the fact that Guild Wars 2 allows players a fair number of customization options – you simply can’t make any definitive statements about who the main character is due to the choices available to the player.
Players can take on the role of one of five different races. These include the humans, who were formerly the dominant kingdom of the world, as well as Charr who were the villains of the original game. The Norn and Asura, who were featured in an expansion to the original game, are also available for character creation alongside the brand-new Sylvari. The races do all fall into fairly typical fantasy roles, though with enough differences that they feel fresh to players who have spent years toiling in quasi-medieval fantasy worlds.
In addition to race, players also have control over their classes, which in turn have an impact on the skills they can select. The game breaks up the typical ‘trinity’ design of MMORPG parties by not offering a dedicated healing class – instead, players are either DPS (which can be ranged or melee) or they are tanks. Every class has its own ability to heal, as well as several other skills that are unique to either their profession, weapon type, or armor class.
The player character does have an important role in the story, but is defined largely by interacting with NPCs. As important as the character may be, it’s hard to feel unique in a world that has thousands doing the exact same thing at the same time.
Guild Wars 2′ story is, at least at first, one that focuses on uniting the disparate races of the game. Taking place two and a half centuries after the end of the first game, Guild Wars 2 finds the various races of the world scattered, changed, and often on the brink of major disaster. There is a clear view that the world at large would be much better if the various races could just unite, but a number of cataclysms as well as old wounds keep the factions from coming together as they should.
On a more personal level, the original story sees the player character attempting to reunite a group of adventurers who have split apart due to a variety of circumstances. It seems that if the players can get them back together, there might be some hope for the rest of the world. This process will take players across the world and through various exciting locations, generally through the process of dealing with new enemy factions and major threats. It’s a very standard MMORPG kind of progression, though one that is not without its charm.
One of the major selling points of the game as it exists now is its Living Story system. As time progresses, so too does the story of the game. Often, the next batch of story will be heavily reliant on what came directly before. There are, however, a number of callbacks in each story section that help flesh out the world in general. It’s a unique way to see change in a genre that is usually known for having fairly static worlds.
The story of Guild Wars 2 is slated to continue through its development cycle. It is necessary to purchase the expansion packs to get the full story, but even the base game does seem to be on track to be updated for some time to come.
DLC & Expansion Packs
One of the most impressive things about Guild Wars 2 is the sheer amount of content that has been released since day one. As an MMO, there is a push for constant content. To ArenaNet’s credit, the vast majority of the content released thus far has been free. There’s really no option to whether or not you will receive this content, as its part of the game’s update cycle. The story grows and changes with time, allowing you to feel a sense of progression even after you have completed the original story.
There are, however, a pair of paid expansions for the game. Both Heart of Thorns and Path of Fire added a significant amount of content to the game, but both were viewed as mediocre additions to the game. They’re definitely a must-buy for people who really enjoy the game, but it’s recommended that you buy or download the base game first before paying for the expansions.
Guild Wars 2 is an interesting study in game design. It might not have the polish of some of its bigger competitors, but it still stands head and shoulders above most of its free-to-play peers. Much of the game does revolve around its money-making processes, but not necessarily in a way that will scare off players. It is precisely the solution to many of the problems that some have with MMORPGs, but it still doesn’t feel like it has what it takes to make it to the next level.
What has your experience been like with this game? Are you still playing long after launch, or did you give up? Let us know what you think by sending us your comments and questions.