Just recently, ArenaNet finally announced a release date for their long anticipated MMO Guild Wars 2, but is the game really the new Messiah people are hoping for? Or will it soon be replaced by the “next new thing” like so many other MMOs in recent years?
If Wishes Were Horses . . .
You have no idea how many times in my MMO “career” this proverb crossed my mind. Okay, many of my dreams about “my perfect MMORPG” are just that – unrealistic, subjective and outright impossible with today’s technology, but those that aren’t . . . suffice it to say that I grew increasingly frustrated and disillusioned with the industry.
Maybe I (and my life) just changed over the years and things I didn’t mind back in my M59 and Everquest days bother me today. Maybe it really is time for a new direction in the MMORPG market. Maybe it’s a bit of both.
When I virtually stumbled upon ArenaNet’s Guild Wars 2 earlier this year and took a closer look, I realized that this could be the game that shakes things up for me.
I was skeptical at first. Sure, the game isn’t exactly “free to play” because you have to buy it before you can play it. Still, whenever I hear or read item shop I think of typical free-to-play games in which you soon get to a point where you have to spend more money on being able to play the game than you ever would in a subscription-based game.
ArenaNet stated several times that they will only sell convenience items and cosmetic stuff in their item shop and from what I’ve seen in the BWEs (Beta Weekend Events) so far, that’s what they do (yes, even the boosts are just that – convenience that is by no means necessary to successfully play any aspect of the game). After taking a close look at the GW2 item shop, I remain cautious but not worried. However, I really hope ArenaNet will not change their policy in the future.
“You couldn’t keep the keep!”
I like PvP – I’m not exceptionally good at it (mostly because at my age, you gain wisdom at the expense of reflexes . . .), but I enjoy it immensely. What I don’t like is grinding my way to the PvP equipment required to be competitive even against players that are worse at PvP than I am and who simply grinded more. I also like large-scale PvP, castle sieges and all that stuff.
In GW2, I get the whole package. About 15 minutes into the game, I can travel to the mists where my character is scaled up to level 80 with all the weapon and utility skills and traits available. I also get equipment for free which I can use in the team vs. team conquest maps.
If I decide to travel onwards to the Eternal Battlegrounds, where three worlds fight for dominion by seizing keeps, towers and even castles over four huge maps, I only get the weapon and utility skills and the traits I already unlocked in PvE. My character’s level and stats however are scaled up to level 80, as well, and I will gain experience (and thus, levels, skill and trait points) from participating in large-scale battles and sieges.
The beauty of this system is – I can grind for better looking equipment, but I don’t have to, because it doesn’t make me stronger!
I haven’t had as much fun and variety in PvP for a long time and I hope that the future will see even more PvP features added to the game.
The Whole World is Your Oyster
I’m a bit of a split personality, I guess, since I enjoy PvP, PvE and role-playing to equal parts. To me, challenging encounters are just one aspect of PvE. Exploring all the nooks and crannies of the world is the other.
Usually, leveling up your character isn’t very challenging in MMORPGs – and unless you explore each zone when you are still in its level range (which can be difficult considering the leveling speed in games these days) there isn’t much of a challenge to exploration, either. Not so on the continent of Tyria!
The first time I read about downscaling, my initial reaction was “Well, finally!”
There is no more redundant content – not in the world, not in dungeons.
The role-player in me wasn’t quite as happy, because seeing your hit points and stats go up and down depending on the level range of the area is weird. However, thanks to the surprisingly active combat (for an MMORPG), the dynamic events, fun tasks and challenging jumping puzzles, I’ve got better things to do than look at some numbers in the UI – like not falling to my death, getting chewed up by a bear or stomped into the ground by that effing effigy coming around the corner.
The “no obligatory grind” philosophy carries over from the PvP content to the PvE content, as well. I won’t have to do increasingly unexciting and unchallenging dungeons over and over again just to get the final piece of equipment required to take on the next tier of (hopefully) challenging content. I only have to grind if I want prettier stuff – but hey, beauty always comes at a price, right?
If the developers keep their promise to add new content in the form of dynamic events – environment-changing encounters that either happen on a timer or as part of an event chain everywhere – there’ll always be a reason to travel and explore. Just never forget that there’s no more god mode in lower level zones (I did forget once, and man, did it hurt).
I’ll Shut Up Now
I could write about many other things that look extremely promising in Guild Wars 2 to me – cities that really feel like cities again, crafting where you can discover new recipes, the four dungeon modes, your character’s personal story and so on – but I sound enough like a fan-girl already so it’s time to bring this piece to a close.
While Guild Wars 2 is still missing some features that I would really love to see (some of which are planned for post-release updates), and it has a few features I’m not too happy about (like tiered utility traits), I think I’ll have a lot of fun spending my time in the world ArenaNet created. The fact that I can play on and off if I want to without having to worry about cancelling or renewing a subscription or having to catch up to my friends and acquaintances online just makes the game even more appealing.
You’ll definitely see me in Tyria!