Updated Thu, Sep 13, 2012 by gunky
Sometimes, there are elements in a MMOG that just don't resonate in the same way for different types of gamers. For some players, these dynamics can be the core deciding factors that determine whether or not he or she will enjoy that game. Guild Wars 2 is no exception to this rule - as outside-the-box as it is, it must still manage to meet the ineffable criteria of its players And you can't please everyone.
GW2's own uniqueness can have a divisive effect on players. The things ArenaNet has done differently can generate either a love or hate reaction, or sometimes a little of both. This is also true among Ten Ton Hammer writers - while we do attempt to maintain objectivity, we are humans and we do have our own opinions and biases. As proof, we have Gunky and Shayalyn debating the pros and cons of the dynamic questing system, game immersion and playable races.
I'm all for new challenges and thinking outside the box, but there's a reason the tried-and-true questing system in MMOs is so ubiquitous: it works, and players can easily embrace it. In your article How To Love GW2 (Even If You Don't), you more or less argue that the player has to adapt to Guild Wars 2 to enjoy it, and that does seem to be the case. The recommended strategy of embracing exploration and letting things happen more or less haphazardly, gaining piecemeal XP from basically every mouse click, just feels like screwing around to us crusty old-schoolers. Some of us enjoy the process of loading up on quests, going out and completing all of them, and then striding heroically back to town to receive coins and loot. It's much more orderly than the hippy-dippy whim-following of GW2.
The open-world PvE with the dynamic events instead of questing is neat and all, and it does make the PvE game more immersive, but it can also lead to a lot of boring waiting around for things to happen, or aggravating repetition. Coming in at the tail end of a dynamic event, for example, you may find a group killing a "boss" creature and realize that you're too late to contribute, which means you have to either wait around for that event to re-pop or go screw around elsewhere and come back. And occasionally, you have to pass through the same area several times, getting caught in the middle of looping dynamic events you may have already done many times. Both of these aggravations only serve to break immersion rather than enhance it.
For a game that is supposed to be all groundbreaking and genre-redefining, much of Guild Wars 2 is transparently derivative. The spirit of Warcraft is very much alive in the character races. The names and faces are different, and they've done away with Alliance vs. Horde, but the "influence" is crystal clear.
You say that the standard MMO quest system works, and yet it’s been referred to as “the quest grind” by many a gamer. Grinding out quests is sort of like making the morning coffee day after day: you grind the beans, fill the hopper, pour some water into the coffee maker, drink the brew you’ve made...and then start all over again the next day. Drinking the coffee (which I’d relate to turning in quests for experience), is the only kick you get. Unfortunately, there’s that mind-numbing process you need to go through day after day to get you to the caffeine.
I believe Guild Wars 2 cuts out the tedium and gets you straight to the caffeine rush. If you want to call that “screwing around,” I suppose you wouldn’t be entirely wrong, but it’s screwing around with a purpose. If you pay attention to your personal story quest line and to the world around you, you’ll see that you’re part of something bigger than just helping a moa rancher drive off bandits or keeping a caravan safe as it travels through a dangerous swamp. By the time you get to level 30 and explore your first dungeon, you’re part of a deep plot with a compelling story. And, if you’re like me, you’re going to want to experience more of that story.
As for dynamic events, if you’re waiting around for boss mobs to pop or for an event to repeat itself, you’re not really making the most of your experience--that just isn’t how Guild Wars 2 works. Waiting for mobs or events to “spawn” is only going to end in frustration. Instead, go harvest some nodes or climb to the top of a vista. Kill a variety of bad guys and pursue your daily objectives (there’s some great xp and a nice cash reward for doing that.) Check out some new areas. You might even head to other racial areas and explore them. While you’re doing this, events will spawn around you--just find them on the map and head in their direction. After a while, you get a feel for which ones are too far away for it to be worth your while to travel to, but the good news is that there will always be more.
I’ll concede that the dynamic events system, while very cool, could still use some tweaking. I would appreciate more events, and perhaps even more variety so that the same events don’t happen in the same places repeatedly. But for my money (which is, incidentally, already paid and will not need to be paid again thanks to GW2’s subscription-free model), the DE system is still the best thing going.
As for your final point, you’re the first person I’ve heard suggest that there are elements of “WoW clone” in Guild Wars 2, so congrats on that dubious honor. You find the character races derivative? Hmm. If anything they’re stock fantasy races with a twist, and not anything that directly mimics World of Warcraft. We’ve got humans (few fantasy games lack them); the smug, technically superior asura (EverQuest had gnomes well before WoW existed, and gnomes have been part of folklore for centuries); the tree-hugging plantlike sylvari (Wood elves, anyone? Again, we’re harking back to folklore and Tolkien and EQ and things that predate WoW significantly); the tall brawlers from the north, the norn (because fantasy games need Vikings. Period.); and the warrior cats, the charr (EQ had the vah shir, and the Wing Commander space epic had the Kilrathi long before WoW had tribal cows.) So, there are certainly elements of the fantasy RPG in Guild Wars 2, but opting not to reinvent fantasy genre races from the ground up is hardly a crime; in fact, it’s an accepted practice.
Gunky's opposition to "screwing around" as the main source of XP remains unabated, while Shayalyn's adoration of the the game's unrestricted freedom continues unchallenged. The war wages ever on: the haters will continue to find new things that annoy them, and the fans will claim those things to be the ultimate reasons to play the game.
Which team do you play for? How do you feel about GW2's dynamic questing, game immersion and playable races? Let us know in our comments!