Updated Wed, May 09, 2012 by Shayalyn
I’ll admit that, at first, I wasn’t sold on Guild Wars 2. I’d heard rumblings that this MMO was going to be revolutionary, but years of exposure to the MMO gaming industry (not to mention the inexplicable faith I once put in Vanguard: Saga of Heroes) have left me allergic to hype. My symptoms can include skepticism and occasional apathy.
Still, as hype for Guild Wars 2 grew, so did my level of curiosity. I’d played just enough of Guild Wars, the original, to know that ArenaNet had made at least one pretty game with some interesting lore. I realized that, despite my symptoms, I’m still a gamer at heart. I pre-purchased, and awaited the first beta weekend event.
I went in red-eyed with skepticism and came away...red-eyed from lack of sleep. Along with the Ten Ton Hammer editorial team, I couldn’t stop playing this game, and I believe Guild Wars 2 is going to be a game changer in the MMO industry.
Yet despite the hundreds of thousands of players eager for this game’s launch, and despite a massive amount of press coverage (or maybe because of it), there remain some uninitiated gamers who have either not taken an interest in Guild Wars 2, or who’ve sworn it off. Misconceptions about this game float through the gaming community like ragweed pollen, afflicting the sensitive. Let this article, based on my hands-on experience and new understanding of Guild Wars 2, serve as your antihistamine.
Oh, it’s an MMO. It’s a very big MMO.
While instancing may have been the rule with Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2 is not that game. In fact, if you wipe just one thing from your slate of mistaken ideas about GW2, make it the notion that this game is just an updated version of Guild Wars.
Know this: Guild Wars 2 is like Guild Wars in the same way that a Ducati is like a Honda scooter. A Ducati has two wheels and so does a Honda scooter, but that’s where the comparison stops. Guild Wars 2 and Guild Wars share the same lore, and most of the same races and professions, but…you see where I’m going.
My first steps into Guild Wars 2 weren’t into a player hub as they once were in Guild Wars. I didn’t venture out alone into the instanced wilds to fight the Charr, or wrestle with my annoyance over Gwen and her flute. What I did discover was a vast open world filled with sprawling cities, places to explore, and tons of players to explore them with.
Are there instanced dungeons in Guild Wars 2? Sure. Your character’s personal story is instanced as well. (Learn more about personal stories at Guild Wars 2 Hub.) But a big part of the PvE game is all about exploring the wilds, encountering NPCs in need, and participating in dynamic events with masses of other players.
Here’s a little story to illustrate just how engrained the “it’s all instanced” myth about GW2 is. One of my human character’s early personal story quests involved rescuing some medical supplies from a cave full of bandits. I went to the cave on my map marker and found that it was indeed an instanced area adjacent to an open world location. I zoned in and completed my mission. Later, when I was back in the same open world area, I encountered the cave entrance again but assumed that it was instanced off and not accessible…until I watched some other players trot right in without zoning. It turned out that the cave was only instanced when my character needed it to be. Otherwise, it was open for me and other players to explore.
Let’s set one record straight right now--Guild Wars 2 is developed by ArenaNet. Yes, they’re a wholly-owned subsidiary of Korean NCSoft, but they’re an American company based in Bellevue, Washington. NCSoft is the publisher for Guild Wars 2, but ArenaNet has complete creative control. See their jobs page? It even says so.
That said, knowing full well that Asia hasn’t cornered the market on grind, I went into Guild Wars 2 looking for evidence of it. Here’s what I found:
If you’re looking to name quest grind as a reason to hate on
Guild Wars 2, your accusation wouldn’t be entirely baseless, but it’s
still a bit of a stretch. ArenaNet has declared their dynamic event
system revolutionary in the way it changes questing. Here’s a bit of
text from the official site:
Guild Wars 2’s quest system is indeed different, but the question might be: how different? When I first stepped into Tyria, as promised, there were no NPCs with a great big exclamation points hovering over their heads in sight. Nonetheless, there were NPCs giving me some directions. Scouts around the area (they have binoculars hovering over their heads instead) would direct me to locals who needed my help by showing their locations to me on my mini map. And those NPCs who needed assistance had the outline of a small gold heart over their head.
One of the first assistance type quests (and yes, I’m going to go ahead and call them quests) I came across had me helping a moa rancher and his wife defend their flock of big flightless birds from bandit poachers. On the surface, this seems a lot like any old quest in any old MMO. To add to that familiarity, you also seem to move around the area assisting characters in need in a more or less linear fashion. (If you don’t, you’re likely to find yourself up against content that’s too difficult for your level.)
But Guild Wars 2 manages to keep things much fresher than the typical MMO. Let’s go back to the bandit quest. As I was searching the bushes for evidence of bandit poachers, or lost moa chicks, and gleefully picking off bandits as I discovered them, more players entered the area. Pretty soon, a dynamic event began as a wave of bandits came rushing over the rise (most likely wondering why we were slaughtering their friends.) Without forming an actual group, the players in the area came together to drive the waves of bandits back. (Or, more to the point, mow them all down.)
So, it’s like this--in the open world you’ll encounter characters who require your help. It’s not all defending moas from bandits, either. The dynamic events can be quite fun and diverse, and they scale depending on the number of players in a given area so that everyone who participates gets credit. If there are hordes of players around, the game sends in hordes of bad guys, and the fighting gets even more frenzied and fun.
And what of the level grind? Guild Wars 2 does have levels--80 of them, to be precise. But before you groan, take a look at this handy dandy graphic ArenaNet has created. [Source] Leveling in Guild Wars 2 quickly reaches a plateau where each new level takes about the same amount of time to reach as opposed to taking longer and longer as you progress the way most MMOs have traditionally worked.
Guild Wars, the original, had 20 levels of PvE and an end game that consisted of PvP, but Guild Wars 2 is not that game. Guild Wars 2 is, in fact, more like three games rolled into one. There’s a robust PvE open world game, which I’ve talked about already. And if you want to test your skills against other players, there’s PvP and World v World.
I didn’t even delve into the PvP and World v World aspects of Guild Wars 2 during my first beta weekend--I was having too much fun with the open world content. But it’s there, and my coworkers and friends tell me it’s a helluva lot of fun. If you haven’t already, you’d do well to read up on what ArenaNet has in store for structured PvP. (And if that gets you amped for the next beta weekend, you can get a jump start by reading The Do’s and Don’ts of Kyhlo and Niflhel at Guild Wars 2 Hub to get some advanced tips.)
World versus world play offers a more objective-based and less directly competitive game play alternative to PvP. Because I’ve yet to experience this first hand, I’ll point you toward the details in the Guild Wars 2 official wiki, instead.
Both World versus World and PvP scale the player’s level to 80 upon entrance, meaning that their game play is not so much level- and gear-based as it is skill-based. In theory, a new player could enter The Mists and participate in World v World straight out of the opening tutorial.
The point here is this: in Guild Wars 2, PvP is an option, not a requirement. From all early appearances, you will find plenty to do in this game even if you never want to enter The Mists or tear it up in PvP. The options are yours to explore at your leisure, and at your own pace, with no pressure to race through levels in order to get to the end game fun.
If you're still skeptical, I'll grant you this--I’ve only seen about 20 levels of game play; my perception could change over time as my character progresses and the shininess wears off. That scenario--where you’re infatuated with a game in the early days only to find the passion fading as time passes--is familiar to every gamer, and I’m certainly not immune. But I’ve invested roughly $60 in a game with no monthly fees, no pay-to-win monetizing scheme (another misconception, but that's a different article), and I can assure you that I already feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth. I’m looking forward to the next beta event and launch in a way that I haven’t looked forward to any game in a long while.
So, my hype allergies, at least where Guild Wars 2 is concerned, are cured.