Updated Tue, Aug 21, 2012 by Shayalyn
Combat is hella fun. The first time you see a centaur come charging up to you, spin wildly to a stop, and aim an arrow at your head you’ll know it...this is not your mamma’s MMO. You’ll only engage in whack-a-mole combat if you like dying a lot. Otherwise, you’re going to have to learn to dodge. It’s not difficult and doesn’t require finger-twisting keyboard gyrations--just double-tap a direction and go. It does present a fun challenge, though, because you’ll need to learn when to dodge, and how not to overextend yourself by dodging too often.
Combat animations, for both players and NPCs, are top flight. If you haven’t already, head over to the official site and look at the professions page, then click on a profession to view its skill videos. I bet you’ll come away impressed.
Underwater combat rocks. Guild Wars 2 takes underwater areas to places they’ve never been before. Swimming is fun and intuitive and you’ll have specialized weapons and skills for underwater combat. Plus, it adds all new spaces to explore. In GW2, if you’re not swimming you’re missing out on some incredibly cool stuff.
There’s no holy trinity. While there are some professions that can play tank-like, and some that can play healer-like, there’s no holy trinity in Guild Wars 2. You’ll never have to stand around looking for a healer or a tank to manage a dungeon run.
Everybody heals, and everybody can revive. Each profession has at least a self-heal, and some have area healing abilities. And everyone can revive--you just run up to a fallen ally and hit the F key to interact and begin reviving them. You’ll even get experience for doing it. Strangers revive strangers in Guild Wars 2.
There’s solid World vs. World and structured PvP. If you like to go up against other players, GW2 will not disappoint. World vs. World pits team members from three opposing servers against one another.
Character creation is cool. Character models are attractive and detailed, and there’s a bounty of potential combinations plus sliders to help you fine tune your look.
You can dye your armor easily. Right from character creation you’ll be able to design a custom look for your armor with a nice selection of colors. You can also find (or purchase from other players) dropped rare dyes to add to your collection. Once you’ve acquired a dye, you can use it (plus your existing palette) at any time to change the color of your wardrobe.
You’re going to look and feel badass. You’ll have decent looking armor right from the start--no running around in filthy rags. And there’s no endless leveling to get the “cool” abilities--you’ll have some awesome ones in your arsenal early on, and some elite ones to look forward to later.
You really can play your character your way. The skill bar itself is simple--there are no multiple bars to manage or tons of skills to juggle, yet there are still plenty of skills. It all depends on what weapon you’re holding (as well as your attunement, in the case of elementalists, and your tool belt if you’re an engineer.) A ranger mowing down foes from a distance with a bow can switch up to a sword and melee up close and personal, and his skill bar will change depending on what’s equipped. You can have two weapon sets ready to swap out with a single keystroke.
Your character has a Personal Story. You’ll answer a few biography questions at character creation, and the choices you make will determine your character’s personal story. This is a quest line for you alone. Are you charming, dignified or fierce? Do you want to find out who your real parents are? Recover your sister’s body? Reclaim a treasured family heirloom? What inspires you? From myriad combinations you forge a destiny for your character, and it’s an intriguing one that plays out in mostly instanced areas. You can bring friends along on some of your personal story missions, but the story is yours alone, and there are thousands of combinations.
Crafting is fun, easy to learn, and rewarding. You’ll start producing worthwhile items right from the beginning. My beta characters have crafted full sets of armor after only investing a little gameplay time collecting materials. Plus, crafting is another way you’ll gain experience. Even gathering materials nets you XP, and it all contributes to the same experience pool.
The leveling curve is flat. Remember games where the higher levels took longer and longer to complete? Well, no more. In GW2 you’ll level a little quicker in the beginning, but then the curve flattens out and each level takes about the same amount of time to complete. There are 80 levels and so many things to do that you can actually enjoy the ride as you’re progressing rather than slogging through a grind fest.
The game is as complex as you want it to be. Seriously. You can play Guild Wars 2 casually and enjoy it just as much as if you are a hardcore min-maxer who knows every intricacy of his build. This isn’t a difficult game to pick up, but it does have a lot of depth. How deeply you plumb those depths is up to you.
It’s a completionist’s paradise. If you’re one of those people who likes to make sure you’ve filled in every blank you’ll love Guild Wars 2. You can gain rewards for all sorts of things from completely exploring a map to collecting mini pets. There’s even a daily reward you’ll get for completing a series of tasks including killing a variety of different bad guys, harvesting, etc.
It’s free to play. No, really--it is. You’ll buy the client at the average price, but there’s no monthly fee associated with playing this fantastic game. There is an item mall, but the items available there are for vanity or convenience only. You’ll never need it unless you want something like a server transfer or you’d like to massively expand your bag space.
If there’s one drawback to playing Guild Wars 2 it’s this--it’ll make you a junkie. It’s difficult to stay away from a game this entertaining, and it’s difficult to run out of things to do in this game, which creates an endless feedback loop of fun, fun and more fun (while invoking less and less sleep.) Almost everyone I’ve encountered who has played Guild Wars 2 in the beta events and stress tests has sung some version of the same praise: “It’s been a long time since I’ve been this much in love with a game.”