2012 has been an interesting year for the MMO industry. No two major launches were quite the same; combat systems, settings, and core game mechanics drew from a much broader spectrum than your typical cookie-cutter, EverQuest template MMO that typically decorate store shelves.
Active combat systems have risen to prominence this year, with the lines beginning to blur at a steadily increasing rate when it comes to what defines an FPS multi-player mode and a true MMO experience. Storytelling has also returned to the forefront, as MMO gamers have collectively grown beyond the point of weariness with lackluster kill ten rats questing, or spending larger amounts of quality time in a game setting that feels flat or even forgettable.
In other words, the status quo is beginning to change, and to be honest it's long overdue. When it comes to taking the industry boldly into the future - and not just arbitrarily for the sake of challenging convention - one game this year truly sets itself apart from the crowd. It may not completely revolutionize the way we play MMOs moving forward, but our pick for Best MMO of 2012 has clearly thrown down the gauntlet, and let it be known that the status quo simply doesn't cut it anymore.
ArenaNet is one of those rare game developers that has always marched to the beat of its own drummer. Rather than simply tapping out the same tired cadence we've all grown a bit too familiar with as new MMO releases parade by each year, Guild Wars 2 attempts to take the industry in new directions, bringing some much needed vitality and swagger to the genre.
GW2 is an expertly crafted game, and the passion and creativity of the developers shine through in every aspect of gameplay. GW2 also manages to pack in more value than pretty much any other game released this year, offering a compelling experience whether you're a diehard PvE traditionalist, hardcore competitive gamer, master strategist, or role-playing enthusiast.
In a blog post from ArenaNet developer Colin Johanson earlier this year, he described how one question factored into each element of Guild Wars 2 as it was being created: is it fun? A highly successful launch and a rabid fan base have hopefully provided Colin and co. a measurable answer to that question. Guild Wars 2 is an incredibly fun and immersive gaming experience, and one that will no doubt have a major influence on MMOs long into the future.
While deciding which game was deserving of our Best MMO award may have been a more challenging task in previous years, when we sat down to decide our winner this time around, there was no question that Guild Wars 2 is clearly the Best MMO of 2012. We've been nothing less than impressed by the quality of the overall experience - be it the combat system, original races, compelling personal stories, the amazing soundtrack, or even the massive content updates that have been added for free in the live game - and know that Guild Wars 2 has a very bright future indeed.