Updated Tue, Aug 28, 2012 by Shayalyn
In essence, even when you’re soloing through Tyria, Guild Wars 2 is a truly multiplayer game. You’ll participate in dynamic events with multitudes of players. Not only that, you’ll encounter others on your journeys and find that the social feel of Guild Wars 2 truly enhances your experience, even if you don’t group or interact in chat. Someone may come along and revive you in a time of need (everyone can revive, and everyone gets experience for doing it.) You may find yourself in over your head in a fight, and another soul will charge in to help. In that sense, GW2 feels like a uniquely social experience.
Dungeons in Guild Wars 2 are a shining example of how much attention to detail has been put into the game overall. As group content, dungeons provide a thoroughly engaging experience that works on a number of different levels. Story mode not only further envelopes players in the overarching storyline of the game, but offers some of the best instanced group content the genre has to offer. Replayability through explorable mode extends the experience exceptionally well by offering a unique challenge and varying paths each time you enter the instance.
ArenaNet has made a number of brilliant design decisions with Guild Wars 2, many of which can be found in the structured PvP (sPvP) system. As a wholly separate gameplay mode, many of the usual concerns about preserving balance in competitive play have been neatly removed from the equation. And in terms of the bigger picture of competitive MMO gameplay, sPvP is easily a new benchmark that other developers should strive to achieve.
Structured PvP also comes neatly packaged with a wholly separate form of character advancement, so even though sPvP wins won’t necessarily help you level in PvE, you can still feel like you’re making some form of meaningful progress in both hot-join and tournament modes. Not only can you gain ranks over time, but you’ll also be able to unlock a massive amount of cosmetic options that mirror the most intricately designed armors and weapons found elsewhere in the game.
In terms of the fun factor, we’ve collectively played through hundreds (possibly even thousands) of matches, and can conclusively say that Guild Wars 2 offers the most fun we’ve had in a competitive MMOG setting, period. The only current fly in the sPvP ointment is the inability to quickly save and swap builds between matches. Fortunately, a system for doing so is currently in the works. All things considered though, that’s a very minor quibble, not a deal breaker.
In many ways, World PvP is PvP for the masses, especially if you enjoy the ebb and flow of territory control, truly massive (500 vs. 500 vs. 500) combat, and are into competitive play but perhaps aren't hardcore enough to dive too deep into structured PvP builds and group politics.
In the World PvP borderlands, players are automatically advanced to 80 (the level cap), and opportunities scale for the number of players you have working with you at any given time. If you’re playing solo, you can work to gain the loyalty of the mercenary camps scattered around the map by doing standard dynamic event fare or breaking their morale to join your forces. These mercs will randomly seek out keeps and towers to protect and defend. If have just a few followers, take out a dolyak to deprive your enemy of supply (needed to construct siege equipment and trebuchets). Or if you want to glob onto an invading horde, remember to pick up some supply and take out a tower, resource depot, or keep.
Guild Wars 2 provides a Commander mechanic (available for a steep price) for greater communication and organization on the battlefield, but barring that, global chat is serviceable, as are the crossed swords which appear on the map to indicate hotspots. The map is cozy enough that you can usually arrive in time to help turn back an assault, but large enough to prevent the short runs from the spawn point that make death irrelevant.
World PvP can, however, devolve into a numbers game, and if no skilled leaders rise up you might have to give the system some time to accommodate your server. Given that ArenaNet is in the process of intensely balancing server pairings over the first few weeks after launch, your first experience with World PvP may vary. If your server gets steamrolled, be sure to give World PvP another shot when the current match ends (match length is daily now, but will slowly lengthen to two weeks after things settle down). You owe it to yourself: few experiences in gaming can rival the feeling of ripping through a tower gate with 50 of your closest server mates and taking down a champion tower lord for the glory of your server, and for that reason alone, Guild Wars 2 World PvP is, in our opinion, alone worth the price of the game.
For your gaming dollar, you won't find a better value than Guild Wars 2. The box or digital download price is the industry standard $60, but Guild Wars 2 (like Guild Wars pioneered before it) does away with one tired convention--subscription fees. Given the quality and entertainment value players get for purchasing only the game client, we dare say that future triple-A MMOGs are going to be hard pressed to convince players that their game is worthy of a monthly fee.
That said, some players may find it necessary to use the cash shop to purchase Gems and enhance their experience using real-world cash. Things such as bank space upgrades, while not essential to the gameplay experience, are definitely handy. Fortunately, bank space upgrades are account wide rather than character-based, making the upgrade purchase a better value.
The MMO gaming community has seen some disappointing MMOG launches in the past. Many games have taken the tried and true route, following in the footsteps of their predecessors, only to find that familiarity really does breed contempt. Others have tried to stretch their wings and embrace innovation in an attempt to spark a revolution, only to find that revolution seems to breed smaller, niche communities rather than genre-bending success stories.
When ArenaNet first released its MMO Manifesto we knew they were aiming for something revolutionary with Guild Wars 2. What we got is the first worthy successor to World of Warcraft.