Guild Wars 2

Release Date: August 28, 2012 (Headstart August 25, 2012)
Game Type: MMORPG (Fantasy)
Custom Features: Level Down System, Crafting Discovery, Interactive combat, Underwater system, Dynamic Events, Lage-scale World vs. World (WvW)
Strengths: Combat, Environments & Underwater, Events, Graphics, Crafting
Weaknesses: Social System, lack of Trading, Market Downtime
Notes: A leading edge next generation fantasy MMOG which has set standards for future MMOGs
Billing Style: Initial Purchase, Free to Play with Marketplace


Sections: Content, Economy, Mechanics, Gameplay, Community & Support, Technical, Conclusion, Resources


The original Guild Wars captured the hearts of gamers by selling more than 6,000,000 units after it was released in April of 2005. It presented a new type of fantasy-based online gaming with a focus on PvP and group combat. Ever since ArenaNet announced the next version of their established and popular and successful franchise, Guild Wars 2 has captured the interest of gamers throughout the world; and rightly so. Guild Wars 2 delivers on nearly every front the MMOG community has been hungry for. It is a refined product offering engaging combat, beautiful environments (both above water and underwater), enjoyable storylines, a living world with players and dynamic events, and a challenging economy and crafting system which rewards players for their efforts. Sporting a wide breath of PvE and PvP content, Guild Wars 2 is a “next generation” MMOG; primarily due to the “Dynamic Events” and “Level Down” system which opens all of the game’s content to every character, no matter the level. One thing is certain; when you play GW2 you always feel like you’re accomplishing something. In less than one month, GW2 has sold more than 2,000,000 units.

GW2 focused on addressing numerous traditional MMOG issues including the “class role” dilemma so prevalent in MMOGs. Their initial method of changing the way players worked together was to remove a healer class altogether; instead they gave healing abilities to every class. This changed the dynamic of players adopting the traditional “LF1M Healer for <raid>”.

The beauty of Greyhoof Meadows

Another powerful dynamic of GW2 is players are driven to help each other. This is because players cannot “take” from one another (i.e. resources are instanced for each character, there’s no kill stealing, and loot is shared); there is an underlying drive to simply help out. This is very apparent as players work together to clear enemies from resource nodes and support each other on a regular basis. In other MMOGs a player out on their own fighting a losing battle may often see other higher level characters running by, ignoring their plight. GW2 entices players to help everyone they see because it’s always rewarding.

GW2 has an excellent story-telling part of the game for each race, and it is is very well done. Players are presented with multiple choices they can make which branch off  into different sub-stories, allowing for a distinct variation. The unique storytelling artistic style flows very well and rolls into the game through the UI and environments. While the Social “communication” side of Guild Wars 2 is lacking in a number of areas, the overall “fun factor” makes up for this deficiency.

The game is fast-paced and designed to always have something going on within range of your character. Constant events, well-spaced outposts, towns, enemy and resource spawn points make for a delightful balance of content the player can experience.

But make no mistake; regardless of the fact GW2 is truly a “next generation” MMOG, the game is all about combat; and they did a fantastic job making combat more advanced than any other fantasy MMOG I’m aware of, which includes it being smooth, fun and very engaging.

GW2 is a very large game, and this is probably the most in-depth review I have written. Not only will I cover the game features, I will also provide game-related information many players may not even be aware of. So sit down, buckle up, and let’s dive into this new MMOG!

Welcome to The Vigil, one of the three orders a character can join.

 

Content

Races, Professions, Creation & Customization, Lore, Quests (My Story), World, Events & Tasks, Towns & Cities, Dungeons, Ambiance, NPCs & Enemies, and Tutorial

The content of GW2 is simply fantastic. Players will have fun customizing the look of their characters, learning the lore of the world, engaging in the storyline quests and exploring the vast and beautiful world. Numerous challenging dynamic events paired with fun-filled tasks will lead a player between a number of towns, cities and dangerous dungeons. This stunning living world is filled with numerous friends and enemies.

The game features 5 playable races (Asura, Charr, Human, Norm and Sylvari). Each race is unique in its own way with the Asura and Charr having the most differing visual representation. The race a player chooses does more than defines the look; it also defines the storyline a player will experience and the starting region as well.

There are 8 professions (in GW2 classes are called professions) derived from 3 categories: Soldier (Guardian and Warrior), Adventurer (Engineer, Ranger and Thief), and Scholar (Elementalist, Mesmer and Necromancer). Each profession has a different set of skills and traits which can be selected as a character advances, allowing for specific types of play within a profession. For example, while a Ranger is traditionally a bow/ranged based class, the variation in profession skills and traits allows for the player to build a melee version of the ranger, a hybrid melee/ranged, or even a “pet ravager” build where the Ranger focuses on enforcing and maintaining its pet’s power against its target. Each profession has a number of different trait combinations the player can build out (covered later on), which will dramatically change the play-style of the character. Ultimately, each profession has very different play styles, and in the end all of them are just plain fun.

Note: The game gives you five character slots to start out with; the concept behind this is to allow a player to create one character of each race; but to expand the number of characters, a player must purchase additional slots through the Marketplace (covered under Economy).

Creating a Charr Engineer

Creation and Customization is a fun and engaging process as the visual diversity in characters is fantastic; some of the best I’ve seen in a MMOG. Players first select their race, sex, and profession. Once those core selections are made, they can can engage defining a wide variety of adjustments including body features, head options, face details and even dye colors. A player will also select the background of their character by answering a number of personality and race-based questions which helps define the starting equipment, history, and the overall arc of the personal storyline for the character. There is also a lot of flexibility in naming a new character as spaces and capital letters are allowed within the 19-letter limit. This results in some very interesting name combinations.

The Lore of GW2 is well written, strongly integrated into the world, and directly connects to a Character’s personal Storyline (or “My Story”). The storyline includes numerous sequential quests a character is sent on as they advance through levels, but the player can also “choose your own adventure” which branches off into different options based on what a character decides.

The World is very large (to get an idea you can check out GW2 Cartographers) with numerous outposts, towns and a number of cities, one of which is outright massive (the largest I’ve seen in a MMOG). The environments are broken into zones, which are very diverse and include grasslands, forests, caves, dungeons, snow-capped mountains, barren wastelands and swamps. Another unique aspect of GW2 is all of the underwater areas are living, breathing and fully exploratory. This truly makes the entire map discoverable and adds a different dimension to the game as underwater exploration and combat were not an afterthought as they are in so many other MMOGs. There are numerous regions on the world map which are not available at launch, such as the Crystal Desert, Elon River, Scavenger’s Causeway, and many others. Players can probably expect these new zones in future expansions. The world also contains numerous “jumping puzzles” for players to solve, which often awards an achievement and/or treasure chest. (Skill Challenges and Vistas are covered below under Gameplay:Exploration)

Note: if a player needs help with a a boss or event, they can shift-click the closest waypoint to link it in chat, directing others to their location!

The Bloodtide Coast

Events are a key feature of GW2 and done in a fashion which is much more dynamic than any other MMOG. While RIFT was the first fantasy-based MMOG to really focus on “zone events” that bring people together, ArenaNet took that idea a step further and worked to define multiple events within a zone which could take place at the same time and dynamically adjust the experience of the player. Regardless of where you are, if you’re running around in the world, chances are you’ll encounter an event within running range you can participate in. In addition to loot drops from the event creatures, they reward Experience, Karma and Gold. Reward levels (awarded based on your participation compared to others) are Bronze, Silver and Gold. Events also scale up based on player count (which can include tougher mobs, more of them, and even adjust the skills the mobs have). If you’re by yourself, you can probably do an event, but it may be tough. If there’s a big group with you, expect some serious resistance. One issue with Events is players will “harvest” them, especially those events which are on a frequent timer. I do think events needs to be more dynamic and unpredictable to prevent players from camping and taking advantage of them.

Another unique aspect to GW2 is that of Tasks. These are area based quests spread throughout the world that any character can participate in (referenced on the map by a little heart). When the player enters a region where an uncompleted task is located, it appears in the upper right corner of their map, and gives instructions on what they can do to participate. As the player engages in acts of participation (such as kill mobs or harvest items), a progress bar grows until it reaches 100%. Once the task is complete, the character is mailed some reward money and the task giver turns into a karma vendor where players can purchase karma items. This is how GW2 handles quests (separate from the storyline and events), and each zone has a certain number of available tasks. The reward scales based on your unadjusted level, so many players wait until level 80 before they go back and complete all tasks (which makes them more money).

The Gates of Arah Event in Cursed Shore

Towns and outposts are spread throughout the world of GW2, and each race has their own major city. In addition, there are hub cities such as Lion’s Arch and and the massive Divinity’s Reach (the largest city in a MMOG I’ve ever seen; and it is truly majestic). Outposts and small Towns generally contain merchants and repair NPCs while larger towns can feature trainers and crafting stations. One interesting dynamic with GW2 is you never feel like you are operating from a “hub town”. You are constantly moving and advancing. This is both good and bad. Gone are the nostalgic memories from MMOGs which pointed you from town to town, resulting in your working numerous quests from that location. During a player’s first run through to level 80, the world of GW2 becomes more of a blur than established memory; but a great blur which leaves you wanting to go back and experience it again with another character and profession.

There are eight Dungeons available in GW2 at launch, and each dungeon has a “Story Mode” which must be experienced before the dungeon can be unlocked for “Explorable Mode”. In story mode, the player is guided through the dungeon in linear storyline fashion. One explorable mode is unlocked, the dungeon is reopened to the player who can then run it with a group of others who vote on the direction their “run” takes. Explorable mode is where the true difficulty is, and GW2 is notorious for having extremely difficult dungeons. You will die. A lot. One nice feature of GW2 dungeons is creatures do not respawn, and characters can join or rejoin a party in progress at any time. Even if a player has not completed the story mode of a dungeon, they can still join a party that has. Completing a dungeon in explorer mode rewards the player with tokens which are used to buy gear at a dungeon vendor. Because of the “level down” feature, dungeons are never soloable regardless of your character’s level and power. All of them will require a group for adventure.

The Ambiance of GW2 is warm and inviting. Day and night cycles adjust the visual experience of the world, and the mixture of weather effects (rain, snow and fog) also affect the player’s experience. Players can see others engaging in combat from distance and the sound of the world and surrounding events taking place bring it all together. GW2 is a beautiful game.

The Swamps of Caldeon Forest are very dangerous…

There are a diverse number of NPCs and enemies. While GW2 does follow the traditional approach of like enemies/creatures (i.e. a field of boars or ettin), many of them have special attacks the player has to deal with differently based on their profession and configuration. As the characters have a vastly diverse set of visual configurations, so do the NPCs, where no two really look alike (but animals such as wolves and boars do look the same). Enemies come in three flavors of difficulty: normal, veteran and champion. A veteran version of the “same” normal mob will often have additional special attacks and abilities, making the enemy more dangerous not just due to hits and damage, but its capability to “do more”.

There really is no tutorial for GW2 and it is not an “entry MMOG” for new players. It is a complex game which takes time to learn (it’s not EVE Online, but for a fantasy MMOG there are dynamics which are new to the genre). While there is a walkthrough for PvP found in the Heart of the Mists, most players have to simply figure out how the world works.

Sadly, there are no mounts.

Economy

Currency, Inventory (Collections), Item Slots, Items (Dyes, Runes, Repair & Salvage), Tradeskills (Crafting, Discovery, Upgrades, Mystic Forge & Gathering), Merchants, Trading (Mail and Marketplace),  Marketplace

The overall economy of GW2 is solid and has all indications of great value and longevity, especially with the busiest marketplace I’ve seen in a FTP game. The numerous items a player can find and craft paired with the ability to customize the colorization with dyes found throughout the game is both fun and addicting.

Currency comes in many flavors. We have the traditional Gold, Silver and Copper for in-game “money”, but also have other forms of currency including Karma for completing events, and Gems for the Marketplace. Karma is used to purchase items from “Karma Vendors” (such as racial armor sets, etc) and Gems are purchased either for real money or with gold. Only Gems can purchase items on the marketplace (not to be confused with the Auction House). There are also variations of Tokens which are awarded for things such as completing Dungeons in explorer mode or killing players in WvW. The game also has Glory, which is awarded for PvP (which is covered under Gameplay). There are custom vendors for both Tokens and Glory.

Bags of Stuff!

Inventory is managed through the traditional approach of bags, a bank vault and a guild vault. When the player starts out they begin with a 20-slot bag and 5 additional “bag slots” (the last one which must be purchased through the marketplace). Managing inventory is difficult at the beginning (i.e. it fills up very quickly) until a player gets four 10+ slot bags. Another issue is the bank vault is very small (only 30 slots) and you must purchase additional slots with gems. However, one very cool and unique feature to GW2 is that of Collections. It’s a storage system for all crafting materials (and a few other item types, like mini pets). Characters can click on the “tools” icon of their inventory and select “Deposit all Collectibles” which will take any crafting materials in their inventory and throw it in this storage system. Characters can then access these items from any crafting station, and Collection items are shared between all characters. This greatly frees up inventory space. The max “stack” for each item in the collection is 250.

All characters have 12 Item Slots they can equip “armor” items in: Hear, Shoulder, Chest, Hands, Legs, Feet, Back, Amulet, 2x Accessories, and 2x Rings. A character also has 2 sets of weapon slots, one for above water and one for underwater. Characters can also dual wield items. This does not include the 3 slots for harvesting items (sickle, axe, and pick). A character can also show “town clothes” which includes slots for: headgear, shirt, gloves, leggings, boots and a “toy”. A player can switch between showing their town clothes and armor in the Equipment panel, but cannot show town clothes during combat.

Note: at this time, the only way to find “back” item slots is through the storyline quests or by purchasing a guild backpack from a guild armorer (accessible via upgrade).

Items follow the traditional fantasy genre and include Light, Medium and Heavy armor types. There are staffs, swords, bows, tridents, spear guns, shields, and more. GW2 allows players to dye their armor based on dyes they discover throughout the game. There are eight classifications of items. Junk (Grey), Basic (White), Fine (Blue), Masterwork (Green), Rare (Yellow), Exotic (Orange), Legendary (Red), and Mythical (Purple). Dyes can be changed at any time, giving players control over exactly how their character looks, and giving great value to certain hard to find dyes. One feature all items have is an “upgrade” slot where players can insert runes. Runes can do numerous things ranging from life steal to absorb damage. Exotic runes are highly sought after and very expensive as end-game characters are seeking to maximize the effects of their weapons and armor. Runes are also what define an “item set”, which means a player can convert any group of items into a “set” of items simply by applying the proper number of set runes to the items. Characters can insert new runes over existing runes at any time, thus destroying the old rune. Items do take durability damage, but this value is not shown. A player must visit a repair NPC to repair the items to full durability, but since we don’t know what percentage the durability is it, players don’t exactly know what they’re repairing. This is a money sink, but not a very large one. A player can also Salvage items using a salvage kit (which is key to harvesting many materials). This breaks the item into raw crafting materials and depending on the salvage kit has the chance of recovering the rune within the item. This can be advantageous when a player finds an item with a highly sought after rune, but wishes to extract the rune for use in another item or to sell to other players.

Crafting & Discovery

There are 8 tradeskills in GW2: Armorsmith (Heavy Armor, Inventory Boxes), Artificer (Potions, Magical Weapons like Foci, Staves, Scepters and Tridents), Chef (Foods & Dyes), Huntsman (Bows, Pistols, Rifles, Torches, Harpoon Guns and Warhorns), Jeweler (Earrings, Necklaces and Rings), Leatherworker (Medium armor, Leather Bags), Tailor (Light Armor & Cloth Bags) and Weaponsmith (Axes, Daggers, Greatswords, Hammers, Maces, Shields, Spears and Swords). Players can take all tradeskills, but only two can be active at a time. This allows one character to master all tradeskills if they wish, but they must pay a master craftsman 10c per level in the target profession to switch. The Crafting system of GW2 is very well done and probably one of the more refined fantasy MMOG crafting systems out there. Not only is crafting a challenge, players can gain a ton of experience and even level up from crafting (the first L80 character in GW2 was a crafter). While a traditional MMOG crafting system allows players to make a large number of the same item to increase their skill level, in GW2 you cannot do this; you must use the Discovery system which not only gives the greatest experience reward, but also empowers players to make the most powerful items in the game by combining item components. The caveat is discovering new items takes special components called “fine materials” which generally drop off of monsters and are costly.

Note: A crafter can bring up a little-known dropdown by clicking on the down arrow next to the crafting window Search box which effectively filters the craftable items based on a number of options!

A crafter will quickly find out how difficult it is to raise crafting due to the volume of fine materials which are required; but this isn’t a bad thing. In my opinion, it’s very balanced and brings value to the profession. The standard crafting approach is to build the “modifier” for an item (for a Huntsman, it’s called an inscription) which defines the properties you want the item to have. You then merge the components (for a bow the two components would be a stave and string) with the modifier, and voila! A newly discovered weapon. You can purchase new inscriptions (or modifiers) from your crafting trainer. These allow you to make rare (yellow) and exotic (orange) items. At this time the majority of discovered items only take three components, but there are potions and “boxes of armor” which take four. Players can also discover upgrades for their items. For example, a Huntsman can discover Sigils (which are runes only usable on weapons). These items take rare components and are costly to create, but make quite a difference in adjusting the behavior and power of a character’s equipment. There are three categories of upgrades: runes, sigils and jewels (with the lesser version being a gemstone). Runes are for armor, Sigils are for weapons, and Jewels are for both. Jewels can also be used as crafting components where runes and sigils cannot.

Note: Make sure you are not in an Overflow instance when crafting, or you won’t get the World vs. World bonus!

The Storyline Quests are well-done, complete with voice acting.

The Mystic Forge is the only place a player can currently craft legendary items, and it is a massive undertaking. Not only can players craft legendaries, they can also use the forge to have an almost “Horadric Cube” effect by combining items. At this time, the combinations are still being explored and players are posting newly discovered results. In addition to other expensive and numerous high-level components, legendary items require a component purchase which costs 200 skill points; this entices Level 80 characters to ‘continue playing’ to acquire additional skill points. You can read more about it here.

Gathering is fun and rewarding in GW2 as each “node” is instanced for your character. This means no other player can steal the node you’re fighting your way to. The nodes in the game come in 3 categories: Food, Wood, and Mineral. The player must have the appropriate level harvesting tool in order to access the node, which gives experience for each item harvested. If you try to access a node with a tool that’s too low, you will get “ruined” materials from the node. Players can also get Fine Materials and random loot bags when harvesting nodes, although they are rare. The tools aren’t too expensive, but the player needs to keep an eye on the charges (which are 50 for the food, 100 for the others) of their items so they don’t run out while on a harvesting run.

Note: IGN has written a great GW2 crafting guide which covers the system in detail for new players, and GW2DB has a detailed database of recipes and items.

Merchants are spread throughout the world and sell a variety of merchandise with the most common being harvesting items and salvage kits. All merchants will buy your items (with a “sell junk” option which auto-sells grey items). Karma merchants sell items for karma points and are usually related to the particular race, location and overall storyline relative to the area. There are also merchants which sell cultural (racial) armor and weapons. These items can cost either gold or karma points, and are very expensive. There are also merchants which sell “chests” and “item tokens” for Glory points, which is acquired through engaging in PvP (and covered below under PvP). One comment I have is there are weapon and armor merchants throughout the world who sell white items, but nobody uses them. ArenaNet should have made the merchants carry dynamically changing inventory so players could find green, yellow and occasional orange item deals. There are also karma merchants that sell sets of items with very powerful runes, but are very expensive (i.e. 42,000 karma for 1 item).

Trading is actually a very weak point in GW2 as there is no secure way to trade with players outside of the marketplace. You cannot trade with players and you cannot send mail COD. Additionally, you are limited to sending only 10 Mail items a day and there is no sent box. The lack of a trading window with other players and no COD on mail forces players to use the Marketplace, and while it could be argued it also creates a more controlled funnel for trade between players, it does remove the personal interaction of engaging in 1 on 1 trade with skilled craftsmen who can build what you’re looking for.

The Marketplace, complete with top items!

The Marketplace is the central hub for all trade within GW2 which revolves around two forms of currency: gold for players and gems for items offered by ArenaNet. The marketplace is game-wide, so players exchange goods between all servers, not just the server they are on. The first tab is the Gem Store where players can purchase items from ArenaNet using Gems, which are acquired either through real money or by exchanging gold for gems. Common gem items include visual slot items (such as glasses and hats), buffs (xp bonus, etc.) and keys for the locked black lion chests. The Currency Exchange (which allows trading gold for gems and gems for gold) shows the history of “value” between gold and gems including the average price, five day low and five day high. The Trading Post is where players buy items posted by other players. On this tab, the player is greeted with a list of Top Valued Items, Top Supplied Items, Top Demanded Items, and Top Traded Items. Not only can a player buy items from this area, they can also post custom buy orders for crafters to fulfill. You know the game is popular when the top supplied item has more than 5,000,000 listings! Also located on the Trading Post tab is the Filter option which allows players to look up items based on category, subcategory, rarity and level range. Players can sell their items through the Sell on Trading Post tab, but the most common method is to right-clicking on an item in their inventory and using the popup menu. There’s also a tab for My Transactions which allows the player to review: Items they’ve sold, bought, and items they are selling or buying (for custom buy orders). While a player can sell an item on the market from anywhere in the game, when a player purchases an item through the marketplace (or makes money by selling), they must go to an actual merchant NPC to “pick up” the profits and items. Unfortunately, players receive no notification when a posted item sells.

Mechanics

Level, Attributes,  Weapon & Slot Skills, Traits, Regeneration, Boons & Conditions, Magic Find, Consumables, Combo Fields, Travel, Instances, Pets  & Mini Pets, and Death

GW2 has created a fairly simplistic yet solid underlying system of mechanics to support one common goal: fun and enjoyment. Providing players with the option of traveling instantly throughout the world and giving every character a fighting chance even after being defeated adds an additional layer of play and strategy to the overall experience.

GW2 is a level-based game with a max level cap of 80, but then an incremental leveling system which awards additional skill points (which can be used to purchase legendary item components, as discussed earlier). Experience is acquired through a number of ways, the most common being combat, crafting and exploration. There are four Attributes which serve as the foundation of your character’s ability to fight and survive. They are: Power (increases Attack), Precision (increases Crit chance), Toughness (increases defense) and Vitality (increases max health). There are four derived stats: Attack (which is derived from Power, Weapon Damage and Condition Damage), Critical Chance (which includes Critical Damage), Armor (Toughness and Defense) & Health (includes Healing Power). While there are other unlisted modifiers (such as Magic Find) I have a feeling ArenaNet is going to add the unlisted modifiers to the UI in future patches.

Note: Condition Damage is essentially a modifier to DoT (Damage over Time).

The User Interface, showing attributes, slots and contacts.

The way Weapon and Skill Slots are handled in GW2 is truly unique. The first 5 actions available to a character (to the left side of the life/power meter in the bottom middle of the screen) reflect the actions which are available and are based on the equipped weapon(s). Note this varies based on profession, so a Guardian wielding a great sword will have different skills than a Ranger wielding the same weapon. If a player dual wields, the first 3 skills are from the mainhand while the last 2 are from the offhand. This allows the mixing and matching of skills. Going up against undead? Throw a sword in your mainhand and use a torch for AoE burning effects in your offhand! Players can also equip two sets of weapons and quickly switch between the two by hitting the tilde key (~). This “fast switch” ability allows players to configure a set of ranged weapons and then close quarter weapons. The same dual configuration is available for underwater combat as well. Nothing like that Spear and Harpoon Gun combination! The profession “Slot Skills” are the other 5 skills you can equip and are taken from three categories: Healing, Utility and Elite. You gain points which can be spent on the slot skills by leveling up and completing skill challenges throughout the game. When you spend enough points in one tier, a second tier will open. These skills are one reason players are driven to complete all of the Skill Challenges they come across (discussed below under Exploration).

Note: there are also numerous “world items” which the player can pick up and use as well, allowing for specialized skills (for example, a Mortar Bomb which the player can hurl at targets for big AoE damage).

A Ranger’s Traits

Traits are how you customize your character’s strengths. You gain access to traits at level 11 by purchasing a book which allows spending up to 10 points in each trait line. You need to purchase another book at level 40 to spend 20 points in each line, and again at 60 to spend 30 points in each line. The trait lines raise a combination of primary and secondary abilities, and open “Major” and “Minor” trait modifiers, which can be set after you’ve spent the points (for example, as a Ranger, when you put 10 points in Marksmanship, you can set that “slot” to activate “increase damage by 10% when endurance is full”. You can mix and match the “opened slots” at any time to customize the benefits your character gains from the trait lines.

Regeneration of health is a big part of GW2 as every class has their own method of healing, and it becomes a critical part of combat when the player goes up against multiple foes. There are a number of healing options the player can configure ranging from instant heal to heal over time (HoT). Boons are positive effects with a limited duration (such as swiftness or strength), and the counterparts are Conditions, which are negative effects with a limited duration (such as bleeding or feared). Acting as a key component to give Boons to players are consumables, such as food; probably one of the most overlooked parts of the game (kudos to the Chef tradeskills!). With food, players can buff their experience gain, increase regeneration, and even increase their chance to find magic items. My favorite is Omnomberry Bars, which give 30% additional Magic Find, 40% more gold from monsters, and +10 experience from kills. Each one lasts for 30 minutes.

As mentioned above, an important value which exists but is not shown anywhere is that of Magic Find, which can be found on items and runes. At this time, a player must keep track of this value on their own, and it affects the chance you will obtain higher rarity items (e.g. yellows vs. blues). You can read more about it here.

Combo Fields are another unique part of GW2, allowing for players to strategically use area of affect modifiers to “piggyback” benefits on their attacks. For example, shooting arrows through a poison field will add a poison modifier to those arrows which will ultimately poison the target; but the skill must be defined as a “combo finisher” (which will show when you mouseover the particular skill). If multiple combo fields are laid down on the battlefield, a skill will pick up modifiers from each combo, making it possible to have a poisoned icy flaming arrow of light. This adds a dynamic method of enhancing players’ abilities to control the battlefield and cause not only extra damage, but add boons such as regeneration and cure condition. This use of combo fields becomes very important for very tough Dungeon runs as teams must work together to enhance their damage and regeneration, not just strategically, but with the proper position in relation to the direction and type of combat (it’s no use putting a Combo Field behind a ranger who is shooting at a boss).

The vast underwater realms of GW2 are beautiful and dangerous.

As mentioned, there are no mounts in GW2. Instead Travel is done either by running, portal, or waypoint. Portal travel is free, but the character is limited to where they can go. A character can instantly travel to any discovered waypoint in the world (while not in combat) by paying a fee, which can become quite expensive (because it’s so convenient). The waypoint system does make it easy to “teleport” to your friends, or join other players in your zone who are battling a boss or participating in an event, but it can quickly become one of the biggest money sinks in the game.

One of the more interesting mechanics of GW2 is that of zone instances. When a player enters a zone that has too many other players, they are placed in an “overflow queue” which is a duplicate copy of the zone, along with other players who are in the overflow queue. While this is technically understandable and a good solution for this type of problem (when you have a world designed to hold only 5,000 people at a time and 25,000 people are tying to access it, the last thing you want to do is prevent them from playing), it has generated frustration among players who want to play with their friends as one person will be in the “non-instanced” version of a zone and another will be in an instanced queue. As such they cannot meet up. There was supposed to be a party synchronization mechanism put into place to address this, but last time I checked, it didn’t work.

The Pet Management UI

Pets are a key part of the game for Ranger and Necromancer professions. Rangers can charm juvenile versions of pets throughout the world by simply interacting with them. Once a pet is charmed, it becomes part of the Ranger’s pet collection and is immediately available. Rangers can swap between two pets when fighting on land or in water. Pets can be either land based (e.g. a eagle), able to operate on both land and in water (i.e. a crocodile) or sea based (e.g. a shark). There is strategic consideration when choosing a pet; for example, if a player is fighting a PvE boss mob, they may want a pet with very high health (like a Bear) whereas in PvP, they want to stop other players from running away, so a spider (which has a skill attack to web/freeze its targets) may be in order. One tactical advantage rangers have is the ability to swap their pet in the heat of battle after their first pet dies. Ranger pets have 4 skills each, 3 of which are automatically executed by the pet during battle. Each pet class also has its own unique special attack, which can be executed by pressing F2. By pressing K the Ranger can manage their pets and even name them. Unfortunately, Necromancer pets are only reactionary and will only attack once their master has initiated attack (i.e. there is no commanding a necromancers pets… yet).

Note: for a complete list of pets and where to find them, be sure to check out the GW2 Wiki Pet page.

Mini Pets are collectible non-combat pets a character can summon to follow them throughout the world. At launch, there are 54 mini-pets to “collect” and the only current way to acquire them is to buy them with Gems. Players can buy a 3-pack of minis (2 common and 1 uncommon) for 300 gems; or with today’s average price of gold to gems, 78 silver.

GW2 handles Death differently from any other MMOG I’ve seen. Instead of dying when they reach zero health, characters fall in combat and enter a “fight to survive” mode. During this fight time, they have 4 actions they can execute, with the most common (and in some regards comical) being “throw rocks at your target”. Believe it or not, this does a fair amount of damage, and if you down your target while in survive mode, you will “rally” back to ~15% health. While in survive mode, you can also blind your target and those around them, command your pet to “lick your wounds” (at least for Ranger) and enter a cyclic “fight to survive” mode which will revive you if you’re not receiving any damage. If you do not “recover” from your fight to survive (or are “finished” in PvP, which is discussed below), you will be prompted to revive at a waypoint of your choice. This new system works beautifully, and you can be revived at any time, including the heat of battle; even if you fail to survive (i.e. you can hold at the “revive at waypoint” option and another player can still revive you).

The Zone Loading screens share beautiful artwork with the player.

Gameplay

Combat, Movement and Targeting, PvE, PvP (Conquest, Glory, Ranks, PvP Mystic Forge, PvP Locker and Tournaments), WvW (Objectives, Defenses, Siege Weapons, Supplies, Orbs of Power, Guild Captures and Bonuses), Exploration, Progression & Achievements, Rewards, Learning Curve, Difficulty, End Game and Replayability

The gameplay of GW2 is the most refined of any fantasy MMO to date. Blending a reaction-based system that is not overly complex or cumbersome with the strongest collaborative fantasy-based PvP available on the market, players are drawn to not only participate in World vs. World combat, but also explore every corner of the lands as they are rewarded for their efforts. By the time a player reaches max level, they realize it doesn’t mean “end game” but a beginning of another set of experiences leading to some of the best replayability available. Simply put, playing GW2 is a very rewarding experience, no matter what profession or level your character is.

Combat is fluid and not only allows players to dodge and engage in combination attacks, it also takes obstructions and line of sight into account as well. If you are using a bow to attack a ranged target and some pour soul walks in between you and your super heated razor arrow of death, it will strike them and not your target (unless it is a penetrating arrow; in that case you can line up targets and shoot through multiple enemies). Of course this can cause repercussions as you engage in heated battle and accidentally hit a poor neutral target which ends up tipping the balance of the fight and ultimately results in your death. Another key aspect to combat is that it’s animation based. This means you can dodge and react based on the animations of your targets/attackers. As such, Movement is a key part of combat as many of a characters skills can be executed while moving, and dodging is as simple as double tapping the appropriate keys. This works great not only in PvE, but PvP as well, especially for characters who gain advantages for flanking and backstabbing. ArenaNet created a very nice balance of allowing extra movement to strategically affect combat without making the game feel “twitchy”. A GW2 player created a video which compares combat in GW2 to World of Warcraft. I highly recommend watching it as it shows the vast improvement in overall combat from a traditional MMOG approach.

Note: all combat rewards are shared! All you need to do is hit a monster once and you’ll get full experience and loot. The only thing which has a “degree” of involvement is an event. The rest is all or nothing, and it works very well.

Sadly, the Targeting of GW2 is just as bad as other MMOGs. Pressing the TAB key while an enemy is right in front of you often selects the neutral creature to your right which you are now shooting at and drawing aggro from. It’s unfortunate the GW2 doesn’t have a better interpretive algorithm to more intelligently determine what a player is trying to select, especially in the heat of battle.

PvE is not only solid, but a lot of fun in GW2. While the game has addressed a number of common “issues” by creating next generation solutions (e.g. instanced resource nodes, sharing of loot and experience, focusing on collaboration and not allowing any “stealing” of reward by other players), one of the most common legacy problems with MMOGs is how monsters in the world spawn. Unfortunately, GW2 did not address the “spawn on top of you” problem. The result is characters are regularly jumped  during combat by monsters on short spawn timers.

Taking a Keep in World vs. World

GW2 is all about PvP, and with the animation-based combat system it more than delivers, probably making it the best PvP (for a fantasy MMOG) on the market. There are two different types of PvP. First, we’ll cover Conquest PvP or “Structured PvP” (sPvP). Players enter sPvP through the Heart of the Mists, which is accessed via the PvP tab (hitting H and clicking on the bottom left tab, look for a button “Enter the Mists”). Once a player enters this region, they have access to the Glory Vendor, the PvP Browser and the Tournament Master. There is also a set of PvP instructors the player can interact with to learn the basics of PvP. The PvP Browser is the most commonly used method of engaging in PvP; a large list of games show up, allowing players to select specific games, or to simply “play now” within any available game. There are five maps at launch: Battle of Khylo, Forest of Niflhel, Legacy of the Forefire, and Raid on the Capricorn. All characters are automatically set to level 80 when participating in PvP, and earn glory by killing other players, reviving team mates, and winning games. Players also receive rank points as they receive glory points; both are similar whereas glory points are used to buy items and rank points simply add up to increase your rank. As you raise in rank, you gain access to new chests and tokens. The tokens represent components you can blend together to create PvP gear at the PvP Mystic Forge, which is next to the Tournament Master (it’s the big glowing fountain). To create PvP items, you need an Item Token, a PvP rank token (glory or tournament), and Arcane Token (Orb, Crystal or Sliver), and 5 powders. You get the Item tokens from the Glory Merchants, the Rank Tokens, Arcane Tokens and Powders from salvaging PvP gear. Throw it all in the Mystic forge, and BAM! New item! This brings us to our next component, the PvP Locker; this is where you can store all of your PvP items, and is available to your character on the southern end of the Mists. There are 1,919 item slots in this collection (including crafting materials), so there are a LOT of items you can craft, collect and swap between. One additional unique feature of PvP in GW2 is that of “finishing off” your opponent. Since GW2 has the revive system vs. instant death, targets in PvP can throw rocks at you and try to “survive” your assault after you drain their health to zero. To end their misery, you can execute a finishing move, which brings the hammer down on them and ensures they cannot revive. It can be both fun and frustrating depending on the profession of the player you are trying to down, and I have seen the balance of a game changed based on experienced players working together to revive each other in the heat of battle while the downed players cause just enough mayhem to survive long enough for revival.

Note: Players are matched in PvP based on their rank.

My first Tournament was a painful one…

Next we have Tournaments, which are similar to structured PvP except they pit eight teams of 5v5 against each other. Rewards from tournaments are greater than those of structure pvp and include tournament chests. There are free tournaments and paid tournaments (which require an entry ticket for each player). The rewards from paid tournaments go to all participants and are greater than those of free tournaments, whereas free tournaments only reward the top 4 teams. Solo players can join a “roster” of other players to complete the team, or groups of players can enter together.

Note: when you switch to PvP, you switch to a different set of PvP gear which you can build out separately from PvE gear. Your “experience bar” also swtiches to a rank bar.

World vs. World(WvW) is the “king kahuna” of GW2, especially when it comes to mixing the best parts of PvE and PvP. There’s a reason it can take hours to get into a WvW game; simply put, people love it and have a great time (even those who are not heavily into PvP). The main reason is it accommodates both PvE and PvP play styles by implementing a huge map with an estimated 2,000 players active within the world spread evenly between your server and two others which are “at war”. Each server fights the others for control of the map and its strategic points. As with PvP, all characters that participate in WvW are automatically set to level 80, so even a new level 1 character can jump into WvW, level up and experience the bloody mix of both PvE and PvP. Some players level their character all the way to 80 doing nothing but WvW as there are numerous events, skill challenges, item drops, and other constantly shifting fun experiences to participate in. Also, unlike sPvP, WvW uses your PvE gear. My only complaint (along with everyone else) is the fact you often have to run quite the distance once you die to get back to where you were. Here’s a great video which explains WvW very well.

Note: There is a WvW Instructor available as soon as you enter the WvW map. He’ll walk you through the basics.

WvW Bonuses make all the difference!

WvW revolves around four different type of objectives: Resource Camps, Towers, Keeps and Stonemist Castle. Each objective gives points based on the objective type, and holding the objectives awards more points for obtaining the overall bonus (defined below). Objectives have Sentries which spawn to help protect the particular objective. There are also Mercenary Camps which can be recruited to your side by engaging in dynamic events. Each objective has defenses which must be overcome. These include: Guards, Warrs/Door, A “lord” and Inner Walls. Once the defenses are overrun, the attackers can capture the objective as their own. In addition to standard loot, players also receive badges of honor for killing other players in WvW. These badges can be used to purchase items such as Siege Weapons (as discussed below).

Note: WvW is fairly complex for a new player. As such, I highly recommend players read the WvW Wiki Page.

Siege Weapons are a critical part to claiming objectives. Feel like manning a cannon or trebuchet only to blast groups of invaders to pieces? Siege weapons deliver! There are nine different siege weapons available which can be built by players. Six of them are offensive (Arrow Cart, Ballista, Catapult, Flame Ram, Siege Golem and Trebchet) three are defensive (Cannons, Mortars and Boiling pots of Oil). All siege weapons are stationary where they are built and the only one which can move is the Siege Golem. They are built by purchasing blueprints from merchants either for gold or badges of honor (which you can get by killing other players) and require supplies in order to build. Some siege weapons (such as cannons) require ammunition to be loaded. This is difficult with one person, so it’s helpful to have multiple people at a weapon to keep it loaded while the person shooting the weapon doesn’t run out of ammo. Once a siege weapon is available, any player can activate it (only one at a time) and begin using it. Siege weapons have similar controls, allowing movement and distance shooting. Players can learn how to use Siege Weapons either through the storyline quests or by instructors located in the Mists. Supplies are necessary to build siege weapons, repair structures, and for the purchase of defense upgrades from a quartermaster. Each tower, keep and castle has a stockpile of supplies, and they are replenished through supply caravans moving between these objectives. Players can intercept the caravans and “cut off supplies” to an objective under siege, preventing the defenders from repairing or building any new structures. A player can only carry 10 supplies at a time, so building siege weapons is almost always a group effort unless the player wants to run back and forth carrying supplies from the closest depot to the construction area.

Each borderland has an Orb of Power which is defended by a boss NPC called the “Keeper of the Orb”. If the keeper is defeated, the orb can be taken and placed on an altar of power, which gives bonuses (as discussed below) to the entire server. Each captured orb represents a 5% bonus to the server.

Note: want to see where the action is? Check out your map and follow the crossed swords; that’s where combat is taking place!

When you’re killed in PvP, the game gives you this nice breakdown…

When a objective is captured, the guild with the most participating members will have the option of claiming the objective, which displays the banner of the guild. This is referred to as a Guild Capture, and allows the use of Guild-based “Art of War” upgrades which can provide numerous benefits to everyone engaging the defense of a guild-captured objective. Guilds are covered in more detail under Community.

Note: in WvW, loot “bags” of your slain victims automatically appear at your feet so you don’t have to run up to a fallen foe and loot the body!

Bonuses are what WvW is all about, and the bonuses affect the whole server. This means when a player engages in WvW, they work together with other members of their server and represent their server. This also drives players to participate in WvW so they can improve the bonus and overall “standing” of their server. I’m fortunate to play on a very solid WvW server that always has majority control of objectives, so we get excellent bonuses. The server-wide bonus is called “Power of the Mists” and can give a number of very valuable benefits, including: crafting critical success, defense, endurance, gathering, healing, health, bonus coin and bonus experience. There are three tiers of bonuses, and each tier cycles through the respective bonuses which are based on the overall score over a two week period. A player can see what bonuses their server currently has by pressing B.

Note: Ready to leave WvW? Simply take the Lion’s Arch Asura Gate from the main keep.

Even with a substantial amount of gameplay, I have explored less than 40% of the world!

As mentioned above, the World of GW2 is huge, making Exploration a key part of the game. But it’s more than just going to somewhere new and uncovering an unknown section of the map. When you go somewhere new there are five distinct interactive points to explore. First we have Waypoints, which allows players to instantly teleport around the map. Next, we have Points of Interest, which are simply that. Never been to Kyesjard in Shiverpeak Mountains? Come take a gander! There are tons of points of interests which signify important places revolving around events, enemies and storyline. Next we have Vistas, a little bit of icing on the cake of discovery. Many vistas require a “jumping puzzle” to reach them, resulting in a quick detached camera “longshot” for the player to enjoy. Next we have Skill Challenges which are little mini events (e.g. fighting a boss, receiving a consumable item, or simply meditating) which award the player with a skill point. And finally we have Scouts who tell you about the area and what’s going on. All exploratory points award experience except for scouts. While all characters share a “total world discovery” value, each character must go through their own discovery process to unveil all of the things which can be explored.

Character Progression comes in a variety of flavors. First is the most common; gaining experience to level up. This is done through seven methods: events, personal storyline (quests), harvesting & crafting, killing monsters, reviving fallen players/NPCs, exploring, and playing mini-games. The second method of progression is that of upgrading gear and equipping better items. As covered above in the Items section, this doesn’t mean just crafting, discovering and finding drops; players can also upgrade their gear with runes which can create set items; and at end-game (level 80), it can be a very costly goal to pursue. The third method of progression is that of increasing a character’s traits, allowing the player to define what kind of play style they want to support (traits can be reset, but at a cost). The forth method of progression is that of Achievements, which have multiple tiers to accomplish. This includes  recurring daily and monthly achievements which reward the player for doing everything from harvesting resources to killing different varieties of creatures. Points are awarded when achievements are given, and multiple tiers (usually up to 4) means players can continue acquiring points as they continue to play and engage in actions such as killing more creatures and salvaging more items. There are 13 categories for achievements: Daily, Monthly, Slayer, Hero, PvP Conqueror, Tradesman, Explorer, Fashion, Weapon Master, Community, Hall of Monuments, Activities and World vs World. A player can choose unlocked titles through the achievements interface as well. Achievements are account-based, so they are based on a player’s total efforts, not a specific character. I’m still receiving regular achievements (without even focusing on obtaining them), which is a great way to keep rewarding players.

The beautiful lake town of Wizard’s Fief.

Rewards represent one of the core reasons why we play a game like GW2, and there are a number of different ways the game rewards its players. Many rewards are covered through progression and achievements, but beyond that there is the underlying machine of cause and effect which is what defines the longevity of a MMOG. For example, events are a big part of rewarding players; not just in PvE, but in WvW as well. Seeing that Bronze, Silver or Gold medallion pop up is always a great thing. Another rewarding part tied more to exploration and combat is that of finding treasure chests, which are often hidden or require some serious fighting. When you go to a new location that’s packed with monsters, keep an eye open as you can often find a hidden chest in the corner, and the loot you get from it can be very good. Ultimately, GW2 does a great job of balancing effort and reward, even at end-game (which is covered below).

As mentioned at the beginning of this review, GW2 doesn’t do a very good job of teaching people how to play. It is a complex game, and has quite the Learning Curve. as the majority of the game’s features are not explained, the player has to figure them out. This can be frustrating and overwhelming for both newcomers and experienced gamers since GW2 is truly a unique MMOG and redefines many conventional approaches we have all become accustomed to. As such, part of the learning curve is in understanding these new systems (such as tasks, the level down system, crafting discovery, etc).

While GW2 can be challenging, the overall difficulty really depends on what the player wants to do. The game is designed so the player can choose what they want to experience, and rarely is the player “forced” into a situation where they have severe difficulty in handling an experience. Dungeons are notorious for being the most difficult aspect of the game and require experienced players who work closely together to complete, but they are voluntary, and not necessary to obtain the best gear in the game. While there are some storyline arcs that are difficult (I had to help a guild mate complete a level 50 portion of his story, and the both of us died numerous times), I solo’d my storyline without much difficulty at all (until near 80). Ultimately, players can choose how difficult they want their experience to be, and this is a good thing. When you reach end-game content, even the most experienced player with great equipment must be watchful of where they go as it can be a very dangerous world, even if they are running through low-level content (due to the level down system).

Wendon Steps at night

But what makes a MMOG truly successful is the End Game & Replayability. This ties into a number of core game systems and features including: economy, equipment upgrades, challenges and rewards. As mentioned above under character progression, even after reaching level 80, a player still makes experience and gains skill points for every “max level” made (254,000 experience is required per level). At this time, additional skill points are used to purchase legendary item crafting components; however there is little doubt ArenaNet will add additional acquisitions for these points, ensuring the resulting skill points from the experience a character gains after level 80 do not go unrewarded. The constant events, level down system, dungeon exploration, sPvP, and WvW systems ensures there is plenty to do once a player reaches level 80; but the real test of longevity takes time. Three months from now, we’ll know how solid the end-game of GW2 is for the majority of players; right now, even though it looks “very good”, only time can tell. In playing multiple professions including my level 80, I have experienced the majority of the “features” GW2 has to offer, and I can say the end game and replayability looks solid; much more than any MMOG I’ve seen at launch.

Note: GuildWars2 Hub released an interesting “80 things to do at level 80” article, showing the volume of activity players can engage in at level 80.

 

Community & Support

Guilds (Upgrades, Influence), Chat, Parties & Squads, Population, Spam, Botting, Quality, Forums, GMs & Bug Reporting, Support Sites & Wiki

While the guild system could use enhancements with a focus on communicating activities and accomplishments between players, the collaborative nature of GW2 brings people together both within the game and through external support sites.

Guilds are a key part of GW2, featuring the unique ability to join multiple guilds, but only represent one at a time. However, I think the Guild system is one of the weakest features in the game. There are no notifications, and the system as a whole seems to be implemented as an afterthought with a focus solely on upgrades rather than community and communication. There are traditional guild control systems of rank, but there is also the nasty “bug” of accidentally being able to set another character as a leader and not being able to revoke the setting.

Note: When a player accepts membership into a guild, even if it is their first, they must manually “turn on” representing the guild. This is a terrible design decision by ArenaNet and needs to be fixed as new players have no idea they must activate their guild representation in order to communicate with other members!

Guild Upgrades are a key part of the guild system, allowing players to earn influence through quests, etc. The leader(s) of the guild can then purchase upgrades which take time to build and are placed in a build queue. There are four categories of upgrades: Politics, Art of War, Economy and Architecture. These upgrades buff members who utilize them, or provide enhancements and access to systems such as a Guild Vault, or a customized emblem. There are also bugs with the guild system as well including one where the letters of the guild will often not show behind a character’s name, and another where a guildmate won’t visually show up as being a member. There is also no way to communicate (via the Guild) with members who are ‘representing’ another guild, which ultimately defeats the purpose of being a guild member. While the multi-guild feature sounds cool, it really is an empty feature which causes more problems than it solves. Ultimately, ArenaNet could learn a lot from the best fantasy MMO guild system on the market: Everquest 2.

Note: Few members, but money to burn? Characters can purchase influence with gold from a Guild Promoter.

A list of our current Guild upgrades.

The Chat system is pretty traditional and includes: guild, say, map, party, squad, team, and whisper.  You can also create chat tabs with filters including “messages” from NPCs, combat, emotes and game messages. Most people use the Map chat (/map) as the “public” chat; this sends messages to everyone in your zone. Players can paste links to items, skills and waypoints in Chat by shift-clicking on the respective source object. A ctrl-click will instantly send that link into the currently selected chat without any “waiting”.

Note: In GW2 you respond to a whisper by pressing the Backspace key, not “r”!

Parties and Squads (raid groups) are pretty standard. The exception is only squad commanders can form squads, and to become a squad commander a character must purchase a book for 100g, which is very expensive.

The population is very large for a new MMOG. As mentioned during the introduction, ArenaNet has sold more than 2,000,000 copies of GW2 in less than a month. Major cities are almost always in holding queues, the market is outright crazy, and the world is teeming with people everywhere. While some events draw a LOT of people (sometimes too many), the overall world population distribution seems fairly balanced, especially with the level down system. The game will need a few months to “solidify”, but given the near daily patches, I’m confident ArenaNet will adjust the events and content during the growth of the game to properly balance population distribution.

Spam really isn’t much of a problem. I’ve seen a few gold sellers, but nothing compared to other MMOGs, which is rather unusual given that Botting is a problem in GW2. Sadly, the GMs do not seem to address this issue very well, especially as I have seen botters go unchecked for days even though numerous people have reported them.

Welcome to the Mire Sea!

The overall quality of the community seems good. As with any MMOG, there are griefers, loudmouths and rude people, but for the most part, I’ve found the players in GW2 to be pleasant and helpful. Since the game doesn’t allow “stealing” from other players and focuses on teamwork, there are very few reasons to get angry or upset with others. GW2 has truly done a fantastic job of bringing people together and focusing on the positive outcome of players working together.

I like the GW2 forums. The visual presentation is solid and easy to read, and there is plenty of content for players to browse. Since they don’t show the time stamp of posts, it’s hard to tell how how much content is being posted, but the forums are definitely busy. The ArenaNet forum moderators seem active as well, responding to numerous posts by players. The only enhancement I would make to the forum is to add a character image to the player tag.

Unfortunately there do not appear to be any GMs (Game Masters) who are online and available (at least to the players or through some user interface). The Bug Reporting interface is accessed by typing /bug, and the initial screen that comes up gives the player an option of going to the forums, reporting a bug, or going to the GW2 support site. When a player chooses to enter a bug report, they select the primary category of the bug (titled area) and then the subcategory. There are two checkboxes; one for “blocking progress” and another for “exploitable issue”. Players can then enter a title, the description, and have the option of taking a screenshot and submitting the bug. Once the bug is submitted, that’s it. There is no tracking or “ticketing” system. It’s pretty much fire and forget. I personally don’t like this system and think it’s rather weak since there’s no way for a player to receive feedback on any reported issue. This creates a detachment between the players and in-game support staff.

There are numerous Support Sites which are listed below under references. If you need a map, crafting details, or want to browse items or compare skills and abilities; there’s a site out there which can do it. The Wiki site for GW2 is excellent and is linked numerous times within this review.

Creating their first character, the player is immediately immersed in the stunning graphics of GW2.

 

Technical

Graphics, Sound & Music, Interface & Addons, Connectivity & Downtime, Security, Patching and Bugs

The technology behind GW2 is state of the art and a monumental achievement of technology. ArenaNet has done a fantastic job of refining this game prior to launch, resulting in a stable and reliable experience. Once they fix the Marketplace downtime, the game will be rock solid.

The Graphics of GW2 are stunning, and probably the best of any fantasy MMOG on the market. The GW2 rendering engine handles large battles beautifully, and the blending of distance rendering with numerous objects paired with smoothing it all together using day and night environmental settings is a thing of beauty. The engine also handles large battles very well, although when there are a lot of players at events, monsters are often ‘drown out’ and don’t appear in time to see them before they die. I rarely have any lag, and the particle FX look great. I believe the GW2 engine has given us the most complex distance rendering system of any MMOG, which is very apparent when looking at the massively complex city of  Divinity’s Reach. Kudos to their developers, as the graphical capabilities of GW2 are truly a monumental achievement.

Divinity’s Reach is a marvel in MMOG 3D Engine Technology

The sound relative to environment, creatures and combat is very well done, but I find the music rather lacking. Unlike other games which have used unique musical scores to truly define a memorable “feel” to the game, the GW2 soundtrack just isn’t very memorable.

The Interface of GW2 does have a unique “artistic” feel to it and doesn’t quite confirm to the MMO standard; but this is OK. Once you get the hang of it, the interface is pretty easy to navigate. Unfortunately the GW2 devs have made it clear they do not plan on adding any support for interface addons.

The only connectivity issues I experienced with GW2 were within the first day or two of headstart. Since then I haven’t had any problems or disconnects. While the game doesn’t experience any real downtime (we do get patches almost every night at midnight PST), the marketplace has been a huge problem since head start, and even now as I write this section, it’s down again. This is a big problem as the marketplace is the core hub of trading between players and there is no other viable option for trading which doesn’t involve substantial risk.

The Security of GW2 is very poor. There is no outside authentication (i.e. like the Battle.net authenticator) and there are major issues with hackers using stolen information from other sites (not run by ArenaNet, such as 3rd party game sites or forums) to access accounts which use the same EMail and password. ArenaNet published an article which gives Tips for Keeping Your Guild Wars 2 Account Secure. I recommend everyone read it. The key points are: Always use a strong password unique to your GW2 account, set up GW2 EMail authentication, and only check your e-mails from a trusted device.

ArenaNet is patching GW2 nearly every night and is doing a fantastic job of addressing problems. Current bugs primarily revolve around the marketplace being down, broken events and skill challenges, but I am seeing them getting fixed pretty quick. While I do think they’re dragging their feet a bit on nailing botters, the overall “core” problems seem to be dealt with rather quickly – except for the marketplace downtime. Hopefully the marketplace issues will soon become a bittersweet memory. Then again, look at the problems Blizzard had with the Diablo 3 auction house, and now it’s up and running fine. Even the ‘big boys’ have technical troubles; we just need to be patient. They’ll get it fixed and working.

Welcome to the Cursed Shore!

 

Conclusion

Guild Wars 2 is a fantastic game worth every penny, and is undoubtedly one of the strongest MMOG launches in history. It has a bright future of free expansions and a very well balanced RMT (real money trading) and in-game economy. There is a ton of content and new gameplay styles to experiences with each character and profession. Once a character achieves max level, the player can continue to acquire points which are currently used to craft legendary items and will probably expand into other future purchases. There is always something interesting and exciting to experience, whether it’s PvE, PvP or WvW, and every player benefits from the their server’s WvW accomplishments. GW2 features the most advanced combat for a fantasy MMOG, focuses on bringing players together to successfully complete collaborative tasks, and takes a unique approach to handling the traditional quest-based experience. Players are constantly rewarded for their accomplishments, and the game supports the balance of reward and value through a busy public marketplace. It doesn’t get much better than that.

All in all, GW2 is a fresh new refined product and qualifies as a next generation MMOG. If you haven’t already bought this game, get it. You won’t be disappointed as  the fantastically vibrant, fun and interesting world of Tyria immerses you for months, and possibly years to come.

 

Additional Resources

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

About The Author

Mr. Allen has an extensive background in technology spanning 20 years including software architecture, design and development, project management and leadership. He specializes in corporate planning, productivity and collaboration, and is the creator of the games Mordor, Demise, Horizons, and Alganon.

3 Responses

  1. Alex

    A great review, have a lot of details about the game.
    Increased my will to play GW2. Reading the review I can see that GW2 have high standards and is a very polished game.

    Oh, and I liked your post about the best MMO (WoW vs EQ2 vs LotRO), maybe you can do it with the next generation MMOs (GW2, Rift and… maybe SWTOR?)

    Reply
    • David Allen

      Thanks, Alex! I’ve been considering a revamped “comparison of the big boys” review; I’m going to wait until Storm Legion comes out for RIFT and take it from there. With the recent release of Mists of Pandaria, there’s also new WoW content to reference. I’m trying to decide what to do next: Borderlands 2 or Torchlight 2… Tough choice!

      Reply
  2. Brad

    I completely take delight in Guild Wars 2. It is visually lovely, it has content that is adapted to every player -type, the achievements and content are intriguing enough to keep you interested.. it’s just all around a superb MMORPG. Amongst the finest ones that’s been produced in several years.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.