Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2 is a remarkable game, the first highly visible launch in some time of a Western MMO that genuinely progresses the genre and consistently feels like it’s offering a new experience. From its quest system to the way it respects players’ time, it doesn’t so much break the mold as it condenses it down to its best parts. In many ways it presents you with something that fits the traditional expectations, but constantly manipulates them into something better than what you’ve seen before.

The easiest thing to say about Guild Wars 2 is that it succeeds because of the little things. There are no quest hubs that you run back and forth to; quests just happen in the world dynamically. The auction house is available everywhere; just bring it up and plug in the item(s) you want to sell. Your mailbox is accessible everywhere. Once you’ve been to a waypoint anywhere on the world map, you can fast-travel there instantaneously. You can deposit crafting materials into your personal bank at any time from anywhere. Your alt characters automatically can join guilds your other characters are in, so you don’t have to get invited every time you want to try a new class. If you are too high level for the environment you are in, you are levelled down but still gain experience and rewards, meaning that a level 79 character could go to a starting zone and still get some benefit.

The better thing to say about Guild Wars 2, however, is that it succeeds because of the big things. It succeeds because it encourages an environment where exploration and adventuring are rewarded. It succeeds because it is consistently grand and meaningful as much at level 8 as level 80. It succeeds because it has no subscription fee, and it acts like it. It succeeds because it is an MMO that asks how can we make you have fun right now, not how can we keep you on the hook for another month.

A Guild Wars 2 play session goes something like this for me. I identify a thing I want to go do, so I begin to head in its direction. Let’s say there is a quest I know I want to complete in a nearby village. On the way, the game alerts me that something is happening nearby, and I turn to see a dozen people fighting a giant troll. “Ah,” I think. “I want to kill that troll too!” So, I divert, if only briefly, to murder a giant troll, and, huzzah, we topple the mighty beast and a chunk of experience is doled out. But now there is a nearby passing caravan that is being attack by bandits and needs an escort to a different town. Well, I can’t pass up helping some hardworking farmers, and besides, there isn’t much better than killing a bunch of lousy bandits. We succeed over the next ten minutes or so — more experience, more gold, more loot. But here I am in this different town, and it is under siege by Centaurs … and so on.

At some point maybe I make it to my original destination. Maybe I don’t. It doesn’t really matter, because the game keeps throwing things at me for me to do. And should I get bored doing those things, then I can go do some World v. World, or I can visit points of interest and vistas (you get significant benefits for that as well), or I can track down dynamic events, or I can go to a lower-level area in some place I haven’t explored before and get benefits for that, or I can do PvP, or countless other things. Heck, even just exploring the world is worthwhile, where the game is constantly urging you to its coolest points.

Most interestingly, though, is how the game encourages and rewards good behavior. People have incentives to work together — they have incentives to heal and res one another. The game manages a living community and population in ways that seem simultaneously obvious and unique. It doesn’t pit players against one another unless they specifically want to be so pitted. For example, resource nodes are instanced, meaning that just because you’ve mined out some ore outcropping, other players will still have their versions of that node waiting for them. It’s not a competition. And, if you suddenly jump in and help someone take down a creature, it’s not a question of which one of you get experience and access to loot. You both do, so suddenly having someone running around with you in an area killing things isn’t griefing, it’s helping.

Again, the argument can be made that the reason they can make these choices is because they aren’t financially dependent on having to drag out your time. Sure, Guild Wars 2 developer ArenaNet wants you to still be playing their game next month, but they aren’t out a subscription fee if you don’t, so they have the flexibility to be more generous with rewards and to provide players more flexibility. Unlike those operating under subscription-based models, ArenaNet is not discouraged from making your time meaningful. And while there are microtransactions in the game, even those are not heavy handed.

That said, the launch has not been flawless. There is no authentication device, and so because everyone uses their email address to login, and that email address is pretty easily accessible, there have been a number of problems. Frankly, the security of the game and people’s accounts leaves something to be desired. Additionally, while you can access the auction house from anywhere, it has not been very dependably online, and most of the times I checked it was down. There have also been some challenges around grouping up between overflow servers and the main servers when populations have been high. Queues for getting technical support, should you have a problem, are more likely to be measured in days rather than hours right now.

While not to be diminished, problems like these are par for the course in MMO launches, and ArenaNet has been taking steps to correct them.

What has not been a problem has been the core engine running the game. Guild Wars 2 is, simply put, the most beautiful game I’ve ever played. I am constantly running across places and scenes that make me pause and appreciate the world. And then the game asks me to look even closer, to climb up to a high point and get a bird’s eye view, and I do it, because it will turn out to be a thing worth seeing. This game is a rare blend of both a very powerful graphics engine and an art style crafted with an eye for detail and elegance. It sometimes feels, quite intentionally I think, like you are moving within a world that’s been painted. Each race has its own aesthetic, each zone its defining characteristics. And over each rise, it seems, there is something new to see.

There are echoes everywhere in Guild Wars 2. The scope and feel of Dark Age of Camelot’s Realm v. Realm combat. The sense of wonder and epic scale of the original Evequest. World of WarCraft’s understanding of how valuable artistic style is to putting a player into an environment. The Old Republic’s individually complex storyline. Guild Wars 2 offers the best ideas that had come before and fills in the gaps with countless new ideas that manage to enhance and encourage. This should be the game that future MMOs look to.

Comments

You guys are making me absolutely mad to play this game. Great perspective and thanks. Hopefully you'll see me around next week.

No! You were supposed to say bad, bad things about this game so that I don't want to go and pick up that copy that I asked them to put behind the counter for me while I passed EBgames today.

Cripes..

The fact that it's managing to steal hours I could be playing Secret World from me says a lot. I'd put them on about equal footing with one another in my internal rating system.

I do believe Guild Wars 2 is the better MMO, Secret World still trumps it with story though. The voice acting and writing is just leagues ahead of most single-player RPGs, let alone MMOs. If I could mash the Secret World story (and perhaps the neat ability wheel) into the gameplay and engine improvements of Guild Wars 2, I'd be in MMO Nirvana.

Yeah, TSW does some amazing things in a mediocre package. GW2 is an amazing package with some mediocre things. Right now I prefer the latter as an MMO and wish TSW was a sp game.

I have to echo the comment about the overall beauty of this game. Mount Maelstrom (I think the area is called, a 60-70 area) is just the best looking area all-around I've ever seen in a game. I actually spent 5-10 minutes staring at the ground in one spot there yesterday, trying to figure out just what was different. Never figured it out, I'm no art connoisseur and couldn't draw a stick figure that looked like a stick. But still, I actually enjoyed staring at ground in a game, that's just stupidly awesome.

Sure looks pretty.

Redwing wrote:
I do believe Guild Wars 2 is the better MMO, Secret World still trumps it with story though.

I haven't played TSW, or put serious time into any other MMO recently, but from what I can tell GW2 is the best in a long while for actually doing what an MMO should, leveraging massive amounts of people sharing a world and getting them to play together in a friendly way. It's pleasant, and in my experience there's an extremely short supply of day-ruining idiots.

However there are limits for that, and GW2 seems to limit the player-to-player interaction at the out in the world stuff. They're not going to go for an Eve-online fully open trading for instance, and there's reasons for that such as scamming, so they've made a trade-off there. Keeping every/most transaction inside the black lion trading post is a kind of pareto principle approach to it.

I never have enough time to play games anymore, and yet I have somehow managed to put in over 80 hours since launch. This game is wonderful. Great write up Ely.

Hi, I've been off World of Warcraft for 3 years now.

If I took some Guild Wars, would it satisfy that itch, but not stir up the addiction?

Raelic wrote:
Hi, I've been off World of Warcraft for 3 years now.

If I took some Guild Wars, would it satisfy that itch, but not stir up the addiction?

For me it certainly has. What often takes an hour in WOW can be done in 10 minutes in GW2, meaning an hour of play often leaves you with much more accomplished than a similar time frame in WOW. I find myself playing for 40 min to an hour blocks, and I always feel like I've accomplished something.

Raelic wrote:
Hi, I've been off World of Warcraft for 3 years now.

If I took some Guild Wars, would it satisfy that itch, but not stir up the addiction?

Yes and yes. You can really tell that the sub-free model for GW2 shows in their game design. Definitely a lot less carrot-and-stick here. Which is an awesome thing.

Damn don't make this sound awesome. The pile is already at critical mass, I can't play an MMO.

The world they've crafted is really quite engaging.

So far my favourite zone has been Gendarran Fields, the level 25-35 zone north of Lion's Arch. My experience was that that zone just really nails the idea of exploring and losing yourself getting distracted by things. The zone is relatively flat, and you can spot all these misty structures in the distance that just call out to you demanding to be explored. Still just north of LA, the zone is dotted with a few wrecks of ships that are evidently collected at the edges of the tidal wave caused when Orr was raised. Makes for a really interesting landscape.

Stele wrote:
Damn don't make this sound awesome. The pile is already at critical mass, I can't play an MMO. :(

You know better than that. It's the wrong thing to say on this site, in the thread about the game. That is, if you really don't want to play it.

i don't like a lot of games but when I do it's Skyrim.
I LOvE GW2 though. Great read, Thanks sEaN!

I'd play this in a second if I could buy it online. The idea of going to a store to buy a box just seems so...ick.

hubbinsd wrote:
I'd play this in a second if I could buy it online. The idea of going to a store to buy a box just seems so...ick.

Yeah I was going to buy it the other day but then found out they weren't selling it anymore.
Completely lost interest right there...
I find it an interesting strategy to keep their servers stable but I wonder how many people it has de-enabled or how many impulse sales they've lost.

A big thing that sells me on games is post release responses to it. I'm sure they made plenty of money on preorders but this tactic shows a pretty unique level of devotion to quality.

hubbinsd wrote:
I'd play this in a second if I could buy it online. The idea of going to a store to buy a box just seems so...ick.

Um, you can. https://buy.guildwars2.com/en/

That's how I bought it.

EDIT: Hm, looks like they are out of keys for the moment. Victim of their own success?

Valmorian wrote:
hubbinsd wrote:
I'd play this in a second if I could buy it online. The idea of going to a store to buy a box just seems so...ick.

Um, you can. https://buy.guildwars2.com/en/

That's how I bought it.

EDIT: Hm, looks like they are out of keys for the moment. Victim of their own success?

They stopped selling keys like 2 days after release in an effort to keep the servers stable.

FedoraMcQuaid wrote:
hubbinsd wrote:
I'd play this in a second if I could buy it online. The idea of going to a store to buy a box just seems so...ick.

Yeah I was going to buy it the other day but then found out they weren't selling it anymore.
Completely lost interest right there...
I find it an interesting strategy to keep their servers stable but I wonder how many people it has de-enabled or how many impulse sales they've lost.

A big thing that sells me on games is post release responses to it. I'm sure they made plenty of money on preorders but this tactic shows a pretty unique level of devotion to quality.


I don't think impulse buys are as big a factor as the "my friends are playing this" factor, which probably won't be going away soon, or at least not before sales are turned back on. Servers are a lot better already.

Scratched wrote:
FedoraMcQuaid wrote:
hubbinsd wrote:
I'd play this in a second if I could buy it online. The idea of going to a store to buy a box just seems so...ick.

Yeah I was going to buy it the other day but then found out they weren't selling it anymore.
Completely lost interest right there...
I find it an interesting strategy to keep their servers stable but I wonder how many people it has de-enabled or how many impulse sales they've lost.

A big thing that sells me on games is post release responses to it. I'm sure they made plenty of money on preorders but this tactic shows a pretty unique level of devotion to quality.


I don't think impulse buys are as big a factor as the "my friends are playing this" factor, which probably won't be going away soon, or at least not before sales are turned back on. Servers are a lot better already.

Sorry, I wasn't trying to say that this would kill future game sales or anything, I was just pointing out how interesting it is that they are risking sales for the sake of stability. It's in a way frustrating because I can't play the game and in another way endearing because of the devotion to quality and stability.

My wife stumbled upon this article.

So Sean, where should I send the bill for the two copies I have to buy now?

...

Oh, and by "stumbled upon" I mean "read because I sent her the link knowing it would cause her to want to play".

Just started my first character. I'm taking 5 minutes out to say that this game is freaking awesome and everyone should be playing.

That's all. Got to go, the Flame Legion isn't going to kill itself.

If you've ever thought the idea of an MMO sounded fun but were discouraged by the ways in which MMOs typically abuse/exploit players, this is the game you've been waiting for.

Similarly, if at one point you enjoyed MMOs but burned out on them and have been waiting for something special to come along, this very likely is it.

At the risk of verging on hyperbole, I'm enjoying this game every bit as much as I did WoW when I first played it. Maybe more. Except the difference here is that unlike when I first played WoW, there isn't a bunch of annoying crap that I'm ignoring because I'm having so much fun. I'm just having the fun without the annoyances.

The only thing that remains to be seen is whether there will be endgame content of a quality to match what WoW offers. Raiding in WoW is probably the most fun and rewarding multiplayer experience I've had in any game ever (and is 95% of why I continue to play the game with each expansion), and I have no clue if Guild Wars will have content that provides that kind of legs. But, of course, without a subscription fee that doesn't really matter all that much, does it?

EDIT: Yoyoson, buy it. You'll love and it's been too long since we've gamed together. Also, you may be able to help when I inevitably lose control of my senses and try to convince Danjo, Chiggie, and Crouton to try the game.

zeroKFE wrote:
If you've ever thought the idea of an MMO sounded fun but were discouraged by the ways in which MMOs typically abuse/exploit players, this is the game you've been waiting for.

This is me in a nutshell. I've always loved the idea of an MMO, but within a couple of months I'm annoyed with the conventions. Travelling is the worst for me. It's so disrespectful of player time. The original Guild Wars, and now this, are so much better to me.

MrDeVil909 wrote:
zeroKFE wrote:
If you've ever thought the idea of an MMO sounded fun but were discouraged by the ways in which MMOs typically abuse/exploit players, this is the game you've been waiting for.

This is me in a nutshell. I've always loved the idea of an MMO, but within a couple of months I'm annoyed with the conventions. Travelling is the worst for me. It's so disrespectful of player time. The original Guild Wars, and now this, are so much better to me.


Careful how you go with fast travel in GW2, a fair few people are moaning that it's a little too expensive, and costs go up with your level.

I bought into the hype of SWTOR, bought a copy for a friend, and ultimately regretted it: it felt like a slog, barren of neat content, and I quit in boredom. I love RPGs, I love co-op experiences, and I really like story; I dislike obvious Skinner boxes and boring button-mashing.

Am I apt to be interested in GW2? Is it worth a purchase?

TheHipGamer wrote:
I bought into the hype of SWTOR, bought a copy for a friend, and ultimately regretted it: it felt like a slog, barren of neat content, and I quit in boredom. I love RPGs, I love co-op experiences, and I really like story; I dislike obvious Skinner boxes and boring button-mashing.

Am I apt to be interested in GW2? Is it worth a purchase?

I'd say there's a chance you'll enjoy it. I'm only level 7, but so far the combat is pretty dynamic and interesting, movement is critical to survival so it's not static button mashing. It is a skinner box, but it's a skinner box with hundreds of levers so no need to do the same thing repetitively. So far my story as a Charr Engineer is pretty cool.

And co-op, well. Tonight I was following up a story quest when I came across a lake where fishermen were struggling with drakes that were breaking their traps, so I ran around with 2 or 3 other folk fixing traps, clearing out tar slicks, killing drakes and reviving downed fishermen. Each of these things helped fill a bar and gave some experience.

We got done fixing traps when suddenly some Flame Legion (cultist bastards) popped out and poisoned the water with more tar and some Tar Elementals started to appear. This was combat heavy, the elementals were tough, but a call went out and about 6 other people showed up to join the fight. We rallied together, killing elementals and reviving downed comrades until they were vanquished.

Then we found out there was a Shaman in a cave co-ordinating the attack, so we went after him. About 6 more people showed up to join in for what was a pretty tough fight, Flame Legion Shamans like to burn stuff. Most people died a few times, my armour was shredded by the end, but we took him down.

I think there was supposed to be a chest drop, but I seem to recall that particular quest is bugged, but you know what? I had fun, even if I missed out on the phat lewtz. It's chaotic, but it is co-operative.

There have been problems with partying up and overflow servers, but there has been a bit of an exodus on our server, so I think that may have come right now, hopefully someone can confirm.

I'm not going to say this is the most amazing game ever, but there is a lot to like. I think it's worth a try.

Caveats: You need a super strong password (LastPass, seriously folks, it's the 21st century) and I have a weird bug with this and GW1 where I need to underclock my graphics card otherwise I get a hard crash.

MrDeVil909 wrote:
TheHipGamer wrote:
I bought into the hype of SWTOR, bought a copy for a friend, and ultimately regretted it: it felt like a slog, barren of neat content, and I quit in boredom. I love RPGs, I love co-op experiences, and I really like story; I dislike obvious Skinner boxes and boring button-mashing.

Am I apt to be interested in GW2? Is it worth a purchase?

I'd say there's a chance you'll enjoy it. I'm only level 7, but so far the combat is pretty dynamic and interesting, movement is critical to survival so it's not static button mashing. It is a skinner box, but it's a skinner box with hundreds of levers so no need to do the same thing repetitively. So far my story as a Charr Engineer is pretty cool.

And co-op, well. Tonight I was following up a story quest when I came across a lake where fishermen were struggling with drakes that were breaking their traps, so I ran around with 2 or 3 other folk fixing traps, clearing out tar slicks, killing drakes and reviving downed fishermen. Each of these things helped fill a bar and gave some experience.

We got done fixing traps when suddenly some Flame Legion (cultist bastards) popped out and poisoned the water with more tar and some Tar Elementals started to appear. This was combat heavy, the elementals were tough, but a call went out and about 6 other people showed up to join the fight. We rallied together, killing elementals and reviving downed comrades until they were vanquished.

Then we found out there was a Shaman in a cave co-ordinating the attack, so we went after him. About 6 more people showed up to join in for what was a pretty tough fight, Flame Legion Shamans like to burn stuff. Most people died a few times, my armour was shredded by the end, but we took him down.

I think there was supposed to be a chest drop, but I seem to recall that particular quest is bugged, but you know what? I had fun, even if I missed out on the phat lewtz. It's chaotic, but it is co-operative.

There have been problems with partying up and overflow servers, but there has been a bit of an exodus on our server, so I think that may have come right now, hopefully someone can confirm.

I'm not going to say this is the most amazing game ever, but there is a lot to like. I think it's worth a try.

Caveats: You need a super strong password (LastPass, seriously folks, it's the 21st century) and I have a weird bug with this and GW1 where I need to underclock my graphics card otherwise I get a hard crash.

Very helpful! Thanks -- I'll give it a whirl, then. Is there a server where most Goodjers play?