It’s hard not to make the comparison PC gamers tend to use when talking about Massive Multiplayer Online games (MMOs). But when we see a newcomer to the MMO market, we sit hunched in our chairs, typing to others on the Internet: “How does it compare to WoW?”
Whether we like to admit it or not, World of Warcraft is the king of MMOs. It’s the paragon that every other online game aspires to be. Other games like Lord of the Rings Online, Rift, or Star Wars: The Old Republic have tried to mimic WoW’s game play and overall structure.
But Guild Wars 2 dares to be different. Within the first hour of game play, I was stunned at how refreshing this game was. There were two things that attributed to that: the leveling process and the combat system.
The “grind” is probably the most notable aspect of an MMO. Kill x number of boars, gather y number of logs. It was surprising to see how well Guild Wars 2 hid the grind.
Experience points in Guild Wars 2 are earned from doing pretty much anything: collecting materials, killing things, exploring the map, and of course, completing tasks and events.
Rather than being handed a quest by a Non-Player Character (NPC), the player is able to walk into an area and the task is automatically given to them. Tasks can be fulfilled in many ways, including killing pests, gathering items, or reviving NPCs. Players can help one another kill things or revive NPCs and both receive credit for the task.
While exploring the area, players will eventually stumble upon their first dynamic event. Players will have to work together to escort an NPC to safety, repel invasions, slay the giant monster, or assault a camp.
At the end of the event, the player is rewarded with a bronze, silver, or gold medal rank depending on how much they participated. Events reward a player with a chunk of experience, coin, and Karma, a special currency used to purchase items that cannot be obtained any other way.
What shocked me most about Guild Wars 2 is that because of the different ways to gain experience, leveling actually felt fun. It didn’t feel like a chore, nor did I feel rushed to get to the max level in order to experience “end-game content.”
Since the time ArenaNet, the creators of Guild Wars 2, began marketing the game, they claimed they’d be able to revolutionize the genre. They promised to get rid of the Holy Trinity. Instead of the traditional three roles – tanks, healers, and damage dealers – ArenaNet scrapped that. Every class has the ability to heal and protect themselves from attackers.
The system works better than you might think. The obvious drawback to this is that the learning curve is higher as a result. Players will need to take some time to get to know their class before expecting to do well. That involves learning how to perform combos and when to dodge.
Every class has many skills to choose from. Players are given an action bar with hotkeys for the numbers one through zero. The first five keys are used for weapon skills – these are predetermined based on which weapon you use – the sixth is your heal ability, seven through nine are skills of your choice, and zero is reserved for a very powerful ability called an elite skill.
Overall, Guild Wars 2 is a remarkably fresh take on MMOs. Players are given a lot of freedom in customizing their character builds, the combat is very fluid, and the grind, while still present, is hidden so well you’ll barely notice it. For $60 and no subscription fee, it’s a steal.