Guild Wars 2 review (Blogathon 21/49)

JT here!

There’s been a flu running around the office and guess who got it!  Proof that god hates me.  It’s ok, I just hate him back.

Anyway, I spent most of the weekend in bed playing the beta weekend of Guild Wars 2.  The whole time I found myself thinking how glad I was that there were almost certainly WoW devs in the beta and they were almost certainly shitting their pants.  Guild Wars 2 is the best game I’ve ever played.  Period.

“But JT, isn’t WoW at least close?  What about SWTOR?”  No.  Absolutely not.  Those games do not even deserve to sniff GW2′s throne.

Why is GW2 so good?

1.  Your characters are individuals

This is the biggest thing.

In WoW if you’re PvPing and you encounter a warrior, you can bet that the warrior will be a particular spec and use the same skill rotation as every other warrior you come across.  He’ll probably even have the same gear.

Not so in GW2.

In WoW it doesn’t matter what weapon a character has equipped: all their skills are still the same.  In GW2 your offensive skills are based on whatever weapon you’re wielding, and it changes your playstyle.  A warrior who uses a sword and a shield will play differently than a warrior who uses a mace and a shield.  Both will play different than a warrior who uses a greatsword.

On top of that, as you gain levels you gain skill points you use to buy utility skills.  There are tons to choose from and they seem balanced.  You can’t get all of them.  This means you cannot predict what abilities someone is going to come at you with, and each character feels unique.

For instance, my brother and I both played warriors at some point over the weekend.  Here’s how different they were.

Mine:

My warrior used a greatsword.  He had utility abilities that buffed himself and once he got inside your range, it was over.  That being said, the greatsword kept him from being terribly mobile.

Tim’s:

Tim’s warrior used a rifle.  He would run around the battlefield looking for cover.  If you got inside his range, he would smack you back with the butt of his rifle or nimbly back pedal.  For his utilities he took banners which, when planted, buffed everybody around him.  He would often pick up his banner and fight with it to inspire big groups.

Both characters were effective.  You didn’t feel like your character was one clone amongst many.  You felt like an individual.

2.  Combat

No mana.  No energy bars.  That’s because there’s nary a thought of standing there and spamming your most powerful skills.  In GW2 there are no most powerful skills.  You don’t use a particular skill because it does the most damage, you use it because the situation calls for it.

Combat in GW2 requires you to actually think.  It’s also fluid.  No more parking and nuking if you’re a mage.  In GW2 you’ll need to dodge, dart about the battlefield.  Enemies will try and hit you.

Which brings me to my next point…

3.  No holy trinity

In standard MMOs you have the three roles of tank, healer, and dps.  GW2 does away with them.  Which makes it feel more realistic!  Enemies aren’t going to focus on the tank because he’s the tank.  If battles really functioned like they did in WoW, this is what they’d look like.

In reality, such a skirmish would be utter chaos.  You’d have people attacking whoever was close to them.  This is what GW2 feels like, and they pulled it off beautifully.

Which brings me to my next point…

4.  De facto grouping

For those of us who played WoW, how aggravating was it see a whole group of people in your quest area?  It meant you’d have to wait to do that quest.

In GW2 if you see a group of people saving the countryside by fighting a cave troll, you go jump in.

“But don’t they have to add you to the group?”  No.  No they don’t.  If you see a group of heroes fighting a huge beast, you do what any hero would do: you go help!  No sending 50 messages back and forth, “hey, can u group me plz, lol”.  None of that.

And everybody gets the credit.

Which brings me to my next point (see a pattern here?)…

5.  Localized loot

If you see a corpse, you can loot it.  The loot in your game spawns only for you.

This includes resource nodes.  See a copper node?  You don’t need to go apeshit and run through 500 mobs and then drop your fear bomb and try to mine it as quickly as you can in the hopes that you get to it before every other player in the region.

Which brings me to my next point

6.  Crafting

Holy crap, this system is awesome.  First, you need components just like any other MMO.  How do you get them?  Sure, you mine copper, but you can also break down your items to get scraps of components.  Not just magical items, but all items.  Standard leather doublet?  Shred that thing into scraps to use.

So once you have the materials, what do you do?  You make parts.  You don’t just get the right pieces and then make an item.  You have to make all the parts.  Want to make a greatsword?  You have to craft the hilt, and then the blade, and then assemble the sword.

What’s more, you can’t do this out amongst the dandelions.  You actually need to be at a forge, like a real frakkin’ blacksmith.  Once you craft an item, you feel an attachment to that item, like you really toiled to make it.

And you don’t just get recipes from a trainer.  You have to make parts and then experiment with them in order to learn how to make new things.  It makes you feel as though you’re really a craftsman.  I seriously considered avoiding the main quest of the game for a bit just to play with crafting.  I strongly suspect you may be able to do a good portion of your leveling just through crafting.

Which brings me to my next point…

7.  Experience system

In GW2 you get experience for all the right things.  Want to just stand out in a field and kill boars to level up?  It’ll take you forever.  Killing mobs gives you virtually no xp.

What does give you xp?  Crafting a new item.  Exploring the map.  Helping a local farmer.  All the stuff that makes a game rewarding.  If you like grinding, this will not be your game.

8.  Graphics

HOLY SHIT THIS GAME LOOKS BEAUTIFUL!  Seriously.  So much detail went into the aesthetics of this game.  You actually want to explore.  You want to see beautiful exotic locations.

9.  Questing and dynamic events

In standard MMOs, you find someone with a quest, you get the quest, you do the quest, and you return to the quest-giver to collect your xp/rewards.  Rinse, repeat, send in your monthly check to the monotony-lovers club.

In GW2 there are certain areas where things are not well.  They may need a hand tilling the field, or feeding the cows.  In other areas they may need help thinning out the local deer population.  Maybe there is a nearby cave with bandits who keep raiding the town you could go deal with.  Nobody sends you out on these errands.  However, if you help out, you will get xp on the spot, and you might get a letter later thanking you and including some money.  But you don’t have to go find the quest-giver and return.  You just wander the land helping.

And here’s the best thing: what you do changes the world.  In WoW, the environment never, ever changes, so you don’t get the feeling that you’re accomplishing anything.  In WoW you’ll hear someone say “Oh crap!  There’s a big lumbering death beast thundering toward our village and if it’s not stopped he’ll certainly level our village!”  And if you don’t take the quest not a god damn thing happens.  The village will be fine whether you go and spank the death beast or not.

Not in GW2.  If someone doesn’t go kill or divert the death beast then it’s going to go and actually level the village.  Need something from a merchant in that village?  If they’re rebuilding because you thought you could wait to kill the death beast then you’re just shit out of luck.

And then dynamic events.  These are awesome.  You might just be walking along and see a group of centaurs charging past on their way to assault a keep.  You might have a child run up to tell you they’re lost.  You might be enjoying a tasty brew in the tavern when a bandit raid occurs.  In GW2 the quests come to you!  Everybody in the area then rushes out and tries to help and the whole thing is seamless because you don’t have to spend 5,000 years organizing a raid.  And once more, if you fail, things change.

Helping others gives you karma points.  If you visit someone you helped later, they may trade you things in exchange for those karma points.  Short story: you want to make it in GW2?  You have to help people out.

10.  Scaling

So you’ve got a level 80 unstoppable badass that you’re just in love with and your friend just started playing.  You want to go and let your seasoned warrior show the newbie the land.  In other MMOs the higher level character would earn nothing and would also stop their friend from earning anything, since the higher level character would easily overwhelm the landscape.

In GW2 if you’re in an area designated for level 5 characters, that’s what level you fight at.  Nothing is easy in this land.  Fighting bandits will be just as hard for you as it is for them.  You’ll both get xp.

11.  Alt-aholics dream

In the above scenario (when a friend picks up the game) I’d just make a new alt, since I’m a bit of an alt-aholic.  This game totally caters to that.  The different classes (“professions” as they’re called in GW2) all feel unique.  They all operate on different mechanics so there’s always a new style of play to explore and enjoy.  And they’re all balanced.

Toward the end of the beta I asked a question in general chat: “Which class is the best?”

The first six responses all had a different opinion (and there are eight classes).  One person even said that the only class he got killed repeatedly with was the engineer.  I had the exact opposite experience.  My engineer was my favorite!

I could keep going.  There was seriously so much good in this game.  We so often hear the term WoW-killer get thrown around.  I’ve always thought it was silly.  People have so much invested in WoW that the very idea of sunk cost will keep most of them around.  To think that any game, no matter how good, could kill WoW is kind of absurd.

At least, that’s what I used to think.  GW2 was easily the best game I’ve ever played.  I can see people coming over to it en masse, it’s that engaging.  The fact that there’s no monthly fee to play it only sweetens the pot.

If you’re a fan of MMOs, seriously, buy this game.

This is post 21 of 49 for Blogathon.

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  • kagekiri

    GW2 is awesome! Only bad thing I can really say about it is that it’s not released yet, which makes me sad.

    Ah, you didn’t mention that you can also switch between 2 weapon sets as most classes (Elementalist and Engineer have other ways to vary their main skills). That means even more customization, and choosing the perfect weapon skills to switch between; you could go with a rifle at a distance, then switch to greatsword for some point blank fun.

    Ah, another point I kinda disagreed with was the bit about no energy bars; it’s true for 7 of 8 classes, but the Thief class has their “initiative” bar special mechanic.

    You pretty much just press your one best attack in most cases, because you have no cooldowns and have to spend initiative on any move. That makes thieves really bursty on DPS, because they can basically frontload their most powerful abilities multiple times in a row, but it gets a bit spammy.

    Of course, the solution is just not to play a thief if that’s too boring, or just be a little less effective by mixing things up for fun, which is what I did.

  • michaelyn

    Blogathon 21/49*

  • Lxndr

    Gear, loot, crafting – things I dislike in MMOs.

    It’s really too bad they’ve become the new zeitgeist.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      In this game you can ignore them. The best rewards you get for exploring the world. You can just stick to the story and do just fine.

  • John Horstman

    Bah, my comments keep turning into long-winded rants about how the entire concept of an MMORPG is broken (notability of the hero is the defining trait of the RPG – YOU are saving the world; this effect is negated in a world of thousands of PCs all performing the same quests for zero impact, which isn’t to say that MMOs have to be bad games, just that they pretty much universally fail to be RPGs) and major game studios keep copying old games with ever-worse design philosophies but better graphics, so I figured I’d just leave it at that.

    GW2, from your review, sounds like it might have addressed some of the problems I have with MMOs, perhaps driven in part by the fact that the devs are under no pressure to keep players grinding in order to get those sweet, sweet monthly fees; it may be worth checking out, especially for one easy payment of $59.99.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      You feel like a hero in this game. Not as much as SWTOR, which was really good about that. But in this one you feel like you’re an important part in a world of warriors. The fact that people scale down if they’re leveled past your area makes you feel like an elite warrior whom nobody surpasses, even if you do have an equal out there somewhere.

      • michaelyn

        Does that mean people can’t come in and camp in a low level town, one-shotting everyone until they quit?

        • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

          It does. :)

  • Crow

    On spot review! Did you get a chance to do the Ascalonian Catacombs? It really brought out what the high level dungeons will be like. Namely, teamwork and strategy.

    Also, I loved the underwater combat system!

  • http://carriagewit.blogspot.com Draco Malfoi

    I loved the beta, though I have to disagree with the alt-aholic thing. That would be my one complaint about the game. After playing SWTOR where the bounty hunter story is entirely different from the Jedi knight story, it felt really strange to go through the same quest line as a necromancer that I did as a ranger.

    There seem to be three main storylines based on your backgrounds you pick on creation. Because so much of the game is based around exploring the map, I have a feeling that it will get monotonous to level more than one class. This definitely seems like a ‘pick a class and stick with it’ game, which is unfortunate because so many classes look fun to play. SWTOR ruined me for alts.

    Other than that, though, the game was amazing. That would be my only complaint.

  • adamshelton

    FtB guild anyone? Let us smite the ignorant! Let’s choose the server with the prettiest name!

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      I’d be so down for that!

      • adamshelton

        Hurray! I look forward to it. So shall we say that you’re tasked with trying to herd readers onto a common server when the time comes?

        Some possible servers to contemplate, but I’ll follow wherever the crowd leads. I’m going solely off the names at this point, some because they sound pretty, some for lols:
        - Quarrel Falls (because we loves fightin’)
        - Divinity Coast (bringing sanity to the Divinity Coast since 201X?)
        - Gate of Madness (why are you atheists so angry?)
        - Eternal Grove
        - Astralarium

  • http://rant5k.blogspot.com Grikmeer

    I normally really dislike MMORPGs, but I may have to try this one out, especially if there isn’t a monthly fee…

  • Pingback: The Great Revival! « bloggingwithoutgod

  • DM

    What a horrible opening line. Already lost tons of readers..

  • Pingback: Godless GW2 Guild – By Godless Teen » Godless Teens


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