Belated Game Reviews: Guild Wars 2
I’m pretty picky when it comes to MMOs, having found very few that can hold my interest long term. The only ones I can say I’ve invested any significant length of time into are Ultima Online and a somehow inexplicably still running free to play MMO named Eudemons Online. I track this to most MMOs having a combination of relatively unengaging gameplay, rigid class roles, and repetitive quests.
Guild Wars blipped on my radar a long time ago, but I didn’t have my own computer as a kid so never thought to ask for computer games. When Guild Wars 2 originally came out I was intrigued again, but never bothered to follow up on it. But when the latest Humble Bundle included a code for the full game, I decided to finally give it a try.
It’s a good game, full of character. It sidesteps some of the issues I dislike about MMOs handily, particularly rigidly defined class roles. Every class I’ve tried so far (Engineer, Mesmer, Necromancer, and Warrior) has been able to to fill each of the classic MMO roles (Tank, Healer, DPS, Control) to varying degrees and swap between two of those roles on the fly with the weapon swapping system. The quests likewise have some repetitive elements, but there are enough fun world events that pop up to keep me interested for now. I also appreciate that the game rewards exploration, granting experience and Hero Points (a level up “currency” of sorts used to buy specialized abilities) for wandering around and seeing new places.
Also, I like Charr.
Keeping in mind that these are relative first impressions, I’ve been playing for about a week and my highest level character is a level 23 Mesmer (out of 80 main levels, not counting endgame leveling), here are my general thoughts on other aspects of the game.
-Leveling customization (you don’t simply get a defined linear progression through a class; there are different builds at least at the lower-mid levels)
-Character creation has a fine number of options
-Heavy emphasis on comboing abilities with yourself or party members; helps combat stay fresh
-Varied world events
-Personal Stories give each race their own identity and help make your character feel like a person
-Weird weapon variety among classes, both in type and function. For example, Mesmers (a flexible illusionist class) get access to one-handed swords and two-handed swords (among your expected caster weapons like wands and staves); The one-handed swords are melee weapons as you’d expect. The two-handers act like rifles, firing bolts of purple electricity at long range and providing fun Area of Effect abilities.
-The game is not afraid of letting you feel powerful, and you can consistently hit 2-3 levels above your weight class
-Lack of racial stat differences, so each race lends itself equally well to any given class. What instead replace raw stat boosts are racial abilities that can be activated for unique effects (for example, Sylvari can natively AoE heal allies and themselves or set up a turret ally to shoot sees at foes).
-Too many quests relying on holding out against waves of enemies for a set period of time. It’s not fun to kill the same enemies for 5-8 minutes at a stretch just to complete a quest for relatively meager rewards.
-Some quests make enemies invulnerable until their in position, which can make some things last longer than they need to. Worse, there is no indicator they are invulnerable until you try to hit them, which can result in wasting abilities.
-Base movement speed is a bit too slow, it makes navigating the game a slog at points.
-As a corollary to the above, mounts are only available with the purchase of a DLC expansion. Perhaps a necessary evil for the game being partially free to play and never having a subscription model, but it rankles in some ways for me who isn’t sure how much time they’ll be spending with the game and how much money they can justify spending on it.
-Loot is relatively sparse, at least at the low levels I’ve played so far. You often find yourself with severely underleveled equipment (my Mesmer was using a sword with a level 5 minimum until level 20) unless you invest heavily in the crafting game, get lucky, or find a merchant that’s actually selling things you can really use.
-Inventory capacity is infinitesimally small for all the junk and crafting materials you get, and the same goes for bank space.
-Certain Personal Story quests are more personal than others. The Asura is very much the story of your character, which is great. The Sylvari…well, your character feels like an MMO character. I.E. you don’t matter at all.
-Minor con, but the game does have a lootbox economy that randomly drops “free” lootboxes that require a key (purchased with real money) to open. It’s minor because the boxes’ contents seem fairly undesirable a a whole (they give you a free taste at one point). Near as I can tell they’re largely indistinguishable from chests you can find for free in-game, but the game foisting them on you with the aforementioned small inventory space rankles slightly.
All in all it’s a good game that still has a fairly active community from what I’ve seen. Well worth grabbing a friend and, if nothing else, seeing how far the game lets you get in free-to-play mode. It’s a good middle ground between more traditional MMOs like World of Warcraft and newer, more active combat-wise MMOs like Tera or The Secret World, so I recommend giving it a try.