Guild Wars 2. Or, how I learned to love MMOs again.

“Confound it! These dastardly wolves are destroying my crops! Just look at them, how am I supposed to aid the orphanage if the wolves are going to eat everything?”

Sound familiar? If you’ve played at least one MMO in the past… ever… you’ll recognize this as obligatory quest-related exposition. The task requires you, the level four handler of pointed sticks, to kill ten of these wolves. What makes questing so maligned is you can’t help but feel like the task doesn’t matter so long as there’s a reward, as opposed to being involved in something that’s compelling or immersive. This represents a disconnect between the gamer and their avatar, because the quest in essence resides in your character’s head. Killing ten wolves isn’t necessarily what the farmer asked, but the character, being of that MMO universe, believes that killing ten wolves will improve the farmer’s situation. Thankful as he is, the problem isn’t solved, the character doesn’t feel fully rewarded, and nothing fun even close to happened.

“Thank you killing those wolves, I don’t have much to offer besides this mangy iron sword of the baboon…. It was an heirloom from my father”

It’s time we play a better role in the grand scheme of things.

That's a boss. It's been five minutes.

With Guild Wars 2, ArenaNet took the conventions of the MMO genre and thought “Well, this should really be fun all the time.” What we have is an artistically gorgeous game, backed up once again with a grand dramatic score by Jeremy Soule. While it’s still a bit unpolished, Guild Wars 2 represents a revolution in an increasingly unstable and stagnant genre, the likes of which compare each and every entry to an MMO over seven years old.

Two hundred years passed since the events of the original Guild Wars saga, and we’re brought to a Tyria that has seen both advancement and setback. Four new races have allied themselves with the once mighty Humans. The Charr, former enemies from Guild Wars One, represent the savage warrior archetype, and are also giant cats. The Norn, part-giants from the mountain region, are noble hunters, so much in tune with the animal spirits that they can shapeshift into one. The Asura are brilliant but fragile in appearance, and are responsible for much of the game’s dry humor and seemingly liberal views on people getting killed in the name of science. Lastly, and new to Guild wars in both lore and playability, are the Sylvari. They were designed to fill the elf quota, but are entirely made of plants. They awaken as fully grown adults, ironically demonstrating child-like curiosity. It’s an interesting mix of races in that while each race is self-sustainable, the larger threat looming on the horizon beckons them to rally together.

The game is split into three modes: Player vs Environment, World vs World and Structured Player vs Player.

PvE: The game does a phenomenal job in providing the player with compelling content from the get-go. Five minutes in, you down a giant boss, then are taken to your starting area where dozens of players are out and about. It will feel familiar at first, but you’ll quickly realize that while you have long term goals to work towards, nothing you do will bore you or feel redundant. Instead of quests, reknown hearts are scattered about the map. Arriving at a “heart zone” will prompt you with several tasks needed by the area’s characters. You might be asked to fight one thing, collect another, rescue a third, and conduct a dangerous experiment as a fourth. Don’t worry about doing the ones that don’t interest you; even doing one task of the four will work towards your completion. As you complete these hearts, dynamic events will suddenly prompt you on the map, some tying in directly to the hearts, others being part of a chain reaction, and still others just kind of happening. On top of that, you have key areas to uncover, hard to reach spots that provide a view of the map called vistas, and each zone will have at least one major fight to participate in. In addition to the public activities, you also have a personal storyline that takes you through the game world little by little, one that ties in directly with your character right from the moment it’s made.

What makes PvE so compelling is that everything you can do is recognized as something worthy of a reward. There are four kinds of currency (Karma, Glory, Money, Influence), daily and monthly achievements, and three kinds of resources you can collect for your profession or just to sell on the in-game marketplace. The sound of your experience bar jumping up in progress will be banned in some states for its addictiveness.

We Asuras represent the west side, yo!

 

Where PvE is fun and rewarding, PvP is tense and intoxicating when played at its best. World vs World pits your server in a large scale battle between two other servers in constant siege/counter-siege warfare. Disorganized, it’s a game of numbers. Organized and balanced (a factor that will improve once guilds become more established), it’s pure adrenaline. Sneaking through a forest to launch an assault on the enemy’s supply camp and overcoming a nearly impossible fight is the kind of fun I never thought I’d see in an MMO. It’s a much needed breath of fresh air, when MMO PvP usually involves a max level deathmachine flying in on his hellsteed, breathing fire while shooting poison piranha-bats out the end of his giga-sword.

In addition to WvW, which doesn’t give your hero end game loot (just end game level), structured PvP is every competitor’s dream. Your hero will be bumped to level 80, and is granted access to all abilities and weapons necessary to compete. While balance isn’t perfect as of this writing, my experience in combat has been mostly positive. Dueling a hero one on one is almost always a fair fight, where beating the enemy isn’t a question of who’s spent more time grinding for loot, but who has a better grasp of their role and therefore is the more skilled player.

MMOs, in spite of the many ways they save you hours on the clock, are still an enormous investment of time. Guild Wars 2 will serve you well if you’re into either camp of gameplay, but by not being a fan of both you’re missing out on a lot of great content, so take that in to consideration when you’re buying the game. No matter what you do, Guild Wars 2 will delight you and make you feel like both you and your character are accomplishing things, growing in skill and in the eyes of your community.

Plus, there isn’t a monthly fee. So ha!

Ahahaha, oh those two, will they ever learn? Hi, I'm Tiny Enemy Shrimp, you know, we had a lot of fun today, but there's nothing fun about battery oxidization!

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