Guild Wars 2
It’s fun. Guild Wars 2 is fun in a way that I have not seen from a game in a while. It is an entirely new experience for someone who is used to the “WoW” style of MMOs. I played World of Warcraft for 7 years, and Guild Wars 2 is still surprising me by how hard it tries to eschew that much-copied approach to online gaming. Let me tell you about some parts of the game that I find refreshing and enjoyable.
Characters creation is just one of the ways Guild Wars 2 tries to involve the player in something new and different. When you make a character, you make some decisions about his/her motivations in life, their background, and in what ways they are skilled. As you can see, I made a giant Norn character, and then gave him the role of Mesmer, which is a job that is mostly about making illusions and spewing magic made of pink butterflies. All of the classes are entertaining, and any race can be any class. If you’re looking to try several classes to see which one you like, it barely takes any time to learn the abilities you will be using the majority of the time. Abilities are linked to the weapon you use, and can be earned very quickly. I appreciate this attempt to make classes simple yet complex, and to allow new players a quick glimpse at the future abilities of a class.
Exploration is a huge part of Guild Wars 2. As you may or may not be able to tell from my low-quality screenshots, this game is aggressively pretty and almost offensively scenic. In fact, one of the ways to gain experience is to go to places called “vistas” and use them to view the surrounding area. They are usually in high places, and often there is a small jumping puzzle to get to them. However, you don’t need a vista just to see things that look nice, because in this game, you can look almost anywhere and get that.
The game also likes to give the player experience and sometimes a bit of lore for going to places marked “point of interest” on the map. These places are generally a historical site, or a large building. They add a bit of fullness to the world, as they are all over the place, and they also give the player a clear goal when exploring a map: go to all the points.
One of my favorite aspects of exploring the world is finding and completing jumping puzzles. Almost every map has one, and some have several. Jumping puzzles are optional challenges that require the player to find paths through dangerous locations, and usually kill you if you mess up a jump. A large portion of the fanbase seems to hate them, but I revel in navigating a dangerous maze, or even just making a few daring jumps out over open space. At the end of a jumping puzzle, you are rewarded with a chest full of treasure.
The world in this game is large. Maybe not World of Warcraft large, but it is sizeable and is split into zones. Every zone has its own style, events, lore, and goals to complete. Everywhere you wander is guaranteed to have something to do, and one of my favorite things about this game is that I can just wander around, picking plants and sightseeing, and still accomplish things and gain experience. This game rewards you for playing however you like, even if you prefer to avoid fights (although you’ll level pretty slowly). Even most events offer a pacifist option.
The combat in this game does itself a favor by being mobile. You don’t need to stand still to cast spells, and in fact, it is recommended to move around and dodge attacks. This is fun out in the world, and I really enjoy fighting in this game. In World of Warcraft and its clones, it’s common to feel shackles to the ground in a fight, but in Guild Wars 2 I feel free and unrestricted. It gives the game a good flow between combat and noncombat.
One last thing that I think is an interesting diversion from the norm is the use of guilds. Guilds are not new, but every MMO needs a way for players to form groups of friends if it wants to be successful. What really makes Guild Wars 2 special is that it gives the player the chance to be in many guilds at once. This allows you to be in guilds with different groups of people, who might have different goals and plans for what they want to get out of the game. You can only represent and talk to one at a time, but it’s a neat system that gives a lot more flexibility to the concept of joining guilds. I personally have only joined one so far, the Eikosi League, but I appreciate the concept.
There’s a lot more to Guilds Wars 2 that makes it fun and interesting, and I hope to post more on it later this week.