Guild Wars 2: Speaking Points

People love lists! They’re simple and clean and concise. People love Guild Wars 2! It’s complex and cluttered and free-form. Let’s make a Guild Wars 2 list. What could go wrong?

Now, GW2 is awesome. Plain and simple. While reviewing it totally would be a silly, stupid thing for anyone to do considering the sheer size of it (though you will find every gaming site rushing to do just that), I will weigh in on my 40+ hours of playtime. The game attempts to smoosh a whole slew of MMO tropes into the muck and is mostly very successful. However, not wholly deluded, I can tell there’s still some work to be done.

Let’s anchor down some things the game does really well and a few (I can’t think of that many, honestly) things it doesn’t, okay?  We’re just going to lightly touch on each. Bad first.

On one hand, I love how you have to learn the game. Really. But there is so much that is simply left unexplained. I’ve had to surf countless wiki pages and forums before I learned how to properly combo. This is a basic combat utility, and it is totally unchecked. There is no explanation of the map, what it shows, how the game works, shortcuts, the UI or anything. I had no idea how the crafting system worked when I initially began, nor is it properly explained. I hate being hand-held, but a wee bit more guidance would be nice.

Yes, there is the story to plow through, but what about when I want to play with my buds? We have to wander around until we are dropped in a quest or find a world event. No one likes playing a single-player event co-op; it ruins the immersion. There are no instanced dungeons until you reach level 30. Yikes! I do love World versus World and the starting zone for PvP (beer-keg rugby; fun times), but the co-op low-level content is a bit lacking, meaning that there is no co-op low-level content. This is, sadly, one of the MMO tropes that persists.

Here’s an issue I just ran into this week, finally getting my alts off the ground: pacing. Not of story but of gameplay. See, my alternate characters are the tone’s I’ll use to tool around with my buddies. In other words, I don’t care about the story for these purposes. I just want to level up and do it fast. Guild Wars 2, by the very design and structure of how XP is doled out, makes leveling a very calculated and paced process. In other traditional MMOs, you could just take a bucket of quests all in one area and pound them out as quickly as possible. However, in GW2, you can really only be in one instance at a time, limiting how fast you can level up. In other words, playing catch-up is no easy task.

Hah! This is the biggest problem because it is so multi-faceted. From too-full servers to broken quests and to buggy partying. All of this will be handled in time. It’s totally expected, actually, considering there are a few bagillion things happening at once in the game world. It just takes a toll right now, ultimately hampering the overall experience. Still, I believe these issues will be resolved by hot patches and netcode optimization, unlike the two above.

This is both a good and bad thing. Or, rather, a totally different thing. I love it, others hate it. But, essentially, what you get in Guild Wars 2 is a story, PvP, WvW and a huge sprawl to mess with. There is literally no direction outside of the story. Sure, you are artificially bound by higher level areas, but there are no quests to follow. There are “quests” to stumble into and some of these link with a next ones. But there’s never a point on the horizon and never a line to follow. It’s about as free-form as you can get. If you are looking for direction, you won’t find it here.

If Guild Wars 2 had to nail one thing, it was combat. It’s what 99.999999% of the game revolves around. Sure, you may love to craft, and the story may really click with you, or you might be super into non-combative PvP, but at the end of the day, the game is combat. Guild Wars 2 has some of the finest combat around, period. It’s strategic and personal all at once. I talk about it quite a lot in my preview, so go read that. But, rest assured, it doesn’t waffle. What’s more is that every class is viable solo or in groups so you don’t have to feel bad being a caster up against impossible odds (or do you?).

Look, I’m not going to lie to myself. Stories in most MMO’s are utter garbage. That said, I was really happy to find the story in GW2 not too bad. I wasn’t expecting much, so that lowers the bell curve substantially, but there has been a nice twist or two and some funny stuff along the way. What I really like is how you always have a BFF in your story. It gives everything a much more personal touch, with you tagging along instead of following directives. If you’re a story junkie, it probably won’t tickle your fancy but, if you view story as a chore, this one might not be so bad.

The real beauty of the game lies in how it takes all of these facets and the ones from my preview and blends them seamlessly. The game actually makes it hard to play itself. You really have to buckle down and say “I am getting this story part done!” or the next thing you know you’ll be sidetracked. And, since there are no hubs for quests (you are rewarded as soon as the criteria is met), there is only forward momentum. This is gigantically important. Always something forward, always something to do.

Running towards a story point–boom–world event. Okay, finished? Back to the story. But, that fast travel point is so close; gotta cap it. Seriously! Get to the story point! Alright, but is that a Skill Challenge over there? I’ll just be a second, I promise. OMG, LOGS!

Written by: Nick Cane

Game writer, fervent lover of mac and cheese. Favorite games are ES4: Oblivion, Kirby's Adventure, Link's Awakening, Final Fantasy 8 and Mario Galaxy.