It is here and I have been hooked. I spent the entire head start weekend and the last week playing Guild Wars 2 rather excessively. Though I have yet to hit max level, I did manage to get two different characters above 50 (a warrior who is currently in his mid-60’s and a necromancer) along with a few more alts. I can safely say that Guild Wars 2, without a doubt, is THE next big MMO, and definitely worthy of much of its hype.
First and foremost, Guild Wars 2 is just fun to play. Unlike MMOs like DCUO or Champions Online, GW2’s more action game mechanics hit exactly the right notes and are in perfect accord with the rest of the game’s MMO roots. Like other MMOs, you do spend time waiting for things to come off cooldowns. However, the combination of short cooldowns, weapon swaps, and the need to really pay attention to your surroundings keep the game from being as static as something like World of Warcraft.
Coming from an old school MMO background, I am very familiar with having to straight grind mobs to advance or earn income. I spent a great deal of my childhood camping aqua goblins, hunting down Crushbone orc belts, or standing still at the Deceit bone wall. GW2’s gameplay is strong enough that even mindless grinding feels fun and addictive. The added movement requirements makes every battle a mix of strategy and kiting, often requiring weapon swaps, heals, or at least being mindful to not pick up adds.
Guild Wars 2 gets an A+ in gameplay. It is easy to see that this is in fact the next step in how MMORPGs should be done.
As far as the graphics and world, Guild Wars 2 is again top notch. Environments are crisp, fun, and well thought out. Since the game employs automatic de-leveling, there is always some sense of danger no matter where you are exploring. The Waypoint and Heart systems give you plenty of incentive to walk down every road, and the Vistas give you enough incentive to abandon those roads and take in GW2’s luscious sites and landscapes.
Guild Wars 2 also brings a few touches that I believe help further modernize the MMO genre for broader audiences.
The dye system brings a fun, collectible way to further customize your character’s look, without being overly complicated or frustratingly expensive. Additionally, the game does provide decent access to copying the look of one item onto the stats of a better item. All in all, it is a huge difference from games like Everquest I where putting together a set of armor that didn’t look like it was patched together by a random roll of the dice often required real sacrifice in stats. Other games have had dying systems, but usually with one time only dyes that quickly add up in costs to the extent that you don’t use them until end game (or if you are rich).
De-leveling characters automatically is a nice change of pace. Even though leveling does still accrue you advantages in lower leveled zones, it is nice that they aren’t completely trivialized. It also nice that experience and karma points scale in such a way that time spent in those lower zones is rarely a complete waste.
Finally, Arenanet has done a few smaller things that really help elevate the value of GW2’s design and playability into the modern age.
Tiny features like not needing to empty a bag before you upgrade it, being able to sell things on the Trading Post from anywhere, bank access while doing tradeskills, or shared storage for tradeskill mats among all of your characters help make the game far more friendly and straight forward.
I think it also important to mention how awesome it is that your character gets access to lots of different skills and playstyles very quickly. No weapon is gated for any class, so if you wanted a Longbow Warrior first and foremost, all you have to do is find one appropriate to your level.
Guild Wars 2 is without a doubt a very solid game. It moves the genre forward in a way that should appeal to more gamers, while still maintaining its core roots as a MMO. I believe that this is a game that definitely delivers, and is a must play for any PC gamer.