The first time, I booted up Guild Wars 2, I basically spent more than an hour wavering at the character selection screen. Should I roll as a tree-like Sylvari or should I start my quest as one of the imposing Charr? About the only thing I was sure about was that my first character was not going to be a human — not with all the other intriguing races available. Ultimately, I decided to pick a diminutive Asura, whom I designed to look like Disney’s Stitch (apparently, I’m not the only one either based on all the names I tried out that were already taken).
Thus started my adventure into the world of Guild Wars 2. Wasting that much time just to pick a character may not exactly sound like a positive thing. Then again, I consider it a good sign because it means the game was able to make me care right from the start. And with other fantasy PC gaming alternatives such as Diablo III just coming out recently, Guild Wars definitely needed to make gamers care for it to have a chance. Apparently, plenty of folks did if the game’s impressive sales numbers are any indication.
All the attention comes as no surprise. Like competitor Blizzard’s popular World of Warcraft MMORPG, Guild Wars 2 sports a well-crafted, solid adventure that hits just the right buttons for fans of the genre. It starts with well-designed characters that are made even more memorable by a robust character creator and a nice selection of classes. In fact, my initial progress with my main was a lot slower than I hoped because I ended up fiddling around with alts that I created for every other race. The different zones where each race starts their adventure are also well designed and look beautiful on my gaming laptop, at least for this type of genre. It certainly makes it easier to just wander around and explore to see what surprises the world of Tyria has in store for you. Speaking of wandering around, one thing players will notice when doing so is Guild Wars 2’s use of “Dynamic Events” as opposed to the standard quest structure. The system is designed to add a stronger sense of spontaneity to make the world feel more alive as events suddenly get triggered around the player while walking around the game world. It works best when someone triggers a boss-type fight where you suddenly see other players flocking in like ants to candy in order to help out, for example.
In addition to its solid adventuring, Guild Wars 2 also serves up some excellent versus modes, which honestly require their own review. This starts with the main PvP where all players are automatically maxed out to 80 so they can focus on their builds and take on other players on equal footing. The system makes it so skill becomes the main determining factor during conflicts against other players instead of levels. Then there’s the more massive World vs. World vs. World mode that pits entire servers against each other. This “WvWvW” brings up some interesting dynamics in addition to the actual battles themselves, including some interesting results over the course of a day when servers filled primarily with players from different regions and time zones fight each other.
The games is not without its faults. Like other MMORPGs, there are times when it can feel like a grind, especially when you find yourself under-leveled for a story quest despite your best efforts to explore your starting world thoroughly. Meanwhile, the focus on Dynamic Events over the traditional questing system can lead to a lack of structure that often causes one to wonder “Now what?” They also repeat and don’t feel as fresh anymore once you’ve done the same one ten times. Occasionally, the camera does weird things like zooming on your derriere at the worst possible time (i.e. while fending off an attack). World vs. world can also have balance problems with uneven populations — at least immediately after launch.
Despite its issues, Guild Wars 2 is still a delight overall. It does a good job of adding new stuff (like breaking down the old Holy Trinity system) while retaining the charm and imaginative feel that make fantasy games, well, fantasy games. It’s also laptop gaming friendly — in addition to my gaming laptop, I’ve been able to run it on my regular laptop with a weaker GPU (just make sure you use a mouse for better camera control and kiting). If you’re a fan of fantasy MMORPGS or even if you’re looking into giving the genre a try, then definitely give Guild Wars 2 a look.
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