As the dust settles on the Guild Wars 2 beta, I have had the opportunity to sit back and think about my experiences over the past few weekends. ArenaNet has never shied away from telling us exactly what they wished to accomplish. We watched and read as they talked about crafting an experience like none other, about taking risks and trimming away the excess that made so many other games feel like a chore.
When it comes to a game living up to its hype, there will always be opinions and counter opinions. Some will say ArenaNet nailed the mark and others will say that they missed it completely. I will say while there are always areas of improvement, ArenaNet has achieved the goal they set for themselves. In an industry full of play-it-safe and copycat MMOs, the refreshing change that Guild Wars 2 brings to the market is one that is sorely needed.
The world of Tyria is beautifully crafted, and when you begin to notice all the little details you will see how much care and attention every department paid to its design. Each race has a distinctive personality and culture giving them a unique and original feel. With ingenious Asura, blood-thirsty Charr, noble Humans, rugged Norns, and nature bound Sylvari, ArenaNet ensured that there would be a race to fit the personality of every player.
The game world feels alive and engaging. Every city and town is filled with denizens who go about their lives as you pass by. More than once I found myself stopping to listen as NPCs conversed with one another, and little tidbits of information about the world at large can be gathered while listening to the conversations. Each city is also a monumental reflection of the races which inhabit them.
The game itself wastes no time drawing players right in to the conflicts of the world. Marauding Centaurs, nightmares, rogue golems, ghosts, and a Great Hunt, as soon as your character is born into the world of Tyria you are immediately thrust into the action. The Dynamic Events also offer a range of variety that helps keep them from feeling redundant and repetitive. Some are as simple as helping a woman bake a pie by collective apples and others will see you defending outposts from invading armies. Fail to push back these invaders, and watch as the outpost you were just selling items at becomes a haven for monsters.
The dynamic events also allow those with limited time to still be able to feel as though they are progressing through the game without having to devote countless hours. While at times it can be easy to miss events that are near you, the system allows for players to explore the zones in the order they choose. This makes the adventure feel as though you are in control and are not simply moving from quest hub to quest hub.
This freedom at times can, however, be a problem. On more than one occasion I found myself under leveled as I attempted to move into the next area that I felt I should be in. There are moments where you walk through a cave or over a bridge, and then realize you are surrounded by enemies who are four or five levels higher than you, leading to a swift death. It can also be easy for players to miss the fact that they can go to any races zones at any time simply by traveling to Lions Arch, which helps fill in areas and avoid hitting these leveling gaps.
While classes are not as customizable as they were in the original Guild Wars, weapon swapping allows for quick changes on the fly. There are still balancing issues that need to be worked out, especially when it comes to the number of viable builds that are available for each class. Luckily ArenaNet has acknowledged these shortcomings, and promises to continue working on them until they are up to the level they feel they should be.
Fans of melee based classes will be happy to know that gone are the days of hanging back during large engagements while your ranged team mates do the work. Each class has a viable ranged weapon set, which allows everyone to contribute during large scale events, and not feel as though they are simply watching the battle unfold.
Whether you prefer massive open world PvP, or a more structured team environment, ArenaNet has worked to satisfy everyone. In Guild Wars 2, ArenaNet has given us four open world maps and a handful of team based, arena style areas in which we can satisfy our bloodlust for killing other players. Every two weeks, three servers will be pitted against one another, letting players siege and defend keeps, cut off supply lines, win the favor of mercenaries and gain bonuses for everyone on their server. WvW did have its fair share of issues over the beta weekends, including lag and server matching problems, but still remains a very solid feature that is sure to please players who are looking for PvP on a massive scale.
At the end of it all I can look back and say that ArenaNet has managed to deliver a gaming experience that I have not felt in some time. The common frustrations, boring mechanics, and repetitive gameplay that we have seen in so many games have been peeled away to shed light on something that feels new and refreshing. While the game still has its bugs and issues that need to be ironed out before launch, I admire that they stuck to the goals and visions they set for themselves, and the amount of time they spent dissecting the mechanics is clearly evident in ArenaNets execution.
*Note – I did not cover the cash shop in this reflection. There will be a separate article regarding my thoughts on the cash shop coming in the future.
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