MMO’s are a dime a dozen these days but Guild Wars 2 has been on our radar for a while because of what we were shown of it prior to its release. In the months leading up to the release of Guild Wars 2, not only did we get to see screens and video of a new game, we got a look inside of an ideal. At every turn, this game made us think that it was going to be different from all the others. In a genre sorely in need of some innovation, Guild Wars 2 immediately distinguishes itself by changing the way things are done, instead of relying on one or two new gimmicks.
When you load up Guild Wars 2 for the first time it will feel quite familiar; you’ll pick one of the five races, then pick one of the eight character classes, tweak your appearance, then jump into the game. This will be one of the ongoing themes you’ll see during the game, everything feels familiar if you’ve played an MMO before, but a lot of it handles much differently from what you’re used to. For instance, some of the character classes will seem familiar, there are casters, melee fighters and ranged damage classes but the class you choose does not determine your sole function for the rest of the game like it usually does.
The holy trinity is dead. That’s right, the three pronged spear of Tank, Healer, Damage is simply not present in Guild Wars 2. Sure, your big, tough warrior can still be at the head of the pack, hacking everything in his path but there is no real threat management system for him to use to draw the enemies away from the rest of the group. There are no healers because you are all healers, any character can revive a downed opponent. If you’re a seasoned veteran of any of the other top MMO’s your head may have just exploded while reading this, but let me assure you this system works and it works quite well.
Combat in Guild Wars 2 is fast paced, and can get quite chaotic when a lot of players get involved. You’ll still have a set of skills you can map to the number keys, like other MMO’s, but in this case you’ll unlock most of your weapon skills within a couple of hours. Skill are based on the weapon type you have equipped and more will open up as you use your weapon of choice. Movement is also important since both you, and your enemies, can dodge attacks. You’ll be able to run around, without cancelling the casting of any spells or skills and you can roll out of the way by double tapping the key that would move you in the direction you want to go. If you’re a melee fighter, you’ll have to get in close, and likewise, the enemies will have to be in range to attack you. Dying is also, a lot different as you’ll first go to “downed” when you lose all of your health. In this state you have a limited set of skills and you can revive yourself by killing an enemy or waiting for another player to revive you. If you do happen to actually die, you’ll just have to pay a very small fee to spawn at the nearest teleporter.
What really makes the combat fun, in my opinion, is the fact that it’s wide open for anyone who wants to participate. If you wander down a path and see another player fighting a monster, just join in. You’ll both get experience and, more importantly, both get loot. There won’t be any more running around competing for enemies with other players, just fight them together; no need to party up. What this system creates is huge, impromptu, dynamic battles often involving thirty or more players. If more players start showing up, Guild Wars 2 will just spawn more monsters and dynamically scale their difficulty.
In fact, much of the content in the world is dynamic. Each character will have his or her own main story quests, but instead of filling up your journal with a million side quests, you just wander around and side quests will happen. You can choose to participate or just keep on going. Of course, you won’t be able to resists when you see an event pop up on your map and it turns out to be twenty five other players fighting a huge dragon. Who isn’t going to stop for that?
I’ve played a number of MMO’s in my day, but for all of the thousands of players that may be online with you, it’s always been a pretty lonely experience. Trying to organize a party of strangers to complete a party quest was usually difficult unless you were part of a large guild. Guild Wars 2 makes is easy, and inevitable, to team up with others to take down a boss or complete an event. You can still party up with your friends, as the main story quests are instanced, but you won’t be alone for very long if you don’t have any friends to play with. The very best part about playing with friends is that it doesn’t matter what level you are; the game will scale you down to a level that is appropriate for the area you’re in. If you have a friend who is ten levels ahead of you, he can still join you and have essentially the same experience you will.
Character progression in Guild Wars 2 runs in a few different directions, but first and foremost is experience. The good thing about experience is that you earn it for doing almost everything. Of course, you’ll earn experience for killing monsters and completing quests, but you’ll also earn experience for crafting items, exploring the world, reviving other players and climbing tall structures to have a look around. Skill points, used to unlock new skills, can be earned by levelling up or by completing specific quests you find out in the world map.