News, Views, and Reviews
It’s no secret; I love playing MMOs (Massive Multi-player Online). From the most popular to the lesser known games, I’ll give them all a shot. I’ve max leveled several characters on World Of Warcraft, Star Wars The Old Republic, and Champions Online. I’ve even played many “Eastern” MMOs like Jade Dynasty, Aion, or Tera. I recently wrote a blog introducing a very different MMO, Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter. But for the past year or so, I’ve been playing a new MMO that I still consider the best of the best. Here is my list of the top ten reasons why hardcore and newcomers alike should play Guild Wars 2.
10. No Monthly Subscription Fees.
Although not a true “free to play” MMO (you do have to purchase the game to start playing) GW2 has no monthly fees. This is (the developer’s) Arena Net’s philosophy/business model.
9. World vs World vs World PvP (Player vs Player) is practically it’s own, separate game.
You read that correctly: WvWvW is a persistent, separate battle, that matches three entire servers versus each other for dominance of a huge map. That map is full of NPCs, monsters, bases, supply depots, and large keeps that your server will try to win control of against two other servers. ALL participating players will be maxed out to level 80 and given level 80 gear so you can start playing WvWvW as soon as you create a character. At the end of two weeks, each server will be ranked on their successes or failures and then re-matched against two different, evenly-ranked servers. Because it’ a separate map, players not interested in PvP don’t have to worry about it – although they will gain benefits like buffs and other bonuses based on how well their server is fairing online.
8. Arena PvP.
If massive battles are too intimidating, or you just want the satisfaction of a quick 5 v 5 match, you can also queue up for Arena PvP. Like matchmaking in many online games, you’ll be randomly placed on a team versus another random team in one of several different objective-type matches. Oh, and ALL players will be maxed out at level 80 and given level 80 gear. So it will be an even playing field, where skill wins the match, not gear or higher level players. If your team is mercilessly destroyed in one match, have patience, as the matchmaking will automatically shuffle the players for the next match to keep it fair. Arena Net is hoping to push these battles into the realm of E-Sports (Electronic Sports) so I’m anticipating regular tournaments some day.
GW2 might put off some “hardcore” players at first because it gets rid of two imposing things: Multiple hot keys spread out all over the screen and dedicated healer/tank/damage roles. There is ONE action bar at the bottom of the screen; the first 5 keys are your active attack moves (based on weapon(s) being held) and the last 5 keys are utilities, spells, or other abilities. Depending on your chosen class (or profession as GW2 calls them) you will have a number of different weapon, ability, and utility choices to pull from to customize your character the way YOU want to. This keeps players focused on a core set of actions/abilities, and keeps them playing seamlessly from solo to group encounters.
6. Roles Can Change in Combat.
Weapons and some utilities and abilities can often be swapped IN COMBAT to adapt to situations on the fly. What this means is, you don’t have to agonize over choosing your class and feeling like that choice will lock you in to a certain play style for your entire gaming experience. You can choose a warrior, for example, and switch from a damage-dealing melee character to a more supportive “tank” type character just by switching your weapons. Or a long range damage dealer if that’s your preference. During combat. And heal yourself if you need to. And revive fallen players, too. It creates a more fluid, organic, reactionary type of game than trying to create a cookie-cutter character and feeling like you only shine in certain situations.
5. Combat Combos.
Once players adapt to this new type of, well, adaptive game play, they’ll start to uncover the depth of combat and the variety of interactions the different professions provide. Understanding and using these combinations can push a good group into becoming a great group. One player creates a mystic barrier that keeps enemies from crossing and another player starts the ground on fire, doing increased damage because the enemies were being corralled by the first player’s barrier. A third player places a banner that increases periodic damage (the fire) and another player fires a barrage of arrows that START ON FIRE because they were shot through those flames, and now those burning arrows are doing even MORE damage because of the third player’s banner.
4. Exploration is Rewarded.
Other MMOs might give you XP (Experience Points) for discovering new locations, but GW2 encourages it. In fact, instead of a quest log full of errands to do for NPCs, you will have ONE personal-story-quest to keep track of, and that’s it. What you do between the steps of your story is up to you, but it would be wise to explore the area. Players of games like Skyrim might appreciate this organic play style of keeping the story in the back of your mind while letting yourself wander and enjoy the scenery. Looking at your map, you’ll see a few icons on the left with numbers by them. From top to bottom they are: “Heart” or NPC Tasks, Asura Waypoints (fast travel points), Points of Interest, and “Vista” or scenic viewpoints. The numbers represent how many are in the zone you are in, preceded by how many you’ve discovered already (for example 5/6 or 5 out of 6). Finding each point on the map gives you XP points as you find them (and complete a task if it is a “Heart” or “Vista” point) but you get a LOT of XP if you find everything in that zone. Finishing the NPC “Heart” tasks also gives you “karma” that you can spend at any “Heart” or “karma” NPC for special (and sometimes very rare) items. Plus, you’ll be earning more XP and money, and getting stronger and more capable to resume your story quest when you’re ready.
3. Experience Points for Everything.
For a game that seems to not emphasize some of the “standards” of other MMOs (dedicated classes, tons of action bars and spells, numerous quests to keep track of) it might lead someone to ask “what am I supposed to DO in this game?” The easy answer is..whatever you want. Explore, craft, queue up for Arena or WvWvW PvP, or just play around. Zones actually SCALE to you, your level, and the number/level of other players nearby. For example, after you’ve finished your “starting” zone, a level 1-15 zone, you can move on to the next level 15-25 zone. OR you could find your way to a friend’s starting zone (because he chose to play as a different one of the five available races) and instead of being an over-powered level 15 character that doesn’t really gain anything (other than the satisfaction of playing with your friend) the game will SCALE you and the monsters you fight to a challenging level AND you will still be rewarded with XP AND level appropriate item drops. Or just gather resources because mining and picking plants earn XP.
2. Everything is Shared.
Speaking of gathering resources, what if I told you that mining a copper node WHILE another player is mining the same node actually gives XP and copper to BOTH players? Unheard of, right? How about fighting monsters or quest creatures? In GW2, it doesn’t matter who “tags” or hits the monster first – every player gets credit. And you can still have a chance for loot drops. Even if you’re in a zone considered too “low level” for you because the game still wants to reward EVERYONE that participates. Those “Heart” or “Task” NPCs have something they want done, and they don’t care how many players it takes. Pull the worms out of the farmer’s field. Gather the apples from a spider-infested orchard. Defend an outpost from a bandit attack. These events just start and finish with or without you, so if you want to participate (and check another “Heart” off your map, gain XP, “karma” and money) you can. More dynamic events will also start and finish without you, but they can lead to some of the more rewarding game play in GW2. You could even be trying to finish another event, and an army of Centaurs could invade. After they are driven back (and these events CAN be failed – which simply starts another dynamic event) an NPC might rally everyone to follow him across the countryside to attack the Centaur outposts. See how THEY like it! What started as an event only a few players were participating in now escalates to a massive mob of players, escorting this NPC and fighting off waves of enemies. Finally, a MASSIVE mob of players might converge and trigger a really, really HARD event with a very challenging Centaur boss to defeat. You played along because it was amazing, unbelievable, extremely fun, and.. Everything is Shared.
Finally, the #1 Reason to Play Guild Wars 2:
1. NO MONTHLY FEES.