A Skeptical Review of Guild Wars 2
The game I played immediately previous to World of Warcraft was the original Guild Wars.
There were many reasons to love and hate Guild Wars, and many reasons that I have been skeptical of its sequel the entirety of my time playing it and forward. Add to that my tendency to be a guard dog of my habits and current likes, and very slow to accept change.
(One example, Windows for me only gets upgraded when I get a new computer system, and even then I am usually hesitant. I am still running Vista on my current desktop, which will be changing now that I am building a new one. That change, however, is not too scary, as I already have and love Windows 7 on my laptop. So I kind of cheated this time.)
Catching Up to Now
My gaming life has been a rollercoaster of late, and I do not at all blame Laz for that, though, he seems to. My interests have been wandering too.
While still playing WoW, in our early stages of becoming disillusioned with it, we played Diablo 3 at its release. D3 was wildly fun while leveling. Slaying lots of monsters, defeating hordes of demons, and vanquishing the oddly feminine Diablo himself (herself?). <scratches her head> But “endgame” in D3 was like having your fingernails ripped out with pliers. Painful. Ultimately, our enjoyment was set afire and burned to a crispy, smoldering heap.
Following D3, Laz and I started to realize that fun in WoW was fading as well. For me, eight months of raiding Dragon Soul. For Laz, breaking himself to pull measly DPS numbers on his Ret Pally. Add to that a looming expansion, the fear of further hobbled talents (WoW – dumbing down talents with every expansion!), and the nightmares of a start that mirrored the heroic dungeons at the beginning of Cataclysm.
I could not go through that with Effy again.
Now a few months removed, I have finally realized one of the real reasons my interest in WoW has faded…
I am a lover of stories. I love to tell stories, and that comes from a love of reading and experiencing them.
Throughout my entire time playing, WoW has felt like a game driven by a story – Old Gods, Titans, the Burning Legion, Illidan, the dragon aspects, the Scourge, the Lich King, the Na’aru… I could go on and on. I have always wanted to do and see and experience everything in WoW, just because the story is so vast and rich and wonderful.
So last night, I was staring at my phone’s Kindle app, my finger hovering over the one-click purchase for Tides of War (damn you Amazon and your one-click convenience! lol), when it hit me why I was hesitating: WoW has shifted from a game driven by its story, to a story built to drive the game.
Why are they destroying Theramore? To drive Horde versus Alliance PvP. To create a conflict that will spark more world PvP. And this is from a gaming company I feel fails at providing adequate PvP. In fact, as bold a statement it is, I blame Blizzard for ruining most modern MMO PvP. I blame them for PvP gear (I am looking at you, Resilience) and for skills that are tuned (AKA nerfed) for BOTH PvP and PvE, instead of creating a system where each entity is treated separately. Why? Because they feel their player base is too stupid to manage two sets of skills that function differently.
This may sound highly opinionated, but I imagine anyone who has played Dark Age of Camelot and/or Warhammer Online will understand where I come from with this most accurately. That was true and good PvP.
Anyways, I digress.
My point was, I feel Blizzard has moved away from the rich and vibrant story they drove WoW with for so long. I am not interested in pandas, because they, like the the destruction of Theramore, seem thrown in to accomplish a game goal. <end rant>
After D3, Laz and I researched high and low for current and upcoming MMO, FPS, ARPG, and even single player games.
That was when TERA caught our eye.
Anyone having read my blog for an extended period of time probably recalls my initial TERA review here. I was bowled over. The graphics were gorgeous. The combat was engaging. The healing was a breath of fresh air.
However, TERA burned like a candle lit at both ends.
Laz and I joined a guild, got neck-deep in the political system, became officers, and made a mad dash for Level 60 and endgame. Immediately upon hitting endgame, we both realized the failings of our decision to stick with “hybrid” classes – me moreso than Laz. My Mystic was a lead weight in a group. It felt like Effy at the beginning of Cataclysm all over again. Dungeons were a painful nightmare for me to the point where I lost interest in playing my Mystic entirely.
Laz and I discussed leveling different characters, weighed the options, and discussed our stand with the game as it was. Having to regear? Having to start over on the long, long road that was rep grinding? Neither of us were motivated to hit 60 again.
It was a clear enough sign.
Laz and I went back to researching. We came across some really interesting sounding games that are coming up – Borderlands 2, Torchlight 2, and Firefall. (With the last, how oh how can I stay away from a game that is based on the work of my writing idol Orson Scott Card??)
We tried Aion at the request of friends, and could not even make it to 10. We pretty much ruled out everything currently available.
Except one, and to both of us, the considering of Guild Wars 2 was only accomplished grudgingly.
Let me note here that the entire time I was playing both WoW and TERA, the looming release of Guild Wars 2 created a distaste in my mouth. Comments of it were usually met by my silence rather than me saying something disdainful.
I had many things floating around in my head.
So let me break this down in the most scientific way I am capable of. That means bullet-points. 🙂
Guild Wars 1 Likes
GW1 had a lot to like, I admit. It was different from anything else I have played.
- Story/characters – The storyline for Guild Wars has always intrigued me, it is why I played as long as I did, to experience the whole story.
- Beautiful scenery/graphics (especially early Factions) – It had great graphics for the time, and it still does.
- Missions were fun and challenging – They were different than straight up questing and a good break in between them.
- Dual-class combinations – Depending on my mood and what I wanted to accomplish, I could choose not only whichever toon I wanted, but whatever secondary class I wanted.
- My Ritualist – My Guild Wars Rosaelyn, she was by far my favorite toon there.
- Shared banking/crafting materials – Any of my stuff available to any of my characters, and separate banking space for mats.
- Minimal skills – Guild Wars introduced me to a strange concept of limited skills at once. Eight skills at any time had to accomplish what you sought to do. It made for an interesting variety in play.
Guild Wars 1 Dislikes
GW1 also had a lot that felt lacking.
- Only 20 levels – In every other game I have played, at Level 20 I still felt like you were just starting out. In GW1, you were done. Time for “endgame.”
- Endgame – Endgame was basically the same as when you were leveling, except hardmodes (meh).
- No gear incentives – The only difference between armor and weapon pieces were their look.
- No jumping – I still do not get that. Why can I not jump??
- Casual play – 3/4 of players just piddled around in major cities chit chatting. Was this because of the FTP?
- Vanity pets – They took up bag space, and always seemed to be what was filling my bags.
- Soloing – In most cases, soloing only worked well with 3 specifically spec’d Necromancer henchmen. How annoying. Believe me, I tried. I always wanted to run around with my Eye of the North henchmen, especially Pyre, the Charr Ranger.
- Lack of Races – Playable characters were all human. (What?? No tails??)
- Character customization – It was very minimal, and similar to WoW’s customization.
- Shared banking/crafting materials – Any of my stuff available to any of my characters, and separate banking space for mats. But it also meant more limited space.
- Minimal skills – Guild Wars introduced me to a strange concept of limited skills at once. Eight skills at any time had to accomplish what you sought to do. At times, it felt very limiting.
Guild Wars 2 Skepticism
So given my likes and dislikes with GW1, I had a lot of trepidation at trying GW2…
- 80 levels?? – This was up from 20?
- No Dual-classes – Dual-classes were one of my favorite parts of GW1 and one of the things that made it unique.
- Class Selection – It seemed to be missing all my favorite GW1 classes (the Ritualist, especially).
- No Holy Trinity – No healers, no tanks. (But I am a healer!)
- Combat – No active combat, which I came to enjoy in TERA and was anxious about leaving for the “old way.”
- New questing system – This made me nervous, but then again, I am old school and slow to accept change.
- Grouping – I heard about a lot of grouping issues in various blog posts about GW2 (and most of my gaming is spent with Laz, so grouping ease is a big deal to me).
- Endgame – What is the endgame…?
- Issues with GW1 – See above.
Guild Wars 2 Likes
So a week ago Monday, Laz and I both bought and installed GW2. What is the consensus? We are both finding a lot more to like about the game than we originally expected…
- Story – The story is very expansive and captivating so far. Personalizing the story is a nice touch.
- Vistas/Jumping – Vistas are a new and interesting type of exploration. You climb to a high point and get rewarded with XP, exploration completion, and a really fantastic view. Vistas are kind of like a nod from ArenaNet saying, “Since there was no jumping in GW1, we give you jumping in GW2, and with it, we give you lots of reasons to jump!”)
- Storyline quests – These are pretty cool, and feel more like updated missions from GW1 then quests. The style in which they are presented is nice – full voice acting and they show your character interacting with the quest NPC’s based on the personality choices you make.
- Events – These are numerous and fun, an alternative to normal questing, and a fill-in between storyline quests. The events are wildly varied, ranging from protecting a point to escorting to changing into a cow and teaching other cows how to fight. lol
- Dungeons – GW2 has a system where dungeons are always different and dungeons have both storyline and explore modes, which are also different. Looking forward to dungeons.
- Graphics – The graphics are very nice, see the pictures peppered throughout this post.
- Customization – The character customization is great. The races are designed well, they are easy to customize, armor dye is customizable, and there are even class-specific armor items that you can choose from.
- Dye – The dye UI is fantastic, you can dye whenever you want for free, right from the Hero screen.
- Armor skins – GW2 has transmog!
- Skills – The skills and traits in GW2 are different from anything I have played previous, and they provide lots of options. I like options.
- Weapons – All the classes can use lots of weapons, some that even seem odd for the class-type (AKA melee Rangers and Warriors with guns). Every weapon combination has a different set of skills for your character.
- Combat – It has a very nice hybrid of old school and active combat. There is some targeting, but there is also dodging.
- Quest items/Crafting mats – These do not disappear when another uses them/picks them up. So no worries of ore snipers and such!
- Races – All I can say is: Charr!! and tails!!
- Many of the characters feel familiar, even new ones. Old characters from GW1 are referred to in various places.
- The whole game in general feels familiar.
- The game is instilling a pleasant, nostalgic feeling, so much so that playing GW2 is making me want to reinstall GW1 to play through the story one more time.
- It has also convinced me to buy the first Guild Wars book, Ghosts of Ascalon. In turn, I convinced Laz to read it as well.
Ugh! I really like Guild Wars 2!
So far, Laz and I are only Level 24 on our Charr (he is playing a Warrior and I am playing an Elementalist), as we have been testing out classes and races and various combinations thereof. So I have no thoughts on dungeons or endgame or even crafting yet. Laz and I are taking our time, experiencing everything we can find to experience, and enjoying the journey.
Will these remain our main characters? Will GW2 hold our interest past the release of some of the other games catching our eye? We shall see.
In the meantime, it is awful, I know. I will just have to go back to playing my Charr Elementalist. <sigh>
I hope you enjoyed the randomly distributed, no particular order screenshots, too. 🙂
What are your current thoughts on the games available and upcoming? What are you playing? Have any comments to add about Guild Wars 2?