<Mr. Movie Trailer Voice> In a world… where the MMO genre has devolved into gear treadmills and gated content meticulously designed to ensure that you pay for another month’s subscription, one MMO dares to challenge the established conventions.
Seriously though, Guild Wars 2 is an incredible MMO. It may not be a pure evolution for the genre, but it’s revolutionary enough that like its predecessor, it remains the uncontested king of its hill. Click through for why we think Guild Wars 2 deserves your attention.
1. It’s nothing like Guild Wars
Guild Wars is an incredible online game that’s even better with friends, but there’s no reason to copy it. In fact, nobody has: the first Guild Wars still remains the only game of its type, and is still fun to play today. The visuals may have aged, but the gameplay remains solid. There’s even a benefit to playing it now, if you’re going to play Guild Wars 2, but ArenaNet made the wise decision to keep it an entirely separate experience.
Where the first Guild Wars had more in common with Magic: The Gathering, as you build decks of skills for you and your A.I. heroes, Guild Wars 2 is all about action. The combat is animation-based, meaning you need to watch enemy tells, dodge at the right times, block, parry, counter and set up combination moves with friends/strangers. It does raise the skill required somewhat, as you’re not just sitting there hitting number keys and going through a rotation. But the payoff is worth it: exciting battles you rarely see in the MMO genre.
2. The music is by Jeremy Soule
Better known as the “John Williams of video game music”, Jeremy Soule did the soundtracks for Icewind Dale, The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim. Also, Dungeon Siege,Revenant, Unreal II, Prey, and more. So there’s that.
3. You buy it once and then you’re done
No pesky monthly fees. Just like the first Guild Wars, you buy the game once and then you’re done, and have access to everything. There are vanity purchases you can make, or quality of life items to buy, but you don’t even need to spend money on that – everything can be bought using gold earned in the game. More character slots? Yup. Bigger bank? Yup. A mining pickaxe that never runs out and a dress that’s on-effing-fire? Done and done, no need to pay a cent. And there are plenty of ways to earn gold in-game. But if you like supporting the developer, you can throw a few bucks their way now and then and get yourself (or a friend) something nice off the Gem Store.
4. Reaching the highest level isn’t the goal
Guild Wars 2 does have levelling, and a maximum level cap of 80 to reach, but that’s not the “end game”. In fact, if all you want to do is PvP, when you go to the PvP lobby you’re automatically made max level and you can purchase all the weapon and armour types for free, to experiment with. But only while in PvP, of course.
No matter where you go in Tyria, your stats are adjusted so that areas always present some sort of challenge. This means that as you level up, content doesn’t become invalidated. If a friend starts playing, you can take your max level and go play with them without feeling like you’re hampering them by one-shotting everything, or getting bored because you’re babysitting the newbie.
The game is less about getting to level 80 fast so you can do all the “cool stuff”, and more about exploring a wealth of content that’s always relevant no matter your level. Every zone has worthwhile content to explore.
5. Cross-realm is the standard, not a feature
There are 24 “servers” for North American players and 27 for Europe. When you start playing, you choose a “home server” and that’s where your characters live. However, you can easily party up with people from other servers (provided those servers are in the same region), and do dungeons or other instanced content together. The Looking For Group tool, used to form up parties to run dungeons, is cross-realm, so you’re never left wanting for party members.
If you want to run around the open world with friends from another server, you can “guest” over to their server and do everything together except World vs World (which is the server vs server competitive content). It took World of Warcraft nearly 10 years to add in half this kind of functionality, Guild Wars 2 has it out of the box.
6. Living Story
The world inside Guild Wars 2 changes. Time actually progresses, and the world is altered as events transpire. With the exception of holiday events that are on a yearly rotation, most Living Story updates are temporary, because the world simply isn’t frozen in time.
Even without the Living Story, there is a huge wealth of content to explore in Guild Wars 2. Your characters have their own Personal Stories that play out depending on what choices you make. Each zone is full to the brim with dynamic event chains, some of which take place across the entire zone itself.
And then on top of all that, there’s the Living Story. The downside of a themepark MMO, is that content becomes stale after a while, so players start jonesing for an expansion pack. Guild Wars 2 attempts something new and yet, a throwback to how things used to be in MMOs before World of Warcraft. Every two weeks, a new Living World update moves the plot forward. Events transpire, locations are added, content is layered atop existing content. New characters appear, and form part of a larger story that unfolds.
Each update tends to bring with permanent content as well, but for the most part the Living World updates are temporary. If you miss them, you’ve missed them. That’s what makes the content unique: that you need to be there, or miss out. Sure, some people might feel like it’s unfair if they’ve missed out on content, but you can’t please everyone. An added benefit to the content being temporary, is that new players don’t need to “catch up” by playing through years of backlogged content – they can jump in any time.
Guild Wars 2 is an MMO that rewards players that invest themselves not with “uber leet gear” or yet another tier of gear to treadmill after, but with constant new content to experience. And even if you can only play a few hours a week, that’s more than enough: the game is structured in such a way that someone who plays a thousands hours a week, doesn’t benefit all that much more compared to someone who only plays an hour a day.
Bonus Reason: No Holy Trinity
There are no dedicated healer/tank/damage classes in Guild Wars 2. Every class can heal themselves (and others), every class is potent enough to mitigate their own damage, help buff allies, and use combination moves as a force multiplier in combat. So no waiting in a queue for a tank or healer so you can run a dungeon. If you want to form up with five other Rangers and try an all-Ranger dungeon run? You can! No one class is more important than another, although each does bring their own unique skills to the table.