Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Review: Guild Wars 2

This review is a real tough one for me, not because its a huge game that needs tonnes of text to cover here no, its more about the score.  I don't really think it is fair to give a genre like massively multiplayer online gaming a score at the end.  These games unlike many others evolve as time go on.  Age of conan for example at launch was a really cool game despite the bugs.  After a month or so the game had several changes that basically fucked it up for myself and my friends so badly to the point that we left the game and never went back.  Now at launch I would have given Age of conan a 7, but after the changes I would have given it a 2 and that's generous.

Spells look impressive as do the characters
Guild wars 2 has only been out for a week or two now and the team at arenanet have been constantly tweaking, fixing and updating since release.  Assuming you may never have played Guild wars here are the main selling points.  For a start its free to play after the initial payment, and I don't mean like World of Tanks free2play, I mean everything in the game is completely free, there is no pay2win here.  Arenanet make their money from this major selling point and unlike the original guild wars which ran almost entirely through instanced sessions, Guild wars 2 is like traditional MMO games in that everyone on a server inhabits the same space.

There are several races to play as from your typical humans, beastial Charr, Nordic half giant Norn, Diminutive goblin like Asura and elven like Sylvari.  Its nothing massively original but its nice to have the choice.  Character customisation is pretty deep and varied so if you take the time to adjust those sliders you will likely have a unique character compared to everyone else out there.

Classes range from fighters, wizards and thieves to the more unusual guardians with their spiritual weapons, Mesmers and their phantasmal illusions and Necromancers with their minions.  The biggest departure is probably the fact that the game has no healer class at all.  Every class can self heal and provide area healing in some form or another.  This is a great idea because other MMO titles suffer from the need of a good healer at higher levels and hours of gameplay can be lost simply because the healer had a bad day.  Guild wars 2 leaves health management and tactics down to each individual instead so if you screw up its your own fault.
Late game foes get pretty mean looking

The original Guild wars was very focused on skills and the combination of two classes to create unique builds for different situations.  After the main game and its three subsequent expansions the number of skills available was huge ranging in the hundreds.  Guild wars 2 brings this number down significantly, but makes each skill useful in any given situation instead.  Combo's are now an important focus and not just getting combo's with your own classes skills, but with other players also.  A ranger who plants a flame trap while a thief uses scorpion wire to drag and opponent into the trap is a small example, although much more intricate combinations can be created with all classes.

Combat is fast and generally responsive overall barring a few occassions of lag.  The fighting is a mix of dynamic player controlled movement with the traditional dice roll damage method.  Moving your character around the back of a monster before it fires a breath weapon will not save you from it sadly, but if you evade by pressing V you will actually avoid the entirely.  Evading can only be done a couple of times before having to wait for the bar to refill so careful use is mandatory here. 

Monsters come in all shapes and sizes from imps through to massive elementals that tower above the players.  All are killed in the same method, but every monster has some unique trait to it be it poison immunity, breathing fire, evading attacks, invisibility, healing etc.  The variety is quite large which for me is big plus, although you will be seeing plenty of reskins of existing mobs like Drakes which come in all colours and sizes.

The enviroments cover all terrain types
One of the major features of guild wars 2 is events, or to be more specific dynamic events.  These are preset missions basically which spawn at different times around the map and can be completed by any number of players.  Tasks range from fighting hordes of monsters, defending NPC's, Capturing locations, retrieving materials, killing epic bosses and more.  Some of these events are fixed and have a set path of events while others are more varied based on player interaction.  An example is in the charr starting zone which involves players helping a group of NPC's clear out a force of ghosts near a point on the map.  Afterwards a camp spawns and new mission to defend the camp from counter-attacking spirits starts.  If you succeed here you then move onto destroying the source of the spirits and eventually fight a tough boss.  Failure at any of these points means the event will reset after certain time.

Other events flow much more dynamically in that failing one part means an entirely different one will start because of the loss.  If an enemy force captures a location it means all the NPC's and facilities there are gone until players clear out the enemy forces occupying that area, but then afterwards an event to protect the location will occur.  Rewards for these events are scaled based on the amount of input you have, so being there from the start will give you gold and award you with the most experience, money and karma.

Crafting has also become a big part of Guild wars 2.  Players now pick two professions from weaponsmithing, armoursmithing, tailoring, cooking, jewelcrafting and more to create items for your own use or to sell on the black lion trading company.  Black lion acts as the games microtransaction store where some items are available for immeditate purchase for real cash.  Again these items are mainly vanity things such as different costumes or mini pets.  The real money currency is gems, but these can also be bought using in game cash if you would rather not spend real money.  Every facility of the black lion is free to use so don't worry about being penalised for not paying any real money.

Underwater combat is new and has its own weapons and skills
Being the game is called guild wars many would be left wondering where are all the guilds in this game.  Well guilds are basically player run clans and these guilds can fight in the games seperate PVP areas.  Teams face each other for glory, PVP experience and bragging rights really in the vein of most MMO clan wars.  All characters are immediately scaled level 80 when you enter PVP so don't worry about having to power level your main character before jumping in for some hot player on player action.

The biggest PVP draw is the massive world V world mode.  This basically pits entire servers against each other in a triple threat battle for supremacy on seperate map made up of castles, keeps, towers, farms and other militarily important structures.  Success here means everyone on the games PVE server gets bonuses to experience, health, damage, karma, defence and more.  This is probably one of the most impressive features of the game and could easily have been a totally seperate game in its own right.  Beware before you jump into world vs world you have ample money and better equipment as death here requires you pay to repair your armour.  Better equipment will help kill players quicker and keep you alive longer even though you are level 80 your gear isn't.

Technically most of the early bugs and crashes have been fixed now.  Lag is a minor issue for most players and more often than not the game runs with no lag at all.  Some minor issues persist with keeping parties together on the same shard but again like the lag its a very minor occurence.

Sharks are awesome, but zombie sharks are badass
Graphically Guild wars 2 is a massive upscaling of their original games engine.  This both good and bad at the same time.  Its good because it will run very smoothly on a wide range of systems with most settings on maximum.  Its bad because its not visually stunning.  Its not using DX11 effects or more advanced lighting and shading technology, so those of you more focused on the look of your games will be a little disappointed.  I understand the reason for using a slightly older engine and to be honest they have done a great job with it, creating a world that is vibrant, interesting and full of character.

The sound department is probably a bit hit and miss.  The music is lifted completely from Guild wars, I mean every single track is from the original game, there is very little in the way of original music to be heard here.  Now the original soundtrack is good and all, but in five years none of the sound department decided to make some epic Guild wars 2 theme?  The voice acting is also filled with terrible north american mispronunciations and the accent brings the fantasy element down alot.  Things like Centaur being pronounced Centaar, you don't say Taarus the bull do you, you say Torus.  Also the accents, imagine lord of the rings with all american accents.....yeah pretty bad.  If anything the sound if probably the weakest area of the game.  Monsters sound fine and weapon effects have an almost cartoonish set of sounds for hits, but its ok.

There are tonnes of other facets of guild wars 2 that I could elaborate on but the main point is that the game is very very good and was well worth the five year wait.  I feel that going over everything in minute detail would ruin some of the initial charm of the game since it needs to be played to make a final decision.  It runs pretty well on a decent range of systems, looks graphically pleasing if not a little tiny bit dated, and has awful shonky voice acting.  For a free to play, triple AAA title this is worth the money.  If you are weary of paying monthly subs for your MMO fix then Guild wars 2 is just what you need.

Look at it this way, if you buy it and don't like it after a couple of months at least you haven't paid any monthly subscriptions and you can return anytime you want free of charge.  And like I said earlier I don't think giving a game that could change alot of the course of a year is fair, so I will simply say that its a great game and if you like fantasy MMO's then pick it up.


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