Guild Wars 2 — Online Gaming Made More Sensible

I cannot explain to you the countless hours I spent on the first Guild Wars game, nor can I sum up the excitement I had over each of its expansions. Along with the original Guild Wars, I have played countless other MMOs and for once in a long time I can say that I can finally settle on a “home game”. I feel like the search for a “home game” is something a lot of online gamers are looking for these days, especially since the games they used to play may have changed too drastically or simply do not exist anymore.

Guild Wars 2 is one of the few free-to-play options that also feels as seemless and content enriched as a pay-to-play MMORPG. After watching the open map chat discussions in GW2 I occasionally see disgruntled players expecting the game to have all the extra nifty features they’ve experienced in games like WoW. Few have gone so far as to state that Guild Wars 2’s launch is weak because it does not currently have some extra UI features like complex guild organaziation. Do not let these people fool you; many popular pay-to-play games never launched with fancy user interface features. In fact, many of these nice additions to games were patched in years later. So, without judging this recently launched online game with the unreasonable expectation of having years worth of after-launch development work not immediately built into the game, I will highlight for you some of my favorite Guild Wars 2’s features.

No subscription fee: Like I mentioned, there is no subscription fee to Guild Wars 2. This means you are not required to enter credit card information into your game account’s web site and pay $15 a month to keep playing. Your gaming experience will not be interrupted due to billing errors and you will never have to scramble to cancel your account when and if financial issues come about. You do, however, have to buy the game first. Once you pay the $40-50 for the game, it is yours forever and any subsequent patches will stream to your game via the game’s launcher for free. Like the original Guild Wars games, expansions will cost money to purchase if you want that content unlocked on your account. Altogether, this is a very fair investment for an online video game. In the past, customers were expected to not only buy the launch game at roughly the same price, but to proceed with a monthly subscription in order to keep playing.

Fair mini-mall transactions: Unlike many mini-mall sporting games, Guild Wars 2’s online market supports the option to purchase optional in game items and/or services with in game gold. None of these items or services will give one player an advantage over another, so do not fear that entering a PvP zone will shortly result in you being castrated by an over privileged 14 year old kid with his mom’s credit card. The castration feeling is one you might feel in other subscription free games such as All Points Bulletin, City of Heroes/Villains, or the numerous other F2P (free to play) options on the internet where additional character powers or gear are available for purchase. The Guild Wars 2 market instead includes things like style costumes, extra character slots, mini pets, and XP boosters. So, if you really want your character to wear that new dress to an upcoming ball, then you are welcome to invest some of your in game gold to purchase that item since you are not obligated to use real money.

Content: There is an over abundance of content in Guild Wars 2’s launch release including numerous dynamic events, a large variety of maps to explore, extensive open world PvP areas, end game playstyle from level one, full fledged crafting systems, a mystery item forging system, a lack of redundant quests, and on top of it all: useful rewards for doing any of these things.

“End game” re-imagined:  Along with its content, Guild Wars 2 does not set you up on a rail to get to level 80 and then start an entirely new game based off of being top level.  In other games, this is usually called “end game content” and consists of gear grinds, high end dungeons you must run redundantly to get top tier armor, or rolling your face against your keyboard in PvP until you have the best statted PvP gear to brag about.  Instead, from the moment you create your character in Guild Wars 2, you will be doing things that encompass the entire game.  You participate in events, crafting, map exploration, PvP, and dungeons pretty much from the start.  Your game does not change at level 80, so there is not another half of the game you are forced to learn, thus desensitizing leveling up a new character so badly that it feels like you are not allowed to access the actual game until it is level 80 as well.

Dynamic Events: Welcome to a game where you are not required to find a party to adventure with. Instead, players in your area feel inclined to help you so that everyone can accomplish an event taking place near you. The game will automatically update you when an event is going on and it is very clearly marked on your map where it is. Most of the time it is right beside you, so you don’t have to travel far to defend a nearby outpost from undead waves or help escort a pack bull through thief ambushes. Your participation will count even if you are not grouped with the others participating, effectively killing the old, dead game mechanic that judged the most active party to be deserving of the biggest reward. Everyone who participates is rewarded with some cash, experience, and something called karma. Karma can be used to purchase special items from vendors.

Tasks instead of Quests: 10 to 15 “Tasks” are scattered about each map and function like a quest, but you will not find yourself fighting with other players for kills or items that count toward quest completion. Anybody and everybody can help each other, and they often do this inadvertently. If you so much as tap a creature you need to defeat in order to complete a task, you are given credit for helping destroy it, thus eliminating another age old game mechanic that stated one player did not do enough damage to the hostile NPC and therefore does not deserve credit for its kill. Wow, I hated that about other games especially considering I played damage light classes like healers and therefore required a party with someone who could outdamage other players competing to finish quests around me. I’m ECSTATIC those days are over.

PvP: There are two types of PvP: Open world-esque Server vs Server PvP called WvWvW. Three servers are pitted against each other on an extraordinarily large map and all of them battle it out for control points. You are rewarded for your participation in WvWvW with PvP tokens, actual drops from people you have defeated, and the chance to harvest high end resources from the land around you. Not to mention the large scale PvP is just plain fun and entering this PvP area at a lower level results in your stats being fixed to a max level amplification. Yes, at level 2 you can still make a difference alongside your comrades in battle.

The second type of PvP is more structured and functions a lot like the original Guild Wars PvP set up. You can start PvPing at any level because the second you come into the area required to enter an arena battle you are set up with max level armor and stats, which you can proceed to customize to your liking. Everybody gets the same pool of gear to choose from so there is no special snowflake among the pack that managed to spend 48 hours straight doing dungeon runs with a group of like minded people who urinated in jars just to have a chance at looting the most uber gear the game has to offer. This means you will not get rolled by somebody just because they an over abundance of time to play and better gear than you. Still, you are rewarded with the opportunity to use the large pool of statted items to choose from to create your own set up with. Have fun exploring!

Level-downing: You’ve heard of having your level amped up so you can participate in “end game” activities within games, but Guild Wars 2 took this a step further to ensure you can participate with your friends who are behind you in level. If you want to go to one of their zones and help them finish tasks for xp, your level will be adjusted according to the zone and therefore just looking at a lizardmonster angrily will not result in it falling over before your buddy can stab it for his quest. Your gear is still generally better even though your stats are lowered, so you will not struggle as much as you did when you were leveling through a similar zone. Also, you can always finish up any tasks you missed and explore the map to earn further reward. It does not matter that you’re level 80 and your buddy is just now adjusting his newbie pull-ups. No need to re-roll a new character!

No need for designated player roles: I was usually always a healer of some kind in past games and my party ended up relying on me. I enjoyed healing. I did not enjoy the attitude that came with players that absolutely relied on my healing. On one hand, they sucked for blaming me for what was most likely their own incompetence, and on the other hand the game we were playing made it so that they needed my healing just to get through this activity. Now I do not face that trouble in Guild Wars 2. While some classes can heal, they can still damage and even have a build that incorporates both effectively. Everybody can do a little bit of something, so to speak. Each class still has something that makes them unique, so it keeps it fresh when exploring a new character option. This time around, however, the fact that I am playing something called a guardian does not mean it is my fault someone else took a face full of dungeon dirt because his class can incorporate something to help his survivability if it is such an issue. You do not need a “tank” to stand around and manipulate game mechanics so that monsters are fixated on him while a healer stands behind a rock and tosses heals his way. You do not need a “DPSer” whose only defense is hoping he killed the creature before it killed his healer. Instead, you are welcome to come into a dungeon or an event with your own profession makeup and have a stab at it. Chances are you’ll find a way to make it work and without a headache at that. Also, if your current set up isn’t working, then do not feel ashamed to change the skills on your bar for something more useful while you’re out of combat.

Exploration: Players are rewarded for map exploration, which entails finding points of interests and viewable vistas. A lot of the vistas include puzzles to reach them, while a few are more simple than that. Enjoy the beautiful Guild Wars 2 scenery and interesting story lore as you explore. You may even uncover hidden treasure in your adventures. Balthazar knows I live for in game treasure.

Rewards for Playing: You are rewarded for nearly everything you do in this game. No, you’re not just given a cookie and a compliment. If you complete a zone’s exploration tasks then you receive a treasure box to open with gear you can either use, sell, or salvage. You are also given XP and money. You are also rewarded for dungeon completions, PvP, and tasks. I remember realizing that despite the fact I had explored so much in any other given game I had played, I had little to show for my efforts and often times found myself worse off for having been curious enough to explore the game.

Roleplay value: I’m not going to lie. I like to roleplay. The entire reason I enjoy these fantasy games is so I can live out their stories and get a gaming fix in at the same time. I am not obsessed with RP and certainly do not make it a focal point of my life, but I do like to see other players in character and enjoy a fun story. Guild Wars 2 has an immense roleplay value to the game: an engaging amount of lore and story, satisfactory character customization, plenty of unique places to roleplay, and over all encouragment to roleplay from the game itself. This game makes it easy for anyone interested in RP to participate, even those who have not bothered to do it before. Some chat options could be better but this is launch and UI patches will continue to stream in as we go along. Regardless, I have seen tons of roleplay including your typical cantina crawls and open world, out-on-the-field roleplay.

And last of all…

…the ability to pick it up and put it down when necessary: Not everyone is a responsibility free teenager on the internet. Even some teenagers interested in online gaming see the necessity to spend some quality time in the real world, too. The problem with many other online games is that they cater too much to those who hardly exist in the real world. Those who focus primarily on the game are often times shelling out the cash for their mini-mall transactions and numerous editions of new releases so they can continue to update their several gaming accounts. It feels like so many games expect people to dedicate more hours than physically healthy to the game just to succeed within the game on a remotely competitive level. For example, WoW and SWTOR both have a PvP gear treadmill going on. The moment I put SWTOR down to tend to my real life, I’ve missed out on a week and a half of earning better PvP gear in order to play more competitively in PvP battles. This is a shame because in a few more weeks a new set of better statted gear will be released and I would have to start all over again. Yeah, no, not doing that anymore. Believe it or not, despite my liking of gaming and even RP gaming, I also enjoy my house, boyfriend, beauty, family, health, etc. There is no gear treadmill in Guild Wars 2, and so far it looks as if you can quit playing for however long you need then come back to the game and not be left behind in the dust because of a new patch. May the Guild Wars gods honor that statement forever.

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