This is a title that I probably should have played a lot sooner, but had a very unfortunate history that prevented me from doing so. For starters, the game it’s a sequel to (the original Guild Wars) kinda sucked. I played it back in the day because my brothers bought it to play together and none of us were ready to fork out $15 a month to play “just one game.” Even then, they were leading me down bad paths, it seems.
But it still took place in a rather interesting fantasy world, so when this sequel was announced and it was promising to fix all the issues and STILL have no monthly fees, I was willing to listen. When I found out you could play the Charr, the feline race you were fighting for most of the original game, I was interested. And by the time the game launched, I was ready to go. Unfortunately, it launched about a week before Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, and a month or so before I was going on vacation with the folks to visit family across the country. It’s day simply never game and it sat on my shelf for a few years.
Fast forward to a few months ago and I found myself without any “must play as they come out titles” since the Halo game I had bought to play with my brothers was not ready to play and while Venom was on the horizon for Marvel Heroes, he wasn’t there yet. I came back to this game, playing it seriously for the first time and dedicated what I should have the first time.
Story: Guild Wars 2 takes place a few hundred years after the events of the original Guild Wars and it’s expansions. However, do not worry if you didn’t play those games. The length of time was chosen because it is perfect to setup a new and unrelated story to the original, but at the same time take place on the same world with small nods to the previous events. At this time, the Elder Dragons have begun to awaken and since they are basically corruption incarnate, threaten all of Tyria and all the races within it. In this landscape and setting you will begin an adventure that will ultimately lead you defend Tyria from one of these dragons invading, ultimately and predictably leading to the creature’s demise.
However, that is not to say that the story is a straight march so much as a twisting road that will guide across things and events you may not see coming, even as you could easily predict where it will take you. For starters, you will not start on the hunt you will ultimately get to. Your race will, like most MMORPGs, decide which land of Tyria you will begin in, but in addition, your class and even choices you make for your biography will play an influence in how your story begins and what you are doing immediately. And the questions you get to answer for this biography varies for each race, so expect a lot of your friends you play with to have very different events leading to very different starting points.
In addition, your choices along the way will directly influence the path your story will take and how you find yourself wrapped up in the dragon-based adventure. In my case, all this culminated with my initial involvement coming about because a necromancer was creating zombie hoards ravaging the lands… and a now dead member of my warband was confirmed to be one of the undead. Add to this choices of alignment within three major groups working to protect the land across all races and classes and even choices that can influence who your allies are along the way as well as what specific missions you play to get there, and your results will vary, making the meat of the story vary from player to player.
Graphics: Guild Wars 2 is going to stun new players with the visuals as soon as they create their character and start playing. Immediately, they will be greeted with a “painted” opening video as their character reads off the biography created for them to start their story, followed by the 3D rendered world itself. At this point, the game will have set a standard it will keep no matter what.
For most of this game, you will have a 3rd person perspective over the head of your character in some of the most beautiful displays I have yet to see in an MMO game. The landscapes vary in all their glory from plains of grasslands to fully wooded forests to gloomy caves to cities in decay or their prime and more. There is simply so much to see I highly doubt you will see everything before you finish with this game. And the level of detail lovingly added to every foot is simply exceptional. Add to this some absolutely perfect lighting and you will see a lot of views that are simply breathtaking throughout the world the game offers you.
And your characters share this same level of dedication. Every frame of animation on your and everyone else’s characters looks amazing and flow perfectly to show off just what you are doing. Some classes will obviously benefit more then others, however. For example, I played an engineer and focused on my turrets as my main function. As a result, most of the time my attacks were just pulling out a pistol and firing like it was the wild west. It looked fine, but there just isn’t a lot you can do with that compared to sword combat or even launched spells as an elementalist.
And while they tend to pale in comparison to human players, the enemies are no slouch either. With the same care to look like they belong in every place you find them, the enemies are varied and generally look perfect for their roll, especially the boss characters who clearly were written to be the crown of what you will face.
And then we can talk about the cutscenes. Most of them will involve a close-up of two characters talking but the narrated ones (most of the time introducing a dungeon or at the end of specific chapters of the personal story) will show exactly why the opening biography narration just set the tone. These scenes are all hand-painted and flow like living works of art, telling the story in a manner you don’t see many games using period, and doing so with a grace the likes of which you will wish those games could match.
If there is any issue with the look of this game, it’s a performance hit. While the game looked perfectly smooth most of the time, there are places like the Black Citidel (hometown of the Charr) where you will notices a decrease in performance. Obviously more power will make this less noticeable, but my own machine is WELL above the requirements to run the game and still saw this (admittedly with almost every setting as high as it would go).
Sound: Much like it is for the eyes, Guild Wars 2 is also a feast for the ears. Sadly, this may not be so much for the voice acting as it is more functional then exception due to the format used for most audible conversations and the narrator is basically doing his job but little else. Nor will the sound effects wow you in this title. They will simply serve their purpose and allow you to move on. No, the reason this game is so amazing to hear is the music that permeates it.
Simply put, it fits the mood perfectly when it plays, be it an adventurous note as you begin to wander a new map, a tone of danger when you are in the thick of a fight and your health is starting to deplete, or simply the accompanying tune to the event you are in, this is some of the best orchestrated stuff I have heard from a game to date. To put it personally, when I bought this game (at launch) I had originally preordered a collector’s edition and downgraded to a regular when I found out the sound track was just a “greatest hits” CD while the music score in total was a 4 CD compilation. I felt cheated, but after finishing the game, if for nothing else, I kinda wish I had kept the pre-order as to have ANY of this music in my library would be a treat in and of itself, especially the track that rolls with the credits.
Gameplay: Guild Wars 2 is an MMORPG played from a 3rd person perspective. As a result, there are certain standards that players will expect before they press launch after the game has finished installing. For those of you who are not familiar with this kind of game, you will start by creating a character from one of 5 races and one of 8 classes (or professions as they are called here). The classes for the most part are standard fantasy fair (though some may carry different names, like the Paladin of this game is the Gaurdian and the Mage/Wizard is an Elementalist), though there are a few unique to this game like the Mesmer, whose roll is to use the enemy’s mind against them by using things like illusions and clones of themselves.
The races, on the other hand, are not so standard. In fact the only standard fantasy race is human. Along side them you can choose to play an Asura (a short race who’s focus is on high-tech gadgetry… basically the closest thing this game has to gnomes), Sylvari (a race of plant-beings who are about as close to an elf as you will see), Norm (basically giant humans who seem to be like a cross between the Native American and the Norse Viking), or a Charr (HUGE feline creatures who generally feel like what you would get if Klingons were fantasy instead of SciFi). Each of these races has their own advantages and dissadvantages which you read as you choose or if you want to review before hand, the game’s website has a convenient online manual for you.
Not that you will need it for much. This game is very adapt at teaching you how to play as you play, and from the point you have finished your character and background, it’s off to that main game. From here on, everything is from that 3D perspective where you will run around the world and use the skills you unlock along the way via the 1-0 keys across the top of your keyboard as well as F1-F4. The first 5 of these keys will have their functions decided by the weapon you have equipped, and each class has a few that only they can use. For example, as an engineer, my Charr has access to pistols, shields, rifles, flamethrowers, and shotguns. Each of these weapons changes what I can do drastically, and by using them, slowly those abilities expand from 1 or 2 to the full 5.
In addition, you will earn skill points you can use to buy the skills that you can fill in 6-9, the tree of which will involve spending enough points to in the previous level to unlock the next (once you are high enough level to access it). In addition, when they unlock, the abilities you choose here will decide what goes into the F1-F4 keys. For my case, I filled each of these spots with a different turret I can summon at will to shoot at my enemies with me or heal me and my party. This also gave me the ability to either explode my turrets at my will and do damage to the enemies or various attacks related to what each one does.
Finally, key 0 will unlock at level 30 and will grant you access to a selection of ultimates specified to your class, biography, and race. In my case, my personal choice was to summon two fellow Iron Legion Members, further increasing the sources of damage I brought with me into battle, but obviously your choices will vary.
When in combat with all of this, the game gets more of an action feel as you get an active dodge move to go with all of this, allowing you to evade move vicious attacks from your enemies and adding some skill to the lock on and fight mechanics that most MMOs use. Many attacks can be dodged this way or simply because you are far enough away that it cant reach roughly where you are before you’ve moved. It’s not a completely action based system, but it is a lot more mobility then offered by most games of this genre.
And for those of you who are tired of playing story missions (all instance, mostly designed so you can do them by yourself) or open world, this game also offers traditional dungeons you will unlock as you level up and a PvP mode in which servers go toe-to-toe in set matches to control points of the maps long enough to score the winning points. These 5v5 games require teamwork and will entertain those looking for more of this in their games.
Bugs: While overall the experience I had with this game was nearly flawless, there were a few days where it simply stopped working right and would cause my graphics card driver to restart, resulting in a temporary black screen of a few seconds and a note in Windows’ event log about it. Im not sure if I fixed it by turning off anti-aliasing (running at a native resolution to my monitor, it seemed redundant anyway) or if one of the many patches being released as hot-fixes resolved it, but the problem was gone literally in under a week. Still, it did happen and since it can, I have to note it.
Overall: Guild Wars 2 is at it’s heart an MMO and will never let you forget it from start to when you finish with it. However, it is also one that manages to make it’s own way through the now very tried and true genre made of World of Warcraft clones. Is it the best game you will ever play? Absolutely not, but for what it’s worth, most MMOs I have played are lucky to hold my attention for more then a month before I move on, and none of them have gotten me to play through long enough to not only complete the base story, but to reach max level. Guild Wars 2 has done all three.
With that in mind, if you are looking for a new online game to play with your friends, I have to give this a solid recommendation. If you are looking for a new MMO that is solid, and a little different, this is definitely worth your time. And if you just want to play one without a monthly subscription, I have yet to find one half as good doing that as well.
Source’s Listed System Requirements:
- 2.0 Ghz dual core processor
- 2 GB Ram
- ATi Radeon X1800, NVIDIA GeForce 7800, Intel Graphics HD 30000. Must have 256 MB VRAM or more.
- 25 GB hard drive
- Windows XP SP2 or 3/VISTA/7/8
- AMD Phenom II 6X 1100T (6 core) processor running at 3.3 Ghz
- 8GB RAM
- Nvidia Geforece 760 GTX with 2GB VRAM
- and Windows 7
Source: Originally bought a disc release but those are hard to come by now, and even using them results in the game just downloading itself entirely, so digital copy from the Guild Wars 2 site.