By now, you’re probably used to the writing of Lord Commander ‘The Chin’ Kieran… Heck, some of you poor souls probably even like him. I’m here to give you guys a stupidly long, ridiculously in depth look at a game, because Mr ‘I <3 Rim Jobs over there’ says I’m synonymous. What am I synonymous for? Who knows! Probably boring you to death while you read. Enjoy!
**Warning: This is a very close look at a very large game. It will not be short. You may die before you finish reading it… I don’t blame you if you do**
Before I get into Guild Wars 2, it’s important that my experience with the franchise be solidified. I didn’t like Guild Wars… in fact, “didn’t like” is probably too weak a term… you see, I had a bit of an MMO Itch, something that used to strike me once a year or so, and after going through no trivial amount of free to play, absolutely horrible, Asian created PvP spam fests with no story, no lore, nothing interesting or new, I needed something different… something good.
Had I paid attention to Guild Wars 1, instead of just seeing it on special at my local games store and saying to myself “why the hell not”, I probably would have gotten everything I wanted out of it, everything and more. However, in the infinite wisdom of a purchase made to sate a craving, I went in blind… and to me it struck me as nothing more than another one of those generic Asian MMO’s that happened to also look really really good. What I was expecting, and what I had received, were so vastly different from one another that after 8 hours of gaming, I uninstalled it, disgusted.
I say that, because I want you who bothers to read my massive amount of diatribe to understand that I don’t come to this from the position of a fanboy. I don’t even come to this from a position of someone who thinks the sun shines out of every other MMO’s ass. I come to this as a gamer, a guy who likes story, and things done both differently and well. I come to this pretty much as Guild Wars 2’s toughest critic, and honestly, I couldn’t love the game more.
It’s a game about little things, a touch of improvement over the traditional MMO structure here, a dash of innovative mechanic there. It’s not easily quantifiable and not simple to write about in a way that doesn’t make you seem as someone who is indoctrinated into the cult of ArenaNet either. It starts at the login screen, big, trumpeting music… an epic overture by the mastermind of most videogame music, Jeremy Soule (Creator of music for Total Annihilation, Icewind Dale and of course Skyrim)
Once logged in, you’re presented with all the standard bells and whistles of character creation, with more sliders and options for your character than most indepth fantasy or sports games even have. At the end, you’re given a bit of a backstory, and told to flesh out yourself with a small selection of choices… what school or caste your character belongs to, what was his first job or creation. In most games this would be placed there to give you an illusion of depth and choice and little else, causing maybe an arbitrary stat raise, or a small number of conversations to briefly mention it. Guild Wars 2? Entire story arcs are based around those choices, meaning that you best think about those seemingly arbitrary decisions, because they will provide you with interesting options down the line.
But there is even more importance in the choices you make at the start of the game than most MMO’s out there. You’re going to be seeing your character regularly from different angles and different zoom levels, especially in the games story cut-scenes, so making sure that he or she looks good (or grotesque if that’s the way you like to play) is encouraged. Even coloring your armor is important, as this isn’t one of your standard games where every pickup will make you look like every other person, and dying those pickups is a breeze.
After choosing your race, class, name, and background you will be shoved into the first zone of the game with a small cinematic showing what’s going on in the world as far as your character is concerned. Unlike a lot of MMO’s, the ‘tutorial’ for want of a better word is story based, an attempt to get you immersed from the start. Depending on your racial choice will depend on the story, but almost all of them are 100% enjoyable experiences (and much improved from the beta).
After this you will be given free reign over your Guild Wars 2 experience. What you do now, is pretty much up to you! You could become an explorer, travelling through the world and uncovering hidden nooks and crannies all over. You could focus purely on the games crafting experience (or you could, if the trading post was up), you could do PvP, you could become a pacifist and only do things that don’t involve slaying things, or you could progress through the game the standard way… the choice is really up to you.
You see, pretty much everything in the game gives you experience points, gold, and karma (an alternate currency). You can focus entirely on any pursuit and enjoy a levelling experience, with next to no hassles at all. To me this is great, because it means you can decide to do something else for a little while, and still keep up level progress with the grinders. But the thing is? Even grinding in this game is different to others.
You can do the attacking enemies over and over again thing, but the most efficient way of levelling your character is to go through the various events the game provides. These events can range from killing an elite monster, to harvesting materials, to protecting a caravan. In any part of the world map, a small handful of such events are going on, making it very possible to chain them all together for great experience and loot. It breaks the pace from the standard monotony of a grind, and it’s incredibly enjoyable to boot.
One of the best things that Guild Wars 2 has is jumping puzzles. These puzzles are scattered throughout the world, and provide a relaxing (or frustrating) experience that is different from most. Every one of them is different, but the basic structure is jumping through what is essentially an obstacle course, to reach a chest at the end with loot that is levelled to your level. It’s a great feeling, conquering one of these by yourself, and even greater when you stumble an MMO launched in this decade should provide. It is fast, responsive, and it lets the player decide what he or she wants to do within the world. It also looks and sounds absolutely gorgeous, and to many players that is just as important as the way it handles. You can even tilt the camera to look inside your characters head and never sleep again at night. What other game lets you do that?