Until this weekend I have been a somewhat blindly devoted fan of Guild Wars 2, proselytizing to all who will listen based on optimistic developer blog posts and glowing accounts from other fans. This weekend, as part of the pre-purchase beta event, I got my first chance to play the game at last. It was great fun – confusing at first, due to a combination of a new and unfamiliar control scheme and terrible lag on a crowded server, but once we got the hang of it there was plenty to see and do, even restricting ourselves to straightforward PvE.
So from the more measured perspective of experience, would I recommend Guild Wars 2? My first instinct is to say absolutely. At the beginning it may not feel so revolutionary or different to other mainstream MMORPGs, but the differences are there and they change the experience in more subtle ways. The longer I played, the more it made sense to me and the more I wanted to see and do and experiment with. ArenaNet may want to make some changes to the first few hours, but I agree with this article that making the player learn by doing may be kind of the point. However, if you’re not interested in buying the game and sitting through 20 hours of gameplay on the off chance it might turn out to be interesting *cough*, my advice is:
You should play Guild Wars 2 if…
- You’re sick of other players being a hindrance or irrelevant when you’re playing online (e.g. kill-stealing, ninja lotting, useless PUGs).
- You like to communicate and/or co-operate with random players in online games when the opportunity arises.
- You like to explore. Guild Wars 2 is absolutely made for exploration; they even offer experience for finding designated points of interest.
- Running back and forth between quest objectives and NPCs is the bane of your existence.
- You’d rather people won PvP through skill and/or strategy than simply putting in more time than you.
- A compelling, detailed and coherent world is important to you.
- You think the MMORPG genre is stagnating and are keen to sample any real innovation.
- You’re a Guild Wars player who would appreciate some nostalgic sights and references.
You might not want to play Guild Wars 2 if…
- Level progression (complete with ‘the grind’) is an important and enjoyable part of MMORPGs for you (it’s extremely de-emphasised in GW2).
- You like the reliability and focus of the role-based Holy Trinity of tank/heal/dps (you won’t find it here, or not nearly as much).
- The sweetest thing in your online games is a highly organised raid running like a well-oiled machine (when you’re in large groups in GW2, odds are they won’t be co-ordinated most of the time!).
- You enjoy getting stronger so that you can obliterate enemies and feel powerful (sidekicking means low-level creatures may still present a challenge).
- You don’t like change (even if you can usually pick up a new game is minutes, this one may take you a little while).
Essentially, ArenaNet are right when they claim that their game was never intended to be the WoW killer but rather to exist alongside WoW and its kind. The things WoW has perfected, Guild Wars 2 doesn’t imitate because they’re not the point. By the same token, the things which frustrate players of WoW and similar MMORPGs may not be a problem in Guild Wars 2. It’ll take me much more play time to develop any real insight into the difference, but here’s my take on the weekend and its (often highly informative) critics: if it took you a long time the figure out what the hell was going on, it’s probably because Guild Wars 2 is something more than just another iteration of the MMORPG formula that we seem to have been stuck with since EverQuest.