August 28, 2012

The Guild Wars 2 Review: The World

     For every MMO, it is essential to have a truly immersive world. The reason for this is that people who play these look for a vast world to explore and adventure in. The landscape is what the player immediately sees and can definitely make or break the player's experience. Let's see what Guild Wars 2 has to offer with its version of the world.

     In terms of graphics and visuals, I can safely say that the game looks absolutely amazing. Arena Net has definitely gave the visual department a very noticeable upgrade from the previous game. From how the water looks to the fields of grass in Queensdale, you can see the attention to detail given to each landscape. It is also interesting that the game has a mechanic designed to actually help you appreciate the scenery. Vistas are locations in the world (marked by a hovering map or two red triangles in the mini map) that upon activation, pan your camera to look at a specific scenery such as a large dam, a majestic waterfall or even a battle worn fortification. These vistas also give a small amount of XP and are counted towards your map objectives thus it is very desirable to find them all.

This point is called a vista
     Speaking of map objectives, I found that the world actually leads you to constantly discover things to do. Anyone who has followed the development of the game may very well know that the game actually ditches the traditional questing system where you talk to an NPC and accept the quest you want to go to into a more dynamic model. The questing system is now based on where you are currently. If you are on a field near a farmer, you automatically get tasks to perform for that farmer. If you see a caravan along the path, you automatically get an escort mission. You get the picture.

     This questing system is also supplemented by how the game handles "tagging" enemies. It no longer uses the traditional "first hit" rule. Enemies you are currently fighting  also count for other people who decide to join you mid fight. These two systems actually encourage people to work together around objectives since your success is not hampered by the fact that other people are present in the area. This tagging rule also applies to mineral nodes and gatherable materials in the area. Each person can gather the node once and will only despawn for that specific person who gathered.

The scout points to locations where you can go to
     I have mentioned that the game actually leads you to other things to do. This is actually quite true. There are NPC's called scouts that give you a general overview of an area. They show you quest NPC's, points of interest, as well as some back story in terms of the area you are currently in. They also populate your maps so it is easy to refer to it even if you haven't set foot in the area the scout mentioned.

     To expound on map objectives, every map has a set number of quest NPC's, waypoints, vistas and points of interests and exploring all these areas gives a sizable reward. This gives a further sense of achievement to the exploration aspect of the game as opposed to just filling out your map. Also in terms of exploration, waypoints are scattered across the map. There is a sufficient number to allow you to travel to key locations but not too much to make it too easy if your character is defeated (since you spawn on a waypoint).

     I was quite pleased to how the world was implemented in Guild Wars 2. The world feels vast enough not to be limited in terms of the choices you want to make but also gives guidance to make the area easily understandable. I also like the attention to detail given to the NPC's spread across the world. I have found one area that was attacked by centaurs and as I was approaching the area, I could hear the NPC's shouting: "Help! The centaurs are invading!". This makes the world feel very much alive where you don't explore a static environment filled with NPC's that don't care but are affected by the events that happen around them.

View from a vista

     It also helps that the world is very pretty to look at. If your graphics card can take it, I would suggest turning up your settings to see just how detailed the world is. Vistas are a nice touch to integrate game systems with aesthetics. Some vistas are not that easy to get to and requires some observation and precise jumping to get to. This gives some challenge to getting to these points and just add to the fun of looking for them.

     What definitely caught my attention though is the way they implemented questing and tagging of enemies. This system really just makes sense for a cooperative environment. One of the development team's objectives is to make the game fun even if there are other people in the area. This breaks away from traditional MMO's where more people would mean less enemies you can kill and loot. Since you get rewarded even if someone is already fighting an enemy, it just makes sense to help out. Quests and events that also require more people to complete are quite fun and easy to get into as well. Whenever I see a group of people tackling an elite enemy or boss, it's easy to just jump in, help and see that eventually the number of people in the group just grow to make the fight more manageable.

     Overall, the team at Arena Net has succeeded in creating a very large beautiful world that is just right for people not to feel constrained but not too cluttered to be overwhelming. The systems in place reward cooperation and makes playing with other people a more fun than frustrating experience.

Back to The Guild Wars 2 Review: Primer

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