September 3, 2012

The Guild Wars 2 Review: Putting It All Together

     I have been following the development of Guild Wars 2 since the time it was first announced. And ever since then, I kept scavenging for every little piece of information I can get my hands on. I have found that every time I learn something new or if a new preview is up, I always say to myself (and to others of course), if the team can pull off what they say, this will be a really great game. Five years later, the game has finally launched and it is now time to see if the dev team did indeed deliver. So, without further ado, let's wrap up this review series.

     The game gets several things right. Dynamic quests were greatly publicized as one of the main selling points of the game and the team has managed to deliver by having quests tied via specific locations rather than specific NPC's to talk to. This means that upon entering an area, you really get to see what is happening and gives more context in terms of what you do. Also, since some of these events are quite random, there is a good amount of variety in questing and helps ensure that you won't experience the same thing twice from the onset (eventually you would when you keep repeating an area). To add on to this, this is all done in an open world setting where everyone can actually perform these tasks together. You are no longer instanced to your own version of an area which is what was done in the original game.

The open world looks great

     To supplement this system, everyone in the area is entitled to the rewards if they participate. This means if two people attack an enemy, both get the loot. If 20 people helped the event be successful, all of them get rewarded. This system encourages people to play together rather than compete and this is one thing that really sets Guild Wars 2 apart from the rest of the MMO's out there.

     Speaking of rewards, items now have more diverse attributes. This is a large departure from the previous game where there were only a few attributes per class. The current attribute system follows a more traditional sense having a stat for damage, crit, etc. This gives a more rewarding experience in character development since you constantly change and your gear as you level.

     Combat is also very fast and fluid and puts more emphasis on being mobile rather than being stationary and activating a set of skills. This is reinforced by having a manual dodge mechanic where you have to double tap to a specific direction to tumble to that area. The game also gives visual cues if you have to get away from a certain area or avoid a particular attack. One thing that I forgot to mention in the combat article was that several skills rely on the actual position of the character, weapon and enemy. This means that swinging a sword in front of you while having another enemy targetted farther away will mean that the mobs in front of you will get hit by the sword instead of the one you targeted. This adds a sense of realism to combat and makes it slightly more active as well.

Ready to fight?

     The skill system is quite open where you can choose which utility, healing or elite skill you prefer, but still has limitations such as having a set of skills based on your weapon of choice. You are also limited to 10 skills slotted at a time (excluding those above your standard bar) and this bears a resemblance to the original Guild Wars skill system of having 8 slots. This means that it still has that Magic The Gathering thing going for it where you pick your set of cards (skills) to comprise of your whole deck (skill set).

     The game also rewards players with experience for doing non-combat oriented tasks such as crafting and exploration. Experience is granted for discovering new locations in a maps, completing all the map objectives, mining a resource from a node and even crafting an item. You are now no longer taken out of progression should you choose to decide to stop fighting and questing to develop your crafting skill. Integrating level profession to a wider set of tasks give more variety in terms of your levelling preferences and keeps the game moving forward for your character.

     On the downside, the personal story doesn't feel quite as epic so far. While I haven't finished the whole story, some of the voice acting feel quite forced and does not blend with how the character looks. It's still good that there is quite a number of voiceover work but it could have been better. In terms of the story, so far it is pretty basic thus I am waiting to see if it gets more interesting as I go. One last thing about the personal story though is that it separates you from the world. While I agree that this is a very good way in telling a very relevant and focused story for your character, it feels too detached where at times I would rather go through the open world areas rather than follow my story.

Hopefully the story gets better

     There are also some concerns around content being too trivial or less epic if there are too many or too few players respectively. This stems from the community focused enemy tagging and loot system since everyone can jump in and contribute to any given task. Though to be fair, this concern in solved in most quests by scaling enemy health and difficulty, there are some that I feel that did not have the proper scaling nailed just yet. This can be solved in future patches but this is a concern for now.

     And speaking of the number of players, there have been problems around grouping due to the overflow system. Since each person is put into an overflow server if a particular map is full, people that group together tend to find themselves in different versions of the map and thus isolated from each other. While there is a function in the game to join another players server, it sometimes doesn't work as intended and can cause some frustrations in forming groups.

Yes this is a different Queensdale

     The last down point is the poor implementation of the trading post. Even though the team is working at it right now, the trading post has been unavailable for the most part since release. This may have been caused by the large influx of players but having this missing kind of makes it harder for people to level crafting and keep a sufficiently funded coffer.

     From the points raised, it is quite obvious that the pro's outweigh the con's of the game. Arena Net has managed to improve upon the Guild Wars franchise while keeping some of the feel of the original game in tact. New players will experience a slight learning curve but not too punishing due to a mix of good difficulty progression and slowly introducing new skills as they level. While Guild Wars veterans will still have a lot to master in terms of all the new content.

     The game still has a lot more to offer than those covered in the review series. An the game will also be quite different from this review given a couple of years. But for now, Guild Wars 2 is a very welcome addition that improves and expands the Guild Wars universe. I really recommend that you play this game.

     That wraps up the Guild Wars 2 review series. Check out the detailed reviews of the different parts of the game by going back to the primer. Be sure to come back to The Guild Wars Gazette for more news, guides and discussions for Guild Wars 2!

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