Guild Wars 2 - One of the biggest disappointments in my years of gaming to date
Guild Wars 1 was one of the most unique MMOs of its time. While some of its things were obvious rip-offs of other MMOs past, the game in itself was a very unique and enthralling experience to play through and it stood out among its competitors with its instanced areas, fast traveling, lack of subscription fees, and its low level cap of 20. Its overarching plot made for driven gameplay and the multitude of explorable areas, countless drops, rare armors and weapons gave it extremely high replay value. Even today, it still sits in my list of favorite games of all time for the memories it imprinted on me. However, talking good about Guild Wars 1 isn’t my reason for being here with you today. Today, I want to discuss its long-awaited sequel, Guild Wars 2, and my personal thoughts on the game and direction Guild Wars has taken as a series in general.
Guild Wars 2, unlike Guild Wars 1, is a true MMORPG (Guild Wars 1 was a CORPG, or Competitive Online Role Playing Game, because of its instanced areas and focus on PVP), lacking instanced areas past story areas and dungeons and having a level cap at 80. It’s quite a different beast than Guild Wars 1, and almost every aspect about the game is different; some good things, some bad. I’ll start with the good. The combat is very fluid and dynamic, it almost giving the game a hack and slash feel to it. Animations are pretty decent and voice acting is above average, save for some cheesy parts here and there. The character creation is pretty run of the mill, but it gets the job done, and the character models themselves are extremely good compared to most MMOs out there; finally, a game where the male characters look half decent! The graphics are very well done; the game looks very good and, aside from having some launch day framerate issues near water, runs well enough. Sadly, the looks, or the flair, of this game are the only things that stand out. This brings me to the bad, and why this game has been a complete disappointment to me and many others that hopefully share the same opinion as me.
First, the combat: Guild Wars 2’s combat is very fluid and dynamic, but at the cost of being very lackluster when it comes to hit detection. Missing with ranger arrows and even sword swings is commonplace, and server lag because of the sheer amount of people causes skill usage to stop working at times. It also gets very, very repetitive a few hours into the game. Unlike most MMOs, Guild Wars 2 grants the player their first five skills in their bar based on what weapons they’re holding. The problem with this is that these skills represent 90% of the attack skills that people can use in the game. Other weapons grant new skills, but classes can’t use every weapon, and some are limited in terms of what they can use. Even with classes being able to summon gadgets and gear like the Engineer’s flamethrower, options are still rather limited. Auto attack is spotty at times because of server lag and the hack-and-slash dynamics turn the game’s combat into a button masher. With a better control setup, such as one that’s geared towards a hack-and-slash game, this wouldn’t be an issue. However, Guild Wars 2 is an MMO, and as such, uses the 1-0 skills. This setup results in the player having to make a pretzel out of their hands to dodge and move while casting their skills or attacking, save for the basic attack. Guild Wars 1 did not have this problem, mostly because it was based completely around auto-targeting, with skill missing and hitting being based on random rolls instead of on the server’s health at the time. This takes me into my next point: the skills themselves.
The skills in Guild Wars 2 aren’t anything fancy, save for their looks, but they get the job done. They themselves aren’t much to complain about. The real complaint is the sheer /lack/ of skills. Guild Wars 2 has a very small pool of skills available to the player to use. With the first five of them being determined by the weapon the player is carrying at the time, it leaves a total of five other skills available to the player to actually choose from: one healing skill, four utility skills, and one elite skill. Every character has about four basic healing skills which all fit into their own designated slot. Elite skills are more numerous, but are only unlocked after level 30. With only four true skill slots for players to choose from, builds are very limited, lackluster, and cookie-cutter. PVP is plagued with nothing but one or two builds per player, with most people using one or two skills 90% of the time and using the other skills if things go south for them. Guild Wars 1 had its fair share of cookie cutter builds, but even with two less skill slots, it managed to be far more diverse with the kinds of builds players could use, each profession having at least 100 skills to choose from; combined with the fact that you could have two professions and change your secondary profession at will just by equipping other skill builds, that makes for an extreme amount of customization and diversity. Guild Wars 2 disappoints by not only removing secondary professions, but also reducing the amount of skills available to each player down to a fraction of what they used to be, both on the bar and off. The primary weapons changing skills gives an artificial diversity, when in reality, it’s completely limiting the potential of possible builds. In Guild Wars 1, you could make extremely useful builds based around certain purposes, like running builds with ranger to get from place to place faster and easier. You could also make entirely useless builds, if you so desired. Everything was up to the player. The attributes system was a pool of points you could dump into specific attributes, and skills were all linked to these attributes. Both points and skills could be rearranged, added, and removed at will with no penalty or delay, and there was even a function built into the game to save and load skill and attribute combinations. PvXWiki has thousands upon thousands of skill builds, both good and bad, which shows the potential of the system. It was fun to mix and match and try new things. Guild Wars 2 has none of this. Elite skills were also far more numerous as well and could be captured or unlocked by characters of any level, provided you have a Signet of Capture to get it from a boss that has the skill or have it unlocked through PVP play, respectively. With elite skills only being available to players after level 30, it gimps any players wishing to play World-vs-World early on until they reach that level, and leveling up in Guild Wars 2 is a chore in its own.
Many fans of Guild Wars 2 will state that the game has no “grind”. Traditionally, “grinding” in MMORPGs can be defined as doing a single task repetitively over and over for long periods of time with very little gain until a large amount of time has been pooled into doing that task. It’s often annoying, monotonous, and serves very little purpose in its existence besides being content filler. Guild Wars 2, unfortunately for its fans, is quite ripe with grinding in a few places. Leveling takes an extremely long time playing the game normally. Exploring every inch of the map, gathering up every single point of interest, waypoint, vista, and skill challenge usually nets a player maybe 1-2 levels for an entire zone. Hearts (quests) usually add 1-2 levels per zone, as well. This makes for maybe 2-4 levels per zone. Events also add a small amount of XP when you finish them. The inherent problem with this system is that, since speed boosts are far and few in between and no mounts exist in the game, players have to constantly walk to every single location on the map to uncover every single possible thing to do. Waypoints help, but they’re spread out far enough that traveling to places, especially ones you haven’t explored yet, is an extremely boring process. Killing enemies nets barely any XP whatsoever. Events and quests both also take a fairly long time to do, with no clear numbers as to how many of X things you have to gather/kill/capture like traditional MMORPGs give you. As of right now, the only activities that net players a large amount of experience in a smaller-than-horrid amount of time are crafting and WvW PVP, the former of which is only a small sliver of the game’s content and the latter of which is hard to properly play prior to level 30, or at least it would be if questing and WvW weren’t based entirely on how many people you can amass in one area. Guild Wars 2 rewards “zerging”: the gathering of a large amount of players doing single tasks together and overwhelming anything that they come across. With the lack of any sort of holy trinity in the game to properly strategize a group or party, most of your success will come from how many people are doing the same quest or attacking the same area as you. Individual skill is no match for numbers and button mashing in Guild Wars 2. The lack of a large player cap in dungeons prevents runs from being anything less than absolute hell to go through, with no clear class roles and no dedicated healer profession or healing skills preventing any sort of proper strategy or survivability. On top of this, high level mobs hit for an extremely high amount of damage, downing most lower-armored characters in two hits or less. A lack of players in an area can also prevent others from progressing in their main storyline. Yes, it’s entirely possible to be stuck held up somewhere because there’s simply not enough bodies to help get a /main storyline event/ done. Unfortunately, there isn’t any way around this problem besides having more people on a server in a specific area at once. Lastly, when it comes to grinding, nothing stands out more than the end-game grind to get high level armors. The highest level armor in the game cannot be purchased anywhere or crafted, leaving players having to grind for weeks in dungeons and raids to get a full set of armor for themselves. As of this day, one and a half weeks from launch, only one player has acquired a piece of Legendary-level armor. Mind you, that’s not even a full set. That is one single solitary piece of armor. In Guild Wars 1, max rating armor could be crafted by vendors for either approximately 15K gold total (relatively cheap) or for 15K gold a piece (rather expensive) if you wanted something with alternative and more flashy looks. The cheaper armor sets, besides looking arguably worse in most cases, had no disadvantages over the more expensive sets and were acquirable by players mid-way into the game. In Guild Wars 2, your gear determines your viability in combat completely, so there’s no reason not to try to get the best armor besides outright lack of motivation for playing the game long enough to do such a thing.
The last major point I’d like to bring up is the game’s setting. Guild Wars 2, from the perspective of someone that’s played Guild Wars 1 extensively, has no place in the Guild Wars universe and has no relation to it whatsoever. 250 years cannot shape entire continents and landscapes as drastically as the change from the first game to the second game purports. Many areas were changed entirely from the first game, leaving no familiar sights or landmarks behind, being entirely renamed and changed in every shape, form, and fashion. All that remains is the map and the location of major cities on the map. No area, no matter how abandoned it has been over those 250 years, has resisted being changed, bar the Hall of Monuments special area designed specifically for Guild Wars 1 players. Even Lions Arch, the most identifiable and one of the most populated cities in the first game, has been flooded and rebuilt entirely. No characters bear any lineage or relation to characters from the first game, and the entire storyline has little consequence in the game world and continues nothing from Guild Wars 1. There is no sense of actual progression, and the player ends up feeling very insignificant compared to the valiant heroes of the first game. The story picks up in the middle of a conflict and rushes the player into getting involved in conflict instead of progressing slowly and beginning the story and conflict anew like Guild Wars 1 did. It’s a story with no beginning and a bittersweet, uneventful, and game-assisted end (which I won’t spoil for those Guild Wars 2 fans that have stayed around to this point.)
I’m sure much of this rant sounds like me spouting off about how much better Guild Wars 1 was compared to 2. While I do enjoy Guild Wars 1 far more than I will ever enjoy 2, it certainly wasn’t without its own problems. Heroes killed off grouping almost entirely, and lack of skill updates or class updates turned PVP into a barren wasteland. Lack of jumping made traversing landscapes a bit tedious sometimes, and lag and mediocre client/server synchronization made rubber banding common. Even then so, the game’s basic elements are what made it good during its heyday, and the lack of these elements is what makes Guild Wars 2 both a poor game in its own right and a disgrace and a disappointment of a game sequel. Its similarities to other popular MMORPGs out there in combination with its broken combat mechanics, lack of a flexible skill and attribute system, horrible grind in many areas, and piss poor lack of attention to source material makes it one of the worst MMORPGs I have played in a very long time. As a final question, I ask you, Guild Wars 2 fans, would you be willing to play this game if it had a subscription fee like Secret World, Age of Conan, or World of Warcraft? Leave a comment below. Anything that can dispute or correct what I’ve said is also welcome down below. This is in no way meant to slander any group of people, any organization, or the developers of Guild Wars 2. It’s simply to express my opinions about Guild Wars 2 and why I believe it’s unfit to be called a sequel to a game that did so many things differently and so many things right.