Beta testing for FFXIV has begun, and while I am excited to get back into FFXIV and see all the changes being made, I still can’t shake that need to have something to do in the meantime. I mean, something lasting where I can hold on to my achievements and build my character in a world and knowing that information will stay. Something where I can socialize with people, make friends, unlock things, get treasures, go on quests, and really experience that online play with others. The problem with beta testing, of course, is that character data will be wiped after while, and servers are not guaranteed to be up all the time. Really makes it hard to just go on the meager scraps being thrown out by FFXIV while it is still in development.
So in the meantime, along with studying up on FFXIV 2.0, I am going ahead with my second best choice for an MMORPG – Guild Wars 2. I have been holding off on GW2 for a while now, hoping the price would either drop or that I would have more money. Neither have happened but I decided to pay the $60 and go ahead with it. I heard great things about GW2 and decided i felt enough good about it to justify the purchase price. And I must say, the game is fun and it does not disappoint.
First of all though, let me get out there that starting out Guild Wars 2 feels different and not at all comfortable. New players need to keep in mind that it won’t be like something they’ve seen before and it will take them some time to get used to the world, the map, the lore, and the mechanics. At the heart of GW2 you are getting a very awesome MMORPG and all the elements will be there, but it will present itself in a different way. I suggest before rage quitting this game (which I tend to do a lot) give it up until you get to level 15 or so and explore all of the first area map. This will give you a feel of what the game is like and then you can decide if it is for you.
To me personally, Guild Wars 2 takes up a “Dragon Age” feel with the character design, environments, items, and skills seeming to come from that world and time period. The world itself is full of detail and beauty built into it from the day/night cycle, the sunlight and water reflections, and the detail to grass and shadows. This game has a modern and sleek feel to the graphics and not a dated or clunky feel. There is a lot of audio and narrative amongst the story characters and the NPC’s walking around that gives the world a living and breathing feel that isn’t found in the other MMORPGs.
The gameplay in GW2 feels a lot more open and free-range as opposed to the “box” many other MMORPGs fit you into. No longer do you have a list of quests to follow that consist of “go here, kill this, gather that, talk to him, escort her” for rewards, but rather you get quests by just roaming and exploring the world. There are several ways to gain experience and advance your character in the game. First of all there are the story quests recommended every couple of levels. This keeps a general direction of the game going and also provides many nice rewards. Secondly there are quests you unlock while roaming the map, which include experience for just walking to new places or climbing to special areas and sight seeing. Thirdly there are one-time NPC quests that allow you to unlock one-time rewards for certain NPC’s on the map. And finally there are “events” that show up randomly on the map and yield great exp for participating.
Aside from the normal roaming and questing for exp, you can also gain exp by crafting and gathering items and the system for doing so is pretty good. FFXIV 1.0 had a very in-depth crafting and gathering system which I have yet to see matched. Guild Wars 2 isn’t nearly as involved or as exciting, but it is much closer to being so than anything else. There are many recipes in GW2 that can be crafted and there is a good economy system built up of gathering, selling, buying, crafting, and selling again. Auction-style shops are available to help players buy and sell and keep a thriving in-game economy going.
The character creation and design options seem very limitless in this game which is a plus. Any race can be any class and any class can use several different types of weapon. For example, a warrior can use a great sword, a hammer, a shotgun, a shield/weapon combo, a horn, a longbow, etc. A thief can use guns, swords, knives, etc. But not all classes can use all weapons – which is good. You’re not going to see a warrior with a staff or wand trying to do mage work, and I can’t expect many people think that would be a good idea. Armor is specific to class though where as your class wears light, medium, or heavy armor and it stays that way throughout the game. I honestly would like to be able to mix and match armor types on my character – but it is what it is.
As far as the actual gameplay of Guild Wars 2 – their style is unique and unexpected, but it works. Each character can level up and continue on into the furthest depths of the world, but they can also travel back into past areas at any time in order to help others or level up or quest. This really helps the community and guilds stick together and not be so segregated. The catch is that going back to a lower level also scales back your character to that level range. For example, if you are a level 77 mage and go to the level 18-24 zone, you might be scaled back to level 19 or 20 depending where you are on the map. There isn’t anything special that needs done, it automatically syncs you. Your abilities and gear all stay the same as they were at 77, but your stats are scaled back to match that area. Therefore a level 77 mage scaled back to level 19 is going to be more powerful and able to do more than a level 19 character side-by-side, but still not powerful enough that they will one-shot all the mobs and not gain any experience. So going back to help a friend or guild member at a lower level still has rewards for a player.
Finally I wanted to mention the difficulty of Guild Wars 2 compared to other MMORPGs. To me the game has a darker feel to it than other games i’ve played and is full of many challenges. It feels like more of an “adult” game because of the world it is set in and the difficulty of certain areas. A casual player can solo most of the game by taking his or her time and picking fights wisely, but for a hardcore player there is plenty of extra items in-game that require skill to do alone. There are some jump puzzles, there are some hard places to reach, and there are some dangerous monsters. Roaming among the normal mobs there are veteran mobs that take a long time to beat down and hit hard, but are very much soloable with the right tactics. Other times mobs can sneak up from behind and overwhelm a player. And there’s this sense of urgency during tough fights to stay alive, and a sense of satisfaction when you don’t go down in a fight. If you don’t know how to handle yourself in tough fights, you’ll die a lot. Death isn’t a bad thing, but it is annoying to have to start from a checkpoint and run back in again. Guild Wars 2 doesn’t hand everything to you on a silver plate, it makes you work for your rewards.
While Guild Wars 2 is nowhere perfect, and I miss that “safe and happy” feel that FFXIV had in comparison, I must say for an MMORPG this game hits the spot. Now if only their race of smallfolk were cute and cuddly little people and not creepy looking little smartasses then I might have even higher praise to give this game. That being said I did have to stick to playing a human which is boring but a safe bet among all the other intimidating races in this game. While i commented in an earlier post that TERA was somewhere between WOW and FFXIV as far as enjoyability, I must say that Guild Wars 2 sits somewhere between TERA and FFXIV. It is damn near the closest I will get to enjoying an MMORPG until FFXIV 2.0 finally comes out. But FFXIV will be better.