Review: Guild Wars 2
Beautifully realized world with fantastic art direction. Incredible soundtrack.
The story isn't that great. Cutscenes are so different, that they become jarring for the player.
Each year it seems that one or two MMO’s get labeled as the ultimate “WOW Killer”, in the MMO genre. You saw this with Star Wars: The Old Republic and even to a certain degree with The Secret World. Guild Wars 2 is the next massively multiplayer online title looking to finally rip the crown from World of Warcraft’s dead hands. Does Guild Wars 2 succeed, or fail under the crushing expectations of the genre? Check out our full review of Guild Wars 2 below.
Streamlined, expansive, and addictive are three of the easiest words to describe the technical triumph that is Guild Wars 2. For the most part the genre has been extremely off-putting due to the archaic game design and need to continually grind to reach either a certain level, or rather just a product of bad game design. Guild Wars 2 throws all of that out the window. Dynamic events which appear all over Tyria allow players to join up with a group (without being in a party) to gain experience, loot, and make friends. Often times, these battles can be extremely chaotic and there’s enough of them present in each area without it feeling repetitive. That’s not to say that these are completely devoid of any repetition as players will be doing the same types of missions. That being said, it’s an excellent move away from killing the same sheep one hundred times, and gives an excellent feeling of controlled chaos. This is not the only way to earn experience though.
As previously mentioned events are just one of the foundations that make Guild Wars 2 an excellent game. Players have a variety of ways to earn experience which completely removes the need to grind. Viewing vistas, challenges, and even crafting offer plenty of experience for people who might be strung out on the dynamic events. The vistas bring up one of my biggest issues with Guild Wars 2, and that is the platforming is downright awful. In several instances you’ll be tasked with navigating toward the top of several key vistas, and these are a requirement for achieving 100% completion. It’s extremely frustrating since more often than not you’ll be fighting against a system that really isn’t built for that. It’s a shame, because the locations look absolutely breathtaking, which brings me to my next point.
The art style and direction is downright phenomenal and we would be hard-pressed out of the gate to find one as compelling. Each area is very unique with the Charr looking like they live in a fantasy Death Star lookalike, and the enormous human city of Divinity’s Reach. Often times, people are quick to comment on the micro-scale of titles like Skyrim, however Guild Wars 2 absolutely annihilates it in terms of macro-scale. You feel like small player, waiting to carve out a journey outside the massive walls of Divinity’s Reach, if you decide to choose a human. One of the coolest things about Guild Wars 2 is that there are essentially three planes for players to engage in. For instance, players will have several opportunities to engage in underwater combat, climb the heights of Divinity’s Reach, or even explore underground caverns. There’s an astonishing amount of variety when exploring the environments and lots of visual set-pieces to engage to players.
Guild Wars 2 features five races and 8 playable professions. Each of these races and professions feel distinct, due in big part to the previously mentioned art style and direction. The Norn has retreated back to the frozen tundra of Hoelbrek after being defeated. The Asura are the smallest of the races, but claim to be the most intelligent, despite the fact they still have several political issues present in their society. Frankly I could go on for hours about the different races, but let’s try to keep it centered on a few key points. Each of the races has a unique set of abilities and skills that make them a blast to play and each of these races feel like they truly belong in the world of Tyria; which is not an easy feat. My main character is Norn Necromancer that can also shape-shift because of the Norn racial ability. Each race has similar types of skills that not only look cool visually, but make you want to try all the races out. ArenaNet deserves a lot of praise for this, as they could have easily taken the easy route, and just made the races different from a visual aspect, rather than being completely different fundamentally.
The combat while not exactly turned-based like WOW, or full action like TERA, somehow manages to fit somewhere in the middle as a hybrid. Each weapon available to the class you are playing has a unique set of skills associated with them, and you can also mix and match one-handed weapons if you’d like to combine two set of skills. Again, while not revolutionary in any way, this seems to keep the combat fresh throughout the experience, despite being able to unlock all of the weapon skills rather quickly. Class skills are a bit more difficult to unlock, but certainly never become frustrating.
The sound design overall is pretty inconsistent. The soundtrack like the art style is absolutely fantastic; however the voice acting is spotty on several occasions. Specifically the quality of the voice acting can dip at times, along with some inconsistent writing that seems a bit out of place. That being said, the musical score pulls the sound design out of mediocrity. Jeremy Soule, who you might recognize from The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and Total Annihilation, composed the soundtrack with a few repeats from the original Guild Wars. It’s easily one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard all year and is sure to excite gamers as they progress through the land of Tyria.
Let’s be clear, Guild Wars 2 is a fantastic MMO that is certainly worthy of your attention. The fantastic art style, solid mechanics, and lack of grinding not only streamlines the typical MMO formula, but improves upon it in ways we haven’t seen in the genre. The fact that it throws the typical subscription based model out the window and doesn’t require the player to invest hundreds of hours monthly just to justify that subscription really helps cement it as an easy purchase for gamers.