Guild Wars Glorious Return
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Let it be known that I was a huge fan of the first Guild Wars. Getting it as a birthday present when I was 13 and running it off of a dial up modem because my family lived off the beaten path brings back memories. It's been a long time since the first Guild Wars, but after multiple delays and teasers we finally have our hands on the finished product, so was it worth the wait?
Yes, it was.
Guild Wars 2 picks up 250 years after the first Guild Wars. Dragons have raised from the dead to assault the races of Tyria and it's up to you to bring back together the members of Destiny's Edge to combat them. Normally you won't find a deep and engaging story in the MMO genre but Guild Wars 2 is looking to change that. With a deep story and the ability to customize the background of your characters in ways that will actually affect what happens in the world, I've got to say that it's a refreshing taste of storytelling.
There are five different races to choose from in Guild Wars 2. The Humans return from Guild Wars, but this time around they have been kicked out of their homeland of Ascalon and their civilization is in decline.
The Asura made an appearance in the Eye of the North expansion of Guild Wars, and these little guys are the ones responsible for fast travel throughout the world. Their technology has led to them becoming one of the main races of Guild Wars 2.
Next up are the Sylvari. Sylvari are plant people who just appeared around 20 years before the start of Guild Wars 2. They are easily one of the most customizable races appearance-wise in Guild Wars 2. Sylvari are not born either, instead they just awake from what they call 'The Dream.'
Now we move onto the Norn, a Nordic race that in physical appearance looks much like the humans. Nord appeared along the Asura in Eye of the North. They live in the Shiverpeak Mountains and have the unique ability to transform into animals.
Finally we come to my least favorite race, the Charr. Anyone who played the first Guild Wars will likely remember these bipedal cat creatures as the ones who launched an attack on the humans and turned Ascalon into a desolate wasteland. Not exactly sorry for what they've done, but not seeking to fight the humans anymore, the Charr live in Ascalon after having kicked the humans out (I HATE CHARR).
Now that we have the races taken care of let's talk about the different professions in Guild Wars 2. There are a total of eight available for play and each one brings its own spice to the game. The professions are Thief, Guardian, Warrior, Necromancer, Engineer, Elementalist, Ranger, and Mesmer. Some will notice that most of these classes are the same ones found in Guild Wars. Unlike Guild Wars though there isn't an option to have two professions. Upon first learning this I was disappointed, but then I remembered how overpowered the Warrior/Monk combinations was and I was okay with it.
Speaking of the Monk, I'm sure you've noticed that that class is missing from the roster of playable professions. This stems from ArenaNet's desire to not have a dedicated healer class in Guild Wars 2. The idea behind this is that everyone gets to be a part of the action rather than leaving people out who have to sit back and heal all game long. Instead, now every profession has their own heals.
Another change to the professions of Guild Wars is how weapons work. Each profession has a set number of weapons available to them, when equipped weapons will change the skills of the character. Weapon skills are binded to key numbers one through five. Skills one through three are used for the weapon being held in the main hand and four and five are for the weapon in the off hand. If using a two handed weapon it takes up all five numbers. This new weapon system makes for a lot of different combinations and really adds to the customization of a character.
Each class also has five other skills available to them located on numbers six through zero. Six is specifically reserved for a heal spell but the others are yours to do with what you will. With around 30 skills available to each profession, these four other slots start to have a tremendous affect on what type of character you will build. For example, my first character was a human necromancer. I decided I wanted to be a pet junky, so every time I unlocked a new skill slot (which is locked based off of level) I picked an undead minion to be my newest skill. This soon resulted in me running around with an army of undead creatures at my back.
Let's talk about the changes to the world in Guild Wars 2. Guild Wars, while being a great game, was always missing something. That was the open and expansive world that other MMO's at the time were sporting. Guild Wars 2 fixes this by no longer forcing you to party up with other players to run with them in the world.
To go along with this whole new world is a whole new way to quest. Long gone are the days of running between NPC's to take and complete quests. Instead, all but the main story quest are random events. A raging bull is tearing apart the land, go help tame it, or not. Maybe instead you see a caravan that needs protected on its way to the next town. Or there could be an attack on the local farm by bandits and the farmers need your help to fend them off. To take on any of these quests is as simple as walking into the area they are taking place. No tracking down Farmer Bob and asking his permission to help, instead we just jump into the action. I realize this form of questing isn't new to the MMO genre, but it's a welcome change that deserves to be mentioned.
As well as expanding the races and world of Guild Wars 2, ArenaNet also raised the level cap this time around. Guild Wars had a low level cap of 20, which made running multiple characters to the max easier to do and also left the game way too short. Guild Wars 2 bumps the cap up to level 80. The neat thing about all of this though is that your level won't hinder you from playing with your friends. You have a friend who just started playing and you guys want to run together, but you don't want to have to create a whole new character to run with him, and he doesn't want his experience ruined by power leveling. Well Guild Wars 2 has just the answer.
When running into a lower level area, your character is automatically leveled down to match that area. Not only does it help friends play together but it also keeps the game interesting for a longer period of time by not removing the challenge from lower level areas. Now don't be too worried about being nerfed. While it does lower your level, it won't lower your equipment or skills, so you can still smack around lower level enemies.
Guild Wars 2 doesn't just have good game play; the graphics are really something else as well. What is really best about these types of huge open worlds isn't the random event quests, it's the exploring to be done. Wandering around the world and noticing all the minute details is really what makes this game for me, whether its underwater cities or standing atop the mountains, the game looks great. And to top it off, the developers have put in vistas (a la Assassin's Creed), which can be collected by completing jumping puzzles. These vistas are found throughout each section of world, so that those who want to explore every inch of every place have even more fun doing it.
Adding even more atmosphere than the already beautiful world are the songs playing throughout it. Each area has its own music which really captures the feel of the region. Complimenting this is superior voice acting that isn't only found in story based NPC's but really in every character in the game.
Guild Wars 2 is a fun trip for sure. With its amazing amount of customization, inclusion of a deep story and beautiful world to explore, it easily makes it to the number one MMO on my list. What makes all this even better is the lack of a subscription fee. You don't have to pay each month to keep playing. You just buy the game and then go play it online forever. I believe that Guild Wars 2 is revolutionizing the MMO genre, and if others want to compete then they had better take notes.
Guild Wars 2 is perfect in every way and I'm not the least bit afraid to give it a full 5 GiN gems out of 5!
Billy loves nothing more than leveling and grinding through a good RPG. And he knows that Time Waster is not a negative term when it comes to games. : firstname.lastname@example.org.