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Guild Wars 2: An MMO for the casual player

A game that is different in flavor (Image by ArenaNet)
A game that is different in flavor (Image by ArenaNet)
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Arnab Chakrabarti

Guild Wars 2 is a name that gets overlooked in conversations regarding MMORPGs. However, it still stands tall and promises a future brighter than ever. Created in an age where most MMORPGs were made to “kill WoW,” Guild Wars 2 opted to walk a different path.

Instead of being direct competition, ArenaNet offered alternatives to the tried and tested methods. As the game enters a new decade, there’s no better time to look at a game that chooses to be different.

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From guild wars to dragons

Before talking about Guild Wars 2, the elephant in the room has to be addressed. World of Warcraft entered the lives of everyone in 2004 and refused to leave. For years, it claimed the throne of the largest MMORPG in the industry.

Thus, every other ambitious MMORPG released after 2004 has gone through the cycle of being called “the WoW killer”, subsequently failing to meet that expectation. This is where the story of Guild Wars 2 begins.

The game entered the development pipeline in 2007. It was done after ArenaNet decided that a six-month content schedule for Guild Wars was getting strenuous.

The developers sat down and thought of a game from the ground up. They envisioned an MMO with a focused approach to player interactivity and narrative-based gameplay.

Guild Wars was ahead of its time (Image by ArenaNet)
Guild Wars was ahead of its time (Image by ArenaNet)

To bridge the gap between Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2, ArenaNet released an expansion and a few short story missions for the original Guild Wars, titled Eye of the North.

Despite much of the story being left unexplained to this day, Eye of the North played a significant role. It wrapped up the loose ends before the developers headed off to a changed Tyria.

Throughout the development phase, Guild Wars 2 was planned to have multiple showcases and betas for players to see and play the game and get an understanding. The first trailer showcase of the title, alongside the official announcement, took place at Gamescom in 2009.

With work progressing smoothly, ArenaNet developers and executives were firm in their position for a post-2011 release. After conducting closed alpha and beta tests in 2011, the game was ready for worldwide release on August 28, 2012.

Users who pre-purchased were able to play from the 25th.

That map isn't even fully explorable (Image by ArenaNet)
That map isn't even fully explorable (Image by ArenaNet)

Your Tyria, your choice

ArenaNet’s dedication to keeping things simple and concise showed in every aspect of Guild Wars 2. The game respects veterans and hardcore players while still providing a smooth learning curve for newcomers.

Thank you #GuildWars2 community for joining us for today's livestream! Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons is available for prepurchase now--get bonus items and begin the journey to Cantha: buy.guildwars2.com https://t.co/UtoNlYlFwb

Exploration

Guild Wars 2 ditches the standard questing system for more dynamic world exploration. Quests are designed to help players understand the storyline, characters, and the world, as opposed to leading them on a personal vendetta or glory.

Users are encouraged to run around the map doing heart events, finding points of interest, and tackling hero point challenges. Additionally, farming resources and tackling fun and perilous jumping puzzles are also part of the experience.

The ace in ArenaNet’s worldbuilding equation is undoubtedly dynamic world events. Some are random, while others follow a chain of events. The pinnacle of these events is World Boss meta events.

These require almost everyone on the map to work together and conclude with a massive boss fight. It’s a spectacular sight when hundreds of players work together to bring down a crystalline dragon or build defenses against the forces of an Elder Dragon.

Exploration is better with your pet raptor (Image by ArenaNet)
Exploration is better with your pet raptor (Image by ArenaNet)

Class identity

While most games focus on player race, Guild Wars 2’s race system only affects the story. This is done to help avoid favoritism. Instead, Guild Wars 2 lets users choose one of the nine professions that define their class identity.

Deviating from the standard MMO classes such as DPS-Healer-Tank trinity etc., Guild Wars 2 diversifies all the roles into sub-categories that let players branch out according to what playstyle they feel at home.

Class identity gets refreshed and re-evaluated with each expansion.

ArenaNet releases new Elite specializations with each expansion that drastically revamp how they play and introduces a new weapon skill set, utility skills, and traits.

Revenant is the coolest, hands down (Image by ArenaNet)
Revenant is the coolest, hands down (Image by ArenaNet)

Combat

Combat is highly intuitive and responsive but straightforward at the same time. Players are offered a large assortment of traits, skills, and weapons to choose from. Depending on the armament they equip, usable skills change.

Enemy encounters are designed so that mindlessly mashing keys isn’t a solution. Learning enemy attack patterns and timing, dodging incoming offense, and perfectly timed counter-attacks is the way to fight in Guild Wars 2.

This reactive but straightforward combat style is present throughout the game, from the first mob fight to the daunting endgame bosses. The game teaches the basics and lets gamers learn the intricacies by themselves.

Please stack on Vale Guardian for heals (Image by ArenaNet)
Please stack on Vale Guardian for heals (Image by ArenaNet)

Quality of life

Guild Wars 2 is chock-full of quality of life changes that permeate the game world. Materials that players collect can be deposited from the inventory into the bank regardless of location.

Mounts and gliders make movement and exploration easy. Progression is linear and doesn’t branch out. Users can get better gear from multiple avenues, such as exploring the world, crafting, or tackling any of the matchmade content.

Since loot is instanced to gamers, no two individuals have to fight over the last hit on an enemy. Participation is enough to get rewards. This encourages them to help others in combat. Often, commanders will be present on a map if a critical boss or resource is present so everyone can be rewarded.

These are but a few among a host of quality-of-life features that eliminate tedium and retain the game’s simplicity.

Yes, there is a metal band in-game (Image by ArenaNet)
Yes, there is a metal band in-game (Image by ArenaNet)

A living world

ArenaNet has crafted a world where a player’s contribution matters. Irrespective of playtime, it does make a difference. A user can leave the game midway, come back a month later, and pick up from exactly where they left off.

This makes the world feel personal and respects the gamer for investing their time and effort. Progression isn’t nullified either. So when a new expansion releases or season content releases, individuals don’t have to be afraid of their gear becoming obsolete.

Every experience feels genuine, from the welcoming NPC in town to a random player dancing in a tavern. All these reflect in-game in the quest journal called ‘My Story’, which the character is writing down, not the player.

The main game, the seasonal content, and the expansions all follow the narrative of the Elder Dragons rising from their slumber and plunging Tyria into chaos. This overarching doomsday event is the catalyst to every smaller story beat of the title.

Elder Dragon vs Elder Dragon (Image by ArenaNet)
Elder Dragon vs Elder Dragon (Image by ArenaNet)

The characters players meet, the races they encounter, the enemies fought, and the places explored all are tied to this apocalyptic event. Guild Wars 2 offers a detailed, carefully crafted, concise narrative that deals with politics, racial injustice, magic, and heroics.

In between expansion launches, the developers release more minor content updates they call ‘Living World Episodes’. As part of the overarching storyline, these smaller updates focus on the ramifications of a player’s action in the world.

However, they are by no means less important than the main storyline. The Living World releases have thus far seen the rise and death of three Elder Dragons, critical players in the story.

Apart from storytelling, these seasonal updates introduce new maps or update older ones to reflect the actions and consequences. It truly represents a living world in its very essence quite unapologetically.

No puns intended. probably (Image by ArenaNet)
No puns intended. probably (Image by ArenaNet)

End of Dragons

Every fantasy has a conclusion, and Guild Wars 2 is no exception. However, ArenaNet has no plans on stopping even after the last Elder Dragon is dead.

Over nine long years, Guild Wars 2 has managed to capture a significant player base that takes delight in the simplicity of the activities offered. Guild Wars 2 has introduced new ways to explore the world as a premium feature of an expansion throughout its lifespan.

The developers plan to introduce fishing and sailing as their showcase feature in their upcoming expansion. These new features will not be confined to the expansion zones, instead implemented throughout Tyria, just like gliding and personalized mounts from the previous expansions.

In a vast title like Guild Wars 2, there are thousands of things to do, hundreds of things to collect, and just about every activity that an MMORPG fan can appreciate. It offers a good experience on the back of a gameplay loop that is easy to learn and perfect.

For a game that came out in 2012, Guild Wars 2 has managed to garner a loyal fan base that is growing daily. It is a game that feels familiar if played daily or two months later. Just like all the aspects that make it tick, Guild Wars 2 is the Jack of all trades, master of none, and proudly so.


Edited by Ravi Iyer
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