I avoided buying Guild Wars 2 on launch day as I did with Diablo RMT 3. Firstly because I am sick of theme parks, secondly because the first weeks of any MMO launch are a disaster and thirdly I was having too much fun in Mount and Blade - Warband Enhanced(mod), again! So here we go, another theme park, now with a few improvements here and there, and a very nice art direction, but is it any good?
After one month from launch, the servers still have problems and so does their website’s new user interface. I had big troubles registering the key with a new account, due to a 502 error and also because nobody told me not to put 2 capitals in my nickname. After that and 2 failed logins, it worked. At first I wanted to do a review, but since everyone plus his mom already did a review I chose The Good, The Bad and The Ugly format. So here we go.
Art direction is one of the best I've seen so far, even with the too much color fantasy theme, it’s superb. You see it everywhere starting from interface to environments and monsters. Talking about the interface, I believe it's one the slickest and finest interface done for a MMO so far, simple and easy to navigate, combined with a superb map that tells you everything you need to know, maybe way too much.
The world building is incredible on some parts where points of interest are so unique and well made. Cities are really huge and full of life and to explore this they made a small feature where you hunt for vistas on the map to see a cinematic of these locations.
The combat has been a little upgraded from your average MMO, since it involves some dodging and also your weapons have an arc in which they do damage, so often you will hit every monster in front of you with your melee weapon which is great, it makes sense. On top of that, the skills you use are based on the weapon you hold and each comes with their specific skills stuns, charges and so on, which is very nice since you will find yourself trying every type of weapon you find to see what cool skills you can perform with it. There is also water combat, which is done quite well in terms of graphics and gameplay and utilizes some weapons that can only be used in water like spears, harpoons each with their skills sets.
Traditional quests are replaced by Tasks, which are direct copy of the Public Quests from Warhammer Online, but somewhat improved in some cases. There are still some quests on personal story section or by meeting special NPCs in your adventures. It works well up to a point. Beside Tasks which are the main PvE part of the game, there are random, *cough*, dynamic random events here and there, and some challenges to get skills or small rewards.
For the PvP they created a special lobby map where you learn how to PvP in this game, buy new armors and gather with your buddies before joining the matches. It works well and it’s very good for new players, unfortunately it's still a pop-a-mole PvP so I have no interest in it.
For "accessibility" purposes there are some interesting features to make the player’s life even easier. There is an option to store all the crafting materials in a private space so you can clear the inventory, plus the fact that you can use this anytime you want. There is a neat feature where you can put on auction house sale anything from anywhere in your inventory, and only visit a auction house NPC when you want to collect your profits or things that didn't sell.
At first I added crafting to the Bad section but after playing more with it, it's not that bad. There are no recipes, you have discover them by using discovery tab and combine several items to get a recipe. For example for armor you have to use 2 crafting components and one insignia, for runes, ingots + 1 or 2 rare materials and so on. As you level up more crafting components and insignia, and runes are available to craft, so at that point you can discover new recipes and so on.
Since over 70% of the PvE are Tasks, *cough*, Public Quests, the problem with them is the rewards. There aren't any. You get Karma with which you can only buy horrible rewards until level 35+ when you can start buying armors and weapons from Karma Vendors in the capital. This and the no PvP stats on items made me quit the game faster than light speed, after having some good fun with it. I don’t care what I will do at level 30 or 60. Now I am 20 and I want rewards for that specific event based on participation or not. That will make me remind me of that event and make me do more.
Talking about so called Dynamic and Evolving world (they add this in every press release). There is not much dynamism here. There are so called dynamic events but they have no complexity. From time to time based on how many players are around, or timeframe, a NPC faction will spawn and attack point B: a tower, or a city or w/e, and generate a dynamic event. In the end it’s all scripted. That faction doesn’t have a base, they spawn from nowhere, and even if they have a base, they still spawn from nowhere. It's all fake. But for a theme park I guess it’s “an epic invashuuuuun”.
The animations and the fluidity of the characters are not that good. They have fewer frames than expected and the fluidity between actions is almost none in some cases. Due to this it feels like an Asian free MMO. The combat becomes very fast and a little chaotic on melee. It's not bad, but far from optimal in some cases.
The biowarian ding dong bang influenced this game too. On personal stories, which are a collection of instanced quests based on what you choose when you create the character (not bad!), on every important character there is a some kind of cutscene where you see two people looking at each other and talking while most of the time you don't even choose the dialogs. I hate this cinematic feeling of exiting the character and showing it on screen for only presentation purposes. I expect there will be some romance with cows, I mean Charr on the high end personal quests. Lots of money wasted on voice acting and rendering boobs and skirts up-close.
The armor and weapons models are pretty bad. I saw some interesting ones for high levels, but very few, they look too generic and accompanied by the custom dye of the each player, it's a mess. There is the dye system where you can custom every color, any time for free which is good, but the problem is that 90% of the color are not metallic colors without shaders and it makes the armor look horrible like they are all from plastic or cloth. Very disappointing!
The single/team PvP on the instanced maps is exactly like you would expect, you join a lobby select a game and play a PvP game where you capture and hold for points or some other types of generic overused modes and gain glory points. The problem is that all the PvP items have no stats value they are all aesthetic. A rank 10 or rank 20 player will have the same stats as a new PvP player, oh... the casual market. I find absolutely no point to play it unless you want to have some quick fun with the guild or personal friends.
World vs World? That’s not PvP, sorry. It's still better than what WoW did, but fails compared to sandbox MMO games or even some theme parks like Lineage II or Aion due to no meaning. There is no persistent rewards there. I am not talking about global bonuses or that you hold a nicely design stronghold for a few minutes (15 for points), hours, where is just a zerg vs zerg, or zerg vs a coordinated team that can only get one element of fun: the fact that they beat a superior force and that they received some badges or w/e to buy some new equipment. Of course, after a few hours they will fight in the same spot for the same thing. And at the end of week the one with the most points gets orbs which get special global bonuses to their server. What? A never ending story without any purpose, just like in Warhammer Online! There is no real persistence like in these small examples: I conquered this castle and now it is mine for a week. Because I have this, I have access to incredible unique crafting recipes for my guild and equipment. It also acts like a base, it also controls a NPC town near and it produces money for the guild, etc, etc.
For a game with no subscription at this stage it has significant improvements over today's subscription based theme parks, but only in some areas. The problem is that they also have a micro transaction with which you can buy aesthetic stuff, or upgrade your bank slots and so on. Of course you can do this by converting gold to gems too, but the greed hit a new high here. Is it free MMO? Or is a buy MMO, but also with micro transaction? Oh C’mon! NC Soft...
The holding hand, I mean "accessibility" or how the pop-a-mole designers and execute producers refer to it these days, reaches the highest level in Guild Wars 2. Since they copied a lot from Warhammer Online I’ll take a good example from that. In Warhammer Online for the quest objectives, on the map you didn't had the exact location of the quests target, it only had the area highlighted, so somewhere around there you would know that there is your target, mission, whatever. Here in some cases they even displaying steps for you when you are like 20 meters away from the target, so you the dumb player won't take a wrong right or left. It's hilarious. There is almost no exploration since by using the map, which is very well designed, there is everything you need to know, what to do, where to go.
Waypoints! Oh boy! Since they didn't want to create mounts for some strange reason, every little region of the map has one or two waypoint which you can teleport anytime for a small fee. It not bad, I actually liked it at first until I saw that there are waypoints everywhere and you can go there in an instant after you discover them. I would prefer mounts to be honest. Right now it’s like a ping pong. Why walk and explore the world and meet players when you can teleport directly to your point of interest and be back in a jiffy. Why make a MMO then?
Guild Wars 2 is an improvement over today's theme parks, but only too little and only in some parts of the recipe. It does well what it tries for its target, but it doesn't go far enough for me to call it innovative or daring. It's still a good game for theme park players, polished and with a few interesting things here and there, and probably in some ways it is the best theme park available at the moment. Yeah, this is the best the gazillion MMO developers can deliver these days. Should you buy it? Well for 50 $ / € it can generate enough fun and without subscription, ignoring the micro-transactions it delivers. But it’s definitely not what they faked in their PR talks, like the next gen, dynamic events! (Ha Ha!), otherwise if you an experienced MMO gamer and care about your money, I think you should wait for something better. I kind of regret buying it, now that I’m done with it!