Yeah, I’m that guy when I play an MMO. I’m the one standing around not knowing what to do, asking questions everyone already knows the answers to, and generally lacking in any basic understanding of how PvP is supposed to work. You can kindly make fun of me all you want, but I understand my limitations as a gamer. The PvP aspects of Guild Wars 2 will probably end up being the greatest time sink for most players, as they’re well crafted and fun when you understand their every aspect. Watching two experienced players fire off spells, attacks, and well timed dodges certainly looks exciting from afar, but it warrants a bit too much dedication from the player for my taste. Maybe it’s just my aversion to one on one battles, but I found myself moving away from the PvP aspect of GW2. I instead took my engineer to the World versus World arena and came away with a feeling of utter uselessness.
To the uninitiated, World versus World resembles three giant waves crashing up against each other. The waves are, of course, made up of actual players, but the metaphor still holds true. I found myself a tiny part of a greater whole, and I simply moved where the rest of the wave would take me. I wasn’t really communicating with the rest of my party, and I damn sure wasn’t adding much given my general buffoonery, but I tried my best to be a good little solider, and found that the soldiering life wasn’t for me.
The first time our wave crashed against an enemy, my mouth hit the floor. I simply couldn’t comprehend the general insanity taking place on my computer monitor. Spells, gunshots, freakin’ cannon fire, trebuchets launching (did I mention there were trebuchets?), it was beyond my caveman mind. There was something enticing about holding a line, breaking down the door to a castle, or picking up a fallen comrade, but it felt so distant as an experience. Worse still was when I decided to wander off the beaten path to pull some sort of espionage mission (you can probably tell I played a lot of SOCOM back in the day). My impossible mission would come to an abrupt end if I ever found more than one enemy lurking along my path, however.
GW2 will have two sources of life, and one of them is the PvP/World versus World component. Finding yourself a small cog in the greater machine is what many gamers strive for, and GW2 has plenty to offer in this respect. The battle continues to rage even while you’re offline, so be sure to check the map and make sure what positions and strongholds have changed hands while you were sleeping. Thankfully, this part of GW2 isn’t cornered off as endgame content. You are automatically scaled to level 80 upon entering one of these zones, and this allows for even the biggest noob (“hi there!”) to get in on the action. You could pretty much skip the entire world of Tyria if you wanted because you also gain experience while playing in one of these epic battles.
Utterly humiliated by my performance in World versus World, I returned to questing and crafting around the countryside. That’s when I came to my grand realization about GW2 (which is probably going to sound a hell of a lot harsher than I intend): it’s an MMORPG. I’m completing quests, grinding for experience, and waiting for the next big level up so I can increase one of my talents and gain a new perk. But outside of the story missions, which never hold my attention, there really is no purpose to my advancement through Tyria.
The combat of GW2 kept me from this realization for a good long while until I basically opened up every major skill I was interested in around level 45. Sure, there’s more to be done and I was really looking forward to a specific perk that would make me a juggernaut with my flamethrower, but I’d experienced pretty much every facet of the engineer and still had a long way to go before I reached the level cap. GW2 certainly features the best MMO combat I’ve ever played, but I’m still waiting for cooldowns and spamming my abilities over and over. True, the dungeons and PvP components highlight the level of skill needed to properly handle every aspect, but this isn’t an action game. That’s not a bad thing, mind you, but slightly disappointing considering the emphasis placed on dynamic combat.
The dynamic events have also grown a bit stale. It’s still awesome to see a bunch of players running towards a problem or task, but the lack of purpose leaves me feeling hollow and empty. I’m not seeing a dramatic change at the local farm when I drive off the bandits, and I know things will go back to normal later if we somehow fail. ArenaNet seem to be on the case when it comes to my lack of enthusiasm for the dynamic events, as they’ve added some weekend festivities to keep things fresh and exciting (the other source of life previously mentioned). I had a hard time catching these actual developments, however, given the fact that the triggers weren’t exactly working when advertised and my busy weekend schedules precluded me from experiencing them to the fullest. Perhaps more sweeping changes (or even expansions) would give players a reason to come back.
After spending fifty hours with GW2, I have a lot of praise for ArenaNet’s work and the way it changes up some of the typical trappings of the MMO. And yet, I find myself thinking less and less about it each day. It’s not a declaration against the product, mind you, but simply a fact that this game still is very much an MMO, and your enjoyment will directly relate to how much you enjoy the genre. For many who were hoping for a clean break from MMO design philosophy, Guild Wars 2 will probably come across as a slight disappointment. It pushes the genre slightly forward, however, and could lead to even further development in the future.