If you miss traditional questing, your character's personal story will scratch the itch. These take place in instances, and come complete with voice acted cut-scenes. They're reminiscent of more traditional MMO quests, and give your character - depending on which race you selected - a unique story to follow. There are even branching paths depending on decisions you make, but these are limited to you; anyone playing the quest with you won't be able to alter your path.
These quests are entertaining, and always yield fantastic loot, but you can ignore them altogether, as they'll always scale you back to the level they were intended for. You can leave them until deep into the end-game if you want. But they're a welcome break from the map quests, which can feel a little impersonal at times. Each storyline is dictated not only by your race, but by choices you make while creating your character. Humans, for example, can choose something they regret, like never knowing their real parents. This is then threaded into their story quests.
Each profession, or class, offers an interesting variety of gameplay. Guardians are one of the most entertaining, allowing you to charge into battle with heavy and armour and weapons while casting healing spells and dropping sigils that buff your allies. Rangers can tame animals to use as pets, which draw aggro while they pepper enemies with arrows from afar. Steampunk-inspired Engineers use flamethrowers and mobile rocket turrets. Mesmers can create copies of themselves to confuse foes. They're all riffs on fantasy RPG archetypes, but with their own distinct flavour. Our only complaint is that higher level skills are often just slight variations on early ones.
The norn starting area is probably the most fun. They're giant, burly vikings who drink ale, brawl with each other, and hunt animals twice their size. Their land is reminiscent of Skyrim, made up of jagged mountains, fjords, hot springs, and glaciers. They're all great, though; the game's lore is rich, and fantasy cliches are usually given some twist to keep things interesting. If your PC can run the game at high graphics settings, you're in for a treat. The art style is wonderful, and there's always some stunning new vista or piece of architecture to stare slack-jawed at. The capital cities in particular are a visual highlight, especially Rata Sum, home of the tiny asura.
In order to distance themselves from World of Warcraft, a few expected features have been left out. There are no mounts, but you can increase your movement speed with boons and gear. You can't fight other players in duels outside of the PVP 'World versus World' mode, nor can you 'inspect' them to see where they got that fancy hat or those fetching pantaloons. Honestly, we miss all of these things. It's good that ArenaNet are trying to carve their own niche in the genre, but we're so used to these things now that the omission feels glaring. Fans have been vocal, both in favour of and against these features, so perhaps we'll see them integrated in future updates. That's the beauty of MMOs; they're able to constantly evolve and mutate.
So the interface could be more customisable, and it's sometimes hard to see what the hell is going on in crowded PVP matches and world events, but for a launch MMO, Guild Wars 2 is incredibly polished and robust. Many hardcore MMO players are proclaiming it the saviour of the genre, but we'll have to wait for the launch excitement to cool down, and another fifty or so hours of play, to decide whether that's true or not. It's easy to get caught up in the buzz.
But what is true is that Guild Wars 2 is one of the best modern day MMOs. The developers have taken everything that sucks about online role-players - the repetition, the elitism, the lack of social interaction, the lone wolf questing - and combated it with smart, confident design. We really hope people keep playing, because the large volumes of players currently mucking in to defeat bosses and complete world events is inspiring to behold. Never played an MMO before? Start with this. There's no monthly subscription fee, and there are hundreds of thousands of like-minded people still learning the ropes to join forces with. But to get the most out of it, you'll have to be willing to interact with other players; it's nowhere near as satisfying on your own.
An entertaining MMO that combats the dreaded grind with smart design. The lack of a monthly subscription fee only sweetens the deal.
- Big, beautiful world to explore
- Collaborative quests
- World events bring players together
- Lack of interface customisation
- Some weak voice acting
- No mounts to look forward to unlocking