Gaming, Gaming and Technology

Review: Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2 is the latest offering from Arenanet and while it isn’t the holy grail of MMO game design it certainly makes large steps in the right direction.

From the moment you first enter the world of Tyria, it’s immediately apparent that the crew at Arenanet at have an excellent eye for detail.

In most MMOs you will have to wait until your character is at least mid-way to the level cap before you begin experiencing more impressive, larger scale content, but here you’ll see these cinematic encounters right from the tutorial.

The game world looks and feels fantastic, whether you’re taking in the landscape or laughing at a particularly funny exchange between non-player characters, the attention to detail is breathtaking.

The game doesn’t just impress aesthetically however, it makes bold changes and deviations from the MMO genre template.

Traditional questing has been replaced with dynamic events – encounters that players will discover naturally as they explore. It makes the world feel much more alive.

The combat system is fast paced and enjoyable, allowing for a high degree of customisation without overwhelming new players. This is especially noticeable in the two separate player vs player modes, both of which are immensely enjoyable.

Perhaps most important however is the game’s sense of community. Players are encouraged to work together rather than made to compete, as they are in many other MMOs. Loot will be awarded to anybody involved in a fight and not just the player who dealt the most damage.

Similarly, tasks are not exclusive – one player chopping down a tree will not prevent another player from doing so and you are rewarded for reviving others who have run into trouble.

Not to say that the game is without its problems; aspects of the personal story are tedious. On occasion the cinematic experience was spoilt by poor sound design, a shame given Jeremy Soule’s amazing soundtrack. For example in one key stage of the story, a scene is played out in utter silence as if audio files were missing entirely.

There are also currently issues with world vs world queues, which can be hours long at peak times. Once you do get in there’s also no guarantee that your PC will be able to handle the large numbers of characters, which can harshly impact the performance of some systems.

Indeed, while large scale encounters look awesome, they don’t always play as spectacularly. Rarely presenting a challenge, boss encounters often become tedious, with enormous pools of health requiring players to attack for long periods of time without changing their strategy.

This is especially unfortunate as these really are signature encounters for the game and should show it at its best, which they currently do not.

It is important to remember though that MMOs generally tend to take time to mature. In truth the issues are few in number and are hugely outweighed by the sheer quality of the game. Furthermore the problems that it does have will likely be addressed with time as existing content is refined and new content is added. Today Guild Wars 2 is a great game and tomorrow it could be even better.

21/09/2012

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