Nukezilla Review: Guild Wars 2 (PC)
Guild Wars 2 has all the usual trappings of an MMO–you make a character, you can use certain weapons depending on your character’s profession, you can gather and craft things, and you mainly go around killing bad guys because some NPCs told you to. If you’re an MMO veteran, though, there are a lot of finer points you’ll notice within the first 30 minutes of gameplay.
First off, there aren’t really quests to speak of. I mean, there basically are, but they work a little differently from what you might be used to. Instead of going around to NPCs with exclamation points over their heads, then going and collecting 20 zhevra hooves (which never fucking drop ever) to give to said NPCs, you have hearts that denote a small area of a regional map in which you can do a number of different tasks to complete said heart. Those tasks may include collecting
zhevra dolyak meat (which drop every time, I’d like to point out), but they’ll also include things like filling water troughs for the dolyaks, finding and fighting poachers in the area, leading lost dolyaks to an enclosure, etc. Doing all of these things may be the fastest way to completing the heart, but in most cases you can choose to only fill water troughs or only find lost dolyaks and still be able to complete the heart.
More similar to the traditional “questline”, as it were, are GW2‘s “story missions”. When you create a character, along with race and profession you can also choose details about your character’s background. These details will influence your character’s story missions–at least in the beginning. All of the character stories eventually merge and become somewhat uninspired and formulaic towards the end, but it’s a neat concept that brings something fresh and new to the genre.
Skills work a bit differently from what you may be used to as well. Instead of your character leveling up and gaining a certain number of skills per level, the skills are tied more to the weapons. Each profession can use certain weaponry, and as you use those weapons, new skills will be unlocked. Some weapons can be used in tandem (main hand/off-hand) while others must be used alone (two-hand), but it’s very easy to have two different types of weapons or weapon sets (for instance, a longbow and a sword and shield) and switch between them in battle, giving a character up to ten weapon skills at a time.
There are also race- and profession-based skills (called “slot skills”) which are unlocked by spending points gained from certain areas of the map. For each regional map, there are hearts (which we discussed earlier); points of interest, which are basically XP in exchange for discovering new areas of the map; vistas, which are similar to points of interest except they’re typically more of a challenge to get to and give you a pretty cut scene of the landscape; and skill challenges, which usually involve clearing an area of harder-than-average mobs in exchange for special point currency used to unlock the aforementioned “slot skills”. Some skills, called “traits”, are unlocked by spending points that are gained per level, but they are all passive abilities rather than active skills.
There are also a few group events that can be kicked off in each region for bonus XP and loot, as well as a few dungeons scattered throughout the world for even more loot and XP. Every once in a while–and by that I mean about every month–there might be a world event for everyone across all servers to participate in. Sometimes this is a dungeon, sometimes it’s a new region to explore, sometimes it’s something else.
And if that isn’t enough, there are not one, but two different PvP systems; both have point-capturing and kill-the-opposing-team style gameplay, but one is on a small scale–a small team versus another small team–while the other is on a much larger scale–three entire servers pitted against each other based on ranking and which cycle every week so one server isn’t playing against the same two servers constantly. So if you like PvP, there’s a lot here for you.
Oh, and there are cheevos. When you kill a lot of different kinds of mobs in a day, or complete a whole region, or kill a lot of players in PvP, or finish everything on the entire world map, you get XP and loot and a reason to feel awesome.
So what could make this cake of a game even tastier? A boat-load of icing made with beautiful scenery, cool animations, and an extensive soundtrack filled with lots of epic music. (See what I did there? I took a cliché and reversed–right, okay, you got it.)
This review is day 29 of the December 2012 Nukestravaganza.