Were We Misled? A Critical Review of Guild Wars 2
Lets be honest, MMOs are a dime a dozen. Of course that is the figurative phrasing for 'they are everywhere', as they are usually quite over priced. This means Guild Wars 2 needed to sell itself with things that other MMOs do not have - and they tried. However, GW2's interviews and statements about game play could be considered a bit misleading. Every advertisement and video wanted to pound through the fact that GW2 was radically different from any other MMO that you have ever seen.
So, lets start off with my experience: 7+ years of playing MMOs of all kinds. Before writing this I played GW2 for at least 140 hours or more (made a mistake in my comments and underestimated without actually looking). Since then, I had a week off because I was hacked, and have had my account back since with continued playing.
I still have all the same views.
Lets look at some of these claims and see if they hold up to actual game play, along with other random problems and good points about the game.
The Good Things
There are a lot of problems with this game, however I first want to go over some of the good things.
Instanced personal story lines. This is amazing to be able to do things alone for a change. Rather than be herded around by a group of people, you can finally go at your own pace and be happy.
Experience for crafting. It takes a long time to craft in any game, but this game it takes a lot longer than most (not a good thing). You do get experience for leveling a craft, which makes it feel a bit better.
Beautiful scenery. It is nice to have a game that looks this great.
Amusing characters. I have to say I like a lot of these characters.
The Replayability Factor
"Guild Wars 2 has the most replayability of any MMORPG hands down, doesn't even come close."
GW2 Staff makes this claim based on a few elements of the game. Firstly, Dynamic Events. Secondly, Personal Storylines. Thirdly, Size of Game.
There are some good things to be said on most of these subjects, but it is hard to measure them up to the standards professed by game creators. Lets take a look at this.
Replay: Dynamic Events
Dynamic events in Guild Wars 2 are a nice flavor for questing. Pretty much what a dynamic event contains are chains of random events put together. For instance in one zone you get a robot taking a message to someone. Event (Quest) 1: Escort Robot to Destination. Then, when it reaches her you have to escort both of them to an enemy base, so the robot can shut down consoles. Event (Quest) 2: Escort pair to consoles and protect them while it shuts down. Then, Angry Boss comes out wondering what happened to the base and attacks. Event (Quest) 3: Fight boss. At any point in these you can fail and get a prize, but sometimes means that you cannot go onto the next one - however it usually works out easily.
Rewards: Gold, silver, and bronze medals go out once an event is completed or failed depending on what it judges your participation was in the event. However, this can be less than the effort you actually did put into it at times. As an example, I spent 10 minutes with a group fighting a boss. When it went down, I got a bronze medal because my damage was low - I was healing a lot.
Replay: Personal Storyline
Lets be honest here. Almost all games that have a "personal story" that doesn't turn out like anyone else's ending is usually a fantasy. Mass Effect made that claim and it has been the most hot topic issue going around gaming for quite a while.
However - Guild Wars 2 personal story line is transparently linear even though you have the illusion of choice. The end of the story will be the same no matter what, the journey will barely change for you if you play the same race again.
Through the story you have options to pick a path. However, after you pick this path you get redirected back to the same story everyone else will have, you just had a different enemy for 5 minutes. Can you call adding a drop of food coloring to a sugar cookie a completely different cookie? I think not - this would be misleading, as I think the claim of "personal storylines" in video games are.
Some elements of the game also seem to suffer from it. Voice overs and preset text are always "your chosen order" "the choice you made" "whatever rank you are now" etc. It feels like ugly black stitching on a completely white shirt.
Replay: The Size of the Game
GW2 is a large game, which is a good thing. You can wander for hours. In fact, that is kind of a problem. It can literally take hours to walk from one side of the world to the other - and that is what you have to do. There are no mounts, but there are speed buffs that last a few seconds for most characters. This means that some people have to walk at regular speed for quite a ways. The travel system is waypoints, which you can teleport to for a fee. This fee can become rather expensive over time, especially if you want to go to a lot of places.
Though there are a lot of arguments against mounts such it can lead to bypassing content and a few other complaints, I believe the time and money saved would be much preferable than a fee every time I wanted to go somewhere or resurrect. You transfer to a waypoint on death so adding this to armor repair fees costs double if you die a lot.
Concerning replayability - sure, you might get to see some things you didn't notice the first time through, but the thought of going to get all the waypoints again is not only daunting, I can't seem to care enough to.
It is impossible to even find where to start on this subject so I will make a short list of problems I have had.
1. Getting Stuck. Bad building has lead to me getting stuck in items easily. I have had to restart personal story instances 4-5 times because I was pushed into an object, or fell wrong, or ran into the door wrong. Not only was this annoying, it cost up to 30 minutes of my gameplay each time.
2. Graphical Glitches. Whenever I jump onto something with my asura, my camera goes into my back and makes the camera blacken for a second. Considering there are jumping quests and platforming, this is unacceptable as it is disorienting and at times nauseating. Textures can clip easily, randomly fade, you can see through sides of objects, and at times you can see messy texture work. This isn't common, but if you play a lot you will see it too much.
3. Trading Post. This is unacceptable too. The Trading Post, or Auction House, or method of character trade has been down for most people for a week now, meaning a huge amount of people haven't been able to sell or trade with other players, essentially killing the profits from a start-up economy. Furthermore, a lot of crafting requires the trading post because of the rarity of materials.
4. Dynamic Events. Some of them don't start. Some of them don't end. Some of them get halfway though and hold for a day or two. I've been watching the same group "gather themselves" and ask for you to wait with them in the middle of a plain for two days now.
Questing, the same but "different".
GW2 states that they do not have questing. Questing is the same in any MMO if we get down to the basics and cut through any interface changes. In WoW you have set points you go to, pick up quests, and have set goals. However in GW2 you have hearts around areas which signify the quest giver, and things they would like done. Sure you don't get quests exactly but you are killing x amount of things, collecting x amount of items, and pushing x amount of buttons to get experience and a completed heart. So, we are doing the same thing over and over again, but it just looks different and it is harder to track.
Trading is done by mail. You have to mail someone an object and await payment. How is this a good way to trade with thousands (millions?) playing this game? There is no accountability for actions, and no ability to trust people like that. Every game has that trading window.
The class I was playing was continually one shot against creatures of the same level. This was not only expensive, but made me want to toss my computer out the window. There is only so much dodging a character can do, and I most certainly understand the class, so I fear for other people playing it.
Above stated glitches are just unacceptable and make me not want to play at times.
Chaos, Chaos, Chaos.
Chaos: There are no tanks and healers. This means people are running all over trying not to die.
Chaos: Inconsistent questing via dynamic events can make a zone feel empty. An event doesn't start? An event is glitched? Tough luck, empty zone for you.
Chaos: Dynamic events - you can be overrun by other characters and not get any credit even if you try hard at the event.
Though there are many misleading statements in the videos that are put out, such as "action of a shooter game" or "there is no auto-attacking" are completely false. There may be a little merit to replayability, but all MMOs have about the same replayability based on starter zones and races. Lets be honest here, GW2 tries too hard to be "unlike any other MMO" and it only hurts them in the way of no conventional trading, and non conventional - chaotic - parties in instances.
Guild Wars 2 does have the good points of being beautiful, having a great storyline, and having some pretty epic and surprising moments in it. I do like the game, but I think I would feel a lot better if it had not tried to sell itself as being completely different from any other MMO - because lets face it, at the end of the day you are doing exactly the same as any other MMO. It just looks different.