Guild Wars 2 has finally entered the MMO arena hot on the heels of SWTOR slowly crumbling from it's impressive launch just under a year ago. Many who enjoy jumping from one game to the next have already secured their preorders and have been playing since early access, and still others will casually wait for their friends to gain interest before picking up their copies. But what about the rest of us? Those who aren't keen to invest in another game without knowing if it has the longevity and depth required for a MMO to survive in the first place enjoying waiting out the first month or so before making a decision. For those of you out there waiting before you make a purchase (and understandably so) here are my first week impressions of Guild Wars 2.
Just like any other MMO GW2 offers a few races for players to choose from, race-oriented questing zones, and a general overarching storyline to tie in the "˜alliance' that holds each allied nation together. Here players get to pick from the standard Humans, the tall and viking-like Norn, the humanoid cat/bull Charr, the plant/elf Sylvari and the diminutive Asura. After choose a race players can customize their character in a variety of ways including facial features, height, build and clothing color. Those choosing the Sylvari will also get to choose a unique pattern that will glow when they're in dark places (because magical plant people can do that). Most of this stuff is standard for any MMO enthusiast, but tossed into this creation process are a few extra sequences.
Once the visual design of the character has been finished players will be forced to answer a few quick questions about how they choose to resolve scenarios and what they value. Depending on how you answer these questions will change how npc's will perceive a characters actions, the unique appearance of a single piece of gear, and offer three unique storylines that changes on the race you choose. The first few changes are something that are only really appreciated by those who appreciate minor aesthetics, but those who don't necessarily want to be bogged down by the same starter quests over and over again should find having very different character storylines to be very appealing.
Having variety in quests isn't limited to character selection but also extends toward world design as well. Each zone that players start in is able to handle questing from level 1-15, and capital cities for each faction are directly connected to each starting zone. Additionally each city contains a portal leading to the Lion's Arch, the city that connects all other capital cities via its teleporters. This means that should a player want to create a Norn, but want to quest in the low level Asura area with a friend they can simply move through the portals and get there with no fuss and without worrying about running through higher level zones or dedicating more than five minutes just to enjoy some time with a friend. Race specific class quests will still be limited to your race's controlled zones, but movement from one zone to another isn't remotely an issue provided you've discovered the waypoint for that location.
Each zone is broken down into level appropriate quest areas, as previously stated, and GW2 takes things one step further by detailing on the world map three types of locations: Waypoints, areas of interest and quest locations are all marked on the map as players explore, making it easy to see what areas recommend what level for questing. As players discover waypoints they can teleport to them for a small gold cost making travel around the world generally instant. The entire setup makes grabbing quests, grouping up and exploring a zone both fun and interesting. Throw in the fact that each zone contains secret locations and puzzles with bonus loot, and you've got a world map that's actually quite engaging to explore. Completing a zone map by discovering each area fully also provides players with bonus items as well, as if there wasn't enough incentive to go and explore everything fully.
Quests are completed in two forms, both delivered uniquely compared to the usual way that MMO's handle the leveling process. Instead of the old formula of grabbing a quest, running out to an area to complete it and then running back to turn it in GW2 provides players with the quest automatically as they enter the area where the quest needs to be completed. For example, entering a cave may prompt a quest to kill slimes, gather equipment and blow out candles. As players complete any (or all) of the objectives their progress on the quest is eventually moved to completion, and once a quest's objectives are completed the quest is automatically "˜handed in' for experience, gold, and whatever other rewards may accompany. This means players only need to focus on finding new areas to quest rather than having to waste time traveling back and forth between locations.
Additionally each questing area (and some zone locations that aren't near any quest objectives) provide players with a group quest objective, which gains completion for every player in the zone to take part. On top of that turning in these zone quests will net rewards based upon participation, possibly chaining into new zone quests depending on whether or not the previous objective was completed. Escorting an NPC to a location successfully for example may set off a boss fight that everyone can participate in, and since many of these quests count their completion towards completing the "˜solo' quests ensuring their completion is usually the easiest way to level in any zone.
So the zones are well designed, the questing is intuitive, exploring is fun and character creation is interesting. That's all well and good, but the real draw behind Guild Wars 2 is going to be the combat, both in PvE and PvP. Be sure to tune in next week when I take a look at the more deadly side of of the game, and try to address the differences between each class. If you have any questions you would like addressed while I continue the month-long look at the game be sure to write them in the comments below.