Guild Wars 2 will revolutionize how people play MMOs.
I know, you’ve heard that before. And if you’re on the other side of the fandom fence, you’ve got a litany of disagreements to counter that claim:
- Renown hearts and dynamic events are just gussied-up “kill 10 rats” quests.
- Combat isn’t that interesting. Tab-targeting FTL.
- World versus world boils down to zerg versus zerg.
- Dynamic events just copy Warhammer Online/Rift.
- Personal storyline? Seen it, killed a Sith lord, moved on.
These, and others, aren’t invalid complaints. At its core, the gameplay of Guild Wars 2 is arguably not light years ahead of other MMOs. Some people, myself included, like it a lot, but others have developed a burning hatred of tab-targeting and hotbars in such a brief timespan that it makes the the electroweak epoch look like a billion years.
Guild Wars 2 takes many things that other MMOs have done well and adopted them. Nobody, not even ArenaNet, disputes this. Every MMO is going to look, in some ways, like other MMOs that came before it. Guild Wars 2 is no different. You’ll play it and, at various points, think “This is just like MMO X!”
And you’ll be right.
But Guild Wars 2 is better for the things it doesn’t do. For once, this is one case where focusing on the negative is actually a positive.
We’re already aware of most of these, but maybe it hasn’t really sunk in just how aware we are of them, especially when we’re playing other games. Here are the four things that make me want to play Guild Wars 2 more every day:
No trinity. I’ll admit to still being a little on the fence about this one, having not experienced it personally. After I run a dungeon, or play a character other than my very versatile Elementalist, I’ll have a better feel for it.
But the next time I sit around for half an hour LFG-ing for a healer or a tank, I’ll wish I was playing Guild Wars 2.
No segregation by servers. In December, I posted on my Facebook that I was going to be playing Star Wars: The Old Republic and asked what server people were on. I got about 20 different answers.
I still like SWTOR, but I’ll be letting my sub run out this month because the people I was playing with on my server have all pretty much moved on and I can’t play with any of my other friends.
The next time I try to coordinate what server everyone will be on in an MMO, I’ll wish I was playing Guild Wars 2.
No level cap blues. You’ve spent days, weeks, or month getting to the level cap, experiencing everything the game world has to offer.
Now, you’ll be doing something completely different and only have a very tiny portion of the world where you can actually do anything relevant to your character and achieve appropriate rewards for it.
And open-world exploration? Sure, if you just want to spend a few hours looking for a title or some other meaningless trifle. If you want to progress, you’ll get in dungeons and you’ll like it!
The next time I’m twiddling my thumbs in a city waiting for my queue to pop, I’ll wish I was playing Guild Wars 2.
No alt-leveling blues. The best time to level a character is almost always when a game is new, or maybe after a new expansion comes out and introduces a new race or class.
The next time I’m solo-leveling a new character while everyone else in my guild is playing their max-level characters, I’ll wish I was playing Guild Wars 2.
Guild Wars 2 might not revolutionize MMO gameplay, but it will almost certainly revolutionize how MMOs are played. That’s a fine difference. In recent weeks, when I’ve found myself in another MMO and experiencing one of the issues noted above, I’ve thought, “Gee, this wouldn’t be an issue if I was playing Guild Wars 2.”
It happens more than you might think. If you’ve played Guild Wars 2, it’s probably happened to you, too.
If enough people think the same way, it’ll force MMO developers to adapt their games to follow suit. If enough people like how Guild Wars 2 handles servers, the trinity, leveling, etc., then they’ll play Guild Wars 2 instead of other games. Developers will see that and follow suit – at least the smart ones will.
And I haven’t even talked about the payment structure, which all but the most cynical cash shop critic say beats pretty much every other game, hands down.
If any MMO I played – even the most run-of-the-mill, bad-quest-text, tab-targeting, stand-in-place combat, kill-10-rats, raiding-progression game on the planet – incorporated the above points, I’d be about 350% more likely to stick with it. You’d probably feel the same about your favorite MMO.
But hardly any do. They’re complacent, sticking with the “safe” protocols that have existed for a long time and, by and large, worked. Or maybe they just haven’t figured out how to implement something different. Or they haven’t tried.
What it comes down to is that the above points are indisputably better than the alternatives. You can debate the worthiness of individual mechanics or gameplay paradigms, but those four points are simply better than what most MMOs offer, hands down.
If Guild Wars 2 pulls MMOs into the next decade, it won’t be because of its combat engine or class design. Virtually anyone can create those and do a competent job of it.
It’ll be because ArenaNet realized the underlying problem with MMOs, and it’s not class balance, combat dynamics, or even graphic presentation. Those have progressed as the years have gone on, but too many MMOs are still stuck in a decade-plus-old rut when it comes to the fundamental nature of their games.
Guild Wars 2 is looking to break out of that rut. Even in beta, that’s easy enough to see.
I just wish I was playing it right now.