I have a fever, and the only cure…is Guild Wars 2.
I cannot remember being this excited for a game purely from its quality. Yes I wanted Everquest II in a bad way — I claim temporary insanity — but that was due to my hopes for a continuation of the best bits of EQ. Oh well.
I was excited for SWTOR, but the IP had a lot to do with it. Which isn’t the case with GW2.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve played Guild Wars and I have a lot of respect for the game, but it didn’t hold me under its sway consistently. Yet for Guild Wars 2 I’m foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog being force-fed Alka-Seltzer.
To highlight why GW2 is so anticipated — as well as to try and prove to myself I’m not going crazy — here are my nine reasons to believe Guild Wars 2 will be a phenomenon.
Reason One: It’s a bit gorgeous.
Have you seen this game? Seriously, it is good looking. The art design is quite breathtaking and unlike any other MMO out there. Visceral, feral and grimy at times, but through a painted style that has a graceful and beautiful aesthetic consistency.
The Charr look great; powerful and vicious creatures, yet agile and somehow fun. Name a better looking and functional race that has a tail in any other game. Go on.
The Sylvari are beautiful. They’re elegant and majestic, with that touch of ethereal timelessness that sets them apart from all the other races. They are the perfect antidote to slapping a pair of pointy ears on a character and expecting a call-back to Tolkien to do the narrative design for you. Great character designs tell a big part of any race’s story, Guild Wars 2 does that almost effortlessly. The artists behind the scenes at ArenaNet are some of the best in the business, no doubt about it.
Reason Two: Combat
Watch the videos that we’ve highlighted here at GAMEBREAKER –particularly Mike B‘s. Note just how fast paced the fighting feels while never seeming to be a button mashing exercise. Weapon switching on the fly– and how that changes your abilities — is a stroke of brilliance. With that mechanic alone, the devs have opened up a depth of gameplay that will be easy to pick up, but difficult to master. Flexible, fun and undoubtedly challenging — particularly in the hands of skilled players — GW2 will keep you entertained just with its basic movement and fighting style.
Reason 3: Dynamic Content
I am sick to death of exclamation marks! Except that one.
The glowing neon sign — or gold, if you so prefer — over an NPC’s head turns it into a text vendor. It is a style that has dominated for too long. It murders immersion — which seems to be a dirty word at times — and converts a world into a series of intrusive symbols. Your map is just the background color-static between floating punctuation.
The best thing about the exclamatory quest signifier is it is easy to understand, find and repeat. It is a very smart function of a quest system that encourages repetition. However, we don’t read our world that way.
I want to read the look of panic as someone goes running away from a fire/battle/cave-in/mega-dragon and figure out that I’d better get frosty. We read the world around us through the responses of others, not by “STOP” signs that we carry around. I don’t want to read about danger; I want to be in danger.
Reason Four: Look out! It’s Godzilla!
You want to make a battle epic? Make it big.
Do you remember the first elite you fought in World of Warcraft? Was it Hogger, the average-sized Gnoll leader of the Riverpaw? You might have run across him at level 10-ish. Do you remember him because of the monstrous turmoil he caused as you and your friends joined the throng of would-be heroes dashing bravely into the jaws of almost certain defeat?
Or do you remember him because of ironic jokes told in /1 General — because he was a joke to start with?
Now imagine fighting a boss that you would see in a high-level raiding guild and all of the awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping power that it would hold just in its size and design.
Guild Wars 2 will put you in that fight by the time you hit level 1.
Reason 5: Bigger really is better.
Stormwind — even since the tacked on harbor — is the size of an average English village. SWTOR’s Dromund Kaas has imperious buildings looming overhead that look grand, but how much of the city’s surface can you actually walk on? BioWare does a great job of making a small place look massive, but in actuality the chance for exploration is tiny.
Go watch Mike’s tour of Divinity’s Reach. Seriously, it’s ok; I’ll wait.
See what I mean?
Reason 6: Wow Wow Wubbzy
WvW is one of the smartest implementations of a game system that I’ve ever seen. Servers against servers — against servers — to generate competition, rivalries, balance and a stronger internal community. It hits so many notes in one stroke it’s positively masterful. Then add everything that Ilum isn’t.
Reason 7: Social Gaming
No, I don’t mean Farmville – by the way, dear Facebook family of mine, I don’t want to tend your bloody crops. I mean pursuing a gaming activity in a way that both includes and is dependent on others — otherwise known as guilds.
The best experiences I’ve had in MMOs have never been from a pick-up-group, from soloing or from farming. Every great moment I have had in an MMO has come while in a guild. This is due to simple psychology; doing something that requires many feels more important than if it can be done alone.
We are not superheroes in real-life — well , except me but the cape is at the dry cleaners — so when we play a game, that initial achievement of doing something solo never lasts like being one amongst a known group. Being able to share that experience with others amplifies it.
It’s why you’ll laugh at a comedian in a crowd but not on your own.
Guild Wars 2 emphasizes the importance of guilds — appropriately enough from the title — and I think that is another profoundly smart design choice.
Reason Eight: Dungeons and Dragons (dragons optional)
What a dungeon should be: challenging, varied and a place that takes you away from the rest of the world. It should also be a shared experience that is improved by adventuring with people you like and trust.
What a dungeon should not be: easy, quick and a place that you appear in with people you don’t know, who you hope remain silent. In fact, this style of dungeon is considered most successful if everyone line dances on immaculate auto-pilot — with a minimum of personality.
You have lots of the outside game world to have quick, easy adventures to progress with. A dungeon should be special and should be an experience. I am sick to the back teeth of dungeons that are best if you don’t have to think or even try.
Reason Nine: As tight as a drum.
As the terrible song says, “Money’s too tight to mention.”
MMOs are a very cost-effective leisure activity. Your average $14.99 is very well spent, have no doubt. Add up the hours you have enjoyed in a subscription game across one month — scary isn’t it? Now add up how much it costs for one opportunity to throw your more-expensive-than-gold corn snack at a large screen with Adam Sandler plastered across it.
Guild Wars 2 will give you all of the things I have mentioned in this long article — by the way, great job hanging in there, we’re nearly done — and you’ll get them for the cost of the box.
Rumors persist that Titan will be Blizzard‘s first free-to-play behemoth. After Guild Wars 2, try launching any top MMO and say the subscription makes the game better. Keep that face straight and you’ll be on your way to poker tournament glory.
In summation, I’ve been rather biased and harsh in this article — blame the caffeine and potty training — and some of the games I’ve gently bashed with a telegraph pole are ones I still play and respect greatly. But after all I’ve elucidated, do you think I’m crazy to want GW2 with such fervor?
I’ve played MMOs for over a decade, I know what brings me back to them like a kitten for a laser-pointer. There’s a tremendous sense of trepidation that ArenaNet might have made a game that includes all the best of the many I’ve played — and then gone further.
Stick around with us at GAMEBREAKER; there are very interesting times ahead.
Also be sure to catch up with the latest Guild Wars 2 news by watching Guildcast!