Guild Wars 2 Review for PC

On: PC
Guild Wars 2 screenshot
Guild Wars 2 screenshot

I didn't realise it at first but, like most MMOs, there’s a neat little feature in Guild Wars 2 that tells you exactly how long you’ve been playing for. So, after finding out, I innocently typed /age into the command box and what appeared was a rather shocking result.

There are already plenty of players rocking the current max level of 80. It took me two weeks to get there but a dedicated few did it within a day - though such a feat doesn't mean the same in Guild Wars 2 as it does in other MMOs. There’s no obvious need for grinding here, no endless and desperate assault of your clicking finger, and no laborious tasks to undertake. To put it simply, Guild Wars 2 offers a really smooth levelling experience - and one fun enough that you’ll hardly notice your gradual damage increases and the number next to your health bar tallying up.

In fact, the game is maybe a bit too generous with its XP. For me, the gap from 70 to 80 passed far quicker than 40 to 50. Your bar keeps looping infinitely after dinging max level, and I've watched it go round and round numerous times since.

But, after well over 100 hours, what exactly do I do now? Guild Wars 2 has been an entertaining ride so far, and I've enjoyed running across the world and exploring each map, trying to unlock each secret area, assist each imperilled NPC, and employ rudimentary platforming skills to climb up the game's myriad and gorgeous vistas. Having the compulsive need to fully explore each map so you can unlock new treasures along the way has also been surprisingly fun, but now it all feels like an anti-climax.

This is the all-important End Game, then; the elusive content served up to max level players, and the part of these games that often unravels fresh and hopeful MMOs - just look at The Old Republic. According to developer ArenaNet, all of Guild Wars 2 is End Game. Tyria is a huge world, and ArenaNet wants players to finish exploring it fully before chucking new content to the dedicated few. The argument, they say, is that Guild Wars 2's area-specific task checklists will mean you'll want to revisit all the areas you rushed through the first time in a mad romp for loot and stats. But does it work?

To compensate for your burgeoning strength, one of the game's notable design features is that your level is often brought down to the area’s specific range to compensate, which stops your level 80 avatar from decimating the place. It’s an interesting concept that helps people play together, but it also hinders some of the best bits of the genre - those satisfying moments where you go help a newbie friend, or show off by one-hitting a pathetic low level boss that, a long time ago, caused you untold amounts of grief.

Guild Wars 2 screenshot

Besides, you’re still stronger than you used to be. Your skills, gear and know-how make a huge difference when you step back onto old ground. It just doesn’t feel as fun.

Not that there isn’t anything to do in Tyria. Hidden ‘jumping’ puzzles are scattered everywhere, each requiring a steady hand and a good chunk of patience. Each of these challenges are designed to bestow some decent loot upon completion, but it’s a shame the rewards are not scaled to the player as going back and cracking these challenges in early areas results in a useless throwaway prize.

There are also the game's hardcore dungeons, which start to unlock from level 30. These require you to team up with others and don’t appear to scale down if you wish to tackle them alone. Or you could jump into the competitive side of things. Joining WvWvW (World vs. World vs. World) pits a trio of servers against each other, and there's also a sizeable chunk of good old fashioned PvP. Competitive modes instantly level your character to 80, meaning everyone can get stuck into adversarial play as soon as they finish installing the game.

WvWvW offers the most immersive experience of the two. You get to explore a new map and take over castles of varying size and state with other players from your server. These are massive, intense battles and each fight rarely sees one team holding down the fort for long. Each result feeds into a persistent, ongoing conflict, too, which feels more compelling than PvPs isolated flag capturing matches. PvP servers are also incredibly busy at the moment, so you might find yourself waiting a while if you want to get in.

'...this is a game pepped with neat touches, such as special transmutation stones that allow you to bind the stats of one item to the visuals of another.'

Incentives to keep playing PvP and WvWvW are item drops that allow players to create their own special armour and weapons in the adversarial modes. You can also exchange tokens plucked from your victims for swanky gear, though you'll need to scalp hundreds of players for these items and you definitely shouldn't go in expecting Call of Duty bodycounts. It's a significant time investment.

What Guild Wars 2 does best is its details, with its aesthetic a lovely combination of a Western sense of grander and practicality with the visual finesse of an Asian developed MMO. The five playable races, each with their own massive personal story arcs, are also beautifully designed. Tyria's races range from diminutive Asura and the plant-based Sylvari, through the bog-standard humans and the people-esque Norns, and finishing with the Charr, the cat-like warrior race that served as one of the primary antagonists in the original game.

The design might be nice, but more could be done with the variety of outfits on offer, seeing that most players are suffering from the same three robes - even 20 levels apart. For example, take the medium armour worn by the Ranger class. There are two main styles: a long torn pirate jacket or a trench coat. Both these outfits are regurgitated over and over again throughout levels 1 to 80.

In fact, the same jacket you wore at level ten might look identical when the same thing drops at level 80 but with better stats. The thing with MMOs is that you want to show off your level by the armour you wear. The more powerful you are the most spectacular your garb should become, but Guild Wars 2's all-inclusive approach means it seldom works out that way.

Light and Heavy armour see more variety, with varying levels of skirts, trousers and dresses from both. And you can customise the colour of your outfit at any time, unlocking new colours by dyes that drop from enemies from time to time.

Yet this is a game pepped with neat touches, such as special transmutation stones that allow you to bind the stats of one item to the visuals of another, though you can’t mix armours between light, medium and heavy types. Guild Wars 2 gives, but Guild Wars 2 also takes away.

Even crafting, currently an expensive hobby in a world that still often has a broken in-game marketplace and ruined economy weeks after launch, can become a frustration with core crafting items selling for well over their value and money difficult to make.

Guild Wars 2 screenshot

The other option when it comes to self-financing is running to the Gem store, Guild Wars 2’s in-game real money store. 800 gems will set you back just over £8 and players can exchange them direct for gold (though the conversion rate is not that great, surprisingly) and purchase temp stat bonuses, revival orbs (£2.50!?) or in-game minis that run alongside your character.

There's plenty to see and do, then, and I managed to whittle away 100 hours quite easily. But this isn't the transformative revival of the MMO genre that some were expecting, with many of the quests falling into the same pitfalls of repetition that often blights the genre. ArenaNet's efforts to encourage discovery and exploration are rewarded, and their efforts to streamline the genre help Guild Wars 2 raise the MMO bar ever so slightly.

Guild Wars 2 is beautiful game that runs very well on most mid-spec machines, but there’s currently very little reward for rushing to the top. The lack of monthly fees cements ArenaNet's wish for players to take their time and explore all of the content available, but the developer needs to rethink its approach to rewarding the game's most devout players if it still wants people to be actively participating in Tyria over the coming months. Rewarding players' hard work should be paramount.

Version Tested: PC

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12 Comments

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umie214's Avatar

umie214

sigh, the only reason im here is because you've brought down GW2's metacritic rating down by 1% with this troll of a review. with the big conclusion of "no real endgame", how can i take this website seriously? define "real endgame". ??? exactly. back to WoW for you.
Posted 06:43 on 18 September 2012
Kelliak's Avatar

Kelliak

I have to argue with this review on several issues...

1) She failed to mention that dungeons can be played through an exploration mode option--three for each dungeon besides the story-based version. There are eight total. The gear scales(and evolves) with your level as well so you can go back and redo them without being penalized.

The coordination and skill required to do these dungeons and do them effectively will test even the most hardened players. I have yet to play an MMO that taxes me this much, in fact I find the incompetence of others being the only thing holding me back in raids/dungeons more often than not in other titles within the genre.

2) Dungeon running is also the means by which you will get your latter, more interesting gear through PvE. That's actually a big draw of 'endgame' dungeon-crawling. So there is still a "carrot" there it's just not quite so primitive and tiered as past hits. Arenanet did not want the endgame to feel like this special sub-section for the hardcore, rather, they wanted it to blend more naturally with the rest of the game. The challenges are still there, the carrots are still there, they just aren't in the most traditional manner.

In fact, I'd dare say this game has as much of an 'endgame' as any other only the rewards/perks of it are more subtle and less progressive. However, again, the "progressive"(if you can really call it that) nature of other titles is simply a group of players hoarding all the better players on their server because it requires so many active bodies to accomplish their version of endgame content.

Is that really fair or enjoyable? NO, IT ISN'T! It's an exhausting and tired way of going about endgame content--it just is.

3) The economy seems fine to me. Has anyone bothered to look at WoW's economy lately? Yeah, it's very hit and miss believe it or not as it has always been--just like any in-game economic system in which there is little consequence therefore the traditional "bulls and bears" approach just falls all to hell.

This was probably the weakest and most juvenile argument against the game. I wouldn't have even considered it in my review honestly. For crying out loud I find crafting the most rewarding and fun when I GATHER MY OWN BLOODY MATERIALS!

You complain about a lack of content and then desire to rush through what content there is. This seems awfully vindictive of the WoW mentality that now saturates the market with clones all hyped up on speed for the knee-jerky, twitchy masses out there. Even as much rehashed, force-fed crap Blizzard throws out there they don't even come close to keeping up with what their hardcore audience wants.

Has anyone thought maybe that's the fault of the player and not necessarily so much the developer? We just had a reviewer mark against a game because she couldn't effectively buy materials off of the in-game market to fuel her obsessive need to rush what content is available to her. REALLY!?

4) Yeah, you can't be an elementalist and look like an armor-clad god--makes sense to me. After all it is nice to have some visual identity between classes, is it not? Not sure why this was even brought up to begin with as if it wasn't expected/standard for such a feature.

Reviewer giveth and the reviewer taketh, it would seem.

5) I do agree concerning gear recycling, it'd be nice for them to sprinkle more variety throughout the earlier levels of the game. I notice a lot of reusing of past skins as I moved along in my progression.

Negatives and positives considered this IS however a transforming title at the end of the day--it better be or the genre is going nowhere. It takes the next step towards creating much more dynamic and intriguing worlds. There is a lot of great ideas here just in their infancy and I firmly believe Arenanet should be applauded for taking such a bold step forward. I am eager to see what they do in the near future and how it'll progress.

Now, I'd like to see her review MoP when it hits and I'd like to see how she approaches it. I have this strange feeling she'll just going to gobble it up like its the freshest thing to drop on the market despite being old ideas(even from other genres) thrown in the WoW blender for the sake of sales.

Sorry to come across as coarse but I'm blunt when it comes to the truth. All I read out of this review honestly was that it didn't have WoW's and most other basic MMO titles' model for endgame content.
Posted 00:47 on 15 September 2012
Neon-Soldier32's Avatar

Neon-Soldier32@ CheekyLee

That was me - if you're referring to MastorOfPuppetz. S/he crops up occasionally with the intention of telling everyone else they're wrong and arguing everything that people say nor-matter what. And, for some reason writes a new post for each new point s/he's making, even if they're next to each other.

I didn't think there was any point leaving a comment that began with, 'What a joke review for a joke site.' as it's just a bit spammy and it saves people trying to argue with him / her / it.

My apologies if you think that was the wrong call.
Posted 23:19 on 14 September 2012
CheekyLee's Avatar

CheekyLee

o.0

We're deleting posts that disagree with the reviews, now?
Posted 21:51 on 14 September 2012
Endless's Avatar

Endless@ Neon-Soldier32

Thats one criticism I can relate to. Because of the automatic level scaling, if you're lvl 80 and you go back down to the starter zones, you dont one shot things like you expect. You'll still be massively powerful though because your traits alone would almost double some of your stats, plus your weapon bonuses and all the skills you have available should make it a breeze.
Posted 21:01 on 14 September 2012
Neon-Soldier32's Avatar

Neon-Soldier32

Good review, you should have review Max Payne 3, too.

Due to being so easy to level, do you feel powerful at the higher levels, or just as powerful as you did at rank 30?
Posted 17:57 on 14 September 2012
FantasyMeister's Avatar

FantasyMeister

Thought I'd just add someone has now made a list of 80 things to do at level 80 in Guild Wars 2.

I'd like to add the 81st, I call it 'Endgame: Fun Redefined'

Click for Image
Posted 17:50 on 14 September 2012
Endless's Avatar

Endless

I liked the review :) I agree with most of whats said and I do think it's points are justified. From a certain point of view. And thats where it falls down slightly for me. I shall elaborate withhelp from a bit of context:

The original Guild Wars was a PvP game. First and foremost it was an MMO where the PvE introduced you to the game, the mechanics and how to play your character though a nice story without the pressure of letting your peers down in competitive PvP. Then you joined a guild and competed to make your guild THE BEST in both PvE and PvP. It was a war of guilds.

Within the first year the GW world championships had a $100,000 prize pot for the Guild vs Guild PvP arenas. The guild I was in at the time, Xen of Onslaught [XoO], qualified for the final Ladder but were knocked out in our first match. To my knowledge no other MMO to date has ever had a competitive championship event, much less worldwide!!

The GW expansions have been some of the best I've ever seen. They added a persistant PvP matchup and more PvE content in troves. It wasn't about getting increasingly elaborate gear in order to obtain the next set of elaborate gear; That was already going on in parellel over in WoW; GW1 came out about 6-7 months after WoW and even then was drastically different to previous MMOs.

In as many ways as WoW dumbed down and simplified the genre so that joe blogs and mary malone could play it, Guild Wars plowed on and added additional layers of complexity and depth and imo was better for it. But as we know the joe blogs and mary malones are who buy the most software and it's them that we seek to appease, even in reviews that they never read.

So what we have now are people who have been conditioned in such a way that all they want are innumerable ways to obtain new and more impressive looking gear. Fair enough. Essentially they want to be recognised more by what they look like than for their actions. Sure there are actions associated with obtaining the gear, but largely we have an abundance of 'cool kids' I'm not gonna say that this is a sad reflection on society in general....but there i've already said it ;)

Guild Wars 2 then, it's different. Again. It's not designed for cool kids though they are certainly welcomed in many ways. There are many many improvements on every MMO I've played since GW and so far I have complaints related to number of skills and, as Lauren touched on, variety of gear.

There's a lack of available skills to mess around with and combine. But there's a lot more emphasis on working with others this time around, and this is echoed all through the entire game, from the GW2 equivalent of public quests to the combos and finishers combat system down to the 2-week long world persistent campaign that if it's anything at all like DaoC's frontiers is gonna be awesome!

There is a LOT of combat depth, even at my low level, but it's not always very obvious. it's taken me a long time to realise I could switch weapons mid combat to use other weapon-specific skills. On my Mesmer this is essential as it allows me to have more phantasms out on the field. The game doesn't really give you much training on combat and I think it's one of it's many many strengths that so many other games lack.

Gear. It does seem a little samey. Although I've seen a lot of different gear on a variety of different characters, I've yet to see a high level character that looks anything like a low level character. And the dungeon gear is mighty impressive looking! From what i can see there are at least 6 or 7 'epic' dungeons with associated gear to obtain, not counting the gear you can craft with rare components. Perhaps one could say the standard gear progression could be more...obvious.

Not once in this review has there been a mention of a guild. I havent joined a guild yet, but I was kinda hoping there might be some insight into some of the benefits along with guild progression mechanics. Guilds are important in MMOs more so in a title about wars between them than any other. The GvG PvP battles are not in the game yet, but given the history this mode of PvP has (see above) it's likely to be a big affair in GW2. not least of which I expect to be a Guild's ability to take responsibility for a fort or tower in WvWvW and apply upgrades and such through guild members actions.

Reviewing an MMO is always tricky I think, regardless of how long you spend playing them. They're so massive in scope that you'd have to play for months and months before you were in a position to convey all the layers good and bad. Though to be fair this is exactly what mmorpg.com do...

Overall i think the review was good, glaring omissions and pre-conceived expectations aside. A game thats sold 2 million copies in 2 weeks is most definitely a hallmark for success and there is SO much more to look forward to yet. I cant wait to get stuck into PvP!!!
Posted 17:32 on 14 September 2012
dannyvandahl's Avatar

dannyvandahl

Best review I've read in a long time. Nice one.
Posted 14:46 on 14 September 2012
atheistium's Avatar

atheistium@ FantasyMeister

Rather be the 30th and play the game to 80 than rush out a review at level 5 ;-)
Posted 10:25 on 14 September 2012
FantasyMeister's Avatar

FantasyMeister

Grats on being the 30th Guild Wars 2 review. It's also the first review that doesn't include the word 'event', which is surprising.
Posted 10:13 on 14 September 2012

Game Stats

Guild Wars 2
8
Out of 10
Guild Wars 2
  • Stunning game even on mid-spec PC
  • Levelling doesn’t feel grindy
  • Slow marketplace introduction has left economy unstable
  • No real end game
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 28/08/2012
Platform: PC
Developer: ArenaNet
Publisher: NCSOFT
Genre: Fantasy RPG
No. Players: 1 + Online
Rating: PEGI 12+
Site Rank: 342 8
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