I've decided to write in detail my reasons for being excited about Guild Wars 2, because I think it looks absolutely amazing and I want to express my thoughts on it. Maybe this will help to stir up even more enthusiasm for what I hope will be an incredibly successful game.
I played the original Guild Wars since its release in 2005, consistently for maybe a year, and then on-and-off since then. I'm currently trying SWTOR, and recently stopped playing World of Warcraft after spending a lot of time in it. I've also played Warhammer Online, Age of Conan, Rift and Allods Online, so I'd say I have a decent amount of experience with MMOs.
So, here goes...
Since World of Wacraft was released, many MMOs have come along and struggled (a.k.a failed) to live up to its standards. For example, Warhammer Online seemed incredibly promising but turned out to be (in my view) unpolished, clunky, and generally lacking in many areas. This has led to players becoming increasingly sceptical about new MMOs coming out, and rightly so. Guild Wars 2 has been generating a lot of interest in spite of this, perhaps due to the large amounts of impressive gameplay footage and information that has been released.
There are a lot of things that really make Guild Wars 2 stand out to me, and here I will explain each of them roughly in order of importance:
- Dynamic Events
- Engaging & Highly Polished Combat
- Scaling Content & Sidekicking
- WvWvW and Hot-Joinable PvP
- No Tank/Healer/DPS Distinction
- Highly Customisable Character Appearance
- No Levelling Curve
- De-facto Partying
- Two-way Action House
- No Monthly Fee
This is perhaps the most obvious way in which Guild Wars 2 is different from every MMO that has preceded it and—as ArenaNet have made very clear—is one of the major selling points of the game.
Quests have always been a staple of the genre and have overwhelmingly adhered to the following pattern: You speak to an NPC who tells you to 'kill X amount of Y' or 'collect X amount of Z', you go and do it, then you return to the NPC for a reward. Guild Wars 2 does away with this system entirely and replaces it with dynamic events.
Dynamic events are pretty much what they sound like; events which happen all over the world at different times, and which branch out into new events when certain conditions are (or are not) met. Anybody can participate in an event, and will be rewarded in proportion to their level of contribution.
A similar system was implemented by Warhammer Online in the form of public quests, however they felt more like an optional feature that could be done alongside normal quests which remained the primary way to level. They were also generally quite short, and isolated (that is, they didn't have any lasting effects once completed and they simply reset). Conversely, dynamic events in Guild Wars 2 branch out and trigger other events to create a dynamic event chain, and are much longer in terms of both the events themselves, and the effects of completing (or failing to complete) the events.
Perhaps the most problematic issue with public quests in WAR however, was that people outlevelled them and left them empty, which initially prevented lower level players from being able to participate in them at all (as there was a prohibitive minimum number of players required), and later left them feeling private rather than public once they reduced (or in many cases removed) the minimum player requirement. Guild Wars 2 solves this problem with scaling content (discussed later).
All in all, I'm extremely glad to see quests replaced by something more dynamic and free-flowing. Questing gets extremely boring and repetitve, and rarely (if ever) encourages group play due to many of the quests involving collecting items - making it take twice as long with two players, three times as long with three players, and so on.
Engaging & Highly Polished Combat
This is a deal-breaker for me (the lack of which was the primary reason for my disappointment with Warhammer Online). As well as the actual combat mechanics, the responsiveness and technical sophistication of the combat, and the quality and fluidity of the animations, are very important to me.
From what we've seen, combat will incorporate player-controlled dodging and blocking, will make extensive use of positioning and movement, and will not feature an auto-attack. These factors will make combat much more engaging and tactical than in any previous MMOs, but without requiring the precise twitch reactions of FPS games (which many would argue don't belong in this type of game anyway).
Another important consideration is the addition of skills which can be used in conjunction with those used by other players; for example the elementalist can lay down a wall of fire which can be shot through by ranged classes to add fire damage to the projectiles. Although it probably won't be a decisive factor in combat, it's certainly a welcome addition which will make combat more cooperative, varied and ultimately, fun.
Various other mechanics, such as in-combat weapon switching, being able to use most abilities while moving, and the sheer amount of variety that exists when taking into account how your skill bar is populated based on the weapons your using, are sure to make the combat a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Unfortunately I haven't played a demo of the game myself, but feedback from people who have suggests that the combat looks and feels amazing, with smooth animation transitions and a perfect amount of delay between using skills. We'll only know for sure when it's released, but based on what we've seen so far, the combat system appears to be excellent.
Scaling Content & Sidekicking
A major gripe that I've had with other MMOs is that so much time and effort goes into developing zones, dungeons and the encounters that populate them, only for them become obsolete and unused when you either (A) out-level the content—at which point there's little to no reason to return to lower level areas since there's no challenge or reward for doing so—or (B) when new content is released—for example in WoW, you might not have completed a particular raid tier, but as soon as the next tier is released, you're ushered to forget about the bosses you didn't manage to beat and skip to the new tier by being given the previous tier's gear/rewards in some other (usually far easier) way.
In Guild Wars 2, firstly the content scales in accordance with the number of players participating, and secondly players are sidekicked down to a suitable level if they enter zones for which they are too high level. There's also the option to be side-kicked up by a higher level friend so you can play with them at their level.
As well as ensuring that content never becomes obsolete as a result of the game's design (although you can still obviously play part of the game thoroughly enough to become bored of it), it means that friends and guildmates can always play together, anywhere, without having to level up a new character. This continues to be a major issue in other MMOs, for example in WoW I had to have 3 alt characters at one point just so I could play with my friends who were all at different levels. Of course, some people enjoy making alts, it's just great to not be forced into doing so.
Allowing people to play together so easily and flexibly is a really fantastic step forward for an MMO, and in general will facilitate and encourage playing as a group - which is really what MMOs are supposed to be about.
WvWvW & Hot-Joinable PvP
As someone who generally prefers PvP over PvE thanks to its offer of greater challenge and replayability, I'm very interested in the PvP systems in GW2.
WvWvW PvP sounds very promising. It is essentially Guild Wars 2's solution to the problems posed by the 2-faction model used by most other MMOs, which can easily (and often does) result in significant imbalance due to a lack of control over how many people join each faction on a given server.
In Guild Wars 2, three whole servers will be matched up against each other according to their rating and population. The three servers will fight in a huge warzone called "The Mists", where dozens or even hundreds of players will fight for control of resources or strategic locations. It sounds like a lot of fun, my only worry being that it will be laggy when too many players are in one small area. This was another problem Warhammer Online had; keep sieges often had the framerate of a powerpoint presentation.
Basically it's what Wintergrasp and Tol Barad should have been in WoW. Whereas in WoW the battles are over in a few minutes, and the rewards gained from controlling the zones are limited and insignificant to most players, the battles in GW2 will last two weeks before different combinations of realms are pitted against each other, and offer rewards comparable to those offered by PvE content. Beyond all that, it just sounds like a LOT of fun, what with the mention of battling over fortresses and supply lines etc.
The second type of PvP found in Guild Wars 2 involves the more familiar, smaller scale battles, akin to battlegrounds in World of Wacraft. This type of PvP exists in both a hot-joinable form, where you can join games in progress as if you were joining a TF2 or CounterStrike server, and also a competitive form, where pre-made teams battle each other to increase their ranking or progress in tournaments.
Overall, it sounds like PvP in Guild Wars 2 will be a lot of fun, and perhaps only lacks true world PvP where you can just attack players that are wandering around or participating in dynamic events. Many perceive this a good thing though, as it prevents ganking whilst the feel (and true purpose) of open world PvP can still be found in WvWvW.
No Tank/Healer/DPS Distinction
There's already a very good video detailing why the absence of the so-called 'holy trinity' is a good thing (which unfortunately I can't link to at the moment due to my low post-count).
In short it will get rid of the dependence on having particular classes in a group, and also allow much more creativity and versatility in terms of both group composition and gameplay. It also gives you much more freedom with regards to choosing your class, as you can fulfil any of the roles (damage, control or support) with any of the classes.
Highly Customisable Character Appearance
Although not fundamentally affecting how the game plays, something which irritated me in other MMOs was the inability to really control the appearance of your character and equipment, where you are forced to wear particular pieces of armour or use particular weapons due to statistical superiority, regardless of (usually in spite of) what the items look like.
Guild Wars 2 allows you to apply the appearance of any weapon or piece of armour that you possess, to any other of the same type. This allows you to have the best of both worlds. World of Wacraft recently implemented this feature after years of people asking for it, likely in anticipation of competition from Guild Wars 2.
In addition to the above is the dye system—which has even greater depth than the original Guild Wars dye system—allowing you to choose from an enormous range of colours and apply them to different areas of each piece of gear you have.
The huge amount of customisation options means that each character will be able to look unique and reflect the aesthetic tastes of the player. As someone who finds great value in being able to set yourself apart from the crowd (and as someone who is obsessed with the colour purple), Guild Wars 2 looks like it'll cater to me perfectly.
No Levelling Curve
There's no reason why higher levels should take longer to gain than lower levels; it makes progression seem to grind to a halt which sucks a lot of the fun out of an MMO, which at its core is a genre about progressing your character. In Guild Wars 2, every level from 1 to 80 should take roughly the same amount of time to gain.
It's unclear exactly how important levelling is to the game—in the original levels were nigh-on meaningless as you reached maximum level very quickly—but it's quite obvious that levelling is less important in Guild Wars 2 relative to most other MMOs. The game will likely place more of an emphasis on developing your character in other ways—through finding new weapons and skills, unlocking traits, obtaining rare armour sets, and completing achievements.
In Guild Wars 2, everyone is effectively in one giant party, although we'll probably have to make a "real" party to enter instances as a group.
The most significant benefit of de-facto partying is the elimination of kill-stealing, which relates to my point about rewarding rather than punishing playing with other people. In other MMOs, when someone else 'tags' a mob by attacking it first, nobody else gets credit for the kill without being in the same party. This is especially annoying in relation to quest mobs, as occasionally you'll come across a quest mob that is being killed by someone else, or which has recently been killed, forcing you to wait around until it respawns. Mob tagging makes it preferable to avoid other players, which goes completely against the cooperative foundations of the genre.
Being rewarded based on your contribution rather than on whether you made the initial hit will encourage people to assist each other and cooperate in dynamic events.
Two-way Auction House
Whilst a relatively minor feature, the Guild Wars 2 auction house not only allows you to browse for items and purchase them from other players, but also to post up requests for items. This way you don't have to wait around at the auction house for someone to post an item that you want, you can just post a request and leave it there for a seller to find.
No Monthly Fee
The benefits of no monthly fee are obvious, some however are concerned that it means the game will suffer in some way due to the lack of a constant stream of revenue for ArenaNet. Whilst there's no way to know for sure until the game is actually out, if the original Guild Wars is anything to go by, we have nothing to worry about. Guild Wars was regularly updated without requiring a subscription fee, and its expansion model demonstrably provided enough income for ArenaNet to continue updating, supporting and expanding upon the game.
Guild Wars 2 has been getting a lot of interest. Whilst the same could be said about Warhammer Online in the months leading up to its release, the hype surrounding Warhammer Online was rarely backed up by in-game footage or developer insight/demonstration. ArenaNet have done an excellent job of providing their reasoning for various elements of the game, and explaining their overall strategy and intentions for Guild Wars 2. Thus far, they appear to be doing an outstanding job and I can't wait to play it.
Thanks for reading!
I'd also like to mention that my guild is starting recruitment early, let me know if you're interested.
TL;DR - GW2 looks brilliant.