Guild Wars 2: An MMORPG with Style, Flexibility – and Fun!
Every now and then I discover a new online thrill that completely captures my imagination (and incidentally large hunks of my spare time). My latest obsession is the critically acclaimed MMORPG Guild Wars 2.
Prior to this, I had not been much for MMO type games, to the frustration of many of my game-playing buddies. The concept of total immersion in a fantasy world certainly had appeal for me, but the heavy emphasis on lengthy elaborately-structured warfare situations, not so much. However, the designers of Guild Wars 2 built the game with the goal of providing a satisfying experience for a wide variety of playing styles, from casual PvE adventurers to hard-core PvP warriors. I quickly found I could get plenty of enjoyment from just touring around the world exploring at my own preferred pace.
And there is a huge amount to explore. Guild Wars 2 picks up the fantasy world of Tyria about 250 years after the events of the original Guild Wars. It is a rich and complex world, interweaving traditional sword-and-sorcery mythmaking, newfangled steampunk/alchemical technology, complex political intrigues, and even bits of philosophy and spirituality, to rival many classic fantasy fiction novels with which I’m familiar. All of this is rendered in breathtakingly beautiful art and state-of-the-art animation, so that one feels at times like one is wandering around the latest Peter Jackson production — or perhaps a Maxfield Parrish painting.
The creativity extends to the variety of character types you can choose to play. The five playable races include humans (both nobles and commoners); Norn, a race of Viking-esque giants; Asura, a Ferengi-like diminutive race of technological geniuses; Charr, a fierce feline warrior race who, to steal another Star Trek metaphor, remind me mightily of Klingons; and my personal favorites, the Sylvari. These elven-like tree people are born, fully adult and sentient, from a huge goddess-like tree, with whom they are all interlinked by a cosmic collective consciousness known as the Dream of Dreams.
In addition to more traditional profession choices like warriors, guardians, rangers, the rogue-like thieves, and three types of spellcasters (elementalists, mesmers, and necromancers), GW2 introduces a new class, the engineers, who excel in bombs, gizmos, elixirs, turrets, and other technologies that go splodey. But what is interestingly absent is a separate healer class. Everyone has some healing ability for themselves and their fellow players; in fact, all these professions are extremely flexible, and can to a certain extent even cover each other’s roles when playing together in guilds and raiding parties.
But perhaps the biggest innovations in Guild Wars 2 are in the area of events and new content. There are a number of more traditional-style dungeons, plus the previously-mentioned areas for individual and team PvP; but the majority of events happen out in the public PvE environment where anyone passing by can participate, and earn loot proportional to the extent they help – in other words, “stealing kills” is a non-issue in this game. And instead of expansions, the developers of Guild Wars 2 release new content every few weeks, arranged in “Living Story” arcs that result in permanent changes to the game’s world.
Oh, and one other thing: Guild Wars 2 requires no subscription. You pay once to acquire the software client, and that’s it. There is of course a shop where you can buy fun cosmetic pretties for your avatar and such, but these are totally not required in order to play and enjoy the game.
There is so much more that I could burble on about with regards to Guild Wars 2, but for now I will leave you with this video trailer featuring some of game’s great voice acting talent – featuring Steve Blum, well-known in anime circles as the US voice of Cowboy Bebop’s Spike Spiegel among many others, and Felicia Day, uber-geek-girl mastermind of the hit web TV show The Guild.
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