Guild Wars 2 has been out for a few months now, but the folks over at NC Soft recently came out with the beta for the Mac client that opens up the game to a whole new stream of players to the world of Tyria. So those of you with PC’s who have already read the reviews for Guild Wars 2 know how great it is, making the targets of this review those who have just found out about the game’s Mac client. And since Guild Wars 2 was released for the PC before World of Warcraft’s latest expansion, you can view this as a persuasive argument to take your online role-playing in a different direction, instead of feeding more money to Blizzard. Or this can just be for those of you who just want to read the opinions of such a handsome man. Yeah, it’s that third one and you know it, hot stuff.
If you have learned anything about me at all, apart from how rugged and mesmerizing my good looks are, it’s that I am huge sucker for excellent storytelling. And Guild Wars 2 gets hundreds and hundreds of gold stars and smiley faces for allowing you to choose character backstory and future plot elements WHILE YOU’RE CREATING YOUR CHARACTER. I remember when I was creating my Norn hunter, I had to pick an event in my life I had remorse over, as well as which Spirit of the Wild has been watching over me. I thought that perhaps these choices would determine more than just unnecessary backstory and would have an effect on my character’s questline. And lo and behold I was right. Creating a unique storyline based on the player’s decisions when creating a character gives new meaning to role-playing, and was the first of many good things to come from GW2.
Apart from fantastic plotwork, you can’t go wrong with taking a page out of Skyrim’s playbook. This was a feature that surprised and confused me at first, but turned out to make a lot of sense. Let’s throw out a hypothetical scenario in which you yourself are placed in the shoes of one of your characters. And let’s say you’ve been using an axe in combat. You’re pretty good with the axe, you’ve been using it for a while, and you’ve learned a fair amount of axe-like abilities after all your use. But let’s say you come across this bitchin’ longbow. It does more damage from a further distance, it’s got some great stat additions; it’s a sweet bow. But do you use the same abilities with a bow that you would use for your axe? Do you instantly know multiple longbow abilities, giving you the skills to knock off three arrows at once or to use the bow with remarkable precision? Of course not, you dingbat, you just picked up the bloody thing. Guild Wars 2 realizes this, and when you equip new weapon types, you’re going to have to practice with them before you can use some of its advance abilities, much like how you progress your skills in Skyrim, thru use. What’s awesome is how much depth this system has. Even if you’ve been using a one-handed axe as your main weapon for a while, if you switch it over to your offhand, you have to learn its offhand abilities too, because you’re using that weapon in a whole different style now.
Finally, I love Guild Wars 2’s emphasis on exploration. Open up your map, and you realize that there’s a ton of things to do other than quest. This includes discovering points of interest, discovering waypoints that can be used later for fast travel, searching for skill challenges to help you unlock new abilities, traveling across the region to take place in random-encounter events that reward lots of rewards and require working with others, and scavenging for resources to harvest. And of course, my personal favorite, the use of platforming to climb peaks and monuments to unlock vistas. All of these tasks reward you XP, and are tracked in your achievements page, which when completed, reward you even more XP!
Don’t worry, I know exactly what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Scott, why should I play Guild Wars 2 when I can go play that new Kung Fu Panda MMO, I mean, World of Warcraft?” Well, you could pay $60 for the newest expansion, plus a ton more money for the expansions you’ll need to play the new one, and then add the $13-15 a month you pay to play, and when you compare that to the $60 you pay once and only once for Guild Wars 2, I think it’s pretty obvious which one is best for your wallet. Apart from monetary reasons, an irritating mechanic seen in MMO’s in recent years is how acquiring and turning in quests work. You talk to a quest giver, and then go off and do the quest, and then you have to trudge all the way back for your rewards. Well Guild Wars takes the time and hassle out of questing, by giving you the quest as you stumble into the area, and then once you’ve completed it, you receive a more than fair dosage of experience, karma points and gold. Another cool feature seen in Guild Wars 2 is having your guild bound to your account. Instead of having to log off and back on and message your guild leader to invite your alternate character to the guild, your character will already be in the guild once he’s created, saving you time and hassle.
When you look at all of Guild Wars 2’s features, from its quality storytelling, to its realistic and rewarding combat system, its beautiful scenery begging to be explored, and to the money you save coupled with the feeling you get from breaking free of World of Warcraft’s hold on your time and your wallet, how can you not want to play? Guild Wars 2 is being hailed as one of the best MMO’s ever created, and now that you’ve read this piece and the game is available on Mac’s, there’s no excuse for you not to play. Now if only “high school” was an option for your character’s past regret…