Set on the diverse continent of Tyria, Guild Wars 2 is an ever-expanding MMORPG that doesn’t really force you to do anything you don’t want to do. ArenaNet, the creators of Guild Wars 2, set out to make a game that doesn’t require you to spend hours preparing to have fun rather than just having fun. And you’ll see that philosophy in all aspects of the game.
MMORPGs typically end up becoming about one thing: the gear grind. Always chasing that slightly better piece of gear, so you can play the content you really want. Game designers spends countless hours coming up with ways to make the grind feel a little less tedious. Guild Wars 2 just removes it entirely. If you want to stop working and start playing an MMORPG, then Guild Wars 2 might be the refreshing alternative you need.
The premise of the game is this: Elder Dragons are awakening throughout Tyria, upsetting the balance of the world and creating some continent-sized problems. With large-scale problems (and the Elder Dragons are often the size of mountains) comes the need for an indomitable hero. That’s where your story begins.
The combat in Guild Wars 2 is not monotonous or repetitive. It’s fast-paced, active, and requires you to pay attention. You don’t mindlessly cycle through hotkeys while watching a health bar slowly shrink.
There are constant visual cues to watch out for, combos to be performed with your abilities and those of other players, and a dodge skill which can be used at critical moments to avoid death.
There is no competing with other people for loot. Instead, the game is designed to bring people around the map together to complete events and missions too tough to tackle alone. And at the end, everyone gets rewarded.
You might find yourself battling an elite water djinn in the Crystal Desert. He’s strong and you’re only just hanging in there, slowly chipping away at his health. But then you slip up, he lands a big hit and downs you.
Just then, another player runs up and distracts the djinn while a third picks you up. Together, you continue the fight and take him down. That feeling of accomplishment and collaboration is Guild Wars 2 at its finest.
Free to Play
The base game of Guild Wars 2 is now free to play. You can play all the way to max level, as any of the five races and as eight of the nine classes, experience the entire original story, and try out the various game modes, all without having to open your wallet.
There are some draw backs to going full free-to-play though. You can only have two characters, not great for altoholics. You also have less bag space, which means you’ll be hoarding less loot. And there’s a lot of loot to be hoarded.
You’ll be limited to Central Tyria, which is the setting for the entire base game, so that’s not too bad. But your communication will also be limited, which does prevent you really immersing yourself in the community.
If you decide you like what Guild Wars 2 has to offer, you definitely should purchase the expansions: Heart of Thorns and Path of Fire. The story gets more intricate and complex as it unfolds and new information about the characters, the Elder Dragons, and the gods of Tyria come to light.
The new elite specializations that come with the expansions completely change the way the classes play, meaning the gameplay is refreshed each time a new one comes out. Plus, you get access to the new features in the game: gliding from heights and mounts.
Oh, the mounts! The mount system in Guild Wars 2 is one of the best — if not the best — in any MMORPG out there. Each mount has unique skills that help you traverse the world, and getting on and off them is so fluid it makes the mounts in other games feel awkward. Each mount also has skills to unlock and an ever-growing stable of skins.
You start Guild Wars 2 by selecting one of the five races, which one is entirely up to personal preference, because the racial abilities very soon become irrelevant. It’s more about which race you find the most aesthetically appealing. A lot of Guild Wars 2 is about aesthetics.
Next, you choose your class. You’ll find the familiar archetypes here: mages, warriors, rogues, rangers, and healers. But you’ll also find the classes are not as rigid as those in other MMORPGs. Each class is playable in a variety of ways.
Warriors, typically a tank or damage class, can support by planting banners and booming out shouts. Mesmers, an illusionist style class that typically fill the support role, can tank with evades and illusions. Rangers, usually limited to a pure damage class, can heal with their druid form.
Once you’ve got your race and class, and spent a lengthy amount of time deciding on a character name, you need to learn some skills. In Guild Wars 2, that means choosing what weapons to use.
Each class can use an arsenal of weapons, and each weapon allows your character to utilize a different set of skills. You can change weapons any time, so you’re not stuck with one choice for eternity.
Now you must decide how you want to play: follow the immense and immersive story, jump straight in to battling other players in 5v5 battles, or compete with your entire server against two others for control of a massive battleground in World versus World.
Each mode gains you experience, levels, and gear. So, you just do what you find most enjoyable. You can easily swap between the modes whenever you like.
You reach the max level of 80 in the base version of the game, and after that the level cap never increases. Each expansion and Living World episode (story arcs that ArenaNet releases for free) only provide new content for players.
The gear level never rises either. Once you’ve got max level gear, you’ve got it for good. If you do want to try a different skill build or play style of your character, you’ll need to acquire a new set of gear with the correct stat combination, adding longevity to the end game experience.
Alternatively, you can partake in one of the few heavy grinds found in Guild Wars 2: the quest for legendary gear. The stats on this gear are the same as ascended, but they have the very convenient quality of being able to change stats at will. And they’ve got particle effects, which give you about a billion points to eye catchiness (not a real stat in Guild Wars 2).
Guild Wars 2 provides a lot for both casual and hardcore gamers. There’s an immense amount of content. However, more hardcore players often find that they run out of things to do between expansions and Living World episodes. And, typically, gear that focuses on damage is always the best when playing with a group. This means the gameplay can stagnate if you’re determined to stick to the meta builds.
There are tons of people playing Guild Wars 2, so there’s almost always people around to help you. Some older zones can feel empty, though, and you might find it frustrating to achieve your goals in these places. That’s where joining a guild can really come in handy. There are plenty out there with large friendly communities willing to lend a sword, bow, or axe.