Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.
Yeah alright let's get into this. This ain't gonna be pretty though. If you like Guild Wars, or MMOs in general for that matter, you are about to get personally hurt. Possibly to the very core of your being depending on what kind of person you are. This will not be over quickly. You will not enjoy this. I am not IGN.
So at the risk of sounding like a broken record, MMOs are not good games. I've been over it before, but I'll repeat it for any newcomers. The appeal of any MMO is those M words in the name. It's massively multiplayer. MMOs are "social experiences." They're enjoyable only because you are doing something with other people. Misery loves company, right? I'll spell it out in case it's not obvious: In every MMO, you grind. There's no escaping it. Feel free to call it another word if you want, but it all boils down to the same thing: You are spending your time performing extraordinarily repetitive tasks in order to make the numbers on your character's stat page get a little bigger.
But why? Okay, so you can level up and get better gear so you can go do raids or dungeons or whatever your timesink of choice calls them. But why are you doing those raids? Oh, right. To get better gear and make your numbers bigger, so that you can do raids, to make your numbers bigger, so that you can do raids... But those raids or dungeons or whatever your game calls them are not even particularly entertaining as an activity. You're just doing the same handful of raids over and over to gain satisfaction from making your numbers bigger. You're not doing that raid because you enjoy doing that raid, otherwise people would take their time about them rather than trying to rush through them as quickly as possibly to get the loot and bail.
I shouldn't need to explain this, but you should play a game because the game itself is fun. And frankly I refuse to believe anybody has more fun grinding in an MMO or running through some dungeon that they've already done a dozen times that month than they could have say, playing a singleplayer RPG, or if they want the social interaction, a regular multiplayer game, or even a tabletop RPG with some friends. It doesn't even need to be in person! You can play those through the internet if you don't have a conveniently located group of friends in your vicinity!
Sure, I'm generalizing. I'm pretty confident that some portion of the MMO-playing demographic actually does enjoy the repetitive and simplistic nature of the genre. Maybe they prefer to spend their time doing something saddeningly easy as opposed to something that actually challenges them and forces them to grow as a person or develop some actual skill.
Did the Sheptola Gay just drop the truth bomb that wiped Nagasaki off your brainmap? Nah. 'Course not. The type of people I'm trying to insult have heard all this before, they just choose to disagree and I'm never gonna get through to 'em.
Man what is it with me and my arrogant, self-righteous rants? I enjoy them so much I just spent like six paragraphs of a Guild Wars 2 review discussing things entirely unspecific to Guild Wars 2! Ahh well, I guess that dream I have of writing for IGN will just have to wait a few decades. What a shame. My heart is breaking.
So. Guild Wars 2? Is that what I'm supposed to be talking about here? Let's see. Well, it marketed itself (as so many MMOs tend to) as not requiring grinding to enjoy the game. First of all, that ain't true in this game just like it ain't been true in any other MMO that tried to market itself like that. I played it myself, and shit, there was an exp bar and everything! I ain't lyin', it was right there! It was even on the bottom of the screen at all times so you could see how much grinding you were doing! But alright, I guess the actual character level itself increases relatively fast, and after level 20 the exp per level is the same every level, so it's not an exponential increase like a lot of MMOs, but the real grind is in the equipment. You pretty much need to do dungeon runs over and over to obtain better equipment, and items that you use to forge still-better equipment. So that's your grind in the world of Guild Wars 2. They may hide it behind the thin veil of somewhat fast leveling, but don't think for a second that means the rest of the game isn't a goddamn grind. It's a duck and the emperor's naked. Don't try to tell yourself anything different.
Of course, there's a reason MMOs are a constant grind and always will be, no matter what guise the grinding may hide behind. It's simply to make their players feel as though they have a reason to keep playing, some ultimate goal to work for, the idea that some day, there won't be any more grinding, that you'll have done all the grinding and reached the end and now you can just have fun with the game! But there is no end, because if there were those players who reached it would realize that they no longer have a reason to play, because an MMO isn't actually enjoyable as a game, and their only reason for playing was to make their numbers bigger. Even free-to-play MMOs like Guild Wars 2 require a persistent userbase so that they can sell expansions and scrape some profit out of microtransactions, so it's really no different in this case.
My niggas. If you're still with me on this I applaud you. Even I've lost track of where this little rhapsody is supposed to be going.
Look. I know I'm biased as fuck, but I try to be honest. I understand the draw of MMOs. There is something strangely satisfying about them, at least for a short while before your self-awareness kicks in and steers you to more intellectual pursuits. There's an addictive quality to these games, and it's definitely easy to get sucked into them, especially if you have some enthusiastic friends or something. And hey, I'd be a hypocrite if I went in too hard on people who play MMOs a lot. I met some great friends in FFXI a decade ago, so I know there are diamonds in the rough. It's just that the rough is an impossibly vast desert of ignorance and hate.
And oh is there a shitload of ignorance and hate in the Guild Wars 2 playerbase. The very first thing I personally experiened upon first logging into Guild Wars 2 was the extreme racism and xenophobia present in a very vocal portion of its players. If you dare to speak any language other than English in the /map channel, you will be yelled at immediately and suffer all kinds of racist insults - even if you're in an international overflow server (where players from all servers get shoved into against their will, regardless of whether they joined a German or French or English server initially). This whole situation sickens me and makes me rage every goddamn time it comes up, which is countless times per hour, per server. The xenophobia and hate, I mean. There's absolutely no reason to give ANYBODY shit for fucking talking in an MMO, in their own damn language, to other people who speak their own damn language. Sure, if anybody is SPAMMING the chat, it's annoying regardless of their language, but if a German guy gets shoved on an overflow server and does a single shout to see if he can find some people who speak his language? You do not have the right to immediately tell him he can't talk in /map unless he talks English. That just isn't fair and you can go get fucked. Still, I guess that's not actually anything to do with the game itself but it pisses me the hell off regardless. It's just another reason for me to despise MMOs. The type of people who tend to play them are usually the dregs of society.
I mentioned overflow servers in that last paragraph, so I guess that's my cue to start talking about the actual game itself now that we're a good 13 paragraphs into the review. It should be obvious based on the word "overflow" that Guild Wars 2 has "backup" servers, where you're dumped without warning any time you zone into an area that the game deems too overpopulated. What this effectively means is that you get moved into a different server almost every time you zone into a new area or map. It's extraordinarily frustrating if you're trying to do things with a party of friends, because you often get split up onto different servers, usually unable to rejoin each other without several of you logging out and back in again until you get lucky. Then you change zones and have to do it all again. It's an infuriating experience, though ArenaNet (and its players) all insisted that it was just a teething problem, and that once the population calmed down a couple weeks after release, it'd all be fine. No, though. It's still an issue. Perhaps not as big of an issue, but an issue nonetheless. One time it took my friends and I about 2 hours to actually get into a dungeon together. Countless people were sat outside the dungeon on multiple servers for those two hours (and they'd been there a long time before my friends and I showed up, too) and nobody seemed to think "Hey you know what? This is clearly broken, so I'm going to go enjoy my life for a while and try this later." Hey, don't look at me. I spent those two hours watching Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reruns. That's clearly a more productive and intellectual pursuit than anything any of those other dildos were doing.
A few specific issues that were causing people problems for at least the first couple weeks included the game's auction system being down for maintenance, which was an annoyance for those who were truly desperate to make their numbers bigger, there were plenty of quests that bugged out and became impossible to complete, lag out the ass, glitching through walls and accidentally getting outside the map... You name the common glitch, this game had it. But of course, it's a) an MMO, and b) relatively soon after launch. I understand that it'll have a lot of problems like those, and that they will inevitably get fixed, or at least become less of an issue. It should go without saying that an MMO is going to have its fair share of bugs and connectivity problems, especially in the few months following its launch, so I guess if you're into MMOs and are considering playing this one you could take this with a pinch of salt. Maybe a little pepper too. Throw some jalapenos on that bitch while you're at it. NOW you're cookin' with Shepton! You should buy my hit cooking manual, "Jalapenos, And How To Put Them On Everything."
Leading up to this game's launch, I saw a lot of talk about its revolutionary combat, and how it was going to change MMOs forever, and how it was dynamic and unique and innovative. BARP. Wrong. It's exactly the same as every other fucking MMO! You have a list of ten skills available to you that sit in a line at the bottom of the screen, and you have a pool of skills which you can select from to include in that ten. Well, you can customize five of your skills. The first five are specific to whatever weapon you're using. Anyway, of course you activate those moves using the number keys, and your character will perform the move. There's so little to it that it makes me sad. Sure, a handful of the animations look pretty cool, but that shouldn't matter if there's no real satisfaction in actually DOING the move because all you did was press 3 and your character started doing batshit loco acrobatics for thirty seconds straight and some numbers popped up on the screen. There's unfortunately very little actual strategy or timing required at the end of the day. The most you'll ever do is have one player use a "combo field" move, and then everyone else use "combo finisher" moves. A finishing move when used after a field move basically applies a status effect to the enemy, or removes status effects from your teammates. If you use the moves in conjunction with each other, it will be somewhat more efficient than just spamming them. That's pretty much the extent of the game's combat. Sure, it can be satisfying to co-ordinate healing and manage links with your party members and such during dungeon boss fights, but that's really no different from any other MMO.
The dungeons aren't really anything special either. Dungeon bosses, despite being more of a challenge than your average enemies out in the game's overworld, can still be overcome with little more than a bare minimum of co-ordination with your party. And when your party sucks and isn't working together? Just keep respawning, running to the boss, and chipping away at it until it's finally dead. By completing a dungeon once, you unlock a harder version of it. These harder versions tend to allow you to pick different paths resulting in different bosses, to give you the sense that it's different and unique every time. Whateva, nigga.
Guild Wars 2 has a pretty large PvP element to it. There's structured PvP, wherein two teams of people are scaled to the level cap and given a specific set of armor and equipment and compete for objectives and kills in a small map, and then there's open world PvP, wherein teams from separate servers are pitted against each other to capture and control castles and disrupt supply lines and such. It takes place in a map and server entirely separate from your own, so it's not exactly open world PvP in the traditional sense. You can't just run around the main game ganking people, you have to go to the special playroom with all the other violent boys and girls if you want to do that. This, too, scales your level up to the cap to keep the playing field somewhat even, thus allowing new players to get in on it as well, although the open world PvP doesn't give everybody matching sets of equipment. You gotta bring your own beer to that party, and the people who are level 80 and spend every day seeing how many dungeons they can run are gonna have the premium European stuff that gets you fucked up. New players all just wearing their grody old starter gear their mom dressed them in are gonna be pretty badly disadvantaged.
Visually, the game is pretty decent-looking from a technical standpoint. There's a lot of detail in the characters, and they're pretty expressive in their animation and faces, which helps to give your character a more personal feel. The world feels less detailed than the characters do, though the cities and towns dotted around the world tend to feel like a lot of time has been spent on their layout and appearence, and they often have interesting features like graveyards and statues, unique buildings made out of old ships, and in one city there's a pretty huge model of the game's solar system made out of brass that rotates above the town's center, which I thought was pretty neat. It shows that, at the very least, the developers cared about giving a little life to the game's lore and setting.
It has a pretty straightforward artistic style overall, though, so don't expect to be blown away by originality or uniqueness in its appearance. Aside from a handful of interesting and unique features, the game's world feels like every other goddamn medieval European fantasy setting. At least a little time and effort went into the landscape though, as evidenced by the fact that there are collectible "Vistas" dotted around each map that give you a panoramic shot of the area. I'm guessing the folks who made the maps wanted to show them off.
The game is big on "exploration." I put that in inverted commas because I don't consider it to be real exploration. Every map has a bunch of "points of interest" for you to run up to and collect, as well as the vistas, and waypoints, and so on, but you aren't really exploring to find them because the map just shows you where they are. In all honesty it feels pretty arbitrary. There's no real reason to truly explore the maps out of interest in the maps themselves, because ultimately there's nothing special about them. You just gotta get dem waypoints! Spend your days running around every map until you complete them all! Then your dick will be ENORMOUS! Most maps also have one hidden jumping puzzle, which're at least more interesting than the points of interest. These jumping puzzles tend to be surprisingly well hidden and often kind of enjoyable to find, and then subsequently figure out. You're generally rewarded at the end of them by a chest with some items. You know, to make your numbers bigger.
The game has quite a few jumping elements outside of the jumping puzzles as well, but they aren't very good. The challenge in jumping from tiny ledges to other tiny ledges isn't at all in the skill of the timing or accuracy of your jump, but in struggling against the game's poor physics in order to glitch your way up the terrain in an awkward and jerky manner, the same way you'd do back when 3D games were a new phenomenon, and you tried to get up hills and mountains and cliffs by sort of shimmying sideways up them, jumping over and over, even though you know you're not supposed to climb that hill. That's the feeling you get when trying to get to most of the vistas and other such "hidden" areas in Guild Wars 2. Could they really not have done something better than just jumping at stuff until you're close enough to it to check it off your to-do list? I'd like it if reaching my goals required me to engage my brain and employ some critical thought. Naw, son! Just jump at that bitch 'til you get it. You gotta keep jumpin' directly at life's problems 'til you solve them! That's how I became CEO of Capcom. True story.
Jesus christ this review is long. How did this shit come out of me? I just weighed myself and I'm like 12 pounds lighter than I was when I started writing this. I gotta go see a doctor. Peace.
Final verdict: D-
Final playtime: Too many hours that I won't be getting back. Did you know we only get around 3500 weekends in our lifetime? I spent like two or three of mine playing this game. FUCK. No, seriously, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK.