Guild Wars 2 Review

19 Jan 2013

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:NCsoft
Developer:ArenaNet
Release Date:2012-08-28
Genre:
  • Role-Playing,Massively Multiplayer
Platforms: Theme: Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Crafting is fairly standard as far as MMOs go. There are eight possible crafting professions, and you can only have two active on a character at any given time. Crafting materials tend to be harvested in the environment, dropped by enemies, and received from completing quests, and no matter what your discipline, you will have plenty of supplies. My only real complaint with crafting is that, aside from being simply menu-based and relatively non-interactive, the things you can craft are rarely significantly better than anything you can buy in a given store. Still, money can be hard to come by, even at high levels, and there are a decent number of other gold sinks available, so it can be a worthwhile alternative if you want to put the time into it.

Last, the game also features the Black Lion Trading Company, which is basically an auction house and cash shop accessible from any point in the game world. Due to auto-balancing features in the economy, prices are very strictly relegated based on supply and demand. Because some items get better prices in NPC shops, it's also not always the best idea to put things up for sale to other players. Though there is a cash shop, very few items available in it directly affect gameplay, and are mostly cosmetics or XP boosts, so I have no real complaints - it's there if you want it and easy to ignore if you don't.

Presentation

Guild Wars 2 is a beautiful game. Although it's not the most technically advanced title around, it features enough bells and whistles and a very appealing, watercolor-like art style. Environments clearly aren't just built for gameplay function, but with a rich, lush art style as well. Color palettes are bright and vibrant, and levels themselves are varied, featuring plenty of different types of terrain and cities to explore, some more adventurous than others. Characters and equipment are not so inspired, but somehow the game makes the varied races fit together consistently, which is commendable considering it features everything from tiny goblin-like creatures all the way to massive armor-clad warrior-cats. Spell effects are very flashy and visible, which is good when playing on your own, but in large battles it often becomes impossible to tell what's going on. All in all it's fair to say Guild Wars 2 has an art style of its own, without looking especially derivative of World of Warcraft or similar titles.

The sound and music in the game are equally effective, but lack the same sense of personality. Voice acting is competent, but the number of actors is relatively low, so you'll probably grow tired of the same 10-odd voices after a while. Weapon and spell sound effects are all suitably punchy-sounding and distinctive from one another, and environmental ambiance is rich and detailed, making exploring various locations that much more enjoyable. The game's soundtrack, composed by Jeremy Soule, is also quite nice, but at the same time it feels like a list of Elder Scrolls B-sides, with some pieces sounding almost identical to themes from that series. I would have appreciated a soundtrack that was a bit more original and unique to the game, but what's here is perfectly effective even if it is uncannily similar to that certain other popular RPG series.

On a technical side, I had few problems with Guild Wars 2. In my hundred-ish hours of playing over the course of about two months leading up to this review, I experienced a handful of crashes, and once or twice I got suddenly logged out from the game for reasons I couldn't determine. Playing as a necromancer, I found my minions wouldn't attack enemies from time to time, which was puzzling. There are a decent number of customization options related to interface and controls, which is great, although I noticed that some fonts didn't display properly when using the "larger" interface size and there was some ugly stretching of some elements. Overall, it's a very polished package considering the size of the game and the fact that it is still relatively new for an MMO.

Closing Thoughts

All the hundreds of other little things to discuss aside, is Guild Wars 2 fun? From someone who has primarily a single-player background in RPGs, the answer is definitely yes. I don't think you need to be heavily into the multiplayer side of things to enjoy the game, and in fact, it can serve as an effective bridge for those who prefer single-player but want to check out what all this MMO stuff is cracked up to be. The dynamic events are a genuinely innovative addition to the game and they make most other MMOs feel dead and lifeless in comparison.

I do think the game has a lot of room for improvement, though. The fact of the matter is that those dynamic events and the interesting World vs. World system only go so far. Ultimately you still have a pretty formulaic MMO underneath those gimmicks, and even before the novelty wears off, and you've exhausted the story missions, you may find yourself getting frustrated with the repetition of the combat or the emptiness of certain parts of the game world.

Even with flaws, I can recommend Guild Wars 2, especially because it's not a subscription-based game - without monthly fees, you can always come back to the game in a few months if you get tired of it. Guild Wars 2 is the first MMO in quite some time that I've really enjoyed more than a week or two, and is a breath of fresh air for a genre that's long been too obsessed with finding ways to extend the grind. It might not keep you busy for years on end, but it's a good first step on the road to an MMO free from the worst of the genre's trappings.
 
 

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