Guild Wars 2 has just released it's first open beta and I was lucky enough to be part of it. 5 years ago I was delighted to be part of the first real PC RPG that offered no subscription fee to play. It held some benefits over World of Warcraft, but it was severely lacking in the group interaction. So, how does Guild Wars 2 stand up?
Taking into account this was just a beta, and not the full game, there were a few bugs that made the game a little frustrating. There were parts of the game where you could gain benefits from defeating a boss, but the boss did not show up. It was also a bit lagging when there were too many players in a given area, and occasionally it would freeze up your computer. (It happened to me twice in 3 days).
But that is just the technical aspect. They put out a beta for a reason. Bugs have to be tested for, and this was a great time to do it. You can't have a form fitting suit without having your measurements taken, and the staff at ANet was doing just that with the beta I just played.
So how does it stand up to World of Warcraft, or any other MMORPG for that matter? Nothing can compare. Hands down. I've played Guild Wars, World of Warcraft, Skyrim, Kingdoms of Amalur and dozens of other RPG games, especially the ones that have come out on the 360 and PS3 consoles, and nothing compares to what I played over the last 3 days. Guild Wars 2 doesn't raise the bar, they set the standards for what future MMORPGs will be like.
They start you off with custom characterization. This is becoming a standard in the RPG arena, and Guild Wars 2 gives it to you. While they don't spend too much time on offering you massive choices, there is enough randomness to it that you won't find too many characters that bear a resemblance to you in the game. And what cloning does happen is negated with the intricate armor dying system they have. So even if the face and body is similar, you can easily be picked out of the crowd by the look of your armor.
And then the game starts. Here you have options. You have your personal story line based on questions you've answered that gives you a multitude of different ways your character can develop. I chose a Charr warrior and chose every option to fit that aspect. Then you have the world in general. The two hold hands with fingers interlaced. You're personal story is somewhat based on level, and you gain levels by going out into the world.
When you are out in the general public, you have several choices on how you gain your experience. There are NPCs with hearts that will give you experience, and once completed they give items for the karma you have built up, just by fighting for a particular cause. There are aspects called "instances" where you are pulled away from the main world and into an area where you need to complete a quest to gain greater experience, and then there is your farm grinding. When you are in an instance area, you can get defeated. But you can fight to restore yourself. But if that fails, you are given the option to return to a nearby save point, so you can return to the fight you were just in without breaking a stride. When you are in the general populace world, other players can heal you if you are down, you can fight to get back into the swing of things, or you can jump to a waypoint for a very nominal fee. Unlike the death penalty you get in the original Guild Wars, the only issue you have with failing to complete a task is that your armor degenerates. If you go to long without going to an armor repair NPC, you are fighting without your armor. You can still do damage, as weapons do not degrade, but you get beaten down much faster until it is repaired.
One of the biggest failures in Guild Wars was your skill bar. You not only had to work hard to get a decent skill bar made, but it had so many variables that the game could easily become unbalanced, and hence nerfed, so the few got rich in the game while the average player meekly pushed on. But not in Guild Wars 2. The skill bar system starts you off with a couple of skills, makes you fight for a few better ones, and then allows you to purchase stronger skills as you progress. Your first four skills change with the weapons you acquire, and the other four you purchase with points you gain while you level up.
The graphics are beyond a doubt spectacular. You get great visual with a modern graphics chip, but if you have a decent graphics card, you are in for a world of beauty. Colors swirl around you like a dream world. It blows away anything I have ever seen. You can easily get lost in the world they have created.
Playing the game is wonderful as well. Save for the choppiness I had while in areas with dozens of players joined in, which improved as the days went on, movement was flawless, attacking skills were complex and the freedom to act and interact was far beyond the general RPG norm.
World of Warcraft was the leader in what MMORPGs were suppose to be. You could immerse yourself in the story as well as in the player interaction. But Guild Wars 2 makes World of Warcraft look like Atari. And this was only the beta version of it. And the minor fraction of the world everyone played in was nearly as large as WoW has in general. Guild Wars 2 will be a game you will pay for YEARS without ever getting bored. The only reason you will step away from the game is because you have had so much action going on you need to jump back into the mundane world to catch your breath. Other than a few minor bugs, the only complaint I have and that I have heard is that it was only a beta, and everyone just wants to keep playing.
MMORPGs can make a person get lost in the game they are playing. Guild Wars 2 offers a depth of play that goes beyond this, and so completely draws you into the world you are in that you can forget you are anywhere but in that world. I was blessed with three days of heaven, and I can only hope that the full game arrives soon. Buy your copy now to have bonus features available to you when it comes out, and to be part of every beta weekend they have until it does. guild Wars 2 is coming out sometime this year. Don't wait to get in on the action! You have never played a game this amazing!
(Note...this article first appeared in my user reviews, but it seems that just because it can be used and reviewed, that doesn't make it user reviewable. So after reviewing it's uselessness in user review, I have folded from the peer pressure and copied this into a blog. I think they were just being weenies because I got to play the beta and they didn't. Oh well. Winning! * throws cat at wall...watches cat stick to it. Realizes he needs to get the cat's claws trimmed.*)