Guild Wars 2 – review (PvE)

GW2-logoGuild Wars 2 – game review

For all the posts I have done, I have actually never posted about the game that I play the most; Guild Wars 2.  Part of this is because I find it difficult to absent myself enough to make an unbias review of a game when I am playing it so much, but I will do my best here to give some basis for others to decide if this is the game for them.  I am going to focus mainly on the PvE content of the game, since I do not engage in the other aspects and cannot therefore comment much about it.

Brief Summary

Good Points Bad Points
1. Excellent gear customization
2. Lots of varied PvE content
3. Really good trading post system
4. Varied combat and builds
1. Crafting not useful until end-of-game
2. Lagg during boss events
3. More difficult for new players to grasp
4. Weapon skills not moveable

Free-to-play

I felt I should tackle this first.  Guild Wars 2 is a free-to-play game, and free-to-play games have a rather (read: very) bad reputation.  However, readers may be pleased to hear that out of all the different free-to-play games I have tried, Guild Wars is undoubtedly done the best.

I would not know, playing this game, that is free-to-play.  There are no adverts, there are no insidious prompts within quests to buy from the game store, there is no requirement to purchase things in order to get quests or achievements done, there are no items for sale that give you an advantage in combat.

All they sell in the shop are fluff items, and items that make the game a bit easier to play.  You want more bank space?  Sure, you can buy gems and get more.  You want some nice armour skins?  You can buy those to.  You want some fluff items for fun?  Yup, you can buy those.

If you want something from the cash shop, you spend your money and you buy a pack of gems.  All the cash shop items are sold in gems.  However, you can also trade in-game gold for gems, so if a player plays long enough, and saves their in-game gold, they can get the same items that a player that spends real-life cash can.  How does the game make their money then?  Many people will pay for gems for the convenience to buy something they want now.  Time is money.  I have bought gems.

Putting it simply, Guild Wars 2’s free-to-play system works.  It works well.  You get a game that has lots of content, and other than the retail price copy of the game, you get to play it for free.

Character Creation and customization

When first creating a character in the game, you will find that there are many options for you to choose from.  There are five different races in the game, Human, Charr, Sylvari, Asura, and Norn, and each look different, as well as having their own character animations that change the feel of how each of the races play.  Each race will start in their own local map, and have personalized story quests that give insight into each of the races as well as help build immersion for the player.

There is a fairly good customization of your character available at the start of the game in terms of the face, hair, body-build skin-tone etc, though more variety would be welcome (and is actually available with special items in the game later for editing).

What else is customizable in the game is your clothing/armour.  No matter what items you put on, you can change their appearance and colour if you have unlocked armour/weapon skins of that type and have charges (got through story quests etc) to do so.  In this aspect Guild Wars has outdone itself, because there are literally thousands of variations, and in general, no two characters I have met have ever looked alike.

Skills, Talents and Levelling up

The skills in the game are a little different to other mmos and rpgs I have played.  The skills your character can get are split up into three different areas.

    • Weapon Skills – different weapons give you different skills
    • Slot Skills – as you level up, you get skill points to spend on skills to add to your toolbar
    • Traits – at certain levels, you gain talent points, the ones you choose will buff your slot and weapon skills

At first the weapon skills can seem a bit restrictive, especially since you cannot switch the places of the different skills within your toolbar as you can in other games.  However as I played the game more, I forgot all about it, only noticing it when a new player might mention it.

When you level your character up, the addition of more talents and traits allows you to build a great diversity of different types of character and playstyles, added to by the diversity of gear choices.

UI, Bags and Bank space

The UI in the game is fairly straight forward.  Most of the pages a player will need to look at are located in tabs on the Hero panel, such as armour, personal story quests, achievements and so-forth.  The only slight irritation about the UI has been since the addition of the player wardrobe feature, as it has added more options to the hero panel that was already pretty full to begin with.  However, the addition of the wardrobe feature means that this small gripe is an easy price to pay for the functionality.

Bags are also fairly simple, as you have one starter bag, and you can add other bags of varying sizes to it to increase the bag space. These can be found on some monsters, crafted, or bought from other players via the trading post.

Each player has a bank space, which is fairly well sized, (and can be upgraded using gems), and the bank space is shared by all the characters on your account.  In addition to your bank space, you also have a collectables tab (shared by all your characters) which is the place where almost all your crafting materials can be stored.  You can deposit collectables from your bag from the drop-down menu from anywhere and can access them again from a crafting stand or your bank.

All-in-all I really have no problems with the storage offered by the game.  The collectables tab in particular is highly useful.

Trading

Wanting some logs?

Wanting some logs?

Trading in the game is done through the trading post.  Players will put up items they wish to sell, and other players will purchase them. It is not an auction system, as the items have a set price. Trades do not have a time limit or an item limit, they stay up until they are sold, or they are taken down by the seller.  There is a listing fee and a if the item sells then the trading post takes a portion of the profit.

One of the things that sets this trading post apart from ones in other games is the sheer amount of players using it, and the amount of items listed.  For instance, you want some Soft Wood for crafting, then there are literally hundreds of thousands of them listed on the trading post.

Crafting

I would like to say first that I actually do like the crafting in the game.  It is varied and interesting, unfortunately it is mostly just a pure money-sink and fairly useless.  If you, like myself, are merely doing general open-world PvE then it is really not worth the time, and here is why:

  • Levelling up crafting costs a lot.  To get to 500 crafting in a profession, you are literally going to be spending well over 100 gold, not to mention the gathered resources you could have sold for a profit.  Crafting materials sell for a lot.
  • While you can craft stuff to use while you are levelling your character, the chances are that you will be able to find that gear, or even better, on the trading post for less than the cost of initially producing it, but certainly less than the production of it plus the cost of levelling that profession.
  • When you get to the top level (level 80), doing open world PvE, you can buy Exotic gear that will do you very well for all the open-world content in the game. You can buy a full set of Exotic level 80 gear for 15-20 gold.  This is a fraction of the cost of levelling a single crafting profession.

The only reason you would need crafting is to craft Ascended gear.  That is the step up from Exotic gear, and it is currently some of the best in the game in terms of stats.  You cannot buy Ascended gear (except for jewellery and accessories) because it is always account-bound.  If you want to do really hard dungeons, then sure, by all means invest in crafting, but for general pve, it really isn’t necessary.

Combat

The combat, although I do a lot of it, I do not profess to know that much about.  From this point of view you can readily assume that even someone with very little know-how can survive through the game without too much difficulty depending on whether they find a class and set of skills that work for them.

Don’t get too complacent though, as there are plenty of builds, classes and fights that I, in my combat novice attitude, have no clue how to even approach.  It is for this reason that I avoid doing many of the more difficult dungeons etc.  I know my limits, but it is also a sign that the game has more challenging combat than someone like I can take on.

More than the combat abilities and builds itself, there is variety in the combat you come across.  Some fights will require a basic tank-and-spank setup, while others will require you to carefully manoeuvre your group to doing certain things, or avoiding others.  Even the open-world boss fights can have much more demanding tactics required than others.  The difference, for instance, between doing Shadow Behemoth and Tequatl the Sunless cannot be more different or difficult.  No need to guess the one I avoid going to.

Party and multiplayer dynamics

There are four types of multiplayer within the PvE of the game.

  • Party – as in other games, this is a small pre-made group that can go and do content together.
  • Small Events – a dynamic event where players work together to complete a localized goal, such as an escort or defence event.  These players are not partied.
  • Boss Events – a timed event that requires lots of people to complete. Between 10-100 players may all be attempting this event.  These players are not partied.
  • Dungeons – A pre-made group that does a dungeon instance together
Killing a boss event without name tags

Killing a boss event without name tags

Killing a boss event WITH name tags showing

Killing a boss event WITH name tags showing

The events are the most noticeable place you will work with other players, because so many come together for large boss events.  There can be between 10 and 100 players (at a rough estimate) all on the same map hitting on the same boss.

These events give some of the best loot, but can also cause the most lagg due to the number of players (and player animations) in the one area.  See the full sized image above for an idea of the number of people at this event, and this was in the middle of the day on a weekday.  People can change various graphics options for boss events, such as the number of players visible, to reduce the amount of lagg they might get.

Quests

There are two main types of quests that players will come across in the game.
Personal Story Quests
This is the first type of quest that a player will come across, because the start of their personal story is the start of the game.  This personal story is dictated by the choices the player makes at character creation, and then later the decisions he/she makes in the game.  Your personal story will continue as you level up, bringing more content and exploration.
Renown Heart Quests
These are quests that are scattered throughout the world.  Instead of there being random npcs with a quest here and there, you have Renown hearts showing up on the map, where you have npcs needing things done for them.  These will generally be themed around whatever is going on in the region.  When you have done enough to satisfy the person, your heart is filled with gold and you get a reward.

Living World Content

This is generally a content update that brings events where you have a section of an ongoing story plot that will have special rewards and loot associated with it, but only is available for a set time.  Some of these are for all levels of players to enjoy like the wintersday event, while others (more recently) have been much more a continuation of your personal story that coincides with new lands, and being for level 80s only as a result.

The living world content tends to have a variety of different types of things going on, including PvE quests, event-specific dynamic events, fun pvp events, time-limited crafting items, special loot, achievements and vendor items.

Conclusions

I don’t really think it takes a genius to figure out that I think this game is well worth your time, that was a foregone conclusion.  There are drawbacks to the game, but it is whether you feel those drawbacks are enough of an issue to not play it is really up to personal taste.  Some people don’t find the game quite immersive enough, especially early on where the personal story has that two person dialogue thing going, while others felt the game was a bit too complex early on to get into.

Unfortunately there generally are not free trials offered, but once in a while the game is put out on discount if you keep watch on their news page.  Personally, I find the retail price very reasonable considering the amount of time you can spend in the game.  Most retail only games (like single players) give you perhaps 15-30 hours of game play, more if it is a sandbox like Skyrim. I was shocked, and somewhat horrified at how long I have spent in this game.  Embarrassed certainly.  Shamed.. maybe.

Here is my secret shame.  They say that admitting you have a problem is the first step, heh.

Here is my secret shame. They say that admitting you have a problem is the first step, heh.

I would also say that if you have not already purchased Guild Wars 2, and wish to, the game has released the pre-purchase of their first expansion, Heart of Thorns (no release date as of yet).  This expansion, although pricy, comes with the original game included for free if you don’t have it, so if you are considering getting the game, I would suggest you perhaps get the expansion, rather than paying for the game, then having to make a second purchase.  You can find information on the link below.

www.guildwars2.com

 I think the expansion is pricy, but for what you get for it, it will indeed be worth your money in comparison to other games, especially if you are a new player.  As always though, do some research into any game you are considering buying.  Check on YouTube for videos of gameplay, graphics and overall experience in the game before purchasing.

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