Guild Wars 2 delivers dynamic delight

ASURAN ENGINEER DUKE OF DERRIERE SITS on a throne captured with the help of local heroes and the Lionguard. The throne was captured from the corrupted clutches of the cult of the Sons of Svanir, wrested from the hands of a mighty frost troll.

Guild Wars 2 is an immensely popular Massively-Multiplayer-Online-Role-Playing-Game, recently released by NCsoft and ArenaNet. It is a doozy. The game has been active for eight days publicly and 11 days for people who pre-purchased. For those of you too lazy to do the math, that’s a three day head start for pre-purchasers, one which has been used to great effect as the online world is already chock full of max level characters.

The first thing I want to say about this game is that in order to really be a part of it and to get the full effect of it, as the name might imply, you really do need a guild. As with many MMORPGs, having teammates to heal, resurrect, provide alternate targets for enemy fire, and to generally mess around with, improves your experience as a player by an untold percentage. The guild I’m running with is The Flaming Pandas, which is populated with a lot of people from around the RPI area, their friends, and a few randoms we have picked up online. I’ll shamelessly plug them here and be done with that now.

There are six races you can start out with. Each race has a few different options for what kind of story line you go through individually; note that fellow guildmates and randoms in a party with you can join in on your personal storyline if you would like. Each of the stories is fairly well written, and includes some humor and serious notes all in stride. All told, there are a significant amount of customization options, for appearance and where your character comes from, which really justifies the RPG designation.

Guild Wars 2 by design also does away with the traditional party classifications. There is no more dedicated healer, tank, damage per second, off-tank, striker, or controller nonsense. In many ways you could take almost every class, and depending on how you tweak your specs, you could end up in generally one of those categories. Since everyone can almost be everything, the need for specific roles like that can be changed on the fly sometimes, and that gives you a decent amount of party flexibility that you might not get from some other MMOs, like World of Warcraft.

My main character I’m running now is an Asuran Engineer (think Dobby but with a monocle, turrets, and about a foot shorter) and I am very pleased with how that is developing for me. Almost from the get-go, you have the opportunity to go to the starting areas of all of the different races, so you have the chance to do things like farm and level up in techno-magical buildings, rusted out ruins, the frozen northern wastes, or the heart of a jungle. All of the environments are beautiful, and the character models also have a really nice design to them. As you might imagine, many of the enemies you come across in each area are re-skinned or re-flavored versions of things you can find in other starting areas, but there are also very unique enemies in almost every area.

I originally was into the game because the concept art was so off the hook. I loved what I saw as they started working, and now that I have the basically finished product, I am in no way disappointed. There is a lot of territory to explore, and a hell of a lot of people you can meet, help, kill, or disregard by turn, depending on what kind of mood you are in. The game also has managed to replace a traditional numerical system for cataloging progress towards specific tasks in local areas. Instead of the more traditional “find, kill, and bring me the skins of twelve bears,” you get a more storied experience, where you meet, for example, a scared villager cowering behind some ruins, who needs help with the undead ravaging his town, the bugs in his crops, and finding ore to build weapons or something. You can help with a variety of different tasks, not all of which involve direct combat with an enemy. I am entirely convinced that it is possible to build a successful non-violent character who simply heals or buffs or things along those lines (note: it would be very hard to do this, but it is possible.)

One of the other huge selling points for me was that this MMO does not require monthly payments. Instead, you buy the game for a regular 60-dollar price and play to your heart’s content.

Overall, I say this game is worth your money. I love exploring in dynamic environments. I will often walk around looking for, say, copper ore or something, and I will walk straight into a group instance where the local militia is involved with fending off an attack by the local centaur menace. I’ll quit my search long enough to help them fight off the four legged devils, then go right back to my search for copper. Even if you play alone, the game is dynamic, alive, and large enough to keep you going. So buy it. When you get in-game, send a whisper to “Duke of Derriere” and I’ll go adventure with you. We can go kill some bears or something, it’ll be fun.