The final Guild Wars 2 open beta weekend is over and the game’s developers at ArenaNet must be smiling ear to ear. The event was a complete and highly satisfying success. Servers were packed with excited players and the game performed flawlessly. Now we must wait patiently for a month, while the developers put the final polish on what is already a highly innovative and eminently enjoyable MMO. The official release of Guild Wars 2 takes place on Tuesday, August 28, 2012.
The concluding open beta ran from Friday, noon PST until 11:59 PM PST, Sunday and as promised, this now exhausted writer spent most of a very enjoyable but sleepless weekend experiencing much of what Guild Wars 2 had to offer. The game has so much to explore that I doubt that I slept more than 8 hours over the entire weekend.
Gamers who demand that a new MMO offers all the latest and the greatest in innovation and technology will not be disappointed. The game’s graphics are based on an updated, state of the art engine and the lush world of Guild Wars 2 has a marvelous painterly look. The player characters are decked out in a wide array of fascinating gear and weapons, with an attention to detail that will please the most demanding of critics. Each player city is visually spectacular and no two cities look alike. The open areas of the game world are loaded with eye candy and cover a wide range of climate and terrain, which clever players can use to their advantage. All the pieces are in place and mesh together to make Guild Wars 2 into a well functioning, stunning, cohesive whole.
Character creation worked smoothly and allowed me to completely customize my alter ego. As is expected from a high end MMO, players are able to modify every aspect of their appearance to their hearts content. The character design system follows ten well thought out steps and guides players effortlessly through the entire process.
After choosing their character’s race, players may select one of the eight different professions. There is something for every play style as players choose between melee, magic, ranged and technology based builds. Every one of the eight professions is well balanced and comes with its own set of highly individualized skills and traits.
Once you have built and named your character, you begin a short starter area that will allow you to become familiar with the game controls and learn how to navigate the Guild Wars 2 universe. Each of the games five races has an entirely different and fully fleshed out story line that players can follow as they progress through the game. Each player will discover their own destiny as they explore the history of their race and experience the first hints of the struggles that lay ahead. While every race takes a different starting path, ultimately, they all have one common enemy to defeat; the fearsome and powerful elder dragons.
PVE (Player Vs. Environment) and PVP (Player Vs. Player) are totally separate in Guild Wars 2. The developers want players to be completely immersed in the game while they explore and quest without having to worry about being ganked by a much higher level player or swarmed by roving packs of players looking to grief anyone who is trying to complete their quests.
Questing in Guild Wars 2 is quite different than traditional MMO’s, which hold your hand and place huge exclamation points over every quest givers head. In the immense world of Guild Wars 2, players actually have to think for themselves and make an effort to discover what to do and where to go. Many quests are based on spontaneous events. A player might be repairing their gear in a remote garrison, when a sudden attack by wave after wave of centaurs begins. To gain experience and rewards, the player will have to defend the garrison and defeat the incoming hordes. It will take a group effort and co-operation between other players and NPCS (Non Player Characters) to survive and triumph. This is not a game for those who thrive on immediate gratification and want everything in easy mode.
It should be said that PVE in Guild Wars 2 has its own unique method of organization and players will be able to plan out their questing. The key to PVE in Guild Wars 2 is to thoroughly explore each zone and reveal all of your game map. You will then be able to locate certain NPCS, who will assign an overall goal for their specific area. Players will then go out and perform tasks in whatever order they wish, until they have completed the missions they were given. Some quest givers may ask you to swim underwater and trap giant crabs or kill predatory fish that are feeding on the crabs. Another may ask you to find and destroy mechanized turrets that are killing their village’s herds. It will be up to the you to figure out where to go and how to accomplish your assigned tasks.
Even though there is no open world PVP in Guild Wars 2, PVP lovers have tons of great content available to them. Players who want to participate in casual PVP may choose to participate in “Hot Join” games. The developers describe this exciting type of PVP as follows: “Players can browse through a list of available games, each displaying the current map, the number of players, etc. Players can search by server population or friends list. Even if a game is in progress, you can join or leave at any time. If one side loses players, the servers can auto-balance the number of players on the teams. Once the current round ends, the server loads the next map in the rotation, players can reselect teams, and the fight starts again. This kind of setup allows players to find favorite servers and build online communities by playing more than one game with the same settings and people.”
Guild Wars 2 also provides all the action hardcore, dedicated PVP enthusiasts desire with Tournament play. Players will use the same maps as Hot Join PVP but they will engage in 5v5 matches. There will be pickup tournaments, monthly tournaments, yearly tournaments and player run tournaments; each with their own level of intensity and rewards. Skilled PVP’ers will find all the challenges and excitement they demand in Guild Wars 2 PVP tournaments.
Over the course of the final beta weekend, I explored as much of the game as humanly possible. I tried several different characters and professions. I was impressed by the fact that while each profession was quite different from the others, the overall balance was perfect. No profession was able to dominate another and each one offered players enough variety that they were able to experience game-play from a totally different perspective.
The game itself performed flawlessly. There were no bugs of note and I didn’t crash once all weekend. The servers were packed with players, the vast majority of whom loved the game and almost universally, everyone I asked told me they planned to play Guild Wars 2 at launch on August 28, 2012.
I will add that to really enhance your enjoyment of Guild Wars 2, you should seriously consider joining a guild. While all of the content can be enjoyed solo and groups can be always be found for instances and dungeons, there are distinct benefits to joining a guild. The game offers many perks and buffs that can be earned by guilds and in World Vs. World PVP, an organized guild should have a distinct advantage. A strong guild will even help in PVE, when higher level players start to encounter and battle world bosses. The guild system is easy to use and I would strongly recommend that players join a guild.
Overall, Guild Wars 2 looks like it is 100% ready to go. It has lived up to all its publicity and hype and surpassed expectations. Guild Wars 2 will launch for the public on August 28, 2012. The air of anticipation and excitement among the players in beta was so thick, you could cut it with a knife. Guild Wars 2 was well worth the five years it took to hone this terrific game into what promises to be one the very best MMOS of 2012. I hope we will see you there on August 28, when Guild Wars 2 goes live and we can finally enjoy all that the game has to offer on a full time basis. I, for one, cant wait!
Note: A tip of the hat and many thanks to the fine folks in the Lethality Guild. This great guild has over 500 active members across many of the most successful MMOS available and I am proud to be a member. They were most helpful in patiently answering the hundreds of questions I peppered them with over the weekend. In particular, I’d like to thank Wheatbread and Burning One, for their descriptions of PVP in Guild Wars 2. Just like playing an MMO, this article was a team effort.