In our continuing hands-on with Guild Wars 2, Staff Writer Gareth "Gazimoff" Harmer returned to Tyria with a desire to explore. Read on to find out the stories he found and the social tools he discovered.
Put a new game in front of me and I’m inclined to try and pull it apart and understand how it works. During the previous beta weekend I spent most of my time doing exactly that, from how Guild Wars 2 is different from every other MMO, to the key character and crafting mechanics involved in delivering this unique experience.
This time, I decided to try something different. I kicked back, relaxed and immersed myself in the game’s surroundings. On my travels I found some entertaining and absorbing stories, and tried out a range of different dynamic events. I also took a further look at the social and guild aspect of Guild Wars 2 and what this means for a starting player.
After being away for a month I can honestly tell you: it’s great to be back in Tyria. The screenshots and videos you may have seen don’t do the game justice. The wanderlust I gained from seeing the landscape stretch out before me was something I hadn’t felt in a long time. I climbed over a hill to discover a bubbling stream, which led to an intricately detailed coastal town bustling with life. But that wasn’t the end of it – looming out to sea was a floating castle, almost taunting me to investigate it.
There are also the random events that I uncovered, such as an Asuan animal pen containing some very obedient Pygmy Moa. Their owner was desperate to find adventurers to escort him and his livestock to the nearby town carnival. I dutifully lent a hand and, while the journey was perilous, the reward was definitely worth it. While I also worked on the Personal Story for the character I was playing, being able to just go out and adventure is a refreshing alternative to the straightjacket railroad of other MMO stories.
During the weekend I wandered Tyria, providing help to farmers in Queensdale, protecting trade caravans as they crossed the Shiverpeaks or rescuing the festival of Meatoberfest from the clutches of defeat. The world is packed full of these stories, of people who need our aid. Whether it’s helping improve our renown with the locals or saving the town from a marauding giant, there was always something happening for me to get involved in. And it’s always a challenge, with Dynamic Level adjustment ensuring that I can’t trivialize an event designed for a large group.
From the way I’m describing it, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Guild Wars 2 was closer to a free-form RPG than a groundbreaking MMO. While the game does feel that it’s fully loaded with content to keep the solo player busy, there are also several new features that mean you’ll want company on your adventures.
When getting into Guild Wars 2 for the first time, you’ll want to make sure that you and your friends are all on the same Home Server. This means that you’re all fighting for the same world in the World versus World (WvW) battles and, more importantly, you all get the same benefits. There’s nothing worse than trying to play with people you know; only to find out they’re on the opposing team! Of course, you may prefer it that way…
Almost all MMOs have some form of guild system, with most of them being fairly limited. You might have one guild that you want to do PvE content in, while another offers the lure of regular PvP teams. A third might just be a place for you and your friends to hang out. In previous MMOs you’d be forced to choose which one you want to join, leading to compromises where you have either shared chat channels or an army of alts just to cover all your bases.
If you’re someone like me who prefers to focus on a single character, you’ll find it a huge relief that you can join more than one guild. This particular piece of voodoo works because it’s the player and not the character that gets the guild invite. If I want to spend time representing the WvW guild, with 40 shielded marauders rampaging through the Mists then I can. If I’d rather spend time roleplaying in Divinity’s Reach then I can just flip which guild I’m representing. If I want to spend time with a close-knit team of bloodthirsty PvP maniacs, then it’s just a simple toggle. And because it’s the player that gets the invite and not the character, if I choose to create a new character then I can start representing them immediately.
Choosing to represent a guild is about more than just having their initials floating above your head – it also means that you’re helping them gain Influence. This guild currency is earned when you do pretty much anything, from WvW or team PvP to solo questing and events. Guild leaders can then spend this influence on a mix of upgrades, from permanent guild vaults and treasure troves to temporary boosts to gathering, rare item discovery and so on. Switching who you represent also controls which guild roster you see, which vault or trove you can access and which guild chat is visible.
There are also the standard creature comforts that serve to make that social experience a little bit sweeter. The good news is that cross-world whispers are in-game, allowing you to keep in contact with friends whatever server they happen to be playing on. You’ll also find a looking for group interface if you fancy some company on your travels.
Logging into Guild Wars 2 is like buying a nice pair of leather shoes – they pinch a bit when you first try them on, but get better and better the more you walk in them. But it’s also a game that gets under your skin. Leave the login screen idle and you’ll start humming the game’s anthem (or as I did, picking up your guitar and playing along). While it’s a game that offers a fantastic solo experience, it’s playing as part of a group that will let you get the best out of it. Make no mistake; Guild Wars 2 is a game where you’ll want to bring friends.
Gareth "Gazimoff" Harmer, Staff Writer