'Guild Wars 2'
ESRB rating: Teen
Review rating: 4.0 stars
After several years of trying to top the undisputed king of MMO's, aka "World of Warcraft," most game developers have turned to the micro-transaction model. While it's great that these MMOs don't have monthly fees, most of them give too much of an advantage to anyone willing to buy in-game items with real money. Fortunately, "Guild Wars 2" offers players an exciting and fun game that eschews the idea that players can "pay to win."
Instead of buying armor, weapons and/or accessories, the micro-transactions in "GW2" basically give players extra money to purchase the same items that non-paying customers can buy. As a result, players can either enjoy a fully-featured fantasy-based MMO without paying anything extra, or they can use real money to obtain items quicker. This seems fair.
This sequel is set 250 years after the events found in the "Guild Wars: Nighfall" expansion. Tyria is barely recognizable because of the rise of Elder Dragons who literally ripped their way through the planet. What I find fascinating is the addition of personal storylines that dramatically differ for each player. These aren't boring stories put in place just to say they exist. Instead, they're engrossing tales that help propel players forward. I also love how every story changes with each player's decisions.
It's refreshing to play an MMO where players aren't overwhelmed by dozens of quests at a time. "GW2" uses the main storyline for major quests that offer useful rewards, and also incorporates occasional "favor" quests that run the standard gamut from escorting NPCs to killing enemies. However, it seems like most of my time was spent participating in various fun dynamic events spread all over Tyria! No matter where players are, there's always a dynamic event close by that tasks players with everything from activating switches to collecting ooze to defending areas from mini-invasions. This is a cool way to force players to cooperate with each other, and every player is rewarded based on their amount of participation. In addition to quests and dynamic events, there are also dozens of deadly dungeons to explore.
Since the world of Tyria is strictly player versus environment (PvE), it's necessary to access special features to fight other players (PvP). Players can choose to enter arena-style battles or join other players on the same server and engage in World versus World versus World (WvWvW). This gigantic world battle pits players from three servers against each other in an awesome fight to control strategic points. It's even possible to incorporate devastating siege weapons and break supply lines. One of my favorite features is how every player is bumped up to the maximum level of 80 for PvP, which ensures that winning is based on skill and teamwork rather than level advantages.
While there are several character classes available in the game such as thief, warrior, and elementalist, players are given the tools to survive by themselves in a dungeon. This means everyone has access to healing and crowd control abilities, but some classes have more robust abilities than others. It's great to be self sufficient, but one downside of this feature is that most players choose a DPS build, which limits variety.
New to the standard MMO genre is real-time dodging ability where any player can dodge most incoming attacks. This adds a bit more skill and realism to the game. I also appreciate the ability to alter the look of gear as well as dye armor. There's nothing more frustrating than obtaining new gear and hating the way it looks on my character. Now I can choose one or more cool cosmetic looks, such as Steampunk, and my character will always match!
"Guild Wars 2" isn't revolutionary, but it's still my favorite MMO to date.