I remember buying Guild Wars 2 on launch, back in 2012. I’d played World of Warcraft before that, doing raids and looking at numbers and all that stuff and I hated it. I hated it a lot! I wanted a new MMO, because I love the feeling of numbers going up and being able to space out and watch a bunch of folks doing their own thing, and Guild Wars 2 didn’t have a subscription fee.
I played it a little, university got in the way, then a bunch of other video games got in the way, and it eventually kind of fell off to the side, even though I kept habitually updating it. Now that it has two expansions to its name, I figured, why not. Let’s have another go at this whole deal.
Guild Wars 2 is rather unique for an MMO in that it offers an incredibly solid single player experience, which I deeply appreciate because I have no friends. From character creation, you’re thrust into a personal story full of NPC’s and dialogue options and everything a normal RPG would have, but sometimes you just kind of run into a bunch of other people.
For example, I made a Sylvari, which is basically just a plant elf, and was then entrusted with some kind of personal spirit quest which lead into a fight against a bunch of evil plant people. Every race has a different questline to go through, from levels 1 through 80, leading to some giant world shattering events where you’re the chosen hero who has to fix everything, etc. etc., standard RPG stuff. And it’s all completely doable solo. I know this because I did it all solo, and it was great!
It works incredibly well as a stand alone campaign, but you absolutely have the option to invite a few friends along if you want/have them.
Of course, the other thing I love about the game is that it makes grinding a rewarding and fun experience. If you love seeing numbers go up and crossing things off lists, this game just feels… Satisfying. Instead of talking to an NPC and taking a quest, quests are just something you stumble into on the map. A certain section of the map will have a quest, whether that be to kill bandits, destroy enemy weapon stores or collecting fruit from trees. Doing things in the area fills the quest progress bar until it hits 100%, and then you go ahead to the next area.
It’s something I just found immensely enjoyable and before I knew it, I’d actually 100% completed the entire world map after a few weeks of zoning out, listening to music and just taking some me time. There’s also your standard dungeons, which absolutely require other people, and some PVP/world vs. world type things I haven’t participated in because, again, this requires having friends or directly interacting with other people. Terrifying!
The DLC adds entirely new and large maps, as well as new mechanics like gliding and in the latest entry, mounts. Which was a long time coming, but one of the mounts is a cool dinosaur, and all the mount types are used to traverse different terrain and do different things which is another interesting change from most MMO’s.
The DLC also offers personal quests which continue the story in various ways, as well as introducing new classes and mechanics for players who want to spice things up a little. Which I didn’t.
Listen. If I play an MMO, I want to be able to ignore the numbers and the meta, and just play a guy with a bow and arrow and a pet to soak up the damage so I can stand as far away from my target as possible and not worry about having my ass kicked.
Which brings me to another point, and perhaps my favourite, the world bosses and world events. Similar to quests, world events will occasionally happen in a certain area where you and everyone around you is given a certain amount of time to collect things/kill things/etc. for a special reward. Other times, it’s a boss, a huge enemy that just kind of pops out of the ground somewhere and you get to participate in killing it. Along with like, 50 other people who just happened to be in the area at the same time.
There’s something absolutely thrilling about the first time you stumble onto a world boss, a bunch of people all putting out buffs and doing their little dances or using fun items that give your character a bobblehead or whatever. It reminds you that this is a living, breathing world that exists beyond your character and beyond everyone else.
The game also offers regular ‘seasons’, stories that progress the lore of the world and are free to any player so long as they log on during the event, along with seasonal events that one would expect from most MMO’s.
It’s honestly amazingly in depth, a lot of effort has gone into making sure that every type of gamer gets what they want, whether that’s a solo experience, a traditional MMO experience, a mix of the two, or just something to zone out to while you listen to Triple J for like 5 hours before you remember you actually had a bunch of other stuff to do and kind of freak out for a while but you still kind of want to get that next shiny achievement because it’s Right There.