I assume most of you know I'm a pretty serious gamer and those who don't can just trust that I am based on this post alone. First off, some history. Nooch.
Guild Wars was a pretty popular MMO released way back in 2005 and eventually sold a little over 5 million copies world wide. No great shakes but in a genre absolutely dominated by World of Warcraft, a respectable number. It gained notoriety early on for high money tournaments in the Player versus Player realm, or PvP, but the scene quickly fell into itself and the game slowly turned into more a niche game. For me, the game was a breath of fresh air, giving life to a genre that had never interested me because of the notorious "grind" involved. Guild Wars was originally built around its PvP system and added the story modes, the Player versus Environment (PvE, for short), in order to actually, you know, sell the game. It was a uniquely balanced combat experience that both fascinated and engulfed me and my vast amounts of free time (back when I was a loser, see).
When the sequel was first announced and subsequently delayed in Blizzardian fashion and given vague release dates and few details, my expectations went through the roof. Arena Net was going to shock the gaming world with a fresh outlook on the game. Everything the developers were saying, and trust me when I say it wasn't much nor very often, centered around "fresh perspective" and "breaking the MMO mold". Now, I had always felt Guild Wars accomplished this in a lot of ways but A-Net was looking to more thoroughly bridge the gap between the vast (and increasingly bored) MMO community and people like myself. They wanted to create the perfect MMO. When I tell you I feel like this extremely lofty goal just might have been achieved, I'm dead serious.
The release of Guild Wars 2 should forever change how MMOs are made. Because I doubt more than 15 people are still reading this far, I'll just skip into telling you the big reasons why the game has rocketed up my list of favorite games.
The game respects the gamer's time.
This is far and away the biggest gripe I ever had with...essentially every MMO experience outside of Guild Wars. There was a huge level cap and an incredible grind (called that because every person grinds their teeth into dust while trying to accrue enough exp to go from level 79 to 80) that changed the game from hobby to chore but the player pressed on. GW2 breaks this mold by rewarding the player for essentially everything. Running to explore that huge gulf on the map? Have some experience points. Killing the baddest monsters you can find? Here, take some exp. Helping the locals by cleaning up graffiti around town or shooing away mean looking characters? Why, they have some exp for you! Skipping the PvE portion of the game to get straight to killing other people? No problem, let's reward you on your travels...with a bundle of exp. It covers basically every type of person who is going to pick the game up. Intrepid explorer just looking to run around and unlock the map? Don't be surprised when you level up without ever killing something. Bad ass slayer of all creatures? No worries, you'll level just fine, too. That enormous gap in between the light-footed pacifist and the bloodthirsty Rambo wannabe? Yeah, they have plenty for you, too. Everywhere you turn, the game is waiting to throw exp at you for doing something, ANYTHING. You can focus almost solely on running around gathering crafting materials (which has an extremely stream-lined system that every other MMO in the future will likely be copying) and hanging out leveling up your crafting abilities...and being rewarded with a bundle of exp. Essentially, if you log in and plan on doing pretty much anything at all, at some point you're going to pick up exp along the way and by golly you're just going to have to deal with that. You aren't going to find yourself aimlessly wandering around GW2 and saying to yourself "what am I even doing out here?" because the game leaves you to your devices about 15 minutes after they drop you into the world (which is pretty minimal hand-holding for a game with so many systems to learn). Feel respected? Moving on.
Everything is based around intelligent scaling systems.
I spent a good 20 hours just running around my starter area, making sure I 100% cleared out every section before moving onwards down the path of my personal story and into the world of Tyria. Naturally, I went from my starter area to the starter area of the four other races (Five races, each with a unique section of the map their players start in. Makes sense, right? Practically everything in this game does) to wander around and see what was going on there. I was surprised to see I was still gaining levels, albeit slower but that damn exp just wouldn't stop rolling in, and the areas enemies remained a threat to my well-being because of one of the many examples of scaling. Being level 22 in a field of level 9 enemies didn't matter at all because the game auto-corrected my level down to 11, reducing my HP and DPS (If you're still reading, I'm just assuming you know the lingo by now). The game has things called "dynamic events" where conversations and subsequent actions regarding NPCs trigger a big event of some kind, whether it be an assault on a nearby camp that you have to defend or a crate of supplies that need to be protected on the open roads during transit. The more people who assist in these events, the harder the event becomes, the higher the reward becomes. I've done some events totally alone, got a minimal reward for my efforts, come back later and done the same event with 40 strangers and rolled in the various rewards. The game rewards you based on participation, so showing up and standing around while people do stuff isn't going to cut it. The more you help, the better your benefits. Intelligent scaling, man. Interested in dropping into the extremely large and overwhelming realm of World vs World vs World (pitting 3 servers constantly in battle with each other in an unbalanced, enormous world mode that is as much chaos as anything else) right from the start? Not a problem. Create a character, press B, go into WvWvW, and you scale up to level 80 while earning exp along the way. You can absolutely go from level 1 to 80 without ever touching the PvE realm. I have a friend who did it in the first four days of the game's release (uhhh...virgin alert). I plan on doing it with my recently-created Guardian. Scaling, man. It's pretty choice.
There are no monthly fees.
I actually wanted to avoid talking about this because most people don't have the same problem with monthly fees that I do but it is a big deal and A-Net is trying to show everyone how you can "survive" the MMO world without monthly fees. First off, the necessity of fees was always bullshit and anyone who happily paid $15 per month for the life cycle of WoW hurt the gaming industry on the consumer side far more than they helped because now developers are constantly trying to find ways to snake $5-$15 from us after seeing people buy a game...and then continue to pay to play it. So thanks for that. Regardless, I'd rather like to avoid a massive pissing contest (if anyone is still reading...) about whether or not you feel justified in lighting your money on fire in the name of monthly fees so let's just focus on how GW2 costs no money to play after the initial purchase of the game. You know, how it should be. There is an in-game store that allows you to spend real money on Gems, which can then be traded for a whole host of things, including things like experience boosts or cosmetic add-ons. The beauty of this trading system is that the real money spent on things gives the players spending that money no real advantage over those of us who prefer to keep our money in our pocket. These gems can also be purchased with in-game currency, meaning you can obtain absolutely everything in the game without spending a single real world cent. This is how free-to-play models should work moving forward. I'm honestly MORE inclined to spend real money with a system like this one because I don't feel disrespected by the developer for choosing not to do so. Speaking of the developer...
They've launched the game to great fanfare and criticism alike but they have been extremely open about the processes ongoing in the game's continued development and are very active...on reddit, of all places. Members of the support/development teams create and respond to threads on a daily basis updating players of the current status of the game and any big news (such as the reporting of 3,000 permanent bans to players exploiting loopholes) in the community and answer specific questions to the best of their ability. Last week there was a particularly amusing thread in which members of the support team responded to inquiries about why players had been banned by publicly outing them with their in-game chat transgressions (you know, the typical racist jargon that permeates throughout these types of games anytime kids get behind keyboards). They've been very active about keeping the chat channels clear of the bullshit by actively reviewing and taking action against people who make the experience miserable for everyone else. Essentially, they're very hands-on and their commitment to reaching out to the community and openly discussing "the issues" is a great change from so many other developers, including the original Guild Wars.
Okay, I'm at 1700 words and I'm not even close to finished describing everything that makes the game so incredible so just go buy it, give me your in-game info, and let's make some internet memories together rampaging through Tyria slaying beasts and exploring the vast lands. We're basically best friends waiting to happen.
The game doesn't waste your time with bullshit, the scaling systems are prevalent and excellent, buying the game is the only monetary cost, the developer hearts you. Bam.