There are still many misconceptions to the unreleased Guild Wars 2. Blogger-in-arms, Hunter, tackled many of these (especially the ones that irritated him) over at Hunter’s Insight. I’ve had this post in draft mode for awhile, and Hunter’s article finally pushed me to complete it.
So, you’ve heard about that Guild Wars game, and you’ve noticed that Guild Wars 2 is one of the most anticipated MMOs to launch. However, your digital home is World of Warcraft. Then this guide is for you!
There is a common misconception about Guild Wars 2 that lives even in the hardcore Guild Wars 2 communities: ArenaNet is WoW-ifying Guild Wars to make Guild Wars 2. They failed with their pseudo-MMO first offering, and now they are looking to the virtual sun in the MMO solar system to create a new game. Let’s start with that misconception.
Where It’s Closer
Guild Wars 2 should feel a lot more like a conventional MMO, such as World of Warcraft, for two reasons: persistence and progression.
Unlike the instance-filled Guild Wars, its successor, Guild Wars 2, will have a persistent open world. Guild Wars 2 will still use instances for storytelling your character’s personal story, updating your character’s home, and of course dungeons. That means when you are out killing worms in the field, you will see other players also killing worms, running down the roads, running from marauding centaurs, and so on. There will be loading screens between the zones, but the developers have said the zones are very large (estimated run time from end to end at fifteen minutes).
You might have also heard (or scoffed) about the max level in Guild Wars being level 20. Well scoff no more; the max level in Guild Wars 2 will be level 80. There are quite a few differences between a level in World of Warcraft and a level in Guild Wars 2. First, the curve for the time to level for each level is flat. That means if it took you an hour to level from level 51 to level 52, it should take you about an hour to level from level 61 to level 62. This is much different than World of Warcraft, which raises the amount of time required as you level higher.
The other big difference is the sidekick system in Guild Wars 2. A sidekick system, in this case, allows you to go up in power level or go down in power level depending on the person you are grouped with. There is a twist, in that even if ungrouped, you will be lowered in power level if you enter an open world area that you have out leveled. So if you are level 77 and you enter a zone with a level cap of 40, your power level will be reduced to 40. You will still be more powerful with level 77 traits and skill availabilities, but the power of your traits, skills, weapons, armor, etc. will be reduced to the level cap. The sidekicking/downleveling mechanic will also apply in dungeons, such as being lowered to about level 30 for Ascalon Catacombs.
Finally, there will be a stronger sense of gear progression in Guild Wars 2 that simply was not the case in Guild Wars. At level 40, you should have level 40 gear, which is statistically better than level 20 gear. The gear will be customizable with upgrade components similar to World of Warcraft’s enchanting and gems.
Where It’s Farther
There are plenty of differences between Guild Wars 2 and World of Warcraft, but I will try to focus on the three big ones: active combat, travel, and questless “questing.”
Coming off of progression similarities, especially with regard to items, there is a key difference to make with regard to item power importance. Guild Wars 2 combat will focus in large part on non-numerical activity. That means that rolling, battlefield placement, and small things like projectile blocking will play a significant role in combat. If a troll is going to swing a tree trunk at you, then dodge behind the troll. It won’t just roll some dice to see whether it auto-hits you regardless of your positioning. If a harpy throws a glob of poo at you, then duck behind a tree while the poo is mid-flight. It won’t magically pass through the tree because the dice were rolled upon poo launching. This will mean that gear progression will be less critical to facing higher level enemies if the player is more aware of the battlefield.
Movement is also very unrestricted in overworld traveling because there are instantaneous warp gates placed all around each zone. There is a small fee for using the warp, and the warp gates must be discovered. This allows players to quickly group up, hit active areas, and not spend time playing the MMO running game. As of yet, there has been no word on player-owned mounts, but ArenaNet has said that flying mounts are unlikely at launch.
Finally, there are no conventional quests. The open world will have dynamic events instead (current estimate at about 1500 on launch). Each event occurs in a location (the location can move during the event), where a sidebar screen shows the objective and progression of the event. Anybody can join, and the event will scale on the fly according to the amount of active players at the event. It can do this by upping a creature’s armor, adding more mobs on the next wave, or even giving a creature more skills.
The events will have real impact on the open world. For example, if players don’t stop some enemies from enslaving Skritt (rat people), then the Skritt will return to attack the area after they are brainwashed and warped. If the players, do stop the slavers, the Skritt might open up their city to the players for a little bit. The events will ultimately cycle, but there will be hidden and easter egg events too.
Rewards for the events will be based on player participation in the form of experience, gold, and karma. Karma is the untradeable, event-based currency that can be used to buy things from vendors. Almost everything that can be bought with karma can also be bought with gold. Some events will also have treasure chests or unique items as a reward.
Where It’s Different
There are two places where Guild Wars 2 is just going to be plain different than World of Warcraft instead of some linear shade of gray: story and skills.
While I did say there are no conventional MMO quests, there will be a quest called your Personal Story. This branching quest starts during character creation when you decide on such things as whether you grew up as a noble, a commoner, or a street rat, and then in actual gameplay later on such as deciding to save an orphanage or a hospital. Each decision will have impact on your Personal Story, but it will not affect content access in the open world or dungeons. The story will heavily occur in instances tailored specifically to the choices you have made, and the instances can be shared with other players as guests in your personal story.
Finally, skills will be quite different from the conventional MMO dice roll. As stated above, combat, and therefore, skills are going to be much more active. For example, a shield block skill to protect those behind you will rely more on your battlefield placement than agro.
Similar to Guild Wars, the active, available skills will be limited to 10 (Guild Wars had 8). The first 5 skills are dependent on weapon-type choice, and the last 5 are chosen by you. The first 5 skills are the base-build, and then there will be 3 utility skills, 1 healing skill, and 1 elite skill. The utility skills add effects and plug holes, the healing skill gives every profession a way to heal, and the elite skill is a high-powered, high-cooldown game changer.
While each player has a healing skill slot, it is important to note that most healing skills are very self-oriented. There is no “healing class” whose job it is to stand back and fight mob damage. Each player can switch two sets of weapons on the fly to instead change combat roles instantaneously. If you were playing a damage-heavy dual-wielding axe warrior, and you found you over-extended in a fight, then you could switch to a more defensive mace and shield setup to retreat safely and heal yourself.
Guild Wars 2 will definitely bring some of the more conventional MMO elements to the series that were missing in the original. It is safe to say that Guild Wars 2 can be easily called an MMO, whereas its predecessor was arguably not. However, Guild Wars 2 also will bring elements from other games like the active combat of an action-oriented adventure game, like God of War and the personal story of some cinematic role-playing games, like Dragon Age. Finally, Guild Wars 2 is going to have a buy-the-box business model similar to many single-player games. So even if you keep World of Warcraft as your main home, Guild Wars 2 could be that nice summer home just a few hours away.