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Guild Wars 2: Review

07.10.2012

Warning! This is a very long article!
Guild Wars 2 – The Final Verdict

In the meantime I have played Guild Wars diligently. My character, Claudia Skullburn, a Norn Elementalist, has reached level 80 for weeks now. Time to do the final review for Guild Wars 2.

The difference to other reviews of GW2 is of course my Atlantian perspective: I will compare every now and then Atlantica Online to Guild Wars 2. Now, I know, there are some people who find that not fair. How can I compare a five year old game with a brand new one like GW2? Personally, I follow another school of thought: I live now, I have now to decide which game to play, I have not a lot of free time, and so I choose the best game out there. There is no grace for old games which did not have move along, at least not from me. And this argument could also be turned around: There is an even older MMORPG out there which is by far the most wide-spread one, and there are a lot of GW2 fans who argue that it is not fair to a new game to compare it with an old one which had time to mature. For me it is not a matter of fairness. I invest money and time where I think I get the best value for it. I am a customer, not a judge.

That out of the way, here is my review:

1. The World

GW2 has a huge and beautiful designed world called Tyria. The world is divided in regions (like Ascalon) and those in maps (like “Fields Of Ruin”). A map is typically quite large in itself. It is designed for a certain level range (like “20 to 30”) and usually themed: for example as a map where bandits roam, attacking innocent skritts (skritts are gnome-like creatures who love shinies), or a map where a centaur tribe has his camp and attacks human settlements, while in the sea the evil kraits try to abduct humans to enslave them. Or frozen mountaineous landscapes where the Sons Of Svanir try to overtopple the current Norn government (ok, Norns have no real government, but at least they have a consensus now to help the other races – excluding the Svanir guys). In Atlantica Online the lore goes lost more or less after a while and the maps (though quite stylish) feel a bit glued together: now, there is a bit of Indian history, and then a bit of Denver industry. In GW2 you have more the sense of exploring one world with a quite consistent background story.

Interestingly one of the more audible criticisms in the GW2 forums is that you don’t have a background story. You rush from place to place and never get why. I don’t feel that way and I even have an explanation for that criticism: It is true, that you are not FORCED to experience the background story. If you want you can skip it nearly completely (not completely completely, the last levels force you to experience the climax of it somewhat). But that is not the same as if there is none. You should take your time to listen to the dialogues of the NPCs. They are funny, sometimes dramatic, sometimes weird, but they do a lot to immerse you in the world. And they explain bits of the background. It is like a mosaic. After I had explored most of the world (I am now at 95% exploration rate of the maps, only some pvp maps are still not complete) these bits and pieces came together to draw a quite beautiful picture.

A huge difference to Atlantica Online is that you must explore the world. The map is not open. Even when you enter one map (part of a region which is part of the world) you only see one segment of it. You must cross the border to the undiscovered part of the surroundings you are in, and then another segment of the map is uncovered. That in itself is a huge motivator for me. And you get of course a nice reward if you have discovered 100% of the world (a piece of a legendary weapon, or so I heard).

The world is also stunningly beautiful. Hm, that sounds a bit bland. But I am not good at words, so I simply beg you to repeat the first sentence of this paragraph three times at least and to put all your awe in it you can muster. And then it is not enough. Suffice to say: this morning I did nothing else than wander around and watch the scenery. Interrupted by one or the other Warg, of course, but basically I simply enjoyed what I saw. The beauty of the world compared to Atlantica Online is not only the graphic style. It is also the design. You can walk everywhere where it is realistically possible, there are no (or nearly no) invisible walls. You can even jump over obstacles (and you must do that sometimes). There are hidden tunnels, surprisingly situated mini-caves, disguised entrances to other map segments, a not only beautiful but also meaningful underwater world, and a lot of other things you can simply watch. You may even encounter a swamp drake attacking a doe – because in real life a swamp drake would do the same. If there were such things as swamp drakes. And while there are areas with zombie-like enemies like there are in Atlantica Online, there are also villages with playing children, characters who tell quite nicely authored stories about their world, bickering couples, crazy scientists and diligent farmers tending to their flock. The world seems much more alive than in Atlantica Online.

The world has basically 5 starting areas for the five races (Asura, Norn, Charr, Human and Sylvari). Then there are maps for higher levels which meet and mingle to a certain extent: There are maps with Asura and Humans in it, or Sylvari and Humans. The highest maps are in the south of the world, where all races meet to fight the world bosses (dragons). And the world has also six cities: one capital for each race, and one “hub” for all races (Lion’s Arch). And boy, that are cities! Lion’s Arch is a giant map in itself, very detailed and full of busy NPCs. There is a sewer net, there are military training grounds, bustling business quarters and quarters for residents. Compared to, say, Rome in AO, Rome is at 5 and Lion’s Arch at 90 in my scale of towniness (0 being flat desert, 50 being Manhattan live, 100 being the most towny town imaginable).

The one thing I would criticize is that the endgame maps are not that intricately designed than the earlier maps. They are too bleak and rocky for my taste. Ok, that fits to the lore, I know, but I so miss the forests and swamps and mountains and fields of the earlier maps…

I give the world, that is the map and how it is designed, a 9/10. One was subtracted for the not that spirited end game maps.

2. The PVE combat

As you all know I am not in pvp very much. But I like PVE. So how does the combat feel in GW2?

GW2 uses an action-oriented combat system. You have to move, especially in higher level areas, and/or with more than one enemy. That is usually not my thing. I come from a turn-based area, where @ (me) had a d (dog) and was chased by a D (dragon) who would squelch out a – (ray of doom). But in GW2 moving and attacking feels quite natural. At least after I trained for a while. Sometimes I wish for a better camera, though, especially for an option that the camera turns as I do. So you move around with mouse and the usual asdw keys and apply skills to the poor sod you are going to kill. You have 10 skills at the same time. But every profession has its special perks. My special perk as an Elementalist is that I have 25 skills at the same time. I can rotate through Earth, Fire, Water and Air (that is called “attunement”), and depending from the element I am attuned to, the five skills for my weapons change. The sixth skill is the healing skill every profession has. The skills 7 to 9 can be chosen from a plethora of “slot skills” (most by profession, some by race) and the tenth skill is the elite skill. You get some of these when you are at level 30 (and have enough skill points).

When I fight solo against lower level pve monsters I usually roam the world with a scepter in my weapon hand and a focus or a dagger in my second hand. The skills I get then are more focussed on doing single target damage and the range is medium. When I am going in a group I switch to staff (a two-handed weapon). The skills 1 to 5 change completely and that skill set is more aoe-y. The range is large but the skills tend to need time to execute. Especially my prime aoe, where I have even to stand still. Usually you can (and should) cast your skills while you move, but not that one. It would also be possible to go with two daggers. Many people have done favourable reports about that way to play the elementalist but I haven’t tried that out extensively yet.

Boss fights tend to be somewhat chaotic. But it is a good kind of chaos. It is fun and surprising. But on the downside bosses tend to be a bit uninspired. Usually they have one very strong attack which you must avoid and lots of hitpoints. That is a bit meager. GW2 itself shows how to do it better with some world bosses and the loving couple in the first dungeon (which buff each other, so that you have to separate them to have a chance). Nevertheless fighting those bosses with a lot of players is a lot of fun.

And it is especially fun because GW2 scales content. This scaling works in PVE like this:

When you enter a map which you have outlevelled, your level will be decreased to one level over the maximum level the map is designed for. So if the spot where you are is designed for level 10 to 15, you would be level 16, even if you are level 80 “in the real world”. The benefits of your gear will also decrease proportionally. So when your precision attribute as a naked char is at 100 and then lowered to – say – 20, your precision attribute which you gain from your gear is also reduced by 80%. But because gear tends to be have quite high attributes in higher levels there is still an advantage to be a downsized level 80 compared to a “natural” level 15 or 16. Another advantage you keep are your skills and traits. You keep them all. I think this feature is thought out very beautifully. You have a sense of achievement but the fights are not boring – you can die. Quite easily in fact. By the way: there is no upscaling. You cannot go into a level 70 area als level 15 character. Oh, wait you can, but you won’t stay there for very long. The enemies will see to it.

The score for the PVE combat (seen from an elementalist’s perspective): 9/10.

3. Questing

The hype says: ArenaNet has done away with quests. That is a lie. GW2 contains quests. And some of them are of the kill x, bring y, loot z variety. But they evolved the quest concept to a new level. First of all: you don’t have to turn quests in (there are a few exceptions, but in general that is true). You don’t have to get them either. When you walk around, you see hearts on the map. That is a NPC who wants something done. And he cries that out to all to hear, which means that a message appears in the top right where his wishes are described. As long as you are in his range the message stays there. Each of this “heart quests” has a progress bar. When it is full, the heart quest is done. There are usually a few actions, like killing something, freeing slaves, squashing eggs, repairing golems or even playing a kind of golem mini-chess (just done this morning). Each of them contributes to the filling of the progress bar – your choice what you prefer. If you go away the quest message and the progress bar disappears. Go back and it appears again. Your progress in fulfilling his requests is stored, by the way – you don’t lose it by going elsewhere.

More interesting are the so called dynamic events. This is a sequence of animations, usually triggered by a player, but sometimes playing out in a timed fashion. These events can be boss fights, escort missions, defend-the-village-against-monster-waves missions or more intricately designed things. They are often quite interesting. I know, the underlying plots are of course repeating themselves – there are only so many ways to tell a story. But they are wrapped neatly in gift paper. I for once feel well entertained, especially by the accompanying NPC dialogue. That is one of the many places where you recognize that there are professional Fantasy authors at work (like Jeff Grubb, for example, who I know as an author of Dragonlance novels which I have read very extensively). Quite often the events are chained, and they can branch, depending from if the players failed to reach the first event’s goal or not.

In Atlantica Online a text table tells you about the danger of the corrupted So-And-So for the residents of an area. You would walk into their camp, where they would moving around mindlessly, and attack them. In GW2 you actually see evil action. You see the bandits coming down on the innocent villagers, robbing their possessions. You hear people cry (yes, all of these dialogues are with voice acting) and you actively prevent the bandits doing their dirty work.

All these events scale: The more players are participating, the more enemies are coming – and the strength of bosses increases, too. This does not work perfectly yet but is good enough.

Then there is the personal story. While you generate your character you have to answer some personal questions, like “what do you fear the most”, and you have to decide which path(s) you want to follow. Depending from your answers a quest line is generated. The missions in these quest line are instanced. You can do them alone or invite others, but the results count only for you (except your friend is at exactly the same quest step, then he can choose if he wants to accept the result as his own). During the quest line there are some more decisions to make. Some of the missions in the personal quest are really difficult. I find it a nice touch to have a personalized main quest line. Some of the dialogues could be better and less pathetic, though. All in all it teaches you a lot of the background of Guild Wars 2 which is a good thing.

The dynamic events would get a 10/10, but the heart quests can be sometimes a bit boring and the personal quests are a very good idea but the execution is only decent. Because ArenaNet saves us the task to get a quest from a NPC and to turn quests in (rewards are sent by mail, how nice…), I would give the heart quests a score of 8/10, leading to an overall score for the quests of 9/10.

4. Levelling and the PVE endgame

Until now the review reads fantastic. But here we come the part where this game does not shine so bright. In short: Levelling is too fast, and there is not much to do after you reach the maximum level. Personally I like to level. And I have nothing against doing it slowly. That is the one thing I thought Atlantica Online did right (until they introduced the Training Center and made the first 95 levels meaningless). In GW2 levelling remains fast. I have read in the official forum that it was a design goal that you need 90 minutes for one level as an ambitious but not professional player. And that is true also for level 79 to 80 (maximum level). Personally I find that wrong. It would have been better to slow down the level curve drastically after you have reached a meaningful level, like 30 (where you get your elite skill), and then another time when you are near the end (say, level 70). In my opinion ArenaNet has thrown away its biggest asset in GW2: the beautiful world. It deserves to be savoured much more intensely. The downscaling helps a bit but not enough because you have not the same feeling of achievement that I had in Atlantica Online when I finally mastered a – say – level 45 area.

The PVE endgame (I don’t speak of the dungeons here, see below for that) consists of the few high end maps, especially one level 80+ map. They have no heart quests, but lots of (currently bugged) events. These events include big dragon bosses, and those are quite impressive. Imagine the strongest Labyrinthos Minotaur. And then imagine that monsters like those are the tiny minions which are spewed out by the dragon boss by the dozens. The boss itself fills the screen, it sweeps down on you massively, it screeches and even from far you see the silhouette of the dragon hovering in the sky. My last fight with a minor world boss was with a crowd of at least 100 players and, boy, there was death left and right, and stony rocks dropping down on us (ok, most rocks are quite stony, nothing new there), and minions appearing, and then his aoe hit again and he got invulnerable for a while, and then he instilled magic fear in us, letting us flee, if we wanted to or not, and all in all it was a exhilarating 30 minutes of boss fight with ups and downs and me inmidst all this mayhem healing and buffing and making the ground under his feet all mushy and chilling and burning him and then raining meteor fragments down on him.

But after that? It was farming, quite comparable to Atlantica Online. Granted, the fights are still much more entertaining, but there is not much more to say in favour of the PVE endgame.

If you read this review and paid attention you may think: “What? There is a feature like downscaling! Go back and do your thing in a level 15 map!” Yes, but here is the black side of the downscaling thing: They didn’t do it consequently enough. The rewards you get in a downscaled area are not good enough. You want high level ressources (like oricalchum), you want level 80 items and bags which contain crafting ressources for the maximum crafting level. You get at least 50% trash from level 15. You get sometimes higher level items, but usually below level 80. And while it is still entertaining to fight there it is easier than in higher level maps – too easy in my opinion. It would have been a big step forward if they downscaled more strictly: Make us weaker but give us the rewards we would get in the level 80 maps. Then the server population would spread across all maps and all would be happy.

Personally I still have fun: I do dungeons, collect dyes and dabble around with WvWvW. More to those later in this review.

So, for levelling and the endgame here is a 4/10, and the 4 stands mainly for the impressive world bosses.

5. On-The-Fly Groups and Looting

In Atlantica Online you can go with a party. One of the things you do is to determine how the loot is spread (like “random” or “leader”). One monster drops one loot, and one player gets it, whoever that maybe (with the exception of quest drops).

In Guild Wars 2 you get loot from a monster if you contribute meaningful damage to its demise. This loot is instanced: only you can get it, nobody else. And on the other hand a lot of players can get loot from the monster, but you won’t know if that is the case because you don’t see other people’s loot. That was introduced to diminish griefing and envy, and to a certain extent it works very well to combat these attitudes. It is highly beneficial to attack monsters with a lot of people because that maximizes the gain from every monster: If one person kills a monster the monster will drop zero or one piece of loot. If six people share killing said monster it will drop zero to six pieces of loot.

If you are in a party the “meaningful damage” you have to contribute is lower. It is enough that all the damage from a party combined is seen as “meaningful” (whatever “meaningful” is, that depends from a lot of factors not yet known to me). But you have to have hit the monster at least for 1 point of damage yourself to get into the potential loot gainers.

So parties are still beneficial but it is perfectly possible to simply join in when lots of people try to kill a big bad ugly. And it is seen as beneficial by the others: you help them killing it, you will get some damage they then don’t have to suffer through, and you don’t take their loot away.

But to be honest: there is one drawback. In the high level maps there are 30 or 40 people who try to kill waves of enemies. How do you kill waves of enemies? With aoe-attacks. So I, for example, stand there, see a wave of enemies coming, start my aoe seconds before they are there, so that they run into it full-scale (imagine meteor strike, but with single corporal meteors slamming down to the ground for 5 seconds). I am not the only one to do that, so that the wave of enemies is killed in a fraction of a second. Now only so many people can do meaningful damage because the monsters are dead after 4 or 5 mighty aoes. With other words: in these cases it is not a friendly cooperation between 30 or 40 people but a competition who can cast their aoe best (that is: right in time). The reason for that is mediocre scaling. ArenaNet scales the waves of enemies: when there are 30 or 40 players around there are many more monsters coming to you than with say 2 players. But for an aoe 100 monsters are like 1, at least if they are in the same place. ArenaNet should scale so that the monsters come from more places at the same time and attack from many angles when there are many players, so that you cannot get them all in your aoe-target area.

This drawback does not make the “instanced loot” system bad. It is only a small dirty spot on an otherwise shining very good solution.

The loot you can get from the monsters is very generous. Not every monster drops loot but you get often enough some. And you can outfit yourself completely ouf of loot during the whole level-up-process. Even in the level 80 maps there are dropping high quality weapons and armor pieces every now and then. I was clad in decent level 80 gear (mostly green, which translates roughly to pegasus +3 gear, at least it feels like that) without paying a single copper, simply out of loot, and that after only a few days. But for really high quality gear you have to invest a little bit more effort. More about that later.

For grouping and looting I give this game a 9/10 score.

6. Dungeons

What I liked most in Atlantica Online were the TBS missions. My blog is full of stuff about them and not coming from a sense of duty but because I really liked to figure out how to do them in a reasonable and efficient manner. The feature in Guild Wars 2 which replaces TBS missions (for me) is “Dungeons”. Dungeons in Guild Wars 2 are instanced (like TBS missions) and they are designed for 5 people. You can go in with less. But while that is very advisable in Atlantica Online, there is no advantage for that in Guild Wars 2. On the contrary: it is highly inadvisable. Loot, as you now know, is instanced, so no advantage to solo there. The reward for every person in the end is the same amount of “tokens” whether you are there with 2 or 5 people.

Ok, the last sentence is not true. The reward with only 2 people in your group is probably zero, because you will have died so often that you went crazy in the meantime and have already thrown your computer out of the window. Contrary to TBS missions in Atlantica Online dungeons in GW2 are hard. Imagine TBS missions like Battle Of The Red Cliffs where the Warrior of the Blades are the trash mobs. The Emperor of Destruction would be a “veteran mob” (that is GW2 slang for the slightly better trash mobs, not really mini-bosses, but nearly there). The Labyrinthos Minotaur would make a mini-boss. And there is no comparable monster out there in Atlantica Online to mimick bosses in GW2 dungeons.

With a bit of practice you can get through without dying. But it is very, very difficult and you have to work together very well. Dying on the other hand is not a real problem. You will respawn at the next waypoint (there are some inside the dungeon) with one of your armor pieces, chosen randomly, damaged. Damaged armor pieces are still working nicely. But if all of your armor pieces are damaged, the next death will break one armor piece. Damaged and broken pieces can be repaired for a not so modest sum but broken pieces don’t contribute anything to your stats anymore. In fact, if all of your armor pieces are broken you run around naked (and you see that in game). Not totally naked of course. Claudia still magically has a bra and a thong…

The problem with dying is that if your whole party is dead the monsters you have fought will regain all their hit points. That is quite nasty if you had the boss down to 10%…

The GW2 forum is full of whiners. Coming from AO I know that they whine on a very high level, but the amount of whining is still roughly the same as on the AO forum. One of the whinings goes like this: The dungeons are repetitive, they are too easy, they are too difficult, they are uninteresting, they are unfair. The same I have heard about TBS missions. From my perspective the dungeons are beautifully designed. There are some bugs in some of them, but that aside, the dungeons are interesting, challenging and force good group play. They are far, far, far ahead of TBS missions. And while there are bosses who could profit from a bit of design overhaul (being simply hp buckets), most of them fight in an interesting manner, like rolling glowing boulders on you, spawning pups to bind you, coming in pairs buffing one another, creating physical barreers you have to overcome, being invulnerable if you don’t do anything against it… A lot of nice ideas.

The rewards of the dungeons are: a bit of money (26 silver, which is nothing to be overjoyed of but at least covers the costs of repairing), some usually not so outstanding items and most importantly: tokens. To be more exact: Every of the eight dungeons has one story mode and three explorable paths. One path is like a whole new dungeon but in the same setting. For example if you play the Caudacus Manor dungeon the setting is a big villa with garden, and every explorable path uses another part of the villa (with overlaps), has other monsters, bosses and another plot. So you can count them as 8 story dungeons and 24 “normal” dungeons. You get only tokens from the 24 “normal” dungeons (explorable paths). You collect these tokens to get legendary weapons and armor pieces. These are the highest weapons and armor pieces in the game.

Forget the last sentence. They are not better than the highest weapons and armor pieces you can craft, and there are other legendary weapons and armor pieces out there, but they look very cool. Some of them.

So, taking into account some lacklustrely designed bosses, I give the dungeons a 8/10 score.

7. Gear and Crafting

Gear comes in six quality tiers.

  • White (common) gear – that is garbage you sell to a vendor
  • Blue (fine) gear
  • Green (Masterwork) gear
  • Yellow (rare) gear
  • Orange (exotic) gear
  • Purple (legendary) gear – stats same as for exotic gear

These colours are quality tiers. For example: the level 80 light body armor (“coat”) with the additional “cleric” attributes (power, healing, toughness – that is the combination I chose) has the following attributes:

Quality Defense Power Healing Toughness
Blue 217 +49 +69 +49
Green 258 +59 +82 +59
Yellow 278 +64 +89 +64
Orange/Purple 314 +72 +101 +72

That means roughly: if blue gear is 100, green is 120, yellow 130 and orange/purple 145.

Gear comes on practically all levels. There is level 43 gear, level 45 gear, level 46 gear… Every level (may be not level 1, did not check that) has its gear. At least monster-drop-wise. And every gear comes in these quality tiers. Ok, that is not really true. Exotic gear for example is only available from level 60 on.

You can customize your equipment piece somewhat. Weapons and armors have a slot for a sigil/rune which gives your equipment piece a special attribute. Or even more attributes. Like for example: “+5% critical damage” or “20% chance for a raven to be summoned on critical hit”. Some runes also have “set attributes”, like “(1) +20 vitality, (2) +50 power, (3) +5% condition damage”. In these cases you get the three attributes only when three of your equipment pieces have the same rune. Furthermore, equipment also has some fixed additional attributes. For example coats (light body armor) comes in several lines, like cleric, valkyrie, berserker. In the above example I introduced a cleric coat, which has power, healing and toughness as additional attributes. Other lines have other attributes. It is fun to customize your equipment. As elementalist I chose the cleric line because I am a glass cannon and sorely need toughness. Also I need healing power because I like to heal in groups and elementalists have some nice healing spells. And power I need to fend for myself. Four of my armor pieces have also a major rune of necromancy which is a “set rune” with four attributes, so that all four attributes are active.

To craft green gear is quite simple. On the market green gear is dead cheap. It drops also quite frequently. That means you can basically expect being clad in green gear in no time and for no or marginal costs. Exotic/legendary gear, the best gear in the game stat-wise, is roughly 20% better. In Atlantica Online you want +10 pegasus gear. You can expect to be clad in plain pegasus gear rather quickly if you have reached level 150 but it is in no way as simple as in Guild Wars 2. And the difference between a plain piece of pegasus gear and a +10 piece is 300%.

The gear treadmill as a necessity is practically non-existent. Even exotic gear is quite cheap: You can buy a piece for about 2 gold, may be 2.5 now. You can make 1 gold in 2 hours farming events in the higher level maps.

This has a good side and a bad. The good side is you can play with the grown-ups pretty fast. The bad side is you have no goal gear-wise. The only gear difficult to achieve is the legendary (purple) gear. Those you can get from dungeons but also from other places. But purple gear has the same stats as orange gear. Granted, some of it is level 82 (which is higher than any level you can craft, but you may wear it even in level 80). But the difference of these 2 levels are negligible.

I have to admit: I like the gear treadmill. I found it a bit steep in Atlantica Online and of course much too atlassy. But to leave it out as in GW2 (except for vanity items) is not the way to go. In my opinion the purple/legendary gear should have been a bit stronger. When blue is 100, orange is 145, purple should have been 160. You have to work real hard for purple gear, so you deserve a significant improvement.

That said you should keep in mind that in GW2 skill is more important than gear. That is true for Atlantica Online for the more difficult content, too, but in GW2 it is even more distinctive.

GW2 has a nice crafting system. You discover recipes (if you don’t google in the internet), and that is quite beautifully done. The problem is that crafting is a loss, economically speaking. It is nearly always cheaper to buy the item from the market. That is because the monster drop gear quite generously. The only gear which does not drop is exotic gear at level 80 (at least I haven’t seen such a drop yet). But even that you can get as reward for certain achievements in the game, for example for complete exploration of a map. So you can get decent money for exotic gear that you craft, but it is still only covering the costs, and that barely.

Personally I maximized tailoring (that is: making light armor) and tried jewellery (making rings, amulets and such – a huge money sink) and cooking (making buff items, like ginger tarts, which gives you a better chance to find high-tier gear when you loot a monster for 30 minutes). Levelling tailoring to the maximum level of 400 cost me about 2 gold all in all. But now I can craft all my personal armor myself. Cooking is even more expensive, but I have fun to discover the countless recipes there.

To summarize crafting and gear: You get good gear too easy and while crafting is fun, it is also quite pointless. On the other hand you can modify your gear much more than in Atlantica Online. I give it a decent 6/10 score (6 because of the customization, otherwise it would be at 3 or 4).

8. Side Activities

Guild Wars 2 rewards you for exploring the world. Every map has points of interests, vistas, skill challenges and waypoints (teleporting spots). If you have completed all these and all the “heart quests”, you get a reward, and that one can be really nice. So it is one of my goals to get 100% world completion (I am at 95% at the moment).

In the paragraph above I mentioned vistas. Vistas are points where you can look into the world and trigger a short film, showing you the immediate vicinity in quite a beautiful way. And of course you get experience for it. Now watching these videos is nice in itself but the nicest thing about it is to get to the vistas. Some of them are trivial to reach, but for the majority of them the way to reach them is tricky. Often it includes a jumping puzzle. Yes, you can jump in Guild Wars 2. And it does even matter.

When I heard about that I inwardly groaned. How can I, dexteriously challenged as I am, ever find enjoyment in such a kind of activity? But to my own surprise I really enjoy these jumping puzzles. They are a great diversion. And while they are sometimes really hard, they are always fair.

Besides vistas are also jumping puzzles which lead to hidden caches. And these are the real challenge. There are spike traps and monsters who try to shove you from a platform and all other evil things. Here my son shines – I readily admit that these jumping puzzles are often too hard for me. But luckily you don’t need those for map completion (contrary to the vista puzzles, which are a bit easier).

Another feature of every map are skill points. Some of them are also quite difficult to reach but more often you can go straight to them and master the challenge. The challenge being a fight against a strong opponent or simply to “commune” with them. These communing skill points are boring in themselves but you can only commune if you are not attacked. And the devious designers put a lot of monsters, often very strong ones, just before those points.

You need skill points not only for map completion but also for buying skills which you then can use in your skill bar. It is quite easy though to buy all your skills quite quickly. I have all skills I can get and still more than 100 skill points left. There is a skill point sink in the so called Mystic Forge (throw some very high quality things and a lot of skill points into it and hope for a unique legendary weapon) but I haven’t used it yet.

Furthermore there are hidden things all over the map. They are not advertised. You don’t need them. They are simply there. Small coves with quaggans (kind of toads) who tell you weird stories, hidden doors which open up a house in which you can find a secret letter and much more. Every time I discover one of these my “world immersion” grows and I love Guild Wars 2 just for that. It means that a content designer has done more than he should.

So for these kind of side activities I give Guild Wars 2 a 9/10 score. It would be 10/10 if some of the higher level skill points would have been more inventive.

9. World versus World versus World (or WvW)

Guild Wars 2 has some pvp modes I wilfully ignore (but my son says they are very nice). The one mode I did dabble in is WvW. WvW is a war between three servers. Every week the servers are rematched, based on their past performance, so that servers meet roughly equivalent strong servers. One match lasts for one week (obviously) and it runs 24 hours a day. It takes place on four maps: one designated for each server, at least at the start, and one center map, called the Eternal Battleground. These maps are huge in themselves and contain the usual features every normal map has, like skill points, vistas, points of interest, monster population, hidden caves. But additionally they contain castles, towers, keeps and supply camps. Every server can conquer these buildings and defend them, getting points for those. There are orbs to find and hold on to, giving boni. You can build siege weapons and fire from the wall on the besiegers. It is a lot of fun and if your server happens to have a good leader, there can be a lot of strategy going on.

The idea of it is immense. The execution of it is good but there is (as always) room for improvement here and there. A sure sign that it must be good is that even I enjoy it. And it is pvp. Other people kill me! And I still like it, so good is it. The only qualm I have is that the distances are so great. There are waypoints on the map (you can build them even) but most of them are contested. That means you cannot teleport to them. So you have to walk by foot to the place where the action is and that can take a lot of time.

There is no real comparison to it in AO. Imagine the Titan server being a battle field between all servers, waging wars about the towns. But that would not even come close to it.

I give WvW a score of 8/10. It would be 10/10 but for the walking problem and some inbalances.

10. Music

The background music is usually the first which I switch off in every game. Too repetitive, too annoying. There is one exception only. That is the background music of Guild Wars 2. That is an outstanding piece of work. Imagine the Lord Of The Rings movie soundtrack, but with other themes, of course. Epic. And the composer (Jeremy Soule) knew when to stay silent. The music does not always play. It comes on and off and always in the mood just appropriate for the game situation.

Music is not really important for my gaming experience. I don’t miss it when it is switched off. But when it is such an excellent soundtrack as in GW2 it is really an asset of the game.

While I would give the AO music a 1/10, the music of GW2 scores 10/10 for me.

11. The Company

Guild Wars 2 is published by NCSoft and written by ArenaNet. The game is, let us be frank, full of bugs right now. It is playable, very playable, but there are a lot of dynamic events which are buggy or stuck, bugs in dungeons, bugs in the personal story, bugs all over the place.

But I forgive them. And I forgive ArenaNet for them because they try hard and fast to eliminate them. And even more importantly they communicate openly and decently about them. There is not one day where not at least one, most often more of the content designers and programmers do a message in the forum, explaining why some bugs are not eliminated yet, which difficulties they have and what we have to expect in the future. Having played AO for four years, that is a completely new experience for me. Yeah, I know, developers for AO are in Korea, but as I said at the start of review: I don’t give a damn for such kinds of excuses. Now, that I know how communication CAN work, I expect from a MMORPG company that they master their communication skills, and AO was (and probably is) severely lacking in that aspect.

That said, I must confess that lately I have got the impression that ArenaNet should not fix bugs THAT fast. Because some of their bug fixes generate new, even uglier bugs. And that has happened not only once. But I see how they strive to perfection and so I expect a quite flawless game in the long run.

This game has an item shop. The item shop contains only two things which are nice to have. The rest is decorative or simply useless (like a box which – if you trigger it – displays a firework in-game). These are additional bank slots and bag slots (like the permanent inventory license in AO). They cost 600/400 gems. 100 gems are 1.25 €. You can buy gems like atlas ore with in-game money. The current price for gems is 40 copper per piece (1 gold = 100 silver, 1 silver = 100 copper). So you get 250 gems for 1 gold at the moment, making a bag slot 1.6 gold and a bank slot 2.4 gold. That is expensive but not at all prohibitive. I bought 1 bag slot and 2 bank slots so far, all with in-game money. Bank slots are account-wide, that makes them so much more valuable. I think that kind of item shop is in no way “pay to win”. You can easily circumvent it.

I give ArenaNet a 10/10 score for not abusing the item shop, communication and maintaining the game. That is how important communication is for me :)

12. Summary

For me buying Guild Wars 2 was (and still is) totally worth it. Even if I would stop to play after getting to level 80 it would mean I have played roughly 150 hours for 57 Euro. That is good value, if you compare it to, say, Skyrim or another RPG. But while I do see that GW2 lacks endgame-wise, personally I haven’t reached all my goals. I want all dyes, cooking at level 400, explore all the world, collect enough tokens for the most beautiful dungeon legendary armor, making myself a real cool looking scepter and dagger – and then, I think, the next expansion is there, unlocking all those parts of the map which are now not accessible.

For people who like to level and to strive for the best gear, this game may be not the right one. As I said above I am sad myself that GW2 makes it so easy to get to the top. So be warned. I for once will stay for the foreseeable future in GW2. That means I won’t add anything to this blog, at least for the time being.

So have fun with Atlantica Online, a great game, mishandled by a bad company, and if you want to try another MMORPG think about Guild Wars 2.

My final score would be 9/10. But be aware of the bad points I listed. Would I count in the current bugs the score would also be lower, like 7/10.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. 08.10.2012 05:34

    Nice review man. A bit long, I personally got lousy at point 8, but continued the reading. GW2 sounds like a great game from your review… The song, while not minimalistic is nice to be alternating off and on. It gives a good feeling. And the scalling process is nice designed, shame for the loot. Do you played Diablo 3? GW2 sounded a bit like D3 but seems to be a lot better. D3 was a disappointment for me. Overall, great review. Cheers.

  2. 08.10.2012 07:48

    i still hope you will be back, i miss your articles.

  3. crapCraby permalink
    09.10.2012 05:34

    quote [For people who like to level and to strive for the best gear, this game may be not the right one.]

    definitely, which is one main thing people need to notice before jumping into GW2. I simply skim through the article, probably you forgot to mention one thing (and many other problems as well):
    although the game strife to have realistic terrain features, realistic projectile hit/void… But one system hinder the fun- [vulnerable] status. Whenever the game thinks the monster you target unable to locate you, it become invincible. I can’t even kill a pig from over a roof!

    And where is the review for trading post system? :) I not really liking that system design seriously.

  4. 10.10.2012 07:12

    This review is very long. Of course it could be longer but then I thought: “Hey! Have mercy!” Ah, but not really: I simply think that the Trading Post is nothing to mention. Yes, there is a Trading Post, it is currently working but it is bugged (try to filter for “Consumables/Food”). When it works it will be ok. The economy itself is tight. They really try to reign the inflation in and currently they are quite successful at it. No billions to throw around there.

    This invincible- thing you mentioned: Yeah, I encountered it once or twice. I had never a real problem with it.

  5. gemmy the exlurker permalink
    17.10.2012 16:38

    First off as much a i try to listen to you as a costumer and not as a judge the way you share what you think really takes (1) effort and (2) love so glad to see that you are still thinking of A.O. (in one way or another). well just wanted to thank you as sincerely as i can manage for all the advice you gave on the TBS missions. You may not be playing A.O. at the moment and couldn’t care any more or less for a great game made bad by a certain stupid and greedy S.O.B.s

    Well that’s all this shy lurker has to say to one my most helpful guides. hope to see ya back in A.O. if ever you feel like visiting the game every once in a while!

  6. 31.10.2012 19:02

    I enjoyed your insite as I have know the experiance of both perspectives. The only thing that I found a little odd was bashing of AO for bad management… >.> AO was made by NCsoft as well or did I miss something back in 2008….

    • secretsofatlantica permalink
      01.11.2012 17:01

      NCSoft is the publisher of GW2. But it seems that ArenaNet (developers) are in full control, including the item shop.

      AO International was first run by NDoors, then by Nexon (and with them it went from not good to very bad). I don’t think NCSoft was involved there.

      Btw: I just noted that the new Wyvern mount isn’t permanent. Wow! And I thought it could not get worse…

    • FameWolf permalink
      01.12.2012 14:12

      Are you thinking of this? http://massively.joystiq.com/2012/06/08/nexon-invests-6-8m-in-ncsoft-becomes-largest-shareholder/

      Nexon hold a lot of shares in NCSoft – they’re distinct companies at the moment, though time will tell if it remains that way.

  7. 30.11.2012 14:32

    Now that new missions are out I so miss your tipps and tricks to solo especially the tough missions :(
    Hope you are having a nice time at GW2 at least..

    • secretsofatlantica permalink
      02.12.2012 01:28

      Yeah, there will be no guides for the new missions by me. GW2 is still a blast. Even better now with the new fractal dungeons.

  8. 09.12.2012 15:21

    Please review the new TBS missions :) we need you!! I think that might be a small challenge for you in your spare time from GW2 :D

  9. Wiezimag permalink
    21.08.2013 20:06

    I just bought Guild Wars 2 after reading the review :) I think I’ll like it, even though I love getting powerful, collecting great gear to gain some advantage over others. I guess i’ll just have to get really good skills this time

  10. Daniel Hideki Tatiyama permalink
    13.11.2013 21:50

    Reading your review gave me will to play GW2 again, maybe I can find you there :D
    This is my first comment here I think, it’s been over a year that I don’t come here, really miss AO :P
    Maybe I’ll start playing both again… wonder how much both changed since I stopped playing them :P

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