“…then this game is not for you”

I recently followed a few random forum discussions about Guild Wars 2 about its differences to “traditional” MMOs. And by traditional, I mean World of Warcraft or Aion type games. There are generally two different opinions on the subject of raids and endgame content.

Here’s a quick summary how that’s gonna work in Guild Wars 2: Gear will have more or less the same stats at the highest level players can reach (80), that means it doesn’t matter how big my sword is, it’ll do the same job as my friends’ swords. What matters, rather, is how I combine my traits, skills and armour to end up with my unique character ‘build’ and how I consequently use these abilities in combat.

Fighting in Guild Wars 2 has been accelerated to great effect, and through the new dodge mechanics and the lack of a global cooldown, combat tends to be fast and exciting. Tactics are more important than stats – pretty much a philosophy very similar to the original Guild Wars.

For that reason, many players of Guild Wars are now excited to see that the ideas they’ve come to love are being improved upon for the sequel, but essentially stay very in character for the franchise. Guild Wars was never a mainstream game, it didn’t promote an endless hunt for new items, and encouraged a different playstyle than maybe World of Warcraft did.

That’s one of the reasons why it is just silly to pretend as if Guild Wars 2 will “kill” Warcraft or tackle it off the throne. They are different types of games! It’s like arguing about whether Kirby’s Epic Yarn is better than Skyrim. Seriously, stop having this discussion. The MMORPG scene is big and diverse, and not every single fantasy-rpg needs to necessarily be a challenger to WoW.

What Guild Wars did, however, is introduce a couple of ideas and features to the WoW-dominated MMORPG world, some of which have been widely acknowledged and appreciated. Most prominently, Guild Wars showed that it’s possible to run an MMO without monthly subscription fees. However, it also ran on a much smaller scale than other massively multiplayer games.

This is now changing: Guild Wars 2 is at the moment hovering between an obscure newcomer status, the messiah for some and just another fantasy game for others. People compare it to Star Wars: The Old Republic, saying that after everyone played it through once, it will “die” because there’s nothing else to do. The critique I often hear about SW:TOR is that once you’re done with the story, it loses its appeal.

I believe this is why the concept of “story” in MMORPGS has become a bit ambiguous. Some say it’s a nice touch, but quite unnecessary in light of PvP features and endgame (read: raid) content. However, many people praised SW:TOR’s story as being awesome and better than anything on the market in that area. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to try out SW:TOR so I’ll have to take their word for it.

Guild Wars, too, was a very story-centered game, at least that was my impression of it. That’s the thing about it: Everyone had a different experience of GW1, and if you didn’t like the story you could just go off and PvP to your heart’s content. Replaying the story usually wasn’t much fun, since nothing ever changed. This is where Guild Wars 2 is different.

Through the introduction of the five different races, the starting situations of the story experience has become extremely diversified. Add to that the fact that you can choose between three factions in every race, choose your character’s background and preferences, and make different choices in between story branches, and you have hundreds of different ways to experience a rather unique story wrapped inside an MMORPG world. This is where the motivation to replay the game kicks in: to experience a different side of it.

And from what I can tell from my Beta experience so far, the scope of the game is enormous. It will take a lot of time to play through the storylines, especially because you may need to team up with friends to succeed. Even the first ten levels weren’t a walk in the park. That’s the point where I ask myself: Do I want to replay the game with a different initial setup or go raid the same area repeatedly simply to get a better weapon? My choice is simple. Story trumps stats, every time.

The only concession I make to that is maybe a little girly of me. The “cosmetic” differences between weapons and armour is actually something I would go raid dungeons for. The equipment in Guild Wars 2 is very beautifully designed, and the style of the game in general is something I already admired in the previous MMO. The endgame in Guild Wars 2 may well consist of hunting for a cool-looking weapon to transmute my existing bludgeon-of-choice.

Now what about those “two different opinions” I started out with? Well, some think like me, and others simply hate on the idea that a game may not have exactly the kind of raiding content they know from other games. Best comment on this I’ve read so far is this:

If you really think you NEED a gear grind to play a game….well, I personally think you need to reevaluate why you play games, but if you’re absolutely positive that gear grinds (and specifically gear grinds for STATISTICALLY superior gear) are the only way to keep you playing a game long-term…GW2 probably isn’t for you. Sorry, it’s true. This is basic frickin design here, and it’s not changing.

I don’t mean to be exclusive and tell everyone who hates GW2 to back the f* off. No, I simply think that not every game, and especially not every MMORPG, should conform to what a weird majority of gamers believe to be the standard.

If you get into the game and find faults here and there, go ahead and criticise them. Feedback is important to game designers as well as other creative people. But if you truly, generally, disagree with the basic design principles behind a game, don’t play it. ArenaNet has made it perfectly clear what they’re aiming for, very early in the design process. It’s not a cheat or a violation of some unwritten rule.

With this rather lengthy statement I wish everyone a happy week waiting for the Beta weekend!

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