GW2 – one good and one bad thing
Right. I’ve played a whopping two day’s worth of Guild Wars 2, so that makes me perfectly knowledgeable to talk about its ins and outs. Okay, well, not exactly, but by now I have picked up on two very, err, interesting aspects – one of them being something that I find really good (though I imagine most people would, in fact, not), and one of them was quite the disappointment.
Let’s start with the bad one, because that’s just how we will roll today. To put it blunt, there is definitely still grind in Guild Wars 2. Oh, to be sure, it isn’t evident early on. The initial levels are a breeze, with you going around the map, finding skill challenges, unlocking weapon skills, earning levels, gathering environmental collectibles.. It’s fun, it’s fast, it has a ton of quests / events. And it is the cause of the grind that settles in a bit later. For those who haven’t played the game, each map has a number of various location points you can visit; doing so gives you exp and fills up a “completion bar” for that map. Find all the stuff, and you get a large amount of exp points and some really really good items.
See the problem? Yeah. If you have an obsessive streak, if you feel compelled to “do thing till the end”, then you will have to grind the maps. Now there’s an odd statement, eh? It’s not so bad for your first map; where it goes really wrong is when you visit other maps that are starting zones for other races and are significantly lower-level than you. There’s still an incentive to do the entire gathering thing, because for one, you get skill points, and two, the final reward is substantial. Except that it takes a lot of time and once you are overleveled for the area, it just doesn’t feel right. Yes,I know, your character gets downleveled to that area’s local maximum, but it still feels… off. Perhaps it’s more due to there being little hopes of you finding an item drop you could actually use.
But that’s not all there is to inspire grind. Guild Wars 2 has a pretty unique and cool feature where you can use a ton of various weapons regardless of your class. And those weapons have skills – class specific ones – that you unlock solely by using that weapon. That’s 5 out of your skills. The other 5 you unlock slowly through levelling – 6 being a heal, 7/8/9 being utility, and 0 being too far for me to speak of. Now.. the problem here is, you will basically unlock 1-8 within hours. While that is good for providing many options from the get-go, it also means that after this, the gameplay is the same. You already have your skills, so now you just do the same moves, same rotation over and over. You don’t really unlock that many more abilities (well, you do, but they are incidental and more often than not unused). And, frankly, doing the same thing over and over – that’s grind. I suspect this might be the reason why people tend to start alternate characters so quickly.
Anyway. On to the good thing that other people probably think of as a bad thing. Ahem. “Guild Wars 2 makes the party system redundant”. Yeah. How it works – all the events in GW2 seem to be open-access, any player can just go by and join in without causing the event to become stupidly easy or reduce the exp other people get, or steal their drops. And every person involved in the event in any way – even if it is just running around and healing/resurrecting – gets an individual reward. The entire game is built on that open-ended principle, which makes ad-hoc groupings be extremely viable and cool. On the other side, with party systems you have to invite people, find them, decide who decides where to go, etc. etc. While you can do class quests in parties, it isn’t implemented well, I fear. If your quest lines are not identical – and I bet you they won’t be – then the other people are there “along for the ride”, looking at cutscenes that make no sense in a lacking context and not being able to help much in any way beyond plain killing of stuff. I’d say that it’s not really all that fun for either side. After all, the way the character quests are sold in Guild Wars 2 is that “this is my story”. Not “Me and my friends’ story”.
Outside of quests, though, the party system is.. well, it is just irrelevant. The open-ended nature of all events and enemies means that there’s no real benefit to being in a party. In fact, it just means you constantly have to worry to keep up with your party mates and go where they go and not fall behind. You could perhaps say that it is useful to ease conversation.. But, honestly, conversation is still typing a text. If you have the time to type, you have the time to do a /whisper, or /guild, or /say. If you don’t have the time to type (which is often), then being able to say things just to your party people won’t help all that much.
And now for why this redundancy of partying system is a good thing from my perspective. Hm. Well, let’s start with calling myself a bit of a misanthrope. I like being able to do my thing when I want how I want, without needing to worry if that is OK with other people. When not in a party, I can go where my nose points me, group up with people as I please, and leave whenever I want. There’s no real commitment and no artificial sense of “Have I been kind enough to politely excuse myself or not yet?”. More than that, this natural emergent grouping means that you aren’t stuck with running parties with just the people you know; you can randomly do stuff with other people, and if it seems to work out, you just go along with them. Maybe talk and plan and so on, maybe just stay silent and efficient. This lack of attachment, this sense that communication is an option, not a need, is – well, it is great. It allows people to express themselves through the way they play. It is, frankly, a prime example of letting the gameplay itself be your means of expression. Guild Wars 2 embraces this. You know one other game that embraces that idea? Journey, the critically acclaimed exploration/discovery reviewer darling. The difference being, in Journey you are forced to express yourself through your play, because there is nothing else. In GW2, it’s an option. And option that works perfectly.
~X2-Eliah is really liking GW2. He just can’t find a character set-up that seems to work best for him, though. Also, he is a complete and utter PvE care-bear.