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Guild Wars 2 Review - I played hard to get with Tyria

Unlike the rest of the internet, I had a very shaky start with Guild Wars 2 (GW2). When it comes to massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG’s) I am set in my ways. My preferences for how I want to experience the genre stem from my roots in World of Warfcraft. Whenever developers of a new MMORPG scream for my attention with, “We’ve revolutionised the genre”, I am immediately doubtful. I was the lone voice in the e-wilderness crying, “Star Wars the Old Republic will not meet the standards of end game content” and “The Secret World is doomed to fail”. And I was correct. When GW2 therefore promised another revolution of the MMORPG genre, my heart sank.

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But like a wise and patient lover, Tyria courted me. Indulge me as I share with you the remarkable journey I had with Guild Wars 2. Join me as I share with you how the game succeeded in drawing me in deeper and deeper until it finally won my heart.

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 My Sylvaria Guardian, Riithi

My first few hours in Guild Wars 2 were horrible. The opening cinematic and my personal story introduction into Tyria was a massive let down. There was no sense of self, it was confusing and everything felt disconnected.

I partly blame the character creation process for this. Guild Wars 2 has the most deeply layered character setup that I’ve ever encountered in an MMORPG. You can tweak your character and point its development along insinuated pathways that seemed fresh and intriguing. When I therefore woke in the dream world of the Sylvari, with the instruction to go see a woman about a dragon, my expectation level was beyond that of a teenager gearing up for his first encounter with love making.

But one does not simply awaken and run off to face a dragon.

The encounter with said dragon was beyond disappointing. I don’t think I even got one swing in with my hammer of doom. Some random non player characters (NPC’s) were shouting at it, there was fire and curses and then I was declared slayer of this beast. I was told to exit through the dream portal into the real world of Tyria in search of the meaning of the dragon dream.

I intensely disliked this world and I didn’t want to be in it. The environment looked like a hastily sketched oil painting by an artist who lacked a sense of depth and who didn’t care much for his own creation. Oh how I longed to return to the familiar world of my beloved Rift. It is there where I had a sense of purpose and belonging.

Since Megarom gave me Guild Wars 2, I felt obligated to at least give it a few hours of playtime. My goal was to reach 10 hours or level my character to 10 and then to call it the day on Tyria.

Tyria, however, had other plans.

My experience can best be described as if a virtual hand gently guided me; introducing me bit by bit to the big and small things that made the world of Tyria so extraordinary. Of all things weird and wonderful that one can find in Tyria, the first aspect that captured my heart…was a map.

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I lost my heart to a map.

This exquisite piece of art fascinated me. It’s complicated and simple at the same time; complicated for the massive amount of information it captures and simple in its execution. The way ArenaNet incorporated this gem into the gameplay is simply an act of genius. The map provides the player with a bird’s eye view of his journey. With one glance you get to see; your progress in an area, unexplored vistas, completed and uncompleted quests, points of interest like repair services and waypoints, unfolding group events and skill point challenges (to name but a few). It is a small marvel and I couldn’t stop looking at it.

I spend many hours just running around the world, exploring the map. It felt like I was a treasure hunter on a mission to uncover every single point of interest on that map. This automatically led to the next aspect of Tyria that gripped my heart with the intensity of its beauty.

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I would stop and stare at the world around me, wide-eyed and in wonder.

One of the main reasons why I didn’t like Guild Wars 2 at first was because I was so turned off by the art. The world looked uninteresting and dull. It was as if Tyria said: “Challenge accepted!”, then took me by the hand and bombarded my sense of beauty by showing me the most exquisite places I have ever laid eyes on in a virtual world. Each city has its own unique style, quirky monuments, colourful races and mind-boggling plant and animal life. The world literally comes to life as you enter each new section. The artwork is done so masterfully that you can almost feel the character of the place speaking to you; you feel its rhythm beat in your soul.

Tyria captured me and I have barely scratched the surface of what makes this game a masterpiece.

One of the reasons I left World of Warcraft (WoW) was that the game was starting to feel like a job because of the constant grinding. I only played WoW for its end game content and for the companionship I shared with my guildies. My experience in GW2 is entirely different. The journey in Tyria is so fulfilling that I don’t feel that need to rush to get to end game content and I also don’t crave for the company of other players that I had with all the other MMORPG’s I’ve played.

I am content with just discovering Tyria, because the game itself provides companionship.

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Genevieve “Kombokitten” Lesch and I celebrating our victory in solving a particularly challenging puzzle. I’ve had many lols playing GW2 with this lady.

Although I didn’t crave for the company of other players, I want to elaborate on the multiplayer aspect of GW2. ArenaNet succeeded in emphasising and exploiting probably the single most important feature of any MMORPG. Gamers want to interact in a meaningful way when they play this genre. By meaningful, I don’t only mean proper player-versus-player (PvP) and guild experiences, I am referring to the games ability to promote connecting to hundreds of other players on a deeper and more meaningful way than competition. This is a facet that I feel other MMORPG’s have greatly overlooked.

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A poll on the GW2 forum, over 50% of players revive downed players, because, "they like to help."

ArenaNet brilliantly promotes player interaction in a number of ways; I want to highlight the most significant one. When a player received a certain amount of damage he goes into a downed stage. The map automatically signals all nearby players that the injured player is in need of reviving. Players who respond to that cry for help and who successfully revives a downed player receives extra skill points. This is an ability that all players have, it’s not limited to a certain class and players can be revived in combat countless times. By adding this feature GW2 promotes empathy, camaraderie and civility between players, it’s simply brilliant.

The next two aspects I want to talk about are those things that we love to hate in an MMORPG. The incessant grinding for crafting materials, and the headache of selling items at the Auction House.

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It doesn't get simpler than this.

For once an MMORPG developer had the sense to remove the burden of crafting and selling. ArenaNet made gathering raw materials fun, quick and rewarding. This is accomplished by allowing any number of players to tap the same raw material, even at the same time. Raw materials are not thinly spread and you barely have to search to find it. You of course also get skill points for farming.

Selling your goods on The Black Lion Trading Company is simply a pleasure and easy as pie. You open your backpack, right click on an item, select “Sell it at trading post”, and Bob’s your uncle. The Trading Company interface automatically informs you what the demand is for an item. You have the option of selling to “Meet the highest bidder”, which means quick gold but less profit, or you can “Match lowest seller”, which means more gold but you’ll wait for it. I have always hated these two aspects of an MMORPG, by making it so simple and efficient ArenaNet added tremendous value to my gaming experience.

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Tyria, you got me;)

I can write another 1 000 words describing how Guild Wars 2 managed to add life back into a genre that was growing stale and predictable. The versatility of character roles, the meaningful choices you make in the main quest line and the ever expanding adventure of getting to know Tyria. Then there’s the cherry on the cake - you don’t pay a monthly subscription fee!

Tyria has teased my imagination; I am determined to experience all it has to offer. I’ve finally discovered the MMORPG that intrigued me enough to let go of my stubborn refusal to depart the familiar. I have therefore bid farewell to my guild in Rift.

After a hard day’s work, I now long to return to this world of exquisite beauty and wonder.

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Riithi’s Twitter 

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