At the very least, the upcoming Guild Wars 2 is poised to shake up what has become an exceedingly stale avenue of gaming. At best, it will redefine how online gamers perceive MMOs.
For the past several years, big name companies have touted their MMOs as the next big thing, some even going as far to imply that they are “WoW killers.” Yet, not a single one of these ill-fated MMOs have lived up to their respective hype. The end products were either riddled with game breaking bugs (Final Fantasy XIV) or borrowed almost every convention from proven MMOs. Star Wars: The Old Republic comes to mind. Just based on my time in Guild Wars 2’s beta it appears that where those games have failed, Guild Wars 2 will likely succeed.
In most MMOs you begin as an insignificant whelp. Via leveling up, you eventually become a harbinger of destruction, yet the game visuals rarely reflect just how powerful you’ve become. Guild Wars 2 seeks to break the mold by accurately depicting what it means to be a legendary hero. It will accomplish this through awe-inspiring visuals. Spell animations will be of a grand scale, and the scope of the on-screen spectacle promises to be on par with the magnitude of the spell.
Guild Wars 2 also seeks to alter the way online gamers perceive skills. Instead of following a linear progression, more powerful skills must be earned through combat prowess. Additionally, weapon skills will vary based on a number of different factors. Take for instance the Elementalist. By equipping a dagger she will gain access to completely different weapons skills than if she were to brandish a specter. Going further, because she can choose between one of four different elemental attunements, her skills set will vary depending on her current preference. Fire and Air skills will inflict massive amounts of AoE damage, while Water and Earth skills serve to bolster her defensive and crowd controlling efficacy. It’s a wonderfully balanced system that promotes diversity.
But perhaps Guild Wars 2’s most revolutionary innovation is its abandonment of the MMO Holy Trinity. No longer will players be dependent on precise group compositions. Every profession features both a dedicated healing slot and a myriad of utility skills designed to make it viable in a group setting. Let’s face it – MMOs have a nasty habit of pigeon holing players into very specific roles. But Guild Wars 2 seeks to quell conventionality by allowing each profession to be a jack of all trades.
The sheer amount of available content justifies a subscription fee. However, GW2 will be free to play. No monthly fees, no microtransactions or premium memberships – nothing. Given that even recent MMOs like SW:TOR adhere to a played out subscription model, Guild Wars 2’s free to play model will entice other online game developers away from charging their audience with monthly fees.
All told, Guild Wars 2 stands to be the MMO gamers have been yearning for. Whether they pull off each and every one of their promises is yet to be seen, but this game journalist believes that they will.