The first HUGE difference between GW2 and other MMOs is its pricing structure. You pay for the game once and get to experience everything. There are no monthly subscription fees to shell out. While GW2 does have an in-game purchasing system (at the trading post, you can purchase gems with real money), the items offered are stylistic items, temporary boosts, additional storage slots, etc. The developer insists that “you cannot buy better gear with gems, nor is there any additional content locked away for purchase.” In addition, items in the Gem Store can be purchased via in-game currency, and you can trade gold for gems, and vice versa. The company also said it plans to supply regular free updates to the game, which includes new content, store items and events. Some former subscription-based games that have adopted a free-to-play model still require subscriptions for exclusive content – not so with GW2. If you’ve been waiting to try an MMO but were turned off by the monthly fee, the wait is over with GW2.
The next frustrating thing experienced in a traditional MMO is the existence of missions that require a group of people. Depending on the quest, this could vary from a 5-person mission all the way up to 20-or-more character raids that require a specific set of character types (usually broken into terms like “tank”, damage-per-second, aka DPS, and healers). If your group doesn’t have the right mix, most of the time you’re sitting around waiting for people to join the mission, or you start spamming the chat boards in-game with messages like “Need tank for LB3 dungeon”, etc.
While GW2 does have some dungeons like that (later in the game), for the most part larger group quests are handled as “events” within the structure of the game. When you’re roaming around the world, a pop-up alert notifies you that a “new event is nearby”, at which you can check your map and run over to an area indicated by an orange circle. Once you’re there, you discover a task that a group needs to complete, whether that’s defeating a large “boss” monster, or preventing a group of centaurs from stealing supplies from a local monastery, for example. In these events, group participation is usually required (there are too many foes that would prevent one character from stopping them solo), but you don’t need to wait around for more people – as more people join the event, the game sends more mobs/foes to take on, or makes things a bit more difficult. Sometimes events are chained together, so with enough people you can take on a very big boss that’s very satisfying when you defeat it. You can also fail an event, which usually happens if there aren’t enough people to take on the challenge – for example, if the centaurs steal all the supplies, cue the sad trombone. Rewards for completing an event include coins, karma points (which can be traded for additional items) and XP.
In addition, each character type isn’t limited to their class role. While warriors tend to fight up close in melee fashion, they can also equip a gun and play as a typical DPS role. Same thing goes for magic users – with the right set of skills, they can battle up close without getting pummeled. On the healing front, every character has the ability to heal others – again, depending on the user’s skills. While most skills are determined by a character’s race and class, other skills are granted depending on the weapons that they choose. When you equip a sword and shield, you eventually gain 5 different sword-fighting skills (you start with one skill, then eventually unlock the other skills). If you then switch to two axes, your skill sets change – some of those skills become better or worse for damage or healing, etc. Finding the right mix of weapon sets and skill sets is part of the fun of the game. Note – when you equip a new weapon type for the first time you start out with just the basic skills and have to level that weapon type up all over again. However, if you switch weapons within the same weapon type (like upgrade from one sword to a newer one), you don’t have to re-level the skill. This is just for things like switching from a sword to a mace for the first time.