Review: Guild Wars 2 changes the MMO landscape

Forget your frustrations with previous online RPGs - this one delivers

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With more than two weeks of regular gameplay under my belt, it feels like I’ve just scratched the surface of GW2’s massive game world. My main character (a human elementalist) is only at level 25 – I have two other characters that I’ve played around with as well, but who haven’t gained as much XP. The best part is that I don’t feel like I have to play in order to justify a monthly subscription payment – there’s no guilt if I decide to watch some TV each night instead of logging on the game.

Some other final random thoughts:

• You can join multiple guilds, so you can end some of the guild-joining/guild-quitting drama that some other MMOs create. This lets you be in Guild A with casual or work friends, and Guild B for hardcore dungeon explorers.
• Initially, you can switch game servers without penalty (not sure how long that will last – at some point you may have to pay to move)
• Resource nodes are unique to each player – if you spot some iron ore on your map, you don’t have to win a road race with another player in order to gather the material – each character can get the resource.
• With the large events, everyone who participated gets rewarded at the end of a successful battle– you don’t have to “roll” for the good treasure - the system grants everyone random treasure/items.
• You can only create 5 characters, which seems a bit low considering the possibility of 21 different storylines to experience. But you can purchase some additional character slots through the in-game gem purchasing.
• Speaking of gem purchasing, we found it very simple to do, and gems appeared in our account instantly. This allowed one colleague to update the game from the basic version to the digital deluxe version quite easily.

Pros:
• Massive environment with lots of stuff to do; should appeal to veteran MMO gamers as well as new players to the genre.
• No monthly subscription fee – You get everything right out of the box. No pressure to “have to play” in order to justify monthly fee.
• Beautiful landscapes, artwork and things to explore and look at within the game world. This alone makes the vistas worth attempting.
• Dynamic events are entertaining for group play, without waiting around trying to find friendly people to play with.
• PvP and WvW combat doesn’t limit you to experienced players only (although noobs will still likely get PWNed)

Cons:
• New game bugs and glitches may irritate some players; some events don’t seem to end; some latency and lag in high-population areas (but nothing that affected our gameplay- getting frozen temporarily never seemed to kill our characters)
• Some storylines seem more thought out than others – some plotlines are typical within the fantasy genre realm; none of the story missions really made me stand up and say, “Wow, I’ve never seen that before”
• While you might not grind for XP, there is some grinding in order to get money to buy things, make things or otherwise generate coin (unless you just want to buy gems and convert them to in-game coins). Everything I’ve made in the trading post has been made by thousands of other players – in the end, you make money only buy selling resource materials, rather than any special gear you make. At least, initially.

Grade: 5 stars (out of five)

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Keith Shaw rounds up the best in geek video in his ITworld.tv blog. Follow Keith on Twitter at @shawkeith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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