As soon as a new character sets foot in the world of Tyria, it is clear that the Guild Wars 2 is unlike any other MMO. Leveling up is not a tedious grind – almost every action you take grants experience. Players can kill monsters, collect crafting resources (and subsequently craft new items), climb to new heights to activate vistas which treat them to a lovely cinematic view of the surroundings, discover waypoints and points of interest, or complete quests. Gone is the traditional ‘talk to an NPC, collect 20 boar hooves, return to NPC for reward’ tedium. Instead, there are questing zones where players can complete a number of tasks that contribute to quest completion. The result is a far more dynamic feeling to questing. Throughout the world, ArenaNet has hidden jumping puzzles, which are platforming challenges of varying difficulty that typically reward a player with a chest full of loot. One of Guild Wars 2’s strongest features is its dynamic event system. When traversing the world, the UI will alert players of nearby events, which need their participation. Often times, entire villages can be ravaged by a horde of monsters and players must wait until they can rouse enough allies to take it back.
The world feels alive and player input seems to matter, but all of these dynamic features can feel somewhat cyclical. That is where both the personal story and content releases come into play. The personal story is ArenaNet’s way of conveying the grander tale of Tyria’s fight against dragons. It is also a way to tell a very personal story for the player. Choices are made at character creation, which dictate how a player’s personal story will play out. More decisions are made over the course of the game, which makes for greater replay-ability. This story structure allows the player to feel like their actions alone have impacted the world in a permanent way.
The strongest area of ArenaNet’s pursuit of a living world is evident in their content releases. In little under a year since Guild Wars 2’s release, the world of Tyria has become a very different place. From the start, ArenaNet promised to release new content more frequently than is common for MMO’s and they have more than delivered on that promise. While these releases started out at one per month, ArenaNet recently announced that they would step it up to two releases a month. Players have more reason than ever to spend time in-game. The first major content release was a Halloween event dubbed ‘Shadow of the Mad King.’ In traditional MMO fashion, this release came with a host of achievements to complete during its limited release each tied to some new piece of content. Next came the ‘Lost Shores’ release adding a whole new questing zone to the game. This release came with a one-time event where a group of monsters called the Karka attacked the major city, Lion’s Arch. Players who could not log in missed the event. There are problems with this approach, one of which is only that a portion of the player base could experience this content. ArenaNet has learned from their mistakes and starting creating events that could be experienced at varying points within the content’s release period.
Each new content release comes with a host of both permanent and temporary changes. Between January and April of this year a major story arc called ‘Flame and Frost’ was released. It introduced players to new NPCs so as to not step on the toes of the personal story. This approach proved successful and resolved a complete arc through instanced story missions and a 5-player dungeon. All of this content is now gone forever. It is an interesting way to approach game design. It makes the game feel alive but at the same time can leave players feeling left out if they missed it. The next two releases dealt with the aftermath of ‘Flame and Frost’ and brought players back to Southsun, the zone introduced in ‘Lost Shores’. Each of these releases adds an ongoing story arc to the world of Tyria and it gives players who have already completed the majority of the game’s base content a reason to keep logging in.
In addition to the temporary content, ArenaNet has been evolving gameplay with each release. Player versus player and world versus world are two competitive modes that allow players to fight against other players. These two modes look very different from when the game launched last year. World versus world now has a progression system that gives players a reason to keep fighting. PvP has been improved as well with new maps being added to the game continually and the ability to create custom arenas. Multiple mini-games have been added including a costume brawl, bar fights, and keg tossing. The achievement system recently received an overhaul. The system, while initially in place to track progress, is now much more rewarding. Daily and monthly achievements can be completed to earn Laurels which are a new form of currency. Achievement points now earn account-wide rewards for players. When certain point totals are reached, players receive a chest containing unique item skins and permanent buffs for all characters on the account. Another big change to the game is the ability to level up a guild and perform guild activities which provide exclusive rewards.
Guild Wars 2 was an amazing game at launch and it is getting better and better as time goes on. In another year, the world may look completely different. ArenaNet has already revealed some of what the future will hold. New skills and traits will be added to the game in the coming year. They want to flesh out existing content by added more dynamic events, improving dungeons, and adding new ways to reward players. Crafting will improve as well as legendary weapons. It is an exciting time to be an adventurer in the world of Tryia.