Good things come to those who wait – and given that Guild Wars players have been waiting since 2007 for more adventures in the world of Tyria, ArenaNet’s latest MMO needs to be very good indeed to justify the lag. Thankfully, it is.
Unlike its human-centric predecessor, Guild Wars 2 expands its roster of playable races five-fold, bringing in the ferocious leonid Charr, scientific Asura, shapeshifting Norn and plantfolk Sylvari. Immediately, there’s a vivacious imagination on display, each group having their own distinctive starting areas, well-thought personal mythologies and specialised skills. Character creation is impressively personalised too, with options to determine your ideology and background in addition to all the usual physical tweaks. Those choices influence your journey through Tyria and the impact you’ll have on it, the world changing according to your actions and those of other players.
The overall art direction for the game is exceptional too, both in character and world design. From the Crystal Desert to the Steamspur Mountains, by way of the Unending Ocean and the Ruins Of Orr, Tyria is of such staggering size and imagination that it can scarcely be believed. The beauty of the world is something the developers really want to hammer home too, with numerous ‘vistas’ to be discovered as you explore. These cinematic sweeps of nearby locations are usually accessed through tricky bits of platforming, an unusual skill challenge for online role-players.
Combat retains a familiar flair to other games of its ilk, with an assortment of skills assigned to number keys for quick use, though battles here feel much more dynamic. Movement around the field is a lot smoother, allowing you to flank or cut through multiple enemies if playing as a melee fighter, or precisely line up spell targets if using one of Guild Wars 2’s many magical classes. Quests offered up are pleasantly diverse, offering more scope and narrative importance than the endless ‘fetch’ quests that pollute other games.
Guild Wars 2 both refines and elevates the online role-playing experience, with plenty to keep solo players entertained in a persistent, growing world. Even more awaits those who explore its expansive multiplayer options, with co-operative and combative experiences to be had. All in all, a magnificent achievement for the genre, and easily the new benchmark for MMOs.