We’re back with the second instalment in our Guild Wars 2 review. In today’s instalment we will be looking at how ArenaNet’s new MMORPG tries to provide players with the freedom to play their own way, and how this is incorporated into the various systems in the game. If you need to catch up on where we are so far, you can read Part 1 by clicking on the link here, and you can catch up on our latest episodes of Dealspwn Playthrough by clicking here. No need to rush, we’ll be here when you get back.
Fine Tuning Character Traits
Briefly mentioned last week, the topic I wish to start off with is the Trait system. From level 10 onwards, players will earn Trait points every time they gain a level to be spent in one of five different areas, each improving different aspects of their chosen class and providing players with the closest thing to falling in line with the “holy trinity” of roles that MMOs have gotten used to (tank, damage, and healer) without directly doing so. These bonuses vary from increasing attack power, to improving healing abilities, to lowering the cooldown timer of certain skills. However, these Trait options are only unlocked once a manual is purchased from an NPC vendor, allowing for the ability to place up to 10 Trait points in one specialization (a second manual is available at level 40 which allows 20 points to be allocated, and a third one allowing 30 later on down the line.) These manuals are fairly pricey, unless of course you use the Black Lion Trading Company (AKA the Auction House) so some players may be forced to reconsider upping the total of skill points they can use until they have more disposable in-game savings.
That’s right, even in Guild Wars 2, some of us have to watch the pennies.
The Traits menu doesn’t just stop at boosting certain stats, as the player is given an additional upgrade for every 5 points allocated. For example, once 5 points are allocated in the Inventions line for Engineers, they are automatically given “Low Health Response System” which provides a small regeneration buff when their health falls below 25%. However, once 10 points are allocated in the same line they unlock a Major Trait slot which allows the player to put on one of several different upgrades. Keeping with the Invention line for the Engineer, this can range from improved defences for their turrets, to a cloaking device which becomes active when the player is immobilized, essentially removing any threat on them in times of trouble.
So does this system shoehorn players into specific role, and more importantly, does it end up bringing the “holy trinity” back into play (something ArenaNet declared they were trying to move away from)? Only if the player so wishes. In theory you could become a jack-of-all-trades, being able to do a little of everything, although you would never be as effective as a player who focused on a specific Trait line to the very end (and gained all the bonus abilities along the way) and much like how the skills systems only allows players to choose a certain number of skills, players will only have a certain amount of trait points to allocate. This ensures that while some builds will be more effective than others, there is (generally speaking) less chance of making bad choices, with players free to construct a character that is too their play-style. It’s a perfect example of the freedom that ArenaNet have been aiming for, and combined with the ability to swap your purchased Skills when out of combat, it provides an overall system that works well.
The Power Of Choice
Freedom and choice have been a key part of ArenaNet’s philosophy for Guild Wars 2, and it goes beyond choosing skills, joining in dynamic events with random players, even the choice between PvE and PvP content. What truly provides a sense of freedom is the scaling system that inhabits the game, allowing players to experience everything at an appropriately challenging level. For instance, the first way this is achieved is how the game handles dynamic event, checking to see how many players are around and scales the number of enemies to an appropriate amount. This means that if only a handful of players are around, only a handful an mobs will spawn, but should a large group of players arrive halfway through, the number of enemies will increase to reflect this. In the case of world bosses, it will provide more abilities as more players get involved, increasing the difficulty of the encounter and encouraging players to work together.
The second way scaling is used in Guild Wars 2 is perhaps my favourite feature in the game. Let me explain by providing you with an example; let's say McGarnagle, our resident Engineer, reaches level 20 and then returns to an area that is for level 10 players. In other MMOs this would mean that not only would McGarnagle one-hit-kill the enemies around him, but he wouldn’t get any experience points for doing so. This problem is removed in Guild Wars 2 with scaling, as McGarnagle automatically has his stats reduced to that of a level 10 player so he can experience the content as it was designed to be, as well as allowing him to continue gaining XP as if he were in a level 20 area (helpfully indicated in the bottom left corner of the UI). It’s a system that allowed me to take my level 25 character to the Charr starting area and play with a friend who had just bought the game and was level 3 at the time. We were able to team up, gain experience, and play through the content as if we were the same level, the only difference being that my character had more skills available to him at the time.
Even the loot that drops scales to your level as well, encouraging players to join in the fight whenever they come across a battle. What this means is that even when a character hits the maximum level of 80, the entire game world is available to be played in as it was intended, allowing players to participate in dynamic events they come across and fight random world bosses that appear without fear of being too powerful for the content. Of course, this doesn’t work the other way around, so players will need to level up before entering more challenging areas (with the exception of World Vs World PvP, but more on that later) but it essentially provides players with one giant end-game and, more importantly, it encourages players to help each other.
That said, there are still some newbies who still have the Rambo mentality of trying to run in and do everything on their own, but they learn their lesson pretty quickly. And then I laugh at them.
Variety, as they say, is the spice of life, and ArenaNet knows this. While players are free to gain experience points purely by doing dynamic events and killing enemies in the way, you can also gain XP by discovering new areas, completing Skill Point challenges, viewing Vistas, and gathering various resource materials such as ore and wood. In short, it provides players with a platform that encourages them to explore the world around them and discover everything. In fact, here’s a fun fact for you; I have been reliably informed that one guild on the server I’m on (Gunnars Hold, for those wishing to know) send all of their crafting material to one player who stayed in the capital, and used the crafting professions to get all the way to level 80. If that’s not a great example of player freedom, I don’t know what is.
We’ve already covered the options available for character creation, but players have the ability to continue to alter their appearance whilst in-game. The first example of this is the Dye Mode (which we briefly mentioned in Part 1) allowing players to alter the colour of their armour at any point in-game. This is further enhanced with the chance of looting additional dyes to add to your collection, but the customisation options don’t end here. Whilst completing achievements (such as completing an entire area) players can be rewarded with Transmutation Stones. These stones allow players to add the statistics of one item with the appearance of another, providing they are of the same type. This means that if you like the look of a hat you picked up at level 10, but gain an item they has better stats, you can combine the two together to give your old hat a new lease of life. It’s a simple system that provides players with yet more freedom to craft the appearance of their avatar.
Summary So Far: While some teething problems continue to exist for some players (in regards to connectivity & the auction house) Guild Wars 2 remains a fun online experience as we enter its third week of live play. With the scaling systems that inhabit the game capable to providing players the freedom to explore the content at their own pace, as well as encouraging everyone to help each other, late-comers won’t be left out in the cold like they normally are in the MMO genre. In short, things to continue to look positive as we reach the halfway point with our review.
That’s your lot for this week. We’ve still got the crafting systems, the auction house, and the PvP options left to talk about in our coverage, so stay tuned for Part 3 next week and be on the lookout for the next episode of Dealspwn Playthrough which will go live on our Youtube channel on Monday.