It’s round three of our Guild Wars 2 review, with today’s instalment focusing on the less action-orientated crafting and monetary systems, before heading onto the more devious sections that are the jumping puzzles. For any latecomers, we have a mini hub below for all the previous coverage.
Human Start Area + Area Events | McGarnagle’s Story Part 1 + Vista Viewpoints | McGarnagle’s Story Part 2 + Skill Points | McGarnagle’s Story Part 3 + Shadow Behemoth | Jump Puzzles + More Vista Viewpoints
Crafting Up A Treat
When it comes to MMOs, killing the mightiest of enemies isn’t the only way to get the best pieces of loot in the game, and this is where crafting provides an important part in the experience. In many other online games the crafting element is a separate entity to proceedings, creating an additional grind to that of levelling up. Eager to do away with this, ArenaNet have looked to not only merge the crafting system with the overall experience, but to make it more interesting in general, regardless of whether you are making a powerful weapon, the strongest of armours, or the tastiest of meals. The answer was a simple one; provide XP for every little thing the player does.
We’ve already mentioned that gathering materials grants the player XP as they traverse the world of Tyria, but players will be rewarded with bursts of XP for every item they make while crafting. Of course this is dependent on making something that also increases the crafting profession level as well, but in short it means that progression in their chosen field is rewarded in an overall sense instead of as a separately from the core game.
Eight crafting professions are on offer, covering all items that are found in the game and are clearly explained as to what they make by speaking to the NPC trainers found in the capital cities (although you can find some in smaller settlements on your travels.) Only two crafting professions can be active at any time, but unlike other MMOs where restrictions are in place, and any progression is removed if the player wants a career change, GW2 simply pauses the progress instead so players can continue it further down the line. While there is a cost of gold to do this that gets more expensive each time, the ability to do this is a very welcome one to allow players the choice of crafting whatever they wish.
The process of making items starts off easy enough, but becomes more complicated as the player progresses. This is because all items are built from up to four components, but players must first construct said components from the raw materials they gather. In most games this would mean that the player would have to fill their inventory every time they wanted to do some crafting (storing their materials in their banks in the meantime) but thankfully ArenaNet has eliminated this problem by providing players with a special bank section called Collections. Here players can place their raw crafting materials for storage, but can also automatically access them when crafting, leaving their inventory slots free to handle components (and ultimately the finished item.)
Of course, I only discovered this after hours of running back and forth between the crafting table and the bank. I will admit, I felt rather embarrassed afterwards.
While players will be automatically given some new recipes as they improve their crafting level, the main way better items are learnt is through the Discovery tab. Here, all usable components are brought up and can be dragged into one of four boxes. Should the combination create a recipe, the player is informed if they are able to craft it in a bright congratulatory explosion on the screen (or a warning will display if they need to progress their crafting skill some more.) I found the system to be like a simpler version of the crafting used in Minecraft, and I had a few moments of self-satisfaction when I had my own ‘eureka’ moments placing various items in the Discover pane. It’s a feeling that is further amplified by the fact that discovering new recipes actually provides the best gain in crafting levelling points as well as XP. To see the crafting system in action, stay tuned for the next episode of Dealspwn Playthrough on Monday (or in the meantime, you can see how it worked in the beta by heading here.)
A word of warning though; Cooking is the most expensive and time consuming of the eight professions. It also makes you incredibly hungry.
It's All About The Money
For those looking to make some serious gold in Guild Wars 2, the Black Lion Trading Company, aka the Auction House, will be the place to go to. With a system that appears to have taken inspiration from EVE Online, players can search for items, buy in bulk with buy orders (which provides players with a way to sell items automatically) and see the various listed prices. The search parameters are well indicated, allowing for finely tuned hunts for that piece of gear you oh-so-badly need. Best of all, players can access this panel at any time, even if they are in the middle of an open field, which means purchases and sales can be made anywhere. However, players must go to a trading post should they wish to retrieve any money made from selling items or retrieving any new purchases.
Beyond the auction house is the true money maker of Guild Wars 2; the microtransation Gem Store. Available in a different tab of the Black Lion Trading Company panel, it is here that players can spend real money on gems to spend on vanity items and temporary boosters. These range from permanent fixtures such as increase bank and inventory space, to aviator sunglasses for your avatar to wear. There are even armour sets to buy which can then have their appearance added to your current armour through the use of transmutation stones (which was discussed last week.) Elsewhere, temporary boosters such as hour-long XP gains & walking speed increase are be traded for gems, or a portable access to the players bank or the auction house. Perhaps the most significant purchase is the resurrection stone, which provides a fire-and-forget utility to resurrect the player where they were slain instead of having to choose a waypoint. From what I can see, there are no “pay-to-win” options available, only slight shortcuts, which should allow some sceptics to rest easy.
Although in my opinion, considering the breadth of ways to gain XP in Guild Wars 2, I’m not entirely sure why you would need to purchase boosters. Then again, I am fairly awesome. […allegedly. –Ed]
One final part of the monetary system I want to cover before we move onto something more exciting is the fact that players are able to trade their microtransaction gems for gold, and vice-versa. This is ArenaNet’s way of attempting to combat the gold sellers that have, unfortunately, already begun to infiltrate the servers (you can report their spam, however.) The system allows players to view the fluctuation of prices for both buying and selling gems, and is fairly straight forward to navigate and use. While it certainly won’t eliminate the problem outright, it provides players a safe way to gain in-game currency without the threat of losing their account.
Seeing The Sights
Whilst taking part in areas events, taking on giant bosses, and crafting items is all well and good, perhaps my favourite aspects of Guild Wars 2 is that of exploration, both in an inquisitive and a completist sense. We have already been over the fact that ArenaNet have designed a beautiful world for you to explore, but this further boosted by the exploration completion achievements. Consisting of area event hearts, specific locations, vista viewpoints, and skill point challenges, each map of Guild Wars 2 has a total that the player works towards. Each individual point grants the player a small amount of XP, but completing an entire map rewards the player with a larger amount of experience and, occasionally, an item such as a transmutation stone or a booster usually found in the Gem Store.
Beyond this is a World Completion total, which hovers over your character selection screen displaying how much of the world you have explored. It ultimately gives your account a few more achievement points, but the way the game rewards you for going to extra mile to visit every location in the game is one of the more addictive parts of Guild Wars 2 in my opinion. I would be halfway through an area event, or I would be running to the next settlement, and then I would come across a Vista viewpoint that I just had to activate to further my completion total. This leads me nicely onto the more active part of exploration, as ArenaNet have managed to create something of a platforming side-game in Guild Wars 2.
As you may have already seen in previously in the review and in Dealspwn Playthrough, Vista viewpoints for the most part tend to be in plain sight, with an obvious route to them. Occasionally though, there are some that require not only a bit of thinking in how to get to them, but some lightning fast reflexes in getting to them. One example of this can be found in Divinity’s Reach, where I and several other players spent a good 10 minutes trying to get to a Vista over what appeared to be some tombs. Eventually we found a hidden ledge in an area just out from where we had all been, but even then precise timing jumping between the small roofs in the area had a few players falling down, forced to start over.
But that, my friends, isn’t even the hard part of it all.
In some areas of the world, ArenaNet have put in specific jump puzzles into the game designed to put the player’s skills of perception and virtual dexterity to the test. These sections are not just challenging; they can be downright punishing if you slip, with death almost a certainty. In the only one I have come across so far, in the south of Lions Arch, I found myself having to survive a perilous slide through a giant stone maw, navigate a mind-bending maze, get through corridor filled with booby-trapped walls, then get through an area that was pitch black, and this was in-between sections of jumping between stone pillars.
One of the jump puzzles I’ve seen online takes place high above the world using Azura portals to send the player higher and higher, meaning even more chances of death. Overall I found these sections to be the most infuriating of my time in-game so far… but they were also the most satisfying once conquered. Rewarding me with an achievement and a loot-filled chest, it was definitely worth the stress of it all. It’s an extra (and optional challenge) that some players will leave alone, but in terms of the MMO genre, it provides something enjoyable that I haven’t come across before.
Summary So Far: My time in-game this week has been fairly limited, but what time I have spent playing has been as much fun as the first few weeks. Perhaps more importantly, I haven’t felt like I am lagging behind, with each area I have gone to quest in populated with players. With the Auction House now back in business, and server stability looking far more stable, ArenaNet are maintaining their course to a good score right now.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that for this week’s instalment. Next week is our big finish; Competative PvP, World Vs World PvP, and our final analysis of ArenaNet’s sequel, and we’ll have another episode of Dealspwn Playthrough for you on Monday.