When the first trailers for Guild Wars 2 were released I was super stoked. I played the original for some time, and the second one looked so much better. Now that I've played it, I'm left disappointed. On the surface, it looks, and sounds, like a great game. Almost no quests, tons of dynamic events, your own personal story, large open world, and so on. Unfortunately, what I experienced was just like any other MMORPG.
The game starts you off in an instanced area for newly created characters. This is a great thing, as it gives the player time to adjust and learn before venturing off into the world. The area you start in is unique to your race, which is extra nice. First thing you do is some menial task for 5 minutes, and then there's a boss fight at the end (for my nord it was a giant wurm, and for my charr it was a giant ghost statue thing). This is a great starting experience, and I had tons of fun in these first few minutes. Once this is done, you're thrown into the world, with little direction. You talk to someone who marks things for you to do on your map, and introduces the map elements (waypoints, hearts, etc). The hearts are mini-events which are essentially your quests. You can teleport between waypoints as you like, but they cost money, increasing with the distance between you and the destination.
Once all this has been explained to you, you're free to go. First thing I did was explore the entirety of my starting town. For doing this, I was rewarded with 1-2 levels, some money and gear. This was great! A game that actually rewards exploration? After the brief map tutorial you are free to wonder off into the world, so--naturally-- I run out and go explore... and boy, there is a lot to find. I even found a jumping puzzle in some cave. I was prepared to love this game.
After exploring most of the starting area I decided to check on the hearts. I go to the nearest heart, and they want me to collect or kill X amount of things; standard MMORPG stuff, really. The nice thing about these kind of events is that you don't have to talk to some NPC to be assigned a quest... you just show up, and start doing it.
I do a bunch of these quests, and, once in a blue moon, a larger event starts up. Oh cool, I always wanted to do these! The event had us escort some guy to some place. Every player in the zone was taking part, so this was no problem. Once the NPC got to his destination, portals start opening and things start pouring out. Once everything was killed, a boss showed up. The boss wasn't so hard with the amount of players we had, but still took some time. Even though it was relatively easy (keep in mind, this was very close to launch, it'll most likely be different right now), it was kinda fun. The first few times, at least.
After having exhausted all the quests in the area, I was still short a few levels to continue. I had to grind these events for some time before I could go to the next zone. Not looking good, Guild Wars 2.
This is only the first 15-ish levels. I made it to 21 before I simply quit. The game wasn't fun anymore.
Now that the first few hours of the game are out of the way, let's talk about other things the game offers, for example, combat. The combat is simple is like most other MMORPG's, with a few twists. You start off with two skills; one tied to your weapon, and one healing skill. As you use your weapon skill you'll unlock the second one. You keep using the weapon skills until you unlock more. For each weapon combination there are 5 skills. After about 15 minutes of playing you'll have acquired all skills for a weapon set. When you get a new weapon that you've never used before, you have to unlock its skills by smashing faces. Sooner or later, you'll find a combination that you like and stick with it. You can have two weapon sets equipped at a time and switch between them whenever you like (even in combat), which is a cool feature.
As you level up you get points to buy some utility skills. These are extra skills that do many things. For my necromancer, I could summon minions, siphon health from my enemies, buff my allies, and much more. In the end, I found a few skills that were better than everything else and stuck to them. At maximum level, you can have 5 of these skills (1 heal, 3 utility, and 1 elite).
In addition to the skills you can buy, starting at lvl 11, you gain trait points, one every level. These offer minor bonuses in the form of stat buffs and every 5 points in a specific trait, it gives you a fancy new ability that enhances your skills or character. These are varied , and cool to try out, but eventually you'll find one you like and stick with it.
Another feature of Guild Wars 2 that sounds cool on paper is player downsizing. If you are above the recommended level for a zone your level is reduced to that level. Meaning you can't walk around a level one zone as a high level character, killing everything that, looks at you funny just by breathing on it. This sounds cool in theory, but it also applies to your instanced story quests and dungeons. If you're bad at combat and can't advance your story because it's simply too hard, you can't simply outlevel it and try again at a higher level.
The story you go through is unique to your race, and the choices you made at character creation. For me, I had a rival at some fighting tournament. The first few quests were just me training, and generally helping out random people. When I finally got to the tournament it was a complete joke. The game built up this guy as some towering badass who kicked my ass last year. I fought through the tournament without taking a hit (except from another caster class, can't really avoid that). After the tournament, I did some more helping around, and ran around delivering stuff.
There are also dungeons that you can go through. They have two modes; story, and explore. In order to play the explore mode you must first finish the story mode. Story mode is easier, and focuses on advancing the story of a group called "Destiny's Edge." The dungeons also have dynamic events in them, so you can go through the dungeon a few times and experience something different each time. If you are too high leveled for a particular dungeon, you are simply put down to its level, meaning no "boosting" your friends.
Guild Wars 2 offers two types of PvP: structured PvP and World versus World. Structured PvP only has one mode at the moment, and that's Conquest. Players are raised to the level cap, but retain their skills, and if they are missing weapon skills, they unlock them for the duration of the match. The point of conquest is to capture, and hold, specific points on the map. Your team gets points for holding these and other various tasks, and, the first team to 500 points, wins.
World versus World is a really cool idea. WvW pits three servers in a gigantic map, with keeps, towers and other various locations. This is essentially a giant Conquest map that goes on for a week. Players can join and leave whenever they want. Entering this place bumps you up to the level cap as well, but still retain all of your skills and gear.
Overall, Guild Wars 2 has a ton of cool ideas, and makes an attempt to be different, and stand out. The heart events are a cool way of disguising quests, and the large events are fun the first few times, but, unfortunately, the game lacks the feeling of progression. You unlock your favorite abilities in the first few hours and you are very likely to hold onto these for a long time. In the end, it's all a little too different. Top production quality, solid game-play mechanics, beautiful visuals, and no monthly subscription fees, to boot, is what makes the Guild Wars 2 a worthy purchase. It's just too bad that it becomes too stale, too quick.
We liked Tries Something New, Beautiful Visuals, Rewards Exploration, and No Monthly Fees,
We disliked Not All Idead Work As They Should, Lacks The Feeling of Progression, and Quickly Loses its Charm.