Guild Wars 2 - Featured

REVIEW: Guild Wars 2

Review of: Guild Wars 2
Game by:
Cheap Shark

Reviewed by:
On December 18, 2013
Last modified:December 18, 2013


Available to play on
PC (Win, Mac)

Guild Wars 2, while not Free-to-Buy, is a MMORPG with no monthly cost, and in my opinion is worth the upfront charge.

I’m going to be up-front here: I have a crush on this game. I liked the original Guild Wars, but this game? I like-like it. I like-like the heck out of it. From the character design to the mechanics, it all just seems to fit together so perfectly.


There are 5 playable races to choose from: your standard Humans, the diminutive Asura, the plant-based Sylvari, the beastial Charr, and the giant Nords.

Guild Wars 2 - Races

Males and Females of each of the playable races.

I’ve played through to level 71 out of 80 as a Sylvari. I love their background and their appearance. They are the youngest race, the first one sprouting a mere 23 years before the start of Guild Wars 2.

There are 8 different classes, referred to as Professions, to select from: Guardian, Warrior, Engineer, Ranger, Thief, Elementalist, Mesmer, and Necromancer.

Guild Wars 2 - Professions

From L to R: Engineer, Necromancer, Thief, Elementalist, Warrior, Ranger, Mesmer, Guardian

Much like every other MMO each class has a list of weapons they can use and type of armor they can wear.


Guild Wars 2 takes place on the continent of Tyria, nearly 250 years after the events in the last Guild Wars expansion. Between the two games, several of the Elder Dragons awaken, forcing most of the races from their homelands as they attempt to consume all the magic of the world. According to lore, these dragons go through cycles of hibernation and destruction, with the last awakening happening over 10,000 years ago. That event wiped out almost all life on Tyria. The overall theme for the game is unification, as divided, the many races and nations stand no chance against these deadly foes.

The personal story for each character branches a lot, which was surprising to me. The introduction section relies on answers to 3 race-dependant questions you provide about your character’s background.

Guild Wars 2 - Biography

A hunter biography based off of the answers to the character creation questions

During the course of the game you choose what factions you ally with and what tactics to use in various situations. It’s certainly not as diverse as a single player game like Dragon Age Origins, but for an MMO I was rather impressed. Dynamic Missions (which I talk about in the gameplay section) have branching stories as well, having different follow-up missions depending on if the previous mission was successful or not.

Through the course of the game you are given chances to develop a personality for your character which opens up various dialogue options. There are 10 different personalities which are based off when given 3 options, how you had your character answer the last 100 questions. The three answer types are Charming, Honorable, and Brute. It seems to have minimal effect on gameplay, however.


This game is gorgeous to look at. The environments have all been carefully crafted and meld together seamlessly, but cover a wide array of styles. Guild Wars 2 shows this off with “Vistas”, which when one is interacted with (if you can figure out how to get to it, of course) shows a mini cutscene of the surrounding area. My personal favorite Vistas were the ones in Rata Sum, a giant floating cube that houses the capital city of the Asura.

Guild Wars 2 - Rata Sum

A screenshot from one of the Rata Sum Vista cutscenes

The armor and weapons are beautiful as well. For each of the races, in addition to the standard armor dropped by enemies in the world, there is also Cultural Armor. This armor is usable only by it’s applicable race and is heavily stylized and flavored for them.

Guild Wars 2 - Sylvari Cultural Armor

A Sylvari Mesmer currently wearing a combination of tier 1 and tier 2 Sylvari Light Cultural Armor

Every piece of armor can be dyed with at least one color, normally two or three. There is a stock set of 21 dyes every character gets, but 382 more can be acquired via world drops, spending real money, or crafting. All 3 are somewhat random so it can be a little frustrating to try and get that perfect shade of red you are looking for, but the starting colors contains enough colors to give plenty of options.

Guild Wars 2 - Armor Colors

Selecting the colors for the starting hunter chest armor

The soundtrack is epic, composed by Jeremy Soule. His style flavors every piece with a gorgeous, flowing, orchestral sound. If you are a fantasy gamer, I guarantee you’ve heard his music before. In addition to Guild Wars 2 he recently he wrote music for WoW: Mists of Pandaria as well as TES:Skyrim. A bit further back, he composed for Neverwinter Nights, Icewind Dale, and Dungeon Siege.

Heritage of Humanity, a rendition of Warrior’s Heart from the original Guild Wars

The game is almost entirely voiced, helping complete the immersion. However if you spend a lot of time in one place, the repetition of lines can become a bit grating. It’s far easier to ignore a line or two of text that keeps popping up than spoken dialogue. There are certainly some familiar names on the voice acting roster: Felicia Day, Tara Strong, and Steve Blum, just to name a few. The cast is a bevy of talent with almost every name attached to at least a handful of other major releases, video game or otherwise.


Guild Wars 2 is a very cooperative game. There is no way to kill-steal, as everyone gets full XP as long as you do a small percentage of damage. You don’t need to be in a group with someone for them to be able to buff or heal you. You get XP for reviving both PCs and NPCs. While these things may inadvertently discourage parties, the overarching teamwork it encourages in the game is great.

Your abilities are determined by two factors: Skill points — which are earned via leveling up, completing skill challenges, and instead of leveling up after 80 you get a skill point for each “level” (254,000 xp) — and the weapon you choose to equip. The weapons drastically change the playstyle for a single class, and you are allowed to have two weapons you can switch between on the fly. In the meantime the skill point abilities stay the same between weapon switches. GW2 also has underwater combat, which follows the same format of allowing two weapon presets. One of the accessories you can equip are breathing apparati that allow for moving your character through the underwater areas without the need to constantly resurface. These items are easily available and inexpensive too, so there are no hoops to jump through to be able to explore the watery deep.

The combat is somewhat bog standard for MMOs, but slightly more action oriented. Enemies telegraph some of their more powerful moves as well as red rings showing up on the ground where AoE abilities will be affecting. This all gives the player a chance to dodge out of the way and therefore take no damage.

Every region has much to do. There are Renown Heart missions, Vistas, Points of Interest, and Skill Challenges, which all count towards completing the map for the region, and Story Missions, Dynamic Events, and Jumping Puzzles.

Renown Heart Missions are quests specific to an area in the region in which you are assigned tasks and each task completed fills up a meter. They can be things like kill a specific type of mob, pick items up, interact with items, or aid NPCs. Once the meter fills up, you get rewarded, and a vendor becomes available to you. These vendors are Karma vendors, meaning they only accept Karma as currency. Karma is obtained from completing various missions or getting achievements, and some of their items are quite powerful so it serves as motivation to participate in the game, instead of just spawn camping mobs until you hit 80.

Vistas, which I’ve mentioned briefly before, are locations that have spectacular views of areas. Sometimes they are very easy to get to, the route plainly visible from a commonly traveled location. Others are a right pain in the backside, with dying over and over again being a real threat.

Points of Interest are just locations that can be discovered for experience. Most are easy to get to, but if you find yourself unable to find one when it is plainly on the map, look for the nearest body of water. That seems to be a common trick used to hide them.

Skill Challenges seem to fall into 3 categories: Fight something, eat/drink something given to you, or just contemplate the location. For me, it’s always a pleasant surprise when it’s one of the two latter options, as the fights are rough and my main is a squishy mage on top of that.

The Story Missions usually happen either in your race’s capital city and just involve talking to someone, or they take place in an instance, where you are joined by important NPCs. They are not mandatory to level up, and you can still easily reach 80 without them, but I strongly recommend experiencing the story.

Dynamic Missions are quests that you get alerted to that are happening in a nearby area. These missions can range from: something(s) that need to be killed, objects that need to be protected, destroyed or built, things to be gathered, an area that must be held, an escort mission.

Jumping Puzzles do what they say on the tin. They are very difficult, but you are always rewarded with an achievement, and if that’s not good enough, there is also a treasure chest full of fabulous loot. One of the few complaints I have of the game is the one time there was a Vista and Skill Challenge at the end of a Jumping Puzzle with no other way of getting there. I actually like doing the Jumping Puzzles, but not everyone does, and I don’t think it should be mandatory to do one to completely discover a region.

There are several currencies in the game, with the most important being Gold, Karma, and Gems. I’ve talked about Karma, and Gold generally comes from completing missions, is hard to accrue, and doesn’t often drop off of mobs. Gems are the real money currency, which like most F2P games is GW2′s monthly fee replacement. The dollar to gem exchange is 1:80. The nice thing is you can also buy and sell gems using gold, but it isn’t cheap. Last I checked 100 gems cost over 7 gold, where my level 71 character currently has only 3 gold. Gems are used to buy bank slots, character slots, and of course, vanity items including mini-pets and dyes.

One of the more interesting things to me about the gameplay, is that it is possible to get to level 80 without killing a single thing. Experience is granted for everything, including crafting and exploring. Also, the Renown Heart Missions always have a non-violent way to be completed; be it gathering goods, healing NPCs, or any number of tasks that don’t involve a weapon. This isn’t to say that getting to 80 this way is easy, but that it is an option is awesome.


This is without a doubt the best MMORPG I’ve played to date. My sincere hope is that other companies will take the combination of ideas used in this game and run with them for future MMOs.

Katrinka is an all-around nerd from upstate New York. She’s into cosplay, pen & paper RPGs, LARPing, and board games in addition to video games. The first game she can remember playing is Ice Hockey for the Atari 2600 (the one with the awesome Phil Hartman commercial). Her favorite games are Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy 9.

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