So, here’s a fun bit of me-history I don’t think I’ve ever shared – Guild Wars was the first MMO I ever owned. Not WoW, no Final Fantasy MMO variant, not EQ – GW1.
I was trying WoW via friend’s accounts for a few months, and it took me about 8 months to jump in.
In the meantime, this little game called Guild Wars came out with some sort of test period, can’t recall what, and I tried it. It scratched a lot of itches for me – character creation options were cool, the class system really worked for me, and I liked the general outlay of the content. In fact, I still have the original GW Collector’s Edition (sadly don’t think the cheap Logitech Headset with GW branding has survived all the moves, but take a peek!)
So in 2012, prior to the launch of Mists of Pandaria for WoW, it made all the sense in the world to me that I would pick up Guild Wars 2. I had gone to 3 PAX events at that point, and GW2 was a major presence at all of them – so naturally, between what I was seeing on expo floors and my nostalgia for the original, surely I had to buy it.
And that made 2 collectors editions, the bonuses from this one I thankfully still have!
Now, at the time, I had just barely had my original mega PC for a year, and it was still my default mode of play to use 3-monitor config at 7680×1440, a configuration that did not work well with GW2. So I got home, I made a few characters, and it failed to dislodge me from WoW. Between the nVidia Surround framerate chugging and general display issues, I just couldn’t get into the game. Totally petty and silly reasons, yes, but nonetheless, I called it quits in the way most of us would for an MMO – just kind of ducked out. Since there was no sub, there was no cancellation, no thought process – it didn’t work how I wanted, so I gave up.
I started thinking about playing again in 2015 with the rumblings of its first expansion, Heart of Thorns, being rather decent. But I found, alas, my account had been the target of attempted hacking, locking it, and at the time, I couldn’t find my serial number, so I was resigned to continuing to slog through the content-low valleys of Warlords of Draenor. I did pick up Final Fantasy XIV around this time and really stuck with it, so I found my gap filler.
I guess before I get to my current experiences with this game, I should say that I don’t mean this post as an indictment of WoW, Blizzard, or anything in BfA in particular. Nearly every expansion has this period of lows for me, where I log out and play something else more. Despite how GW2 has hooked me, for now, I have still logged in and played WoW – in this holiday week I’ve gotten my G’huun AotC, did the Vol’jin quests on my Horde alt, and nearly completed the Horde war campaign, so I am definitely still a WoW player at heart.
I also want to emphasize that this doesn’t mean I’m going to divert from being primarily focused on WoW – I know most of you reading these posts are here for WoW stuff, since I literally never ended up writing a post about FFXIV (which may also change with new expansion news there!). At the end of the day, WoW is my MMO home, for better and for worse. Sometimes you gotta take a vacation, you know?
Retrieval and Revival – My First Actual Steps Into Guild Wars 2
So after that very muted 45 minute play experience 6 years ago, I finally got the email I wanted back – in a recent cleaning and reorganization session, I had found my Guild Wars 2 DVD case, including the serial number, meaning there was hope for recovering my account – and the email confirmed that my request to have my account back had been granted. I was ready to play again, so I set a new password, two-factor authentication (always a good idea!) and downloaded the client. Guild Wars 1 was a pioneer in this space, in that even back in 2005 when the original launched, it had streaming download for gameplay, meaning you could get a core kernel of the game and immediately log in. It also, much like the modern implementation of the technology, means waiting forever at loading screens if you don’t have the content. But, with a 400 Mbps download speed at peak, I was ready to wait it out. I ate dinner and read while the game client fetched itself, a task that didn’t take too long despite needing nearly 30+ gigabytes of data.
When I first logged in, I was greeted by all the test characters I had made years ago – the game still doesn’t support wider-than-16:9 resolutions very well, so my ultrawide clipped the top of my character’s heads off in the login screen, but I knew I wanted a new character anyways, so I rolled a warrior. Something basic. Character creation also involves a lot of interesting but ill-explained questions, which, it turns out, is for the Living Story.
And so it was done, and I set out to play.
Now, I’m not going to recount my overall journey here – it’s not intended to be a journal or an advert for the game, but rather, for my primarily-WoW fan audience, I’d like to explain some of the things that GW2 made me want in WoW!
Living World and Personal Story – A (Basic, but Functional) Questline Based on Your Choices
As of this writing, I am level 25 out of 80, and I have done two chapters of my Personal Story – so I can’t speak super-conclusively to say that it is the best thing ever or that my excitement over it is incorrect, but early on – it’s great! Using the race of your character and the answers you select during character creation, you get a starting point in Chapter 1 when you hit level 10, and subsequent chapters use that jumping-off point, coupled with decisions you make during the Personal Story, to basically create additional chapters. The quests move you around the world and push you towards a faction towards the tail end of your journey, fully integrating you into the game’s world.
It is a simple, but cool, little twist. Rather than everyone doing an identical set of quests, you get a slightly tailored experience, which pushes you towards the content options available while also telling a similar enough story that you don’t feel like you miss out.
Progression – It Is There, And It Feels Good
The current state of progression in WoW largely gives you nothing as you level, with inconsistent leveling progress of abilities, talents, and new perks. 110-120, in fact, offers literally nothing short of the passives from Azerite.
Guild Wars 2, on the other hand, makes each level an event – even if it doesn’t offer much, you get huge pop ups telling you what you just unlocked. Did you just hit level 20 so you can now wear rings? It’s in the screen, and your reward for hitting level 20 is a choice of ring to reinforce that progression. Atop that is Hero Points, a system allowing you to buy new skills as you level, choosing what abilities you want first. By the time you hit max level and have done all the bonus Hero Point objectives on the maps, it seems like you’ll be able to buy all of the abilities.
To be fair, I didn’t necessarily mind the progression model in WoW, even now, but with the contrast of Guild Wars 2 alongside it, it does make me feel that absence more than before.
Content Pacing – Exploration Focus Makes the World Feel Large
Something I think we all tend to discuss about current WoW is how small the world can feel, and how low the emphasis is on the exploration that defined vanilla and is probably more fondly remembered than not. GW2 takes a modification of this by making exploration a part of the gameplay. Rather than loading every hub with 10-20 quests, an entire zone might only have 20 quests or so, but then use uncovering the map, reaching specific points called Vistas to look out over the map, and complete all of the Hero Point challenges in a zone. While, in practice, it sounds bad (20 quests in a whole zone?!) it actually works really well. On top of these systems (all a part of map completion, the main means of leveling your character), there are random events occurring regularly throughout the map, so as you wander around, you’ll get a pop-up to go run off and kill an elite mob, or protect an NPC. Since each area has a maximum level, high level players can gain rewards from doing this content as well and so it is not uncommon to see groups of high-level players running through lowbie zones doing content. It also means that you can do full map exploration and even if you outlevel the zone, you’ll still be gaining relevant experience. It’s pretty great!
In Conclusion – Guild Wars 2 is the WoW Vacation I Didn’t Know I Needed
Overall, would I quit WoW for GW2? Probably not – and that isn’t a slight on GW2 at all. Simply put, my investment of time in WoW over my life means that the bar for exit for me is pretty high. Having said that, I am happy to have such a fulfilling option available to step to when WoW isn’t quite wowing me.
Yeah, I made that joke.