The weirdest thing happened over the last two weeks. After finally solving my PC’s heating issue which led to the fans being unbearably noisy, I found myself suddenly able to delve into the majority of my now 400+ game library on Steam. It’s great that I now play games without wishing to be deaf. When I buy my next desktop PC, optimal cooling will be my number 1 priority.
So anyway, I had picked up Guild Wars 2 back in November when it was on sale then. I played the first 14 levels on a Sylvari ranger (that’s basically the GW2 equivalent of tree hugging elves, only they’re actually humanoid plants). But since my PC was so loud that my family members complained from the other room, I put the game down.
I decided to give GW2 another shot now, and with the announcement of the first expansion “Heart of Thorns” there was considerable buzz about this game too.
To preface, I’m going to say that MMORPGs were NOT my genre. I played World of Warcraft for a while on a private server, which basically means I didn’t have the bucks to pay for a proper copy of WoW nor the subscription fee. I’m somewhat of a fanboy when it comes to Warcraft, as I liked Warcraft 2 and looooved Warcraft 3. Experiencing the world of Azeroth from WoW’s perspective was one of the greatest gaming moments of my life.
It didn’t take long for me to get dangerously addicted to WoW even thought it was just on a private server. But the grind was too much for me. Soon I turned cynical on the whole idea of an MMORPG. I saw it for what it was: a shallow treadmill of click-click-click trying to convince you that you’re the Hero when in reality you’re just another chump among millions. The world was static and a bad imitation of what your imagination would wish it to be.
I’ve never really gotten into an MMO since then. But now I’ve gotten into GW2’s first 23 levels anyway. Why did I pick up GW2 in the first place? Well, for the price, I thought I should give it a shot. I have to admit that the most convincing thing about GW2 was that it didn’t want me to keep paying them every month for the privilege of playing the game. I’m not interest in the F2P MMO’s since that doesn’t feel like an honest proposition. There are always built in restrictions designed towards making me pay. The model of “pay once and play without restrictions forever” is the best in my eyes.
The surprising thing for me is that GW2 really isn’t that much different from WoW. It’s still shallow, it’s still static (though less so) and still a grind, only now there is no obligation to pay. So why am I suddenly enjoying myself? I think first of all, this game is just a huge joy to explore. I’m a sucker for beautiful game worlds, and the places you can visit here are just so impressive. Places like Divinity’s Reach, the huge snowfilled mountain ranged of Shiverpeak Mountains or the plant life of Caledon Forest. My appetite to discover great new places keeps me interested. ArenaNet are very aware that that’s a strength and very much encourage and reward exploration. Vistas, jumping puzzles and the accessibility of all areas all are symptoms of a team focused on showing off the work their artists have done.
Combat is fast and fun. I don’t know that it is incredibly deep yet, I haven’t tried PvP or WvW yet, but I hear good things. The feel and flow of fighting mobs is very smooth and so the game is very accessible in that way.
I’m enjoying the continuous flow of rewards be it tangible like items and XP which is balanced out by the reward of the fun of discovering places. I’ve not seriously partied up with other players yet, so there should be more fun to be had.
One thing I think that’s important is a mental shift I had to make. I always believed that MMOs are in theory the realization of the dream, the big beautiful world where you can become a hero, alongside a living, breathing world populated with thousands of other actual people. WoW and other MMOs ultimately were disappointing as soon as you encounter something that can’t support the suspension of disbelief, things like respawning generic mobs, fetch quests that just never will make any difference for the life of the quest giver, the realization that the treadmill is a pointless grind fueled by the compulsiveness of the reward chain.
GW2 doesn’t do anything different to make a genuine change there. But I realized that this expectation just isn’t really the goal of games of this kind anyway. It’s about embracing the grind, about engaging in this busywork alongside other people, ideally your friends. It’s a big blatant theme park full of sights and mini games. Sure, at the end of the day it’s all fake, but when you’re actually playing, it’s fun. Just fun. So for me for now, I’m doing exactly that: having fun.