Can you believe it has already been 5 years since Guild Wars 2 launched? It seems like just yesterday they had to stop selling the game temporarily as they were overwhelmed at launch. And yet, here we are on the brink of the second expansion. A lot has changed since launch so we thought it was the perfect time to give an updated review of Guild Wars 2.
Graphics, Sound, and Music – 9/10
Five years is a long time in terms of technology so it wouldn’t be any surprise if Guild Wars 2 was starting to look a little bit aged. But it isn’t, not at all. In fact, it’s only getting more beautiful over time. ArenaNet continues to push what they’re able to do in the game, adding beautiful new armor that transforms, gorgeous changes to the water and reflections, and much more.
With each content release, there is new music being used and added to the game. The quality of the music has remained high throughout the five years of the game, with a few fan favorites like Fear Not This Night, Dragon Bash, and Heart of Thorns’ Theme.
Gameplay – 10/10
If there is one thing that can always be said about Guild Wars 2 it is that no matter how much of a potato you’re playing on, the game is eminently playable. There is no need to follow the holy trinity. In fact, there aren’t really many dedicated healing classes. Though Heart of Thorns did make it so you had to play specific builds, something which wasn’t true before that first expansion.
Emphasis on the type of gameplay has also changed over time. Previously every part of the main PvE part of the game could be completed solo, with events being the exception. As they developed Heart of Thorns, ArenaNet started introducing map wide meta event chains which everyone would have to take part in to succeed and all of the new maps were built this way. However, after Heart of Thorns they seem to have gone back to the older style. As the development team has had some very big changes.
Raids have also been introduced to Guild Wars 2. This has allowed less casual gamers a more hardcore type of gameplay. Unfortunately, it has been met with a lot of very vocal opposition as the mostly-casual playerbase has found themselves forced to play the hardcore content if they want certain skins or Legendary Armor.
Since launch, they also abandoned the Dungeon system in favor of Fractals, much smaller instances that are like mini-endlessly repeatable dungeons. While fractals are well liked in the community, there are still many who wish ArenaNet would continue making dungeons as well.
Writing and Ongoing Development – 6/10
The team at ArenaNet are constantly working on new content. Over the years they’ve changed their release cadence a couple of times but they seem to have found one that works well for them, putting out a new release every 2-3 months. Included in those releases are a portion of story and a new map. The maps are only accessible by those who own the current expansion and have completed the portion of the story that corresponds with the map. In this way, players who stay up to date on the latest content are rewarded for completing content quickly.
The quality of the maps varies quite a bit, some having fantastic replayability, while others have you struggling to even understand why you would want to finish the zone once. Many players, especially roleplayers, have issues with the way the updates are released as so much time passes between releases that are focused on entirely different plots. This has resulted in some players unsure of what their characters are supposed to be doing in between certain portions of the plot. In the case of the entire Norn race, they had to wait half a year before finding out what the Norn are doing. Even then it was little more than a footnote.
It seemed while the living story updates were being introduced that the story of Guild Wars 2 was going in a very clear and obvious direction. However, at the last minute everything took a sudden turn and what we thought was going on was in fact completely wrong. In addition, the developers shoved in characters from the original Guild Wars, seemingly just as a fan service as that entire part of the story, including the characters, came out of nowhere just for the sake of one moment. The developers have also forced choices on characters that don’t entirely make sense because of the different playable races not always seeing eye to eye.
The release schedule and poor writing have turned many players off the game and you could easily see drops in the population in between releases before the game entered the expansion hype period. Many players will come back long enough to play through the content release then go away to play something else until the next release.
Community – 9/10
For a game that is 5 years old, Guild Wars 2's popularity hasn’t seen much of a hit. Yes, in between releases players have ventured to other games, but they always come back. You won’t find any queues unless you’re trying to play WvW. Thanks to the mega server technology you’re almost never on a map alone, though there are regions of the Shiverpeaks and Ascalon that feel abandoned.
As for the players themselves, Guild Wars 2 has always bred a very helpful community. You are rewarded for helping a player who has died, there’s no competition for harvesting nodes, and everyone who participates in a kill gets credit.
Things have changed a bit through the years, though. The introduction of raids brought about an all new form of elitism and fractals are so easy and quick that people will quickly abandon them if things aren’t going their way.
Innovation – 9/10
Guild Wars 2 has always marched to the beat of its own drummer. You won’t find quests and expansions don’t raise the level cap. Even how they implement new systems and deal with character growth is done in an entirely unique way. As time goes on they’re also learning new ways they can push their systems to do entirely new things. Guild Wars 2 is constantly evolving.
Value for Money – 9/10
The great news is that the base game without any expansions is entirely free to play. The items in the gem store are almost entirely cosmetic in nature. Other items are there to improve your quality of life in the game and recently they introduced a level 80 booster so you can get to the level cap instantly.
There are some however who felt that Heart of Thorns didn’t deliver on what was promised and that it wasn’t worth the amount spent at launch.
Overall – 9.5/10
Even after 5 years Guild Wars 2 remains one of the most beautiful and fun MMOs to play on the market. The development team is still very much dedicated to the game and so are the fans. With the second expansion Path of Fire about to release there has never been a better time to start playing.