Guild Wars 2 has been out for over a week now, and I think it is time to make a first review. The review will be split up in two parts, because it is simply not possible to either have done everything in the game in this week, and also to fit all the information in one review. In this review I will talk about the road to endgame (the road to level 80).
Before anything, I think we should talk about the classes, or professions as they are called in Guild Wars 2. There are 8 professions (Thief, Mesmer, Necromancer, Elementalist, Guardian, Warrior, Ranger and Engineer). They are all very different from eachother. How? First of all they all have different mechanics, for example the Elementalist has 4 attunements (Earth, Water, Fire and Air) and switching to each attunement gives a whole new set of skills. The Ranger uses two weapons, and upon switching these weapons they gain a new set of skills. This way each profession has their own way of gaining and maintaining their skills.
Their skills also look very different, and each profession has a different playstyle. I suggest watching a video of each before choosing one, because you must find the one that fits you. As much as we can say now the classes are reasonable balanced in PvP and PvE. There are no healers and tanks in Guild Wars 2, so everyone must watch after themselves. This works very well, with everyone having their own heal and defensive skills. If you die, it is your fault. This system seems to work really well.
The combat seems quite dynamic, as you can evade incoming attacks by dodging or casting a spell. This can be done against either players or monsters/enemy NPC's. You cannot dodge infinite though, as you get a bar which tells you how much dodge's you get left (which fills up eventually).
Now on to leveling, you can level in two ways, either through PvP and also through PvE. Lets start with the PvP route.
PvP, also known as Player Versus Player, is present in each MMO. However, Guild Wars has something in PvP which is not present in each MMO regarding to the PvP: It doesn't matter what level you are, you are able to compete to max level enemies. If you wish to PvP as a level 1, you may. Upon joining the battleground (area where players fight it out) you get boosted to the max level and your gear receives the maximum amount of stats. This way everyone is just as powerful, and people don't win or loose determined by gear or level. So Guild Wars 2 did an excellent job in balancing the PvP out.
Another great feature about this is that you can level to 80 by just PvP'ing, as where in other MMO's you first got to level to 80 before even joining PvP. This is great for the die-hard PvP players, who don't even have to bother with questing. I did notice however that PvP'ing with a group of friends or a guild is alot more fun then going on your own. It is possible to PvP on your own, and you can succeed in your own, but personally I found playing with a group more entertaining, and this way tactics came in to play.
There are two types of PvP: Small scale battlegrounds or World PvP. In the small scale battlegrounds you fight 8v8, 10v10 or 12v12 in a map. The goal is to capture certain points and the team to hit the score limit first wins. Kills do add to your score, however holding certain strategic points is key. There is also a small PvE element implemented in certain PvP maps. where you have to kill an elite mob to gain a buff for your whole team.
Also very interesting is World Versus World PvP. In this mode 3 actual servers duke it out in a huge map. Each server has a keep (home) they must defend, and they must siege the other's. There are many features in this game-mode, and there are many strategic points to be held. For example towers give you a certain amount of points, but sieging and taking over a keep give even more points. However, Keeps are hard to take over and control, where as towers are easier to capture. There is no score limit to World Versus World, however the score does constantly update. The realm winning at a certain point get's a buff to all realm/server players.
Looking back, ArenaNet did a great job making the PvP competative, balanced and fun. They will be holding tournaments with prizes as well, which will really motivate the hardcore PvP'ers to keep playing and improve. However casual players can have a blast as well, due to there being no gear and level differences.
Now on to the PvE side of things. Before you enter the game, you will have to create a character. While doing so you have to make certain decisions which will influence your own story mode (main quest). Going in to the game you will have to make more choices during your story mode, which will also decide how your story-mode will continue and eventually end. I think they did a great job making this fun and ranging. And if you ever want to make another character, you won't end up with the same story.Each race (Charr, Human, Sylvari, Norn and Asura) has it's own story, which is also influenced by your personal choices as mentioned earlier.
Next to the main quests there are side-quests. They can be found while searching the map or talking to a scout (if you find one). At the start this works really well, but sometimes I found myself either searching endlessly for them or running out of them while still being to low level to move on to a new zone. In this case you had to repeat old dynamic events (which I will tell more about later) over and over untill you are hte right level. (or just hop in to PvP). This isn't to bad, but could have been polished better. The side quests are quite fun and dynamic, but some are quite standard and repetitive. I never hated to do them though (unlike some World of Warcraft quests, these never became boring).
Then the last source of XP is participating in Dynamic Events. Dynamic Events are events that trigger randomly or off a different event that just completed. The big plus to this is that you can participate in one, and due to this you can set off a chain of events for yourself, having a blast and throwing that XP bar full. Another great thing about this is that it makes the world feel alive, there is always something to see or going on. If you can't be bothered to help a city that's being attacked, maybe next time you come there it is controlled by enemy forces. The world is ever changing. At the end I did certain events over alot (due to running out of side-quests) which made it a little boring at the end. However, sometimes they throw huge monsters (bosses) at you, which never gets old!
There is one last way to get XP. It's through exploration. This may sounds boring, but Guild Wars 2 has some great features which makes it fun. There are so called "Vista's" in the game. They are collectables and ussually somewhere hard to get. You can see them on your map, but before reaching them you ussually have to jump over a few rocks, or go through some other crazy terrain. It's very enjoyable. Once you collect them they reward you with a nice overview of the area, with some nice music behind it. You also get XP by discovering new areas and waypoints. And then, there are puzzles. It's basically a well hidden maze, a mario (on the gameboy!) style jumping game you must find your way through, with a reward at the end. It's random but really fun to figure out with your friends!
I would say the leveling experience is better then having seen in any other MMO so far, and the professions are wonderful as well. To top it all of, the envirement is beautiful. The water effects are over the roof, and certain sights speak for themselfs. Take a look at the screenshots for some sights. (I added some on the top right and bottom). These are screenshots taken ingame. To experience the full beauty of the world I would advice you to buy the game yourself, a couple screenshots cannot describe it.
Any missing information will be added in part 2, which will also include the endgame experience.