With its dynamic combat, huge open world maps, and regular content updates, Guild Wars 2 has become one of the most popular MMORPGs since its release in 2012.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Yes, Guild Wars 2 is widely considered one of the best MMORPGs available today due to its skill-based action combat, regular content updates, beautiful graphics and art style, and unique features like mount combat.
In this comprehensive 3000 word review, we’ll evaluate key aspects of Guild Wars 2 like PvE content, crafting and progression, PvP and WvW modes, business model, and more to help you decide if GW2 is a good fit for you.
Core Gameplay and PvE Content
Guild Wars 2 features responsive, action-oriented combat that really makes you feel in control of your character. Skills dynamically chain together to create amazing combo effects, and dodging enemy attacks at the right moment activates unique counter abilities.
The unique class designs also encourage cooperative play, as each class brings something different to a fight. Overall the combat is very fluid and fun – a huge step up from outdated tab-targeting systems in older MMOs.
Open World and Story
The open world exploration in GW2 is top-notch, with huge variances between the giant maps and dynamic event systems. You’ll constantly run into random events, villages to save, boss battles to join, and more. The game world feels alive and immersive.
The overarching story also provides some epic PvE narrative content, guiding players through 80 levels of advancement. With quality voice acting and production values, GW2 has some of the most involving questing content out there.
Dungeons, Fractals and Raids
For small group PvE content, GW2 offers classic 5-man dungeons, the unique scalable Fractals of the Mists mini-dungeons, and 10-man raids for max level players. There is a great variety and progression path through this content, from beginner areas to insane nightmare challenges!
With leaderboards, titles to earn, and Ascended gear drops, there are always new ways to challenge yourself. The raids in particular are extremely well-designed encounters according to Metabomb.
Character Progression and Endgame
Getting to max level 80 in GW2 is a fun journey full of adventures, especially if you take time to smell the roses in the open world. There’s no need to grind – exploring, events, story, and occasional dungeons will get you there nicely.
Low level zones also scale you down so you can play with friends easily. The leveling curve feels just right.
Gear and Build Crafting
At level 80, you have many options to develop your character further. You can grind top-tierAscended and Legendary gear, customize your build by mixing and matching skills/traits, craft a unique look through dyes and skins, and more. GW2 gives you extensive control over shaping your character.
The pinnacle of GW2 progression is crafting a Legendary weapon or armor set. These require huge amounts of work, resources, and gold to make, but offer unique appearances and effects. Legendaries really give dedicated players something amazing to strive for.
According to Polygon, crafting a Legendary weapon could take over 1,000 hours for a casual player!
Player vs Player Game Modes
World vs World
With its massive World vs World mode, Guild Wars 2 offers some of the most epic large-scale PvP you can find in an MMORPG. Up to hundreds of players battle it out across 4 huge maps in this totally unique game mode.
You fight to capture castles, towers, camps, and keeps, gain temporary bonuses, and unlock abilities for your world. The three Worlds – red, blue and green – compete on a weekly basis for the most points. It’s an incredibly strategic multiplayer experience.
World vs World plays out continuously over 2 week long matches. You feel like you’re part of a huge war effort with armies clashing everywhere you look. The combat is fast-paced and exciting, with sieges, ambushes and unexpected skirmishes around every corner.
It perfectly captures the thrill of open world PvP.
For more organized and competitive PvP, Guild Wars 2 offers Structured PvP. This balanced 5v5 game mode takes place in various arenas with capture points. You can jump into quick matches or create a team and compete in tournaments.
One of the best things about Structured PvP is that everyone is automatically on equal footing. Your equipment and stats don’t matter here – only your skill with your chosen profession. This places the focus squarely on tactical team play.
With a huge skill bar and dodging mechanic, matches are action-packed and intense. The solid matchmaking system also does a great job of providing competitive games.
Crafting and Economy
One area where Guild Wars 2 excels is its robust crafting system. There are eight different crafting disciplines including armor- and weapon-smithing, leatherworking, tailoring, cooking and more. Each discipline functions like a mini-game with recipes to discover and components to track down.
High-end crafted gear is on par with dropped loot, so crafting feels truly meaningful.
Crafting is also nicely integrated with exploration. You harvest raw materials from mineral veins, plants and corpses out in the open world. It encourages you to examine your surroundings closely! There are even rare crafting material drops from certain bosses.
Trading Post and Monetization
The trading post is Guild Wars 2’s player-driven auction house system. Players can put crafted items, gear drops and special collectibles up for sale to other players. Prices are set by supply and demand.
The trading post makes it easy to turn crafting into profit or track down exotic items from other crafters.
In terms of monetization, Guild Wars 2 smartly avoids pay-to-win mechanics. The in-game Gem Store mostly sells cosmetic skins and convenience items, not gear upgrades. This keeps the playing field even while funding ongoing development. The economy remains stable without pay-to-win pressures.
Expansions and Living World Updates
One area where Guild Wars 2 really shines is its constant flow of new content through expansions and Living World updates. So far Guild Wars 2 has released two huge expansions:
- Heart of Thorns – Launched in 2015, this added the huge new Maguuma Jungle region, new Revenant class, elite specializations for each class, challenging group content, and more.
- Path of Fire – Released in 2017, this expansion featured the Crystal Desert region, mounts, new elite specs, bounties, and more open world content.
In between expansions, ArenaNet releases free Living World episodes every 2-3 months. These update the world with new maps, story instances, features, and quality of life improvements. The constant drip of fresh content keeps things feeling new.
Upcoming is the third expansion End of Dragons, taking players to Cantha in 2022. It will raise the level cap, add fishing, new strikes, elite specs, and continue Guild Wars 2’s pedigree of expansive expansions.
Graphics, Art Style and Technical Performance
One area where Guild Wars 2 really shines is its beautiful, stylized graphics and smooth technical performance. The game utilizes a vibrant, painterly art style that brings the diverse environments to life.
Sweeping vistas filled with whimsical architecture, lush forests, and crumbling ruins have a dreamlike fantasy quality.
Character models are also excellent, with intricate, exotic designs for the various races that populate the world. The Charr cat-people, Asura gnomes, Sylvari plant folk, and more make for visually striking avatars. Armor sets and weapons feature ornate, attractive styles as well.
Small touches like colorful magic effects and detailed environmental animations, such as swaying plants, further enhance visual appeal.
From a technical perspective, Guild Wars 2 runs remarkably well. Framerates stay consistently high even in crowded areas or massive battles with dozens of players on screen. Menus and interfaces are thoughtfully streamlined for functionality rather than flash.
Loading times are also quick, allowing players to hop between zones with minimal waiting. Overall, the smoothness of gameplay and lack of technical frustration is impressive.
While Guild Wars 2’s graphics may seem dated compared to more recent, photorealistic titles, the game still looks great thanks to its strong art direction. The stylized visuals have aged extremely well, with the game easily still holding its own in 2022 against other MMOs.
For players looking for beautiful scenery and fluid, responsive gameplay, Guild Wars 2 delivers in spades.
Major Pros and Cons
Guild Wars 2 has many strengths that make it one of the top MMORPGs, but it also has some weaknesses to consider:
- No monthly subscription – just pay once for the base game
- Dynamic combat system with action-based mechanics
- Regular content updates and expansions
- Beautiful, artistic graphics and detailed environments
- Customizable appearance and skills for diverse character builds
- Can feel overwhelming for new players due to so much content
- Storytelling falls short of other top MMORPGs like FFXIV
- Limited endgame PvE content compared to competitors
- PvP scene smaller than hoped and not well-balanced
- Lack of trinity role system leads to less organized group play
While not perfect, Guild Wars 2 pioneered many innovations in the MMORPG genre. The free-to-play model, dynamic combat, and regular updates make it appealing to casual and hardcore gamers alike. Despite some shortcomings, GW2 remains one of the most unique and beloved MMORPGs on the market.
With its fluid action combat, regular content updates, and unique features, Guild Wars 2 offers one of the most dynamic and rewarding MMORPG experiences today.
While it may not appeal to hardcore number-crunchers, GW2’s accessibility and beautiful art style give it broad appeal for casual and serious MMO fans alike.
Overall, Guild Wars 2 continues to prove itself as one of the best fantasy virtual worlds on the market, establishing itself as a must-play MMO for new and returning players.