Guild Wars 2 – A Year In Review
Roughly one year ago, I was bouncing around the house like a kid waiting to open his birthday presents. The weekend beta tests were DONE. The stress tests were DONE. Nothing now prevented Guild Wars 2 from releasing. During launch week I had a hard time containing my excitement. Years of waiting was finally over, and the next time I logged in, I would be creating a permanent character. August 25th 2012 couldn’t come soon enough. Thankfully, launch day arrived, and it saw me embark upon a journey across Tyria that I’m still enjoying today. So as it’s Guild Wars 2′s first birthday, and while the players speculate as to what ArenaNet might give us by way of celebration, I take a look at my personal highs and lows from the games first year.
The Living Story
Recognising that their game world didn’t quite feel as alive or dynamic as it could do, ArenaNet introduced the idea of a Living Story to Guild Wars 2. Each update brought its own particular story, and by its close, the world would have changed in some way. After a slow start with the Flame and Frost update, ArenaNet have now hit their stride, and have even confirmed that the two-week release schedule they’ve been on recently is now official policy. Concerns about temporary content aside, the Living Story updates have been of a high standard. The story has progressed across the various updates in an interesting and fun direction, and they’ve given us some truly beautiful new environments to play in. With a healthy looking portfolio of seasonal events now built, players are looking forward to where the Living Story goes next.
Super Adventure Box
On April 1st, ArenaNet hit us with a complete and utter curve ball. Taking advantage of gamers natural suspicion of announcing updates on April fools day, they released a comedy commercial that, upon first glance, seemed to be a joke. It wasn’t until people started logging in that they realised that the update wasn’t a prank. An Asura named Moto had built something he liked to call the Super Adventure Box, and was rather keen for us to try it out. What ArenaNet had added to the game, albeit only for the month, was a brilliant Guild wars 2-flavoured take on the 16 bit platformers of yesteryear. Players loved the SAB. They loved the retro difficulty of it, they loved the 16bit weapon skins and mini pets, and they loved the fact that when it comes to mixing things up gameplay-wise, ArenaNet weren’t afraid to think outside of the box (sorry!). The only thing players didn’t love, was the fact it was going away again. Right now, speculation is rife that Super Adventure box is due to return imminently, I for one hope that its true.
The Account Achievement Reward System
Bundled in with the Bazaar of the Four Winds update, no other quality of life addition has rocked my world like this one. Guild Wars 2 has always had achievements. Previously, the system was little more than a running score total, a number that gave some indication to how much you’d done in the world. After the update however, it became a source of competition, and a fountain of sweet, sweet loot. ArenaNet have introduced a series of achievement milestones, from 500 points, right up to 10,000 points, and each one offers some sort of cool reward. Some give you gold and a chest full of boosters etc, some give exclusive weapon skins and permanent account boosts to XP gain and the like. And as the game’s achievements cover almost every aspect of the game, there’s no shortage of ways to earn the rewards. This change is, in my opinion, the best quality of life change ArenaNet have made to the game since launch.
The Lost Shore Event
Back in November, before ArenaNet had settled on their regular two-week release schedule, they were trying out the one time event model with the Karka Invasion on Lion’s Arch. The event would have a series of stages that happened only once, at a specific time and date. Players who couldn’t make the events were understandably unimpressed, and those that could make it had to contend with the server meltdown that occurred when everybody tried to pile into the same area. I, like many players, was plagued with all sorts of connection and lag issues throughout the event, and was more than happy when the event was over. Afterwards, multiple forum threads would reveal how lucky I was to have seen out the Ancient Karka boss battle on my own server, without a disconnection and then reconnection to an overflow server where the battle was over. ArenaNet have never repeated the format of the Lost Shores event, much to the pleasure of the player-base.
Living Story Temporary Content
By and large, the Living Story content updates have been pretty darn good. Often there’s a new area of the world map to play in, or new mini-games to play, and always there’s an exclusive reward of some kind. There has always been one sticking point however, and that’s the fact that it’s temporary. Players who’ve been in the game since launch are crying out for new, permanent content, and they’re not really getting it right now, and as if to rub salt into the wounds, ArenaNet are only making it worse. Every time they add an awesome, but temporary, location like the Zephyr of the Four Winds to the game, they re-ignight the question “what could they produce if they had more time, and weren’t taking it away after a few weeks?” For those players longing for permanent additions to the game, the Living Story has been like the slow agony of water torture.
Black Lion Chests
To begin with a short explanation, Black Lion Chests are locked boxes that drop from dead enemies randomly, and offer a very rare chance of containing weapon skins in amongst the usual XP boosters and the like. Opening them requires the use of Black Lion Keys, which can be bought for real money on the in-game cash shop, and what you find in them is completely random. Most players recognise these lockboxes for what they are – gambling, and avoid them accordingly, but that doesn’t stop them from being contentious. Every time there’s a new promotion involving Black Lion Chests and new weapon skins, at least one thread pops up on the forum describing how they were ripped off by the developer when they chose to gamble on buying one hundred keys. Despite ArenaNet’s attempts to adjust drop rates, and find a happy medium, Black Lion Chests remain controversial.
So it has been an up and down year for Guild Wars 2, but in my humble opinion, the number of highs has more than exceeded the lows. I’ve often thought that new MMO’s need a while to settle down and find their groove, and Guild Wars 2 has been no different. Sure, the game has its detractors, but I’ve never been able recognise they game they often describe. At it’s core, Guild Wars 2 is still a fantastically fun game, that has as much charm now as it did when it first launched. So happy birthday Guild Wars 2, I can’t wait to see what your second year holds.