Let's get one thing out of the way for the people with short attention spans: I had a blast. For quite some time I have lamented the lack of meaningful player-vs-player combat in modern MMOs. I've gotten tired of PvP being relegated to self-contained battlegrounds and arenas that have no impact on the greater world, and most attempts at world PvP tend either to flounder out once the majority of the population have leveled past the zone in which the PvP objectives are located or to become dominated by max-level characters to the exclusion of all others.
Guild Wars 2's WvW solves this problem beautifully by taking the open-world feel of world PvP and placing it into an instanced location where players are all put on a more-or-less even playing field. Upon entering the Mists, each character's stats are boosted to those of a level 80 character (though gear and unlocked skills remain the same, so legitimately high-level characters do have something of an advantage), and each player is assigned a team (red, blue, or green) based on his or her server. "But Matt!" you might say, "I thought you said you wanted meaningful PvP, not self-contained drudgery!" I did say that, and I meant it. Victory in world vs. world grants a server-wide bonus called Power of the Mists, which -- depending on your server's WvW score -- provides a number of useful bonuses to health, crafting experience, combat experience, and more to every player on the team's home server. While this may not be exactly world-altering, it certainly does provide a good reason to fight.
Now moving on to the WvW experience itself! ArenaNet has said (or so I seem to recall; I'm sure the commenters will correct me if I'm wrong) that the goal with WvW was to make it possible for both high-level and low-level players (and large groups as well as smaller ones) to contribute to the war effort in meaningful ways, and I personally feel that the team has succeeded in that endeavor. I entered the Mists as a level 8 Thief (boosted artificially to level 80) and found myself with a number of ways to contribute to the war effort. Of course, there was no way I was going to storm a fortified keep by my lonesome, but I was perfectly capable of hunting down enemy supply caravans to disrupt the opposition's ability to build fortress upgrades and defending my own team's caravans against enemy assaults. NPCs are present in WvW as caravan/fortress guards, but players can't rely on them to put up much of a fight by themselves; they mostly seem to exist to provide a bit of backup to allow time for players to muster a force of their own.
I would have to say, however, that the absolute best part of my time in WvW was being involved in a fortress siege. Madness! Sweet, glorious havoc! Catapults fired everywhere while castle defenders rained hell from the battlements and the infantry of both sides duked it out in front of the keep's gates. It was one of the most intense, edge-of-my-seat experiences I've had in quite some time, and I absolutely can't wait to do it again.
All of that being said, it's time to nitpick! First things first: I am a die-hard proponent of team balance in PvP. I don't mean team-size balance but power balance. In light of that, I really wish that WvW would provide a standard set of gear for each player such as in the game's structured PvP, but I imagine there's a good reason that it doesn't, so that should be taken as a matter of personal preference. What shouldn't, however, is the fact that right now there is absolutely no introduction to the mechanics of WvW. Players are thrown unceremoniously in the Mists and expected to fend for themselves. For a while I was rolling around with the ever-fabulous Rubi Bayer
, and between the two of us it took about 15 minutes before we managed to figure out how to find a fight to pick. Again, this should be taken with a grain of salt (or maybe a whole shaker's worth) due to the fact that this is only beta, but I would really like to see some kind of introductory explanation when launch rolls around. The WvW systems are quite deep, and there's simply too much going on to expect the average player to puzzle it out on his or her own.
But to be entirely honest with y'all, that's about the extent of my grievances, and when my only nitpick ultimately amounts to my own ignorance and/or stupidity, I'd say that's a pretty good sign. Of course, this is only one weekend's worth of experience (and of course, WvW wasn't the only thing I spent time doing), so there may be more nuanced issues that I've yet to pick up on. That said, I feel like WvW is shaping up incredibly. It provides the more competitive among us with a fun, exciting, and accessible way to make an impact on the entire server, and frankly, that excites the hell out of me. So that's all for now, ladies and gents. I hope to mercilessly slaughter... I mean, see you all in The Mists soon!
Even a Bookah like you knows that Guild Wars 2 is on the way, but it takes an Asura's intellect, a Human's charm, a Sylvari's wisdom, a Charr's passion, and a Norn's love of strong mead to dive into beta and make sense of a game this complex. Fortunately, we have all five on the Massively staff. Enjoy our previews, guides, and our weekly
GW2 column, Flameseeker Chronicles!