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These 5 words (a shot in the dark) describe Guild Wars 2 better than most. "Good game," "bad game," and most other labels just don't suffice. They don't encompass the aspects that Guild Wars 2 sought to get right, which ones it actually did, where it has succeeded, where it has failed, or why.
Guild Wars 2 had nothing to steal from.
Unlike roughly 90% of the MMO market, Guild Wars 2 did not merely throw new wallpaper onto World of Warcraft. It's an entirely new creature - one that attempts to apply the principles that make Single Player RPG's overall superior to MMOs, while adding the social, large-scale aspect that makes the MMO genre worth playing.
Nothing of this sort had been seriously attempted before. Granted, there were failed attempts at Dynamic Events (Warhammer Online), but nothing on the scale of Guild Wars 2's concepts. And it wasnt just one core concept that they intended to innovate. The list includes (but isn't limited to):
Dynamic Events over traditional questing.
Coordinated 5 man dungeons over 40 man raids.
Removal of a HARD trinity - by giving all professions the ability to play all roles at the same time or in different builds, the hard trinity was exchanged for a soft one. This in particular is something that hadn't been done before (and certainly not to any significant degree) and this is where most criticism of the game is aimed.
Individual loot and resource nodes, instead of mob tagging / mob stealing mechanics.
Removal or reduction of REQUIRED grind (but not optional grind).
All of this is quite significant, but what's your point.
What do you typically see from a new title in the MMO genre. New classes? They'll generally be extremely similar to ones that already exist, if not shamelessly identical. New art? Well, that's generally expected of any game. New lore? MMO lore is rarely emphasized and even more rarely interesting. One or two small, almost meaningless changes? Oh, yeah, those wings in Aion really change a lot, don't they. Well, not really. It's basically a mount (albeit a bit more fun) with ridiculous restrictions. The gameplay is still the same. The vast majority of the game is something you've probably already experienced dozens of times.
When you compare that to the wild attempts at innovation that Guild Wars 2 represented, it's clear which is more significant to the genre. Aion, Rift, and WildStar may be strong titles, but they don't stand out. They represent stagnation - a refusal to move forward because of the possibility of a misstep. It doesn't matter that something amazing, or even "perfect" could be waiting on the other side; the grass here is green, so why not enjoy it? Guild Wars 2, on the other hand, represents a bold attempt to move forward. There may be traps and pitfalls along the path, but the treasure at the end is worth it.
There are really only a handful of games in this genre.
There's World of Warcraft. There's a million free to play World of Warcraft clones that are all basically the same game (and thus ARE the same game). There's Eve online. And then there's Guild Wars 2. Am I leaving some noteworthy, semi-unique (or even unique) titles out? Probably, but you get my point. Most of the games in this genre aren't just derivative - they're outright redundant and unnecessary. Guild Wars 2 is an actual, unique game, rather than a poor re-skin of something that already exists in a better form.
You won't find this kind of redundancy in other genres. As much as shooters tend to be criticized for this, there are major, if subtle differences between each and every one. Halo is not Call of Duty which is not Battlefield which is not Unreal Tournament which is not Team Fortress 2 which is not Tribes and so on and so forth.
At their core, all WoW clones ARE just inferior versions of WoW.
If it's not broken, you're not innovating.
Innovation, while crucial for anything to move forward and progress, is rarely successful on its first attempt. Guild Wars 2's launch was merely the first attempt. In less than 2 weeks, it will hit its one year anniversary and progress into its second year. THIS is the time in which its potential must be realized and it must take major steps to fix its major issues to set the stage (or destroy the stage) for other games of its kind.
So what exactly is broken?
As is the case with any game (especially any vanilla MMO) a LOT. But these are the largest core issues:
Dungeon mechanics - overemphasis on dps.
Stale PvP - focus on Conquest style PvP was a bad idea from the start.
Overemphasis on zerging in WvW / Not enough incentive for split strategies or small group roaming.
Not enough skills, traits, and weapons to customize your character with.
Rewards issues - Dynamic Events aren't rewarding enough, and the effort vs. reward ratios for the different dungeons (and even paths within dungeons) just aren't anywhere near comparable.
Notice that I didn't list "lack of a trinity" as a core issue.
That's because it isn't one. It's a legitimate design choice that has potential pros and potential cons. Furthermore, it is NOT the cause of Guild Wars 2's gameplay problems.
So what is? Dungeon design. The Defiant/Unshakable buff on bosses needs to be reworked or completely removed for the control portion of the Damage/Support/Control soft trinity to work at all. There need to be more fights that involve steady enemy damage, as the current system of low sustained damage, with high burst damage only encourages glass cannon dps builds that use dodging, blocking, etc. to render tank and support gear pointless. Additionally, boss mechanics may need reworking to provide a wider variety of challenging content that demands more involved build changing and player adaptation.
Basically, the issue has never been that the game "lacks" a trinity. It's that the content fails to complement the system the game does have in place.
This is an entirely repairable issue - one that would NOT involve a complete restructuring of roles or a return to the trinity to fix.
The reason PvP has been dying is because Conquest is dull.
Can you name many good esport conquest games? I sure can't. In fact, I can't think of a single one.
League of Legends Dominion? It was initially popular, but now it basically only thrives because of the huge total community of the game. It's still an unpopular mode (by comparison) to Twisted Treeline or Summoner's Rift. Infinite Crisis ripped off of the Dominion map and the first demand of the community was a better map.
The Star Wars: Battlefronts series is arguably the best example of Conquest gameplay, but it's still not an esport, much less a huge one. It was fun. In fact, it was a lot of fun, but that's because it has a lot more depth than mere point capture. It was a real strategy game with a massive feel and fun gunplay.
Anything else? Not that I can think of. Conquest is rarely the main game mode for a reason. Why? Because it's repetitive and shallow when compared to most other PvP formats (with the only real exception being Deathmatch.) It actively encourages drawn out games, turtling/bunkering, and outright avoiding combat.
Arenanet can add on as many gimmicks as they want. Battle of Khylo may have a strategic trebuchet and Legacy of the Foefire may have a Guild Lord, but it's still the same basic Conquest map, just with different bells and whistles to play with.
What can Arenanet do to both stand out as a unique title and become a more impressive game?
Addition of Guild vs. Guild PvP or League of Legends/DotA style PvP. Shift in focus from Conquest to this mode.
Reworking of dungeon mechanics to better suit their soft trinity.
Reworking of rewards to encourage players to branch out, rather than concentrate in and farm certain areas.
Addition of more weapons, skills, and traits to all professions. Let no niche be unfilled and no aesthetic be unobtainable!
Addition of features that encourage smaller and more strategic WvW play. These could include additional goals, WvW rank skills that buff players when they are outnumbered, and other changes.
An extension on the personal story that happens after 80 and allows you to take huge turns (ie: continuing with the Pact or going off on your own).
Increased incentives for grouping and socialization. These could be as simple as higher rewards, more group-based achievements, and/or the inclusion of a team-oriented zone or two (Orr was intended to be this, but didn't go far enough with it and just wasn't fun in general).
What has Guild Wars 2 done that was just fundamentally.... right?
Individual loot and resource nodes. No more mob camping. No more mob tagging. No more cursing out every time another player enters the area you're farming.
The basis for adaptable team gameplay. While it certainly doesn't work perfectly, the foundation is there. Rather than mindlessly spamming a dps rotation on an enemy while two other players do the other 2/3rd of your job for you (aggro and healing), the soft-trinity ("no trinity"), if perfected, would greatly increase the amount of thought and judgment required to fit into a team.
Smaller dungeon groups. In a five man team, the impact of your actions is much higher and there is a much higher coordination requirement between each member - in theory. If Guild Wars 2 manages to fix their dungeon mechanics, it will be a much stronger system than the typical "you are an unimportant cog in a 40 man army" that has plagued the genre.
Downscaling. While being able to go back and one shot everything in a low level zone certainly has its merits, the downscaling system allows all content to be viable content. While Guild Wars 2 may only have 8 dungeons, that's 8 dungeons that are viable at max level - which is actually quite a bit more than most MMOs offer. Every location. Every zone. Every experience is viable at max level. And that's just..... amazing.
The cash shop. It is the perfect example of a non-invasive cash shop - the kind that should appear in more f2p and b2p games because it's just that good. No power selling. Cosmetics and convenience only. A number of fun little items. Everything obtainable with conversions from ingame currency. It just doesn't get any better.
Basically, Guild Wars 2 should be applauded, not frowned upon, for its innovations.
It's a breath of fresh air, even if the scent of it may not be to your particular liking. It has its market (as does the traditional MMO), and it still has a lot of potential, if Anet is able and willing to realize it. Most importantly, it's the first fundamentally NEW game the genre has seen in far too long.
It's easy to copy and paste. It's difficult to actually create something different and nearly impossible to make this difference work out immediately. Guild Wars 2 has a lot of issues (just like any other game), but it also makes a lot of legitimate and even great fundamental design decisions that have the potential to progress the genre more than any game has since WoW. And as the months pass, I predict that it will fix more and more of its core issues and we'll see something beautiful be produced as a result. And that's a good thing - because I for one was tired of playing bad re-textures of the same exact game for all these years.