Written by Joe the Revelator
In the beginning, there was World of Warcraft, and like the Borg it swept the world assimilating all. Students grew fat and acne-scarred playing 14 hours a day. Men lost their jobs and girlfriends. Old gamers lost whatever shreds of dignity remained to them. And somewhere in China, a new occupation grew to support families, and eventually small fishing villages; an activity known as "Gold Farming".
Then came the unavoidable WoW clones that offered similar MMORPG experiences without the monthly pay-to-play charges. But lacking the budget to employ a small army of developers, administrators, and writers, these WoW-alikes were doomed for failure. Eve Online may have dominated the cosmos. But WoW laid claim to inactive imaginations, offering hours of furious level-grinding, social chatting, and troll sexing.
And lo, there emerged a new MMORPG, which offered an eighth of the race/class choice variety at a fraction of the price of WoW. Warcraft had elves, orcs, bull-men and undead men, and everything in between. Guild Wars had hulking men in armor with so little variety from warrior-to-warrior they may as well have been Storm Troopers. And Guild Wars had mages (every other class was a varient of the mage concept) in bikini's, and bikini-like chainmail.
But Guild Wars was cheap. It provided hours of faction-based fighting and fantasy realms with only one payment of 60 bucks, plus an additional 30-or-so for each expansion. Their innovative server-cluster design allowed players to engage in a level or zone with three to seven of their friends. Or three to seven halfwit NPC mercenaries, if you'd already lost your friends to the WoW hivemind. It was good, mostly-clean fun, and it didn't require you to be logged in for the entire day.
Nowadays, WoW is looking a bit weathered graphically compared to newer games, and the online population consists of Chinese gold farmers and diehard players, who have grown so immense since WoW's release that they couldn't physically walk away from the game if they tried. Guild Wars, on the other hand, is just passing its RPG midlife-crisis. To keep it "fresh" they added everything under the sun to entice players into staying until the release of the sequel. Last time I logged in, the mob in town looked like a comic-con if the nerds were edgy enough to start taking serious mind-altering drugs. Ghosts disco-danced with short-skirted anime girls. There were robots, zombies, and the occasional player who was actually trying to fight the evil forces of...whatever.
Guild Wars 2 has done away with that old pesky innovation. Instead they've looked at every other MMORPG on the market and tried to blend the positive aspects of each. From the menu systems to crafting, combat, and skill bars that change with the weapons you are wielding. Even the quest system is borrowed. You can literally point to which older RPG model they've ripped off, and where they've implemented it.
Big people. Dog people. And rats.
Having said that, on the surface Guild Wars 2 is a free-roaming MMORPG, wherein explorable areas and towns are open to everyone simultaneously, and PvP is extremely limited. Nobody can run up behind you at level 1 and carve a charm bracelet out of your spine with a level 80 axe. Nor can you hog a low-level zone once you've achieved the powers of a Greek god. Zones are scaled, effectively knocking you back down to the level of the town/battlefield you've entered.
The races you can choose from are the Charr; big non-specific animal men who've recently escaped from the Island of Dr. Moreau. The Azura; blue chiwawa-rat hybrids. Plant people, aka Sylvari. Boring old humans. Or bigger humans, aka Norn. But in the end your pick of race is pointless, since the class will determine all your stats and skills anyway. A 12-inch tall Azura warrior has just as much oomph behind his swing as a 6-foot 300 pound were-tiger.
Class: I won't go into the classes. They're the same as Guild Wars. You're a warrior or a mage-ish caster. There are, however, black powder guns in the game now. And a new class has been imported from Team Fortress; The Engineer. And yes, they come with turrets.
Ban - The God of GW2
Before giving GW2 a thumbs up, I will throw out one caveat. The Guild Wars 2 staff is very liberal with the "Ban" button. The need to keep gold farmers, hackers, and exploiters to a minimum has left them with itchy trigger fingers. And perhaps rightfully so. Many websites are claiming recent games with gold-driven economies are being ruined by hackers. Just do a Google search for "D3" and "Hackers" and you'll be buried under an avalanche of sweaty nerd complaints. Even a site like Forbes has an article on hackers taking advantage of real-money auctions in rpg's.
My advice if you choose to play GW2 or any upcoming MMORPG's, is to be prepared. If the game offers an authenticator; a device or service that checks for a code or sends you an email when people try to log in under your name, get one. Keep all boxes and receipts that the game came with. Use complex passwords (numbers and letters). And be prepared to appeal any ban on your account that isn't justified. Most games have appeal-ticket system, so you can automatically ask why you're being punished when your barbarian gets a pinkslip. But if the ticket doesn't work for you, or you're not offered one, or you're fresh out of gold cougarans to bribe the administrators, you can always shoot them an email through the "contact us" section. Simply write the department you're trying to reach in the "subject" box and most of the time they'll be forwarded to the right person.