Why Guild Wars 2 will be better than The Old Republic

Over the past two years the general gaming community has become entranced by the development and upcoming release of Star Wars: The Old Republic. It’s an MMO made by BioWare, who created arguably the best Star Wars game of all time in Knights of the Old Republic, and will act as the spiritual successor of the disappointing failure that was Star Wars Galaxies. There’s absolutely no reason why people shouldn’t be excited. All this hoopla over The Old Republic, it seems, has blinded the community to another MMO coming up on the horizon, one that is looking far more innovative and superior with each passing reveal.

From the ArenaNet studio in Washington, a group of diligent and hardworking developers are putting together what will truly be the next great MMO, a game they’ve been working on for the past four years. That title is Guild Wars 2, and it’s not just trying to reinvent genre storytelling, but nearly every MMO convention.

Take combat; while The Old Republic has a wide selection of classes that allow players to live out their favorite Star Wars fantasies, they all still hold true to the “holy trinity” of MMOs — that is DPS, healer, and tank. Players will be able to survive on their own, but only in solo quests or out in the wild, and can heal themselves outside of combat.

In Guild Wars 2, the “holy trinity” is non-existent. There is no dedicated healer, DPS, or tank. Players can assume that role if they wish, but it’s not required or even recommended for them to survive in even the toughest of dungeons and quests. Each player has a slot dedicated to healing that they must bring, so all classes can heal themselves and/or teammates. Since there are no resurrection spells, each player can simply walk up to a downed companion and hold a button to revive them. It eliminates the desire to lean on one or two specific players in a group. It’s a huge change for an MMO and makes grouping feel less like a stress-filled chore and more like the formation of a fellowship.

Healing Comparison

Another massive difference between the two is how the quest system is structured. Though it’s prettied up with the wonderful story scenes and dialogue of a classic BioWare RPG, The Old Republic still seems to center itself on kill and fetch quests. Though some of the bigger events will feature massive battles to stave off an invasion, all the small ones leading up to it feature that same repetitive structure found in most MMOs. Go to this area, grab something or kill these enemies, come back and get your reward.

Guild Wars 2 will be handling things quite differently thanks to the game’s dynamic events system. Quests won’t be grabbed by people who stand around with exclamation marks over their heads, they will happen organically. You will see towns being invaded or ravaged by pirates, farms being lit ablaze by bandits, and dragonspawn attacking battlements. It is up to you and the players around you to stop them. Whether or not you do, another new event will kick off immediately afterwards, giving the game world a sense that it truly lives and breathes. Cooperation in Guild Wars 2 is highly encouraged, and any means to keep players from cheating off of each other will be eliminated. Everyone can help out anyone and will get their own rewards for doing so.

This is unlike The Old Republic, where unless someone is in your party, you won’t be able to share experience and rewards. This keeps players in a constant state of tension and gives that all too familiar feeling of the “every man for himself” mentality that can come with MMOs. Too many times when I played a demo session of the game at E3 was I looking over my shoulder, hoping no one would steal my kills or loot.

Dialogue vs. Dynamic Events

In my demo time at PAX East with Guild Wars 2, I had the exact opposite feeling. If someone came in and attacked a creature, I could still attack it and get credit for killing it just as he or she would. We would also get drops from the same enemy, which only varied by how much we participated in the event. It allowed me to simply relax and welcome the presence of other people playing the game as opposed to resenting them.

While on the topic of resentment, one of the biggest problems with most MMOs and one of my largest gripes is the lack of a fast-travel system. Though interplanetary travel in The Old Republic will most likely be via fast travel, inner-planetary travel will not be. Your horrendously slow land travel can be sped up with your own personal speeder, but those turn what feels like a crawl into a mild walk. Nothing ruins immersion more than riding a slow speeder through the tan world of Tatooine with no interesting sites or suitably ambient music to set a tone, even if it is horribly realistic.

Guild Wars 2 will once again be very different. Players will need to traverse the world by foot, but once they discover a location for the first time, they will have the ability to fast travel back to it whenever they please. This encourages the player to explore the game world, but also doesn’t punish him or her if he or she has a limited amount of free time and can’t spend an hour or two of every game session walking around in the wilderness. Best of all, the people at ArenaNet have used their lore to logically explain how fast travel fits in the game world. It also helps that the art style of Tyria is the best out there today and Jeremy Soule’s (composer of The Elder Scrolls series) soundtrack sets a great atmosphere.

Being able to vary gameplay is another way that both of these titles are looking to change up the MMO genre, but once again Guild Wars 2 will offer more and looks to do it better. The Old Republic will feature your normal exploration and killing, but also instances for small group story missions called flashpoints, larger instances known as operations, on-rails space combat, and PvP. Each instance will preserve the extremely promising way BioWare looks to present its story, but can only be played and replayed one way: how it’s scripted.

Flashpoint vs. Dungeon

ArenaNet is handling story by way of instancing in what the developer calls “dungeons.” These segments are also replayable, but in a much different and more innovative way than SWTOR. After completing the story version of an instance, players will unlock the “dungeon” for non-story instance play. This will allow players to explore the instance in one of three new missions, but each of these will differ every time you play them thanks to a system implemented by the studio. Random mini-events within the missions will or won’t pop up each time you play, varying what enemies you run into and which paths you take to reach your goal. This creates a method of replayability previously unheard of in the genre.

Guild Wars 2  will also be the first MMO to tackle underwater combat, which looks to be just as fast-paced and exciting as its normal combat. Not on-rails like the space combat of SWTOR, each player will have a breather that keeps them from having to come up for air constantly. They will also have an underwater weapon that will give players a different set of skills from what they have on land. The physics act just as you would expect for players swimming under the waves, and the content will exist in the persistent world. Furthermore, dynamic events that kick off above the water can even lead to future ones below it and vice versa.

All these variations and innovations in variety come without even mentioning Guild Wars 2‘s PvP, which hasn’t even received a full reveal yet from the developers. All we know is that at least part of it will be World vs. World, which is essentially server vs. server. It will be a way for players in different servers to compete with each other and gain rewards for their version of Tyria over others. It is said to vary from minor tasks that solo players can complete to far larger ones for groups looking for a challenge.

Space vs. Underwater

With all of this said, I by no means think that The Old Republic will be a disappointment, a failure, or even a subpar experience. What BioWare is doing bringing the Star Wars universe to life looks to be an impressive and enjoyable experience. However, practically everything that The Old Republic reinvents or recycles, Guild Wars 2 one-ups in innovation. From combat to cooperation, from traversal to immersion, the game will completely revolutionize the way gamers look at the genre. Make no mistake about it, the next generation of the MMO is on the cusp of arrival. Unfortunately for BioWare, SWTOR won’t be the shining example. That honor will belong to Guild Wars 2.


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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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