I have been playing Guild Wars 2 on and off Ever since it came out in beta version in July 2012, currently, I’m playing it on a daily basis. Guild Wars 2 is one of the best MMORPGs out there, It is definitely my personal favorite MMORPG, and believe me, I tried a lot of MMORPGs through the years.
So, is Guild Wars 2 worth playing in 2021? Definitely yes! Guild Wars 2 offers a huge amount of unique content that competing MMOs lack of. There are a lot of people playing it, so you will never have trouble finding a party for a dungeon\raid or match in PvP in no time. The best thing is that guild wars 2 is free (without the expansions) so you don’t need to overthink it and you can just download it and try for yourself.
Even though I just can’t get enough of this game I will try my best to make this review as unbiased and objective as possible to give newcomers an idea of what they should expect going into Guild Wars 2.
What Is Guild Wars About?
Guild Wars 2 is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game. It’s a giant online world where you are free to explore and advance your story as you wish, all the while cooperating with thousands of actual humans from around the world. If you’re familiar at all with titles such as World Of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls Online, etc. you know what an MMORPG is.
You can participate in raids, upgrade the weapons and armor of your character, experiment with new skills or combos, etc. Guild Wars 2 lets you explore beautiful yet dangerous new lands, filled with wonder and mystery. There are giant sprawling deserts, lush jungles filled with all sorts of creatures, snow-laden plains, mountains, and much more.
Is Guild Wars Still Active In 2021?
Yes, very much so. In fact, there are nearly 14 million unique players with a daily active player count of nearly 500,000 on average. ArenaNet has even made a statement saying that they are working on the third expansion to Guild Wars 2. You can check the current number of players here.
The Guild Wars 2 community is extremely passionate, even after almost 9 years of this game fighting its way against competition from other large names such as World of Warcraft. And the developers have been quite a bit more communicative recently with multiple content updates planned out for the upcoming season and expansions.
Is Guild Wars 2 Free To Play?
Yes, the core game is 100 percent free for everyone. However, If you want to play the newest content you’ll need to pay for the expansion packs, of which there are two- Heart of Thorns, and Path of Fire. As of now, the Heart of Thorns expansion comes bundled alongside the Path of Fire expansion.
Expansions offer tons of additional content including stories, equipment, maps, mounts, gliders, and entirely new regions. Path of Fire unlocks the maps like Crystal Desert, while Heart of Thorns lets you explore the zones like Heart of Maguuma. Purchasing an expansion will also unlock chatting and mail privileges exclusive to paid accounts, and allow you to have 5 character slots. You also gain access to the Revenant profession, which is missing from the free to play version of Guild Wars 2.
Buying an expansion will also open up in-game gold to gem conversion in the currency exchange. You can use gems to unlock episodes, buy cosmetics, etc. Raids are also accessible once you pay for an expansion. You can view the full list of differences between free and paid access here.
What Makes Guild Wars Unique?
The most noticeable thing about guild wars is their unique character versatility. By that, I mean that even if you play a thief you can play as a healer. Gear selection, runes, and sigils allow you to freely choose the stats and abilities you want for your character. Weapon and utility skills change your skill bar and as a result, change your playstyle and character role.
Because of the versatility, that each class can choose whatever he wants to play a DPS a tank, or some other variations there is no need for the holy trinity in dungeons to some extend. In the highest fractal levels and raid, there is a need to take certain roles in the party in order to finish it successfully.
One of the things that makes this game so good for newcomers is the fact that there is no hard grind to reach the max level (which is 80). And you can gain EXP in a multitude of ways. Pretty much every game mode rewards you with EXP and you have a variety of options to get endgame loot. There are raids, like most other MMOs. Then there is the Fractals (5 man dungeons) mode with different buffs and debuffs each day, plus multiple difficulty tiers.
Conquest (5 v 5 PvP) is the primary PvP mode in Guild Wars 2, it is sort of like a flag capture deathmatch between 2 teams. World vs World is a combination of PvP and PvE, giant open-world combat between 3 different worlds involving 6+ servers and several dozen players on each map. You fight for objectives like keeps and towers with siege weapons and also try to gain control over resource camps.
The Story Of Guild Wars 2
In the fantasy world of Guild Wars, there exist powerful ancient beings known as Elder Dragons. These primordial creatures have been around since the beginning of time, wreaking havoc and destruction upon the world whenever they awake from their deep slumber. Their cycle of awakening, destroying, and hibernation is spread over a period of several millennia, intrinsically connected to the levels of ambient magic in the world.
To battle these destructive forces of nature, a guild called Destiny’s Edge was formed in the continent of Tyria. Destiny’s Edge was composed of valiant warriors from different races who set their differences aside, coming together to battle one common foe- the Elder Dragons. Guild Wars 2 takes place nearly 250 years after the events of the first Guild War.
Destiny’s Edge has been disbanded since, and you start out the game as an apprentice for one of the Destiny’s Edge members. Five Elder Dragons who had been sleeping underneath the continent of Tyria have awoken, causing mass-scale destruction of life and property, affecting various races and factions living within Tyria.
You work to bring together old legends, new warriors, and various opposing factions who have been at each other’s throats for centuries. All in an effort to fight back the 5 Elder Dragons. There are 3 Orders you can choose to work with at the start of your story- the scholars of Durmand Priory, the secret agents of the Order of Whispers, and the warrior army of the Vigil.
Guild Wars 2’s Incredible Combat System
I think the combat system of Guild Wars 2 can be described as fast-paced, flexible, and dynamic. It is one of the best MMOs out there in terms of pure combat mechanics and you get a wide variety of skills, weapons, specialties, etc. to try out on your enemies. A character damaged by engagement with an enemy is immediately placed in combat mode which reduces forward movement speed and increases weapon set swapping cooldowns.
The key to winning combat in Guild Wars 2 is your skill bar, located at the center bottom of the screen. You can choose up to 10 unique skills from a wide roster of spells. The accessible spells from the total pool will be locked/ unlocked based on the class and profession of your character. There are a variety of skills-
Weapon Skills In Slots 1-5:
These are determined by your character’s profession and the type of weapon you’ve equipped. The same weapon equipped by different professions will result in varying skills. A ranger with a bow will have different skills compared to a warrior with a bow. The same applies in reverse, i.e. a Mesmer wielding a staff will have different weapon skills compared to a Mesmer with dual swords.
Your main hand weapon determines the first 3 weapon skills while your off-handed weapon decides the last 2 weapon skills.
Healing Skill In Slot 6:
Your 6th slot on the skill bar belongs to a healing skill, and all healing skills restore health as a basic benefit while some grant additional buffs. Your character starts out with a core healing skill, and you unlock new healing abilities by spending hero points in the hero panel. Now, healing skills should not be confused for skills in other slots that also possess secondary healing abilities.
Healing skills are also segregated by profession. For instance, Guardians have exclusive access to a healing spell called “Receive the Light”. This is an enchanted shout that heals you and any allies in a cone in front of you. Thieves can use “Hide in Shadows” which will stealth you, remove some conditions and heal you.
For each class, there are 4 variations in healing skills you can choose from. The additional extensions will unlock 2 more variations.
Utility Skills In Slots 7-9:
These are skills that perform a wide range of tasks, like applying various buffs on you and your allies or applying debuffs on the enemy. As you level up your character, you unlock new utility slots- Slot 1 at level 11, Slot 2 at level 15, and Slot 3 at level 19. Utility skills are based on profession, but some are also race dependent.
Utility skills can range from damage block buffs to area healing, power boosts, immobilization of enemies, and traps that prevent your enemies from crossing a path. For example, there’s the ability called Vengeful Hammers which is accessible by Revenants. It summons magical hammers that spin around you to create a shield, damaging any enemy who is struck by them.
Elite Skills In Slot 0:
Think of these as “ultimate” abilities that have the power to turn the tide of a battle. Elite skills cannot be used frequently and are reserved on the last slot of your skill bar. They have much longer recharge times/ cooldowns compared to regular skills (some recharge in 40 seconds while others can take up to 4 minutes).
Elite skills can only be accessed once your character reaches level 31. To be eligible for unlocking an Elite skill, you must first unlock the requisite healing and utility skills of a specific type. A nice example of a strong Elite skill is the Battle Standard, usable only by Warriors. This summons a banner that revives fallen friends and lays the finishing blow on downed enemies, instantly killing them. It also grants periodical bonuses to nearby allies. You can reduce the recharge timer by picking the banner up.
Certain unique skills and secondary abilities are exclusive to a given profession; these are called professional mechanics. Profession mechanics are activated by the keys F1 to F5, and their status is displayed by the mechanic’s bar which is located above weapon skills on the skill bar. All professions have a primary mechanic which might be a single mechanic, or a compound mechanic consisting of multiple basic mechanics working together.
An example of a professional mechanic is the Virtue of Justice for Guardians which causes you and your allies to burn the enemies upon attacking them. Warriors have access to Eviscerate which makes you leap at your foe to execute a crushing attack whose effects are boosted by your adrenaline level. A successful hit increases your might.
Evading Enemy Attacks
Every character in this game has an endurance bar which is expended when you dodge an enemy attack. Dodging can be done by double-tapping any of the movement keys or pressing the key bound to dodge (default is V). Maximum endurance per character is 100, and dodging consumes 50, or 33 depending on the build and the class. Dodging speed is fixed and moves you 300 units over a period of 0.75 seconds.
Certain traits will also activate upon dodging, like Selfless Daring (with the Guardian class) which heals nearby allies at the end of your dodge roll. Or Unwavering Avoidance (Revenant Class) which rewards you with vigor if you successfully evade an incoming attack. Dodging is usually used to evade a powerful attack since you only have a limited endurance pool and dodging consumes a significant chunk of it.
It is easier to dodge in PvE because enemies provide an indicator of when they’re about to unleash a devastating attack, large moves are often telegraphed. Obvious indicators are glowing eyes or an exaggerated attack animation.
Skill Chains, Combos, and Auto Attacks
Guild Wars 2 doesn’t have a basic auto-attack function since all attacks are performed by skills in the skill bar. But you can set any skill slot to auto-attack, so you can activate this skill as soon as it is off cooldown if no other skill is being used. You can also chain skills, using them in sequence at a rapid pace while attacking a single target.
Getting knocked or stunned will interrupt your chaining of skills, as will pressing the wrong skill during the sequence. Combos are also possible, often done by multiple characters from different professions. These allow you to get effects beyond the skill’s normal powers by dynamically combining skills.
The normal keybinding to using these skills aren’t set great by default and won’t allow you to play the game normally without stretching your fingers and moving it to use the utility skills or the elite. When you get yourself familiarized with the game I recommend putting an alternative binding on top of what is currently is set.
I personally use the following binding:
- Weapon skills 1-5 left like there are
- Headling skill: wheel mouse click (mouse 3)
- Utility skills 6-0: Q, E, Z, X
- Profession Skills: Shift + Q, Shift + E, Shift + Z, Shift + X, Shift + C,
A Living World
Guild Wars 2 is an MMO that features a persistent world. Basically, this means that the state of the virtual game world continues to change and evolve internally even when no players are interacting with it. It mirrors real life, where events take place all around you, whether you’re aware of them or not.
You don’t have to interact with every single event but each interaction you perform can result in a “ripple effect” and lead you to a chain of other quests.
There’s always something happening in Guild Wars 2. New content is periodically released.
How Does It Work?
The Living World is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a virtual game world designed to feel real and dynamic, giving you limitless means of interaction and tons of daily content to immerse yourself within. ArenaNet adds constant updates to the game in the form of “episodes” that advance the storyline and lore while adding new weapons, characters, maps, raids, etc.
Episodes in Guild Wars 2 are just like episodes in a TV series- they include story missions and additional content that reflects the state of Tyria and its constant evolution. Sometimes, new mechanics and features are also introduced via living world updates.
Certain episodes are locked, while others are unlocked. You have to unlock an episode in order to play it, and you’ll be able to play any unlocked episode with a level 80 character. You have to log in during an episode’s original release window to avail the episode for free, or you can use 200 gems to unlock previous episodes. In certain time periods or festivals, the episodes may be offered as a bundle at a lower price.
Note: You can learn more about the Guild Wars 2 episodes and storyline across various seasons over here on the official wiki.
Creating A Character
When you start the game, you’ll be prompted to create a character. You choose a race and gender, then a profession. Unlike most other MMOs, Guild Wars 2 lets you freely mix and match all sorts of races and professions. All 9 professions are available to each one of the 5 races. Choosing a race is mostly a cosmetic affair, and it won’t have any significant impact on the gameplay. Except for your starting location in the world of Tyria, that is determined by the race you choose.
There are a total of 6 racial skills available to a character of each race. These vary depending on race but include a mix of the following- healing, utility, and elite skills. Racial skills are less powerful compared to professional skills and you can’t use them in structured PvP (competitive PvP). Each race has its own capital city and personal home instance located within the city.
The early to mid-stage of your personal story is affected by which race you choose, and different races get different reactions from NPCs. Certain cultural armor skins are exclusive to specific races.
Which Guild Wars 2 Profession Is Best For Beginners?
As I mentioned earlier, every profession is open to every race. Races exist only for your personal story and cosmetic value. The real classification comes from professions, and there are 9 of them. If you’re starting out, I highly recommend you choose one of these 4 professions-
The main reason I am recommending these 4 specifically is that they are very easy to learn due to the relatively simple mechanics and straightforward skill sets.
Guild Wars 2 Races
Like most other MMOs, Guild Wars 2 has character classes which are known as races. You have 5 races in the game, each a different species living in the continent of Tyria-
These mystical beings may be tiny, but their intellect is gigantic. They are practitioners of powerful arcane spells and are experts on magitech. The Asuras have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and learning new skills, planning to rule the world not through power, but with wit and wisdom.
A newly introduced race, these are mysterious plant beings whose consciousness is connected together through a maternal figure- the Pale Tree. They are individual beings with their own emotions and personalities. Sylvari aren’t born but awakened with knowledge imparted to them in their Pre-Life Dream by the great Pale Tree.
Constantly under threat from multiple factions and a world that heads further into the embrace of darkness with each passing day, the human society of Tyria is a scattered force. Ancient ruins of once-great cities and shrines act as reminders of a once glorious race, now striving to achieve equality with the rest of the world.
An ancient race of towering northern hunters who were driven from their ancestral homeland of the glaciers by the Ice Dragon. A proud race with only one goal in mind- retake what was once theirs, by staying true to their ideals and achieving victory at any cost. They live for the pleasure of the hunt, and no setback can dampen their enthusiasm.
War is all they know, for they were born in it, forged by the atrocities and cruelty of battle. There is no place for the weak in the Charr, victory is the only thing that matters. And they will achieve what they want, no matter the cost.
Guild Wars 2 Professions
A profession also determines which character traits, stats, spells, etc. you get over the course of time.
There are 9 professions in total, each with its own unique specialties. Professions are open to all races and genders. Each profession has a mix of damage, control, and supporting abilities that can be used in combat. If you reach level 80 on your character and have the expansion packs, you unlock an Elite specialization for your profession which often changes how the base profession works.
Dualists who use magic and deception to trick their opponents Mesmers can summon powerful phantasmic clones and break them down to generate various secondary effects.
Similar to a paladin, devoted to protecting their allies with buffs and various heals/ damage blocking skills while simultaneously weakening the enemy forces.
Practitioners of necromancy. They can summon minions, and heal themselves by siphoning the life out of their enemies. Necromancers feed on life force which they can use for offensive attacks, or to delay their own death.
Skilled fighters who rely on their excellent sight, precise aim, and animal companions to navigate the battlefield and take out foes. Rangers are highly versatile; with a keen understanding of nature and the various powers it provides.
These are spellcasters who channel elemental energy through their bodies, taking full advantage of air, fire, earth, and water. Think of them as benders from Avatar. While elementalists may lack physical durability, they more than makeup for it by dealing massive amounts of damage.
Speed, strength, toughness, and mastery of a wide range of weapons- warriors are your standard heavy armor class found in every MMO. But Guild Wars 2 adds a lot of versatility so you can make your warrior as tanky as you want, or a total glass cannon. Warriors are brave and mighty, reveling in the joy of battle. They rack up adrenaline overtime during a battle, making them stronger as the battle progresses longer.
Nimble and stealthy, thieves use shadows and the surrounding environment to mask their movements. They are experts at stealing, vanishing, and executing surprise attacks. Thieves have a fighting style that emphasizes agility, speed, evasiveness, and stealth.
Mad scientists and tinkerers, engineers love to create all sorts of gadgets using elixirs, mechanical components, magic, explosives, and pretty much anything under the sun. Engineers support their allies with exquisite state of the art weaponry, traps consisting of mines and bombs, and various other ingenious contraptions.
The Revenant equipped with heavy armor channel the legends of Tyria to defeat their opponents. They have 6 legends at their disposal and can use 2 of them at any given time. The Revenant can only be accessed by purchasing the expansion packs.
The Various Types Of Content In Guild Wars 2
PvE (player vs environment)
This is divided into two types- instanced, and open world. Open world PvE consists of world bosses, new maps, meta events, etc. Instanced PvE consists of raids, strike missions, and fractals. Fractals are basically mini-dungeons that are supposed to be tackled by level 80 characters in groups of 5. Fractals come in several difficulty tiers.
Raids can provide some of the most interesting and challenging gameplay in Guild Wars 2, requiring proper skill usage and team coordination to pull off. Then, you have dynamic events that replace the traditional static MMO quest system with events that are happening all around you in real-time, irrespective of your input. You can help a farmer with his crops, retrieve a medicinal herb, capture a person, etc.
The personal story is also a part of the PvE experience, it teaches you about the world of Guild Wars 2 and encourages you to explore Tyria. Each personal story is custom made (to some extent) for your specific character based on your race and answers to biography questions during character creation. It is also influenced by decisions made during gameplay.
Structured PvP (competitive player vs player)
A competitive game mode which focuses on pitting players against each other in a fair and balanced setting. Attributes, runes, and sigils from PvE cannot be used in structured PvP. Equipment attributes are normalized, and you have to select a set of specializations in the PvP build panel. Everyone is set to level 80 irrespective of what your actual character level is. You can start structured PvP after your character gets to level 3.
Structured PvP uses the Glicko2 matchmaking rating (MMR) system and matches players of similar skill levels with each other. There are both ranked as well as unranked arenas. In a standard match, the first team to reach 500 points wins. You gain points by killing enemy players, securing and holding capture points, or completing map-based objectives.
WvW (World vs World, also a type of PvP)
This game mode features a combination of both PvP and PvE elements. It pits players from 3 different worlds vs each other and can involve 6+ servers at a time. World versus World is an all-out brawl between dozens of players on each map, and there are 5 large maps. You have siege weapons to destroy and capture strategic points such as supply towers and keeps.
Everyone joining WvW gets their level dynamically adjusted to 80. However, your equipment stats will be locked to whatever your current equipment level is, so I don’t suggest playing WvW if you’re really low level. Another thing to remember is that WvW doesn’t reward you with normal experience. Instead it gives you World experience that increases your World rank.
Should You Buy The Expansion Packs & Are They Worth It?
I suggest you give the free core game a try, find out if the story and gameplay interests you. Then, you can decide whether you want to purchase the expansion packs (personally, I believe they are well worth the small sum you pay). The basic free to play version is going to give you access to all races and 8 professions, barring one- the Revenant profession.
You also get to level up to the maximum, which is level 80. And you can experience the full personal story, just like anyone who purchased the game back in 2012. The free to play version also has dungeons, dynamic quests, and fractals of the mist. Free to play players cannot use map chat and can only whisper every 30 seconds unless you’re mutual friends. Also, there are some trading restrictions.
None of this will adversely affect gameplay, a lot of this was done primarily to stop gold sellers from advertising their services in the game. Perhaps the largest handicap in the f2p version is the limit to 2 character slots.
Heart of Thorns
The first is the Hearth of Thorns expansion which unlocks an extra region, the Maguuma jungles. You also get a new storyline to play through, 4 maps, a mastery system, and gliding. Gliding makes traveling a lot easier, you simply jump off a mountain and press the spacebar to glide. Unlike mounts, gliders can be used mid-combat. Heart of Thorns also adds the Revenant profession.
Another big content add-on included within Heart of Thorns is raids. You get to fight around 3 to 4 raid bosses with multiple events in between these boss fights. Raids reward you with gold, experience, and legendary insight that can be used to craft legendary armor. You also get magnetite shards which are used for ascended armor and unique skins.
Path of Fire
This expansion unlocks a new region called the Crystal Desert, and a bunch of new raid events plus storyline elements. However, the biggest selling point of Path of Fire is the fact that it introduces mounts. Unlike most other MMOs, each mount in Guild Wars 2 has its own specific active and passive skills. You’ll be able to traverse difficult areas and access previously unreachable spots with certain types of mounts.
There is the roller beetle that rolls over enemies and can be upgraded to break through barriers. Then there is a mount that’s basically a giant magical bunny which can leap really high, allowing you to climb mountains with ease. And there is the jackal which can teleport short distances in a straight line.
Personally, I feel the Path of Fire storyline is more entertaining compared to the Heart of Thorns storyline. Just like Heart of Thorns, Path of Fire will give you 9 new elite specializations, one for each profession. Path of Fire also introduces bounty targets that you and your group can find and defeat to earn various rewards.
You also get two new raids- the Mythwright Gambit and Hall of Chains. Finally, you get 5 new desert-themed maps filled with all sorts of dynamic events. And the best part is that when you purchase Path of Fire, you get Heart of Thorns for free.
Guild Wars 2 Endgame
In your typical MMO, the endgame is a term used to describe content that you get only after reaching the maximum level possible (which is 80 in Guild Wars). Typically, you get this after completing the full basic storyline. It is a means to give players a sense of progression since people sink hundreds or even thousands of hours into such games.
Guild Wars 2 is a bit different in the sense that it doesn’t really have a specific content type that is unlocked at the max level. Instead, most content in Guild Wars 2 is designed to provide you with a continuous challenge from the bottom all the way to the top. Half of what you would traditionally call “endgame content” in Guild Wars 2, is cosmetic.
However, the other half is playable content. When your character reaches level 80, your power and stats may have plateaued but there are other areas in which you can make upgrades. There are Elite specializations, inventory size boosts, certain consumables to collect, and a variety of story modes to complete. These include the personal story, living world, and dungeon story modes.
Apart from progressing your character, you can also make improvements to your account. There is the mastery system, multipliers on gold and karma, commander status which you can unlock to lead players more easily during an event, account-bound cosmetic rewards, etc. Endgame cosmetics are also very interesting, there are legendary weapon skins along with cultural armor and heritage armor.
If you really want to justify spending a large amount of time and money, there’s the Ascended gear which isn’t entirely cosmetic. The increase in stats is minuscule and not required for anything other than Fractals (because of the Agony mechanic). This is to be sought after only if you absolutely want maxed-out stats.
Will Guild Wars 2 Run On My PC?
As long as you’ve got a decent PC that isn’t more than a decade old, you should be able to run this game. Even a GTX 660 and 2nd generation i5 processor will give you a very playable experience, although you might have to turn down the eye candy a bit. As for me, I’ve got a Ryzen 5 2600 and an RTX 2060 so this game runs super smooth. Especially if you put the DX12 mod on it.
Oh, and make sure you’ve got a good 50GB or so of free space on your storage drive before you install Guild Wars 2. Now, Guild Wars 2 is an extremely chaotic MMO with tons of stuff happening around you. There are dozens of enemy units of various types, multiple characters unloading their spells to create combos, and a whole lot of particle effects flying around the place.
It is very hard to maintain a consistent 60+ fps on high graphics preset if you have a mid range PC. The framerate is bound to drop during chaotic situations, and you might want to lock the framerate for a smoother experience (or perhaps you have a variable refresh rate monitor).
I hope my article motivated you to download this excellent MMORPG and give it a try. After all, it’s literally free and you get months of content if you pay a few extra bucks. If you can get some friends to play with you, Guild Wars 2 will give you some of the most engaging and immersive experiences you’ve ever experienced in gaming.
Don’t worry too much about the player count, there are still hundreds of thousands of people playing this game daily, and finding people to play with isn’t hard at all. The developers are constantly rolling out new content, and you can play this game on any low to mid-range gaming PC from the last 7 years.
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