Complexity in Simplicity

Part of my learning to survive and thrive in dungeons was learning to appreciate the complexity of Guild Wars 2′s combat system. The action bars themselves initially might seem sparse to players used to the 30 or so skill slots plastered on the interface of a game like Lord of the Rings Online, limited as they are to five skills specific to each weapon and five secondary skills. This system’s complexity only becomes apparent once you learn the synergies of specific weapon combos and switching out between two of them in combat.

It’s a setup that champions using abilities at the proper moment rather than falling into snoozefest rotation schemes, which works well with the gameplay’s unceasing emphasis on movement. In PvE as well as PvP, sitting still usually ends in death. In the dungeons, the challenges force you to learn how to use abilities you may have never thought of using in the world proper. Your secondary abilities (such as rooting skills, healing abilities, and the like) take on a special significance here, particularly since you can switch them out on your action bars to suit the demands of the situations.
Overall, all of this makes for a leveling experience of unparalleled excellence, and indeed, Guild Wars 2 is not a game you should rush through to reach the level cap. Quite unlike MMORPGs that stack the best content at the level cap, this journey is also the destination. Smart design decisions, such as bringing all players to 80 in PvP and allowing entry into world-versus-world PvP as early as level 2, encourage players to go at their own pace. Personalized instanced storylines for each of the five races spice up that journey (although several still have bugs in the later levels, from what I’ve seen), but much like the main questline in a game like Skyrim, you don’t have to follow them you don’t want to.

The simple “face off” design of the cinematics lacks the richness of the scenes we saw In Star Wars: The Old Republic. If you do, you’ll be treated to storylines that have their highs, such as an unforgettable quest I went on to retake an island outpost from the undead hordes of Orr, and their lows, like enduring boring cinematics with a supposedly great Sylvari leader whose appearances inspire about as much confidence as handing over the controls of a fighter jet to a kitten. Voice acting is dull for some characters but wonderful for others (such as actress Felicia Day’s interpretation of the Asura heroine Zojja), and the simple “face off” design of the cinematics lacks the richness of the scenes we saw In Star Wars: The Old Republic. Race also seems to play a part in the quality of the story, so you can expect more humorous events with the diminutive and supercilious Asura than you will with the dour Norns. 

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