Guild Wars 2 is great, so why do I not love it?

I picked up Guild Wars 2 when it was on sale at Amazon over Christmas, and have played it for a good few hours. I’m impressed by many things about the game, yet I don’t feel drawn into it and am not too compelled to play it. It’s an attractive game, and has a number of good features, but it just doesn’t grab me.

I played and loved the original Guild Wars and got a fair way through the expansions, as well. The story was compelling – you start out in an idyllic world with a few tasks to do to learn about the potential classes (yes, you can try each class and then choose: how original!), then armageddon brought on by the Charr destroys human civilization and you need to fight for the survival of your race. The expansions also had compelling and interesting stories.

Guild Wars 2 – not so much. There are clever bits, like each race/class combo seems to have a different initial quest line, but overall, it just doesn’t grab me. In addition, humans are nearly wiped out, and the Charr are featured prominently as a major character. I still have a bit of a problem with the Charr being heroes, though the lore claims they had the land before the humans came. Anyway, the story so far doesn’t make me have a strong desire to continue. This is in sharp contrast to, for example, Lord of the Rings Online, where we all know the main story and the devs expertly wove our quest line into the story of the Ring. Star Trek Online‘s story isn’t quite as good, but it is Star Trek and you get to fly a starship, and the story is still pretty good and filled with gifts to the fans.

Technically, GW2 is strong in many areas and weak in others. It looks really great, better than any other MMO that I’ve seen, sometimes by a wide margin. Much of it is voiced and the voice acting is very good, which is an improvement over STO and LOTRO, where not much is voiced, though both are changing that with each new release. The combat is good and varies. I started out as a Charr Engineer (yes, I’m trying to overcome my prejudice against the Charr), which is neat, because I get guns and can make turrets. The problem was that as I progressed in level, I wasn’t able to do damage quickly, so it took a while to kill the baddies, so it was getting boring. I created a hunter of a plant-based race new to Tyria, and she can kick ass and take names. She can do good damage and is more fun to play. I haven’t tried the other classes and races, but I’d bet there are other classes that are more fun than others.

The game has fewer skills than LOTRO and STO, in that you only get a 1-line quick bar. The first 5 skills are fixed, and you learn them as you get experience with attacks, so by level 5 or so, you can do a basic attack, perhaps a debuff, maybe an AOE attack, etc. The 6th skill slot starts as a health potion skill, though you can replace it with other skills as you learn them. Then you earn the other slots as you level up. Unfortunately, before long, you have several skills that you’d like to use and only one slot to put them in. And skills can’t be swapped in combat. So that seems bad.

There is a fast travel system and it works well. The map is pretty good. The ability to share XP in kills is built in, so helping others is always a good idea. The remote looting present in LOTRO (since the Rohan release) isn’t present here, so you need to run to all the baddies you felled to pick up loot. Annoying. There’s also no voice chat in the game, which is surprising, disappointing, etc., but at least they didn’t put a crappy one in like that of Planetside 2. And I suppose most guilds will put their own chat server up.

The game is quite dynamic, which is good. There are lots of group events that spawn as you wander around. They show up in your quest list and on the mini map automatically, so just join in the fun. That part is terrific and may be the best part of the game for me.

I am not in a guild yet, though will probably try to join the guild a friend is in. I haven’t done any guild vs. guild or world vs. world play at this point, and I imagine they are fun, but will likely not be the biggest draw for me.

So in short, GW2 is technically nifty, great looking, pretty fun, and just not all that compelling to me.

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