Over the past few years, there has been a trend in massively multiplayer online games that has seen them become ever more single-player experiences that take place in a shared world. Guild Wars 2 reverses the trend handily, without ever once prescribing particular “social” actions for its players. No player must participate in a group event, and swooping by to rez a fallen player or lending a hand in any fight you run by are entirely optional acts. And yet, the way the game is arranged, players do tend to stop to help each other out.
The end result is a game that feels a bit like Cheers. Everyone may not exactly know your name, or be glad that you personally came, but it’s still a world that welcomes your presence. Tyria can be difficult to navigate at times, but in a way that feels playful and mischievous rather than hostile. Above all, Guild Wars 2 feels encouraging and fair. Death and failure are not particularly difficult to overcome, and become challenges rather than punishments.
If I get lost by stepping off the beaten path, there will always be another path to find. If I die falling off a high vantage point, it will have been my own fault for climbing up there to begin with. If I am severely under-leveled for an area, it’s because I chose to ignore the level guidance prominently displayed on my map. When I get in over my head with a bunch of adds, I will almost always have had adequate warning that the area was dangerous. With waypoints scattered fairly liberally around most areas, reviving at one and making my way back to where I was usually doesn’t set me back all that far.
Guild Wars 2 is likewise forgiving in its dungeon environments, for which I found myself very grateful on my first foray into the Ascalonian Catacombs. It’s the first group zone in the game, and yet it doesn’t appear until a player is roughly level 30. Events in the player’s character story lead to it, and allow the player to enter in story mode. After, players can return to explore the dungeon in a more traditional exploration mode.
While the dungeon itself is a fairly straightforward and predictable mix of trash mobs and bosses, laid out in an easy shape, learning how to approach one for the first time with GW2’s particular mix of class skills can be an adventure of the repeatedly fatal kind. Additionally, the more players are casting in a particular area, the harder it is to spot the warning signs of AOE effects or traps about to cheap guild wars 2 gold, spikes, or another variety of pain on your location. Though the problem of visual spectacle overwhelming useful information is hardly limited to dungeons alone.