September 28 2012
If you enjoy a good scrap with other players in your MMORPGs, Guild Wars 2's World vs. World (WvW) system has probably already caught your attention. This feature puts hundreds of players in a truly massive 3-way battle over objectives on four huge maps. It's PvP on a scale which few games can match, and we've haven't seen anything like it a MMORPG since Dark Age of Camelot or, perhaps, the original incarnation of World of Warcraft's Alterac Valley battleground.
Although I haven't yet reached the level cap in GW2, I've probably been spending more time in World vs. World than in the PvE portion of the game. As I mentioned in my first impressions of GW2, Arenanet has a policy of making PvP highly accessible, so if you're only level 30 and you join WvW, your character is scaled up to the level cap of 80. You will be at a small disadvantage in terms of gear and skill points, but you can still put up a good fight, especially with a friend at your side. You also earn XP and loot in WvW, so it's entirely possible to level all the way to 80 playing only WvW.
Of course, some level 80 players with Exotic equipment are complaining about a lack of progression in WvW. If you're familiar with the Guild Wars series, you're probably aware that this is by design. Arenanet doesn't want new players to be faced with insurmountable odds in PvP, or to have to spend months grinding for the gear necessary to be viable. It's a difficult adjustment for many MMORPG veterans who expect their stats to grow forever, but it does make for a more balanced competition overall.
Objectives in WvW are considerably more intricate than those we've seen in other games of this kind. Rather than a simple set of control points, there are keeps and towers that rely on supplies that travel from supply camps. The NPC yaks carrying these supplies are vulnerable to attack, which creates genuine supply lines that can be disrupted. Supplies are used to upgrade buildings, build siege weapons, and repair walls or gates.
The "center" map, Eternal Battlegrounds, features Stonemist Castle, a large fortress with the highest point value for controlling it. Each of the three sides also has an Orb of Power that resides in their Borderlands and can be stolen by the enemy and taken to one of their keeps for a team-wide bonus.
The variety of objectives spread over 3 factions opens up possibilities for a wide range of conflicts, and at times even breaks up the zergs that tend to form in large-scale PvP. That isn't to say that numbers aren't a major factor on the battefield - they are, but smaller groups can have an impact. The most organized team, however, is likely to dominate unless both enemies attack them in unison.
While WvW is so far my favorite part of GW2, it does have quite a few problems. Foremost among these is that there are frequently long queues to get in during primetime hours. This is compounded by the fact that each map has its own queue, so you can potentially hit a queue every time you switch maps. There is also zero information provided about which maps are full, which are not, how long the various queues are, or your position in the queue.
Some of the mechanics could use work as well. As a ranged class, fighting from on top of walls during sieges seems more difficult than fighting opponents on the wall from the ground, due to line-of-sight issues. A few more open areas wouldn't hurt, so that not every big fight was over a tower or keep. Water combat appears to be borked, with no way to finish someone off when they die underwater, and the system by which you are "downed" before you die doesn't serve much purpose in PvP.
WvW was bound to have some growing pains, as it's not as easy as it may look to do PvP on this scale in a MMORPG. In my view GW2 already does it at least as well as any of its predecessors, and it's bound to get better as the game gets patched in the coming months. In he meantime it's back to the good fight, that is, if the queue isn't too long.