I've been playing the beta weekends they've been having once a month for GW2. I gotta say it's a lot better than I expected.
I just expected it to be like the original (which I liked) with lots of skill combinations to create a bunch of varied personal builds to play with in PvE, and team builds for PvP. I figured the PvE would be the same old questing, which was fun for a little while but would bore me not too long into it.
But they changed almost everything pretty significantly, and so it's just been a lot more fun to play:The combat:
They got rid of the tank-healer-damage MMO mainstay, and have instead made the classes much more balanced and self-sufficient. You no longer just choose any 8 skills of your choice. Instead, the first 5 skills are determined by the class-specific weapons you choose. There's 2-hand weapons (that give 5 skills) or various primary-hand (3 skills) and off-hand weapon (2 skills) combinations to choose from. You carry 2 of these weapon sets at once and can switch between them instantly in combat (with a cooldown after switching). Your 6th skill is a a choice of a few self-heals. You can choose 4 more skills from your class (there's some race-specific skills too), 1 of which can be an elite skill.
There's no more combining of 2 classes and 2 sets of skills (which created a ton of combinations, and probably why there was so much tweaking needed as new flavor-of-the-month builds kept being discovered). And even though a large portion of your skill bar is mostly some choices of pre-set options, you now have something call traits. This is similar to how you assign attribute points in GW1, except the trait lines you choose to invest in will unlock certain specific minor traits at certain levels, plus major traits specific to that line. These are effects that alter your character or skills. The minor traits for each line are pre-set, so you get them automatically if you invest enough, but the major traits you choose yourself (each line has it's own trait options). For example, here is the Necromancer trait lines:http://wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/List_of_necromancer_traits
There's no more mana. Instead, skills operate just on a cooldown time. There's also dodging, which you can do by double-tapping a movement direction and it'll cause you to roll in the direction and dodge attacks. You've got a recharging bar for this ability, which allows for 2 dodges when it's full. Nearly all skills can be used while still moving, so there's a lot motion in battles, especially since there's no dedicated tank and healer classes which means everybody is encouraged to help absorb damage.
Each class has it's own specific mechanism or method of operation. For example, the Mesmer creates illusions that fights in different ways, so mesmers get 4 additional skills (defaults to the F1 to F4 keys) that are always available that shatter those illusions to cause different effects. Elementalists can change between 4 different attunements on the fly (air, water, fire, earth) which will each change the 5 skills they have available from their weapon. Thieves don't have skill recharge times for their weapon skills, but rather have a charge meter that depletes by using weapon skills (allowing them to chain lots of attacks together in a short time but then needing to let the bar recharge). Because of these rather wild differences in the classes, each class seems to offer a whole other style of play besides simply using different skills.
There are now downed skills, which are class specific skills available to you when you've lost all your health, but still can be revived. There's 4 skills on my mesmer. An attack, an illusion I can create, a short distance teleport (to move a bit out of harms way), and a self-revive that will allow me to regain health and revive myself, though it gets interrupted by enemy attacks.PvE:
The game is no longer instanced for a party, except for the specific story missions and I think dungeons as well. So everybody is out there in a big open area. They have these dynamic missions that pop up on the map and encourage people to come help out. So it might be fighting off some monsters or some other objectives that everyone in the area can contribute to. I believe they scale in difficulty based on how many people are participating. Completing one of these dynamic missions often results in another mission appearing nearby, in a chain. They seem to have done away with the random pointless quests that you'd have filling your quest list, like finding something for someone or gathering something or killing something. Instead, you'll see these empty heart symbols on the map that indicate a task/quest. When you get close, your map will show a border around the "quest area" and basically shows you the area in which you'll get credit for doing what the task requires.
Things are a lot less linear too. You make a lot of choices about what you want to do, who to help, how, and so on. These take you down different paths. Your story is also different based on your race, your heritage (personality questions you are asked when creating the character), and which of 3 factions you align with. You also have a personality that consist of 3 sliders (set by the beginning questions, but easily changed by choosing certain actions in some dialogues) which changes how people talk to you and want dialog options are available to you. For example, having the sliders distributed differently can make your personality barbaric, diplomatic, and so on. You read about it here: http://wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/Personality
I generally am totally disinterested in the story of games like this and have no idea what going on because I can't care enough to not just skip the dialog and just see what the objectives are, but I actually enjoy this a bit more because of the choices, since those decisions matter as far as what content I'll see and how my character acts and how the NPCs see him/her.Crafting:
There's crafting now in GW2. There's 8 crafting professions, and you have 2 professions at once. You can switch professions to a new one and level up in it if you want, and you'll still retain the level of the profession you left so you can go back, but you'll have to pay a fee. I never played a game with crafting like this, so I don't know how it compares to crafting in other games. But part of their philosophy is that you shouldn't have to craft a bunch of things that aren't useful to you in order to level the crafting skill. I don't know how true it is.
You get resources from loot, "salvaging" some items, and from harvesting from resource nodes (small trees, plants, ore nodes) you'll find all around everywhere. Every person on the map can harvest from the same nodes on an individual basis, so there's no race to get the materials. Everyone can get the same stuff. Loot drops are the same way. There is no random roll to see who gets stuff. Everyone can get a copy of what some monster dropped, assuming they helped kill it. It's the way for XP and "karma" (a sort of currency that lets you buy some stuff from special vendors). Everybody gets the same XP and karma for helping to kill something, and it doesn't diminish just because there's more people around. The developers want players on the same team to feel like it's a good thing to cooperate with other players instead of having allies compete for kills, loot, and resources.WvWvW
I've been hooked on the three-way massive PvP battles they have on-going at any time. 3 servers fight to control a bunch of different forts, garrisons, supply camps, and other things across 4 areas which earn points for the server while controlled (as well as having strategic implications). Those points earn bonuses for the entire server, even for people just doing PvE. It's thinks like gaining extra crafting XP, or having extra health.
The battles are on-going, so you can pop in at any time at a spawn point on see where there are battles or who controls what. A big part of the strategy is using siege equipment like catapults, rams, and ballistas. They can allow a smaller force to beat a much larger force (though the rams are primarily for breaking down the gates of forts which can take quite a long time with just regular weapons. To place weapons, you need to buy blueprints first. They aren't too expensive, and supposedly should seem even cheaper as you level up and money becomes easier to get in large amounts. Then you need to supply it to actually get it built. Players carry supply on them, which initially comes from the supply camps. They can carry 10 supply at once (they just have it on them and it doesn't affect them at all such as making them unable to attack or anything like that). So for example, a ballista needs 20 supply, an arrow cart needs 30, etc. Then someone can man the equipment and fire powerful attacks.
The forts need supply in order to have to defenses upgraded, but that supply only comes from NPC caravans that leave from ally controlled supply camps and travel the roads to the allied forts and garrisons. The forts also stockpile a bit of supply that comes for future use, or for players to grab when they need some siege equipment built quickly.
The different pieces of the WvW are designed to be appropriate for different group sizes. So some things can be solo'd, like the caravans. Some can be taken just with a small party, like the supply camps. And the different forts, garrisons, and citadels may require whole armies of people.
After some period of time, a server will win and the game will restart. I heard there's supposed to be a server matching system too, so that the best servers will be facing each other and the worst will face the worst. So things should be nice and competitive, without a server just dominating. Even if a server is particularly strong, they should at least be kept in check by the 2 other servers working together.