The Best Things That We Played This Year: A List – Part Two

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This is a picture of some mulch.

The year continues to almost be over! In the second part of our best-of-the-best-or-just-what-people-enjoyed 2012 round-up series, the mercurial Simon pries open our third eyes (steady on!) with what he’s enjoyed over the past twelve months or so. Crivens!

Simon Played and Enjoyed

“You! You’re the hero of Romford; the saviour of this fractured, broken land! Evil’s bane stands before me on this blessed day! Pray, lend me your ear. I require ten scoops of mulch, cleft from the Mud-Goblins of Lake Nihil Ad Rem, for my famous mulch-pie. Do this for me and you’ll receive these Obsolescent Pauldrons of Patience. A fair deal, you’ll surely agree.”

This parlance is undoubtedly familiar to any who have ventured into a fantasy MMORPG within the last decade. Many a game employs the ‘multiple arbitrary items’ approach to progression, with the success of implementation varying wildly. ArenaNet’s highly-anticipated and wildly ambitious Guild Wars 2 sought to smash this mould (granted, not being the first to try to do so) with traditional linear questing gone in favour of unfolding events the player happens upon out in the world. In actuality it offers something of a middle-ground, but without the visible taint of compromise. And in doing so the game becomes so much more. With this in mind, and being a huge proponent of massively multiplayer gaming, Guild Wars 2 is my favourite game of 2012.

The promise and delivery of Guild Wars 2′s dynamic events reveal a dichotomy. Let’s say whilst wandering the world you uncover a village being overrun by bandits, just one example of events that occur all over the vast land of Tyria on any given day. There are other players already engaged and fending off the invaders. You lend whatever skills you have to your comrades and get stuck in, stemming the thieves’ onslaught and eventually driving them away. These types of tasks ultimately boil-down to defeating a certain number of foes. Grinding, then. But credit to ArenaNet for ensuring the player never cares about this.

gw2

What’s their secret? How do they immerse the player so readily that the inherent triviality takes a back seat?

Perhaps it’s the fact that the game is socially generous. Good deeds are often rewarded in kind. If you see a lone player struggling, there’s no punishment for helping them out. There’s little in the way of griefing because there’s little potential for it. That’s how it should be.

It could be that every player can feel – and, more importantly, be – useful in any given situation. Level scaling, and unique and versatile character crafting combine to ensure that everybody has something unique to offer a group.

Maybe it’s that ArenaNet has made a world worth grinding for; a world worth exploring, and sharing, discussing and enjoying. Beautiful visuals, a haunting musical score, and the fact that plenty of secrets await the curious all mean that completionists have an obscene amount of fun to be had whilst striving for that 100%.

I believe it’s a combination of all of the above that makes the game special. But what do I love about Guild Wars 2 the most? From an immersion standpoint, instead of unreal heroes setting out on the most unbelievable tasks, out and about in Tyria it’s a case of people working together to complete believable, enjoyable deeds and occasionally, and only occasionally, save the world. All of this without paying a monthly fee for the privilege.

And, most importantly, no mulch in sight.

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