previews\ May 2, 2012 at 11:01 am

Guild Wars 2's map exploration is my new addiction


From my initial time with the Guild Wars 2 beta this weekend, I could give you a list of spectacular things that this MMO does right, and that it should be played by any MMO fan. I could talk about the extensive skill system which is tied to the weapon you're currently wielding. I could tell you about the branching storylines that you yourself get to decide on when creating a character. I could also tell you about the public events which take the place of quests in GW2 and encourage players to help each other out, more so than in any other MMO to date. I could talk about all of that, but for now, I'm going to talk about my personal addiction in Guild Wars 2 — map exploration.

Remember playing an open world game, like Assassin's Creed for example, and completely forgetting about your task at hand, only to find yourself exploring the map to uncover every single inch of it via each viewpoint. After each map reveal, you would find dozens of things to do, from various gear to buy, to citizens that need help, to buildings that need renovating. But before you actually did each thing in that revealed map sector, you'd find yourself once again running off to another shrouded location on your map, only to reveal its many activities. This feature alone was one of the things that further extended my playtime, only because I had that constant need to always discover everything.

This addiction wasn't only applicable to the AC series. Skyrim, Kingdoms of Amalur, and others which featured large areas of land all had that sense of exploration, which always felt rewarding when you stumbled upon epic loot or an interesting location. So where am I going with all of this? Guild Wars 2, the upcoming MMO from ArenaNet features this very sense of exploration and encourages it.

Unlike other MMOs that take you through your starting area, then to the next area with higher level creatures, and rinse and repeat, you're given no guidance whatsoever on where to go first and what to do. Though there are still zones that are meant for certain levels, you'll find that each of those has sub-areas that must be discovered first.

The map exploration factors into a few things. The first is uncovering a small portion of the map that you currently stepped foot in. Once you make that trek into unknown territory, that piece of the map will uncover, showing you all there is to do. Then it's broken down into a few different things. First and foremost are Points of Interest. POI's are usually landmarks that more often than not are somehow associated with the GW2 lore. Not all of these are easy to get to however. Sometimes they're located deep within enemy territory, which means you'll have to fight your way in, while others can be found in villages, cities or towns.

The more important things you'll strive to unlock on your map are Waypoints. These are also scattered across various important locations and will allow you to instantly travel to any Waypoint you have already unlocked for a small fee. I probably don't have to tell you how convenient this is, but yeah, it's pretty damn convenient.

The last two things that you'll have the option to find are Skill Point Challenges and Important NPCs. Skill Point Challenges usually revolve around a tough task (although some are mind numbingly easy) that will grant you an extra skill point to use when unlocking various utility or healing spells. One of the tougher Challenges tasked me to examine a spot called Temple of the Ages, which was hidden away under a swamp. This spot was also protected by a powerful monster that I could not defeat on my own. Luckily, since there was no shortage of players during this beta, someone gladly helped me kill it, which allowed me to access that extra Skill Point.

Important NPCs are by far the most important locations on your map, as they task you with certain goals that will allow you to gain their favor. Not all of the tasks are combat related, sometimes it's enough to feed the cows on their farm, or put out the fire that's burning their hay. Once you're in their favor, they'll gladly sell you important items in exchange for Karma, which is accumulated through completing these goals.

What helps my drive to explore every nook and cranny of Guild Wars 2 is that all my progress of exploration is always tracked. It's an achievement in its own right to unlock every single place on the map. Even the character select screen has a big achievement for the percentage of map explored. The map is enormous and obviously sectioned off, so don't expect this to be a weekend ordeal. Exploration also goes hand in hand with leveling, since finding each point on the map gives you a significant amount of EXP. At the lower levels, this can definitely help push you to the next level.

Make sure to stay tuned for the rest of our Guild Wars 2 coverage as we tell you about all of the awesome features that make this MMO shine above the rest.

About The Author
Mike Splechta GameZone's review copy hoarding D-bag extraordinaire! Follow me @MichaelSplechta
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