You can read all you like about Guild Wars 2’s World vs World vs World, the player vs player punching matches between three different server shards over the course of two weeks, but it’s not going to properly prepare you for the chaos of stepping out of the gate and into the fray. A few hundred people on each side, each trying to seize towers, survive sieges and disrupt anything and everything that might give their opponents an edge. It’s overwhelming, that first half an hour. Nothing makes sense. No one, either. Just random words burped into chat like an afterthought.
Then, little by little, it starts to form into something intelligible.
It’s difficult not to feel like WvWvW is ArenaNet’s attempt to recreate the brilliant feeling of Planetside, in a fantasy setting. It’s got the same three-way fight, the same structure of larger bases supported by smaller, and the same scope for having huge team fights dwindle down into smaller skirmishes, depending on the context. And, like Planetside, when it works, it really,reallyworks. And when it doesn’t… well, it’s still pretty fun.
That’s if, lucky sod that you are, you’ve managed to find yourself on one of the servers that actually coordinates. Full of people that actually want to win, rather than have a doss around with some fireballs. And, even luckier, your server has been matched against a pair of servers that share that same enthusiasm for being part of a machine, one that spews fire and razes towns. A server that has a mind for war.
I started on Sharpe’s Corner, and it was useless. We were dominated by our match up, left with no land within four hours of the Beta Weekend starting. Maybe a few dozen players were even trying to regain our own defences, let alone join the attack in the Eternal Borderlands. TheWvWvWis split into four separate territories; each server gets a Borderlands, and then in the middle is the Eternal, where the best rewards are, the most easiest to defend towers and keeps, and the hardest to siege.
So I switched. The first day of the Beta Weekend had free server transfers, letting you move home server, which is the only way you can compete in that server’sWvWvWborderlands. I went to Desolation, and found the opposite problem. Now wewere the dominators, the entire map was the regal blue of our team, and there was no challenge. Just a few pockets of resistance here and there. I’d gone from Rebel Fleet to The Empire in one simple move. A positive handicap is just as bad as a negative.
Then I moved to Gondara, and fell in love.
We weren’t exactly evenly matched. We were on the back foot, with half of our home territories seized, and the picture coming from the Eternal Battlegrounds looking just as grim. But we were fighting, and we were fighting hard. One player had ponied up to pay to become a Commander, which marks them on the map for everyone to see, as well as bolding their name in chat. It’s more of ArenaNet’s push to have teams without teams, where players just naturally form into a group and work together without having to formally accept any requests or ask to join the raid.
Back on Gondara, it was the Eastern Keep that we were trying to take back, while simultaneously defending one of the smaller towers to our south. The dominant server, Fort Ranik, held the keep and was attacking the tower, so we were spread thin. The Commander rallied the troops, sent the right amount to the tower, and kept the rest storming the gates. Which was slow going, because Fort Ranik had held this place for half a day, and had been reinforcing it the whole time.
WvWvWisn’t all about towers and keeps, sieges and desperate defenses. Everything feeds into that, but those are the focuses for the tens and hundreds of players, big groups having big fights over epic architecture. The smaller teams, five players deciding to go it out alone, can start attacking supply routes and camps, or start to win over hostile ogres and nagas. Supply is the economy of World vs World, needed both to build siege engines like battering rams, trebuchets and cannons, as well as reinforce and upgrade any building you currently own. Reinforcing gates, walls, building defenses like boiling oil and wall-mounted cannons all require supply.
The siege engines are built by the players, on the battlefield. You need the blueprints to lay them down, and they’re single use, but once they’re down everyone can throw their ten supply (picked up at a Supply Camp) into the weapon, and once it’s built one player gets to throw around its devastating power. Catapults and trebuchets are good against walls, battering rams chew through doors, and arrow carts make everyone’s day just that little bit more depressing as they lay down huge amounts of AoE damage.
While it’s the players that build the siege weapons, to have any upgrades performed on your buildings you have to have them supplied by caravans, which head out of the supply camps in the form of Dolyaks, large cow-things that are very slow, quite vulnerable, and needlessly aggressive if anyone hostile comes near them. It means you have to protect your supply routes, because without the big chunks of supply coming regularly, you’re not going to be able to hunker down and reinforce your position.
And hunker down was pretty much exactly what Fort Ranik was doing at the East Keep. Even with a battering ram and upwards of a hundred players hurling everything they have at the gates, melee players directly attacking them while anyone ranged was keeping the walls clear of defenders, it took almost half an hour just to knock down the gates. We surged through, and were faced with a secondgate.
When you’re on a roll, you feel like nothing can stop you. You’ll sweep through the map like a plague, taking everything in your path until you finally meet something, or more likely someone, that can stop you. Clearing out our home borderlands felt like justice, but once we’d cleared it, the Eternal Borderlands felt like war. It was a stalemate where everyone dies, over and over. Every point is better defended, harder to take, and more rewarding. But there’s enough going on, and enough options, that you never feel bored or useless.
There’s even opportunities for you to just grab a few friends and do your own thing, if the rest of your army isn’t doing what you want. You can convert local ogres to your cause by slaying their enemies, which has them sending out regular patrols to reinforce your holdings, or, if your team has taken one of the keeps in the Eternal Borderlands, you can hop in the huge jumping puzzle that ArenaNet added specifically for this weekend.
It takes about 45 minutes, if you do it without any interference. And to have no interference you need your team to control all of the keeps in the borderlands. Because if a single one is in enemy hands, they can hop through a portal and start to really mess with you, pulling trap chains and making boulders fall on your head, spikes come out of the floor, and fire to come out of the walls. And they’ll fight you, if you get too close or catch up with them.All of this is so that you can get to the chest at the end of the puzzle first, because in that chest are blueprints, armour, weapons and a tonne of gold. For everyone on your team. The first player basically holds it for their team, meaning no one on the other two can access it, and anyone who completes the puzzle on /your/ team gets the same rewards. Suddenly your war effort just got a boost.
When Guild Wars 2 releases, theWvWvWis going to take place over two weeks, with an ongoing score tallied up based on how many territories you own. Even if you dominate for days, even a week, you can still lose the fight overall if you get knocked back to just a few holdings for the remainder. This wasn’t on display over the condensed environment of just three days of a Beta Weekend, but there was more than enough action and drama to keep it entertaining regardless of some abstract ticker that was keeping track of everything.
But that’s not without some caveats. I had to change servers twice before I found a matchup that wasn’t unbalanced, and if, come release, you find yourself on a server that either doesn’t care or is just plain bad at coordinating, working together and not stealing all the supply from the stores in towers and keeps (which desperatelyneed all the supply they can get),WvWvWis going to be a frustrating experience for you. Similarly, with how expensive siege weapons are, both to buy and build, if some arsehole of a player jumps into it before you have a chance and decides to shoot a nearby hillock instead of the castle you’re assaulting, your day could be very quickly ruined.
Find the right server, before you create a character. That’s the lesson I learnt, and one that I can pass onto you without any hesitation. If you want to spend a good chunk of your time sieging towers and fighting other players, find the right server. The PvE is always going to be good, and always be the same, but theWvWvWis entirely dependent on having at least a hundred or so interested and communicative players on your server, which isn’t going to be true of all of them.
Get that, thought, and you’ll be having an experience as good as any an MMO can offer.