A Weekend in World vs World.
World vs World vs World (WvWvW), shortened to WvW, is ArenaNet’s version of large-scale war. I spent all my playable time this last BWE to try it and report on it. And I loved it. I’m still a PvE player at heart, but I will be returning to WvW quite a bit.
In Guild Wars terms, WvW is like you take an Alliance Battle, you stick it to a Jade Quarry or two, then put a few Fort Aspenwood here and there except whoever beats the fort gets to keep it, and then just for fun you throw in a few PvE dynamic events in the whole mess. Add mountains and crevasses. Then you sprinkle generously with players. And then when you think you can’t add more players, you add a bucket-load more of them. And a bunch of monsters while at it.
Oh, and then you make it massively bigger. Maps are huge.
During my weekend, I played several hours just in WvW. I levelled up a warrior just enough to get into WvW (I think I was level 2 when I entered WvW) and then I stuck there as much as I could. Servers tended to get full, thankfully the wait time tended to be fairly short. My main complaint is that levelling weapon skills there felt really slow compared to PvE, but as far as I know the ArenaNet staff knows about this problem and are going to fix it. At least, I hope. I did exit WvW a bit to unlock skills for my weapons, it was not too difficult to do. Hopefully that problem does not also generalize to levelling and unlocking traits, and if it does, hopefully ArenaNet is also fixing that.
I played mainly zergling, that is, I joined what appeared to be unorganized mobs that I followed until one of two things happened: (1) our team got killed off, or (2) I saw that we didn’t stand a chance and decided to live another day. Generally, dying in combat is not a problem because others will rez you if they can do so. Dying and having your group wipe is more of a problem, because there are not many waypoints (as of the first beta weekend, that is) thus making it hard to get back into action when you die. It makes sense though because this way people can kill off players in an area and it doesn’t respawn. But… having to run back to action can get annoying… especially that you don’t always know where the action is. I did find myself running around quite a bit trying to find a mob to join, but the times I did get into large fights more than make up for it.
Keep in mind that the experience I describe is being a solo player part of a zerg, which may differ quite a bit from being in organized groups.
Taking a Keep / Defending a Keep
This is surprisingly perhaps the least exciting part of WvW. It was fun, mind you, but the huge walls make combat more static because it’s hard to get in a good position to hit foes. That is true whether you are at the bottom of the wall shooting foes on the wall, or at the top of the wall shooting foes at the bottom. I do wish you could shoot further if on top of walls, as that would be more realistic. Hopefully that will be fixed by the next beta.
Artillery is highly advised here, and in my opinion you are better off destroying enemy artillery first and kill off the players second. Being able to put up artillery also makes a big difference. Artillery of any kind increases your range and damage considerably. And doors are not likely to get destroyed unless you have some artillery for it.
Once the door breaks (and it usually ends up breaking) there is quite a rush of running into a keep or alternatively having a small army entering the keep. The combat there is visceral and very lethal. It’s a lot of fun when one group rushes into the keep and attacks everyone in sight, whether you are on the defensive side or the attacking side.
Some map areas form natural chokepoints. One particularly memorable one was a wall (pictured above) built with a single entrance, that was built as part of an ogre camp. In some places you could angle yourself to shoot over the wall, but most of the time you could not. Therefore, you really had to kill people trying to get through, and risk going through to get a few shots then run back in. We fought for a long time there as neither group managed to really gain the advantage in a significant way, the front kept moving through the opening. Surprisingly, stacking AoE’s on the chokepoint was not that good of a strategy because that would work for a moment (during which opponents could clearly see the chokepoint was too dangerous to pass) and then AoE’s would be on cooldown and so the chokepoint became safe again (aside for concentrated fire). Thus it was not easy to prevent foes from crossing a chokepoint.
The most interesting fight I had was in an open prairie (as well as in a forested area) where both teams could move around freely. What was interesting there is that frontlines naturally formed, where people went in and out of combat as their health allowed, trying to push into the enemy or kill off those who over-extended. These fights involved a lot more situational awareness in my opinion because foes and allies were a lot more mobile. It was easier to end up overextended or left behind, making you easy picking. Likewise, waiting for the right moment or risking it to go melee was quite exciting because with the higher risk came higher rewards (i.e. higher damage). Because people spread themselves more in open areas, it was relatively safer to try to melee foes but you had to be really careful to do so quickly so that your foe does not get to retreat in time.
Random PvE Foes
There were monsters scattered around especially near the beginning of maps but also around keeps. These foes gave you something to do when there is no zerg around, or if you want to unlock your skills or level up in a low-danger way. Mind you, those foes were by no means easy. Get two of them on you, and you’ll need to play well to survive.
One area near a keep looked like ruins. It was a bunch of walls and stairs similar to what you’d expect with a destroyed city. Navigating those corridors was fun, unfortunately no massive fight took place there while I was there, as that fight would have been really really interesting.
I also took part of an event where multiple groups of frog people were fighting over a land, and you had to help them out. What made this really chaotic was that multiple groups of humans were also trying to help the frogs, competing for the frog’s alliance. This event happened in a frog camp, and it was very chaotic with frogs and men coming from all directions, fighting each other. I am still confused as to how the groups were split and collaborated, but it felt natural at the time to kill foes and help allies.
Ranged vs Melee
I tend to prefer ranged attacks, so here’s my bias. But I did find use in melee weapons on quite a few occasions as melee weapons do more damage if you do manage to safely close the gap. I also saw players who were quite good at staying alive while overextending, I do not know how they did that. The point is that melee weapons are viable, but at least I would not rely exclusively on them. My preference as a warrior was to bring one ranged and one melee set, or if fighting near a keep then two long-range sets might be a better idea.
And when artillery is present, then artillery range wins of course.
Generally, large-scale combat is determined more by the who has the larger group than by individual player skill. That is true in Guild Wars 2 too, but I did not expect anything different. However, there were many moments where the fight was either matched, or at least neither group could easily overpower the other. In one case, our team was clearly losing ground but we were doing so slowly and we managed to get a few kills while retreating. The opposite was true too, you could not push into a smaller force too easily, you had to still be careful against foes you outnumbered unless you outnumbered them by a lot.
I have not played large-scale battles in other games, so I cannot compare. However, I really enjoyed the large-scale battles in Guild Wars 2, it was dynamic and somehow realistic at the same time, yet the balance felt good in that even a single player like me in a sea of zerg could make a difference.
It’s a unique experience that I really enjoyed.