MMORPG, or massive multiplayer online role-playing game, has been a very popular video game genre among gamers since the likes of World of Warcraft, Runescape and EverQuest made their breakthroughs. In an MMORPG, players create a character and build the character’s abilities based on preference and play style. Players can also immerse themselves into the story through their characters. Characters can have professions, titles and be a part of a guild.
Because I have only played two MMORPGs, I am going to compare and contrast two games in this article: World of Warcraft (WoW) and Guild Wars 2 (GW2). I will compare each game based on cost, party system and leveling system. If you’re interested in beginning an MMORPG adventure, I hope the information I provide from my experience with playing these games will help you choose one that is best suited for you.
MMORPG price to play
For a lot of people, investing money into a game is a big deal. Especially one that you haven’t played before and you’re not sure that you’re going to enjoy it. However, if you’re interested in playing an MMORPG, both of these games have a lot to offer that is worth what you pay for them.
World of Warcraft
Since the game developing company Blizzard released WoW in 2004, they have also released five expansions to date, adding new content and zones for players to explore. Currently, the maximum level is 100 and will increase to 110 with the upcoming expansion, Legion, which is set to release August this year.
Because there are years of expansions to catch up with, the start up cost for WoW is pricey. You can play the classic content for free, which allows you to reach level 20. These accounts are called starter accounts, and until you purchase the full game, there are restrictions on where you can’t trade with other players or use other social features. So, the first thing you’ll have to buy is the basic World of Warcraft game pack (they used to call it the Battle Chest, but I’m not sure if they still do), which is $20 and currently includes all of the expansions to the most recent, Warlords of Draenor. This is actually not a bad deal, because, until Legion comes out, you will have access to all of the current content. Also, with the release of the Warcraft movie, they’re offering the game for free to people who purchase movie tickets.
However, once Legion comes out, you will have to pay an additional $49.99 to access all of the game’s content. Also, there is a monthly fee for playing the game as well. The cost to play the game is $15 a month, and Blizzard has many options for subscribing. You can purchase game time monthly for $15, or you can buy a 2-month subscription card for $30. They also have a monthly autopay feature that allows you to sign up with a credit card and they will renew your subscription automatically.
Understandably, the commitment of a monthly charge deters some players from picking up WoW. To overcome this issue, WoW offers an in-game purchase option where players can buy a month of game time with gold, the in-game currency. Players can make gold from raids, questing and, more effectively, with professions. Also, players can also get gold by purchasing the game time with cash that other players can buy on the auction house with gold. So, not only does this feature make the game easier on players’ wallets, but it also strengthens the economy by discouraging third-party gold sales.
Still, the cost of the game may still discourage some players, and farming the 25-3o,000 gold to buy game time is a huge time commitment, as well. To that affect, I can say this: you get what you pay for. While there are free-to-play MMORPGs and, as you’ll learn in the next section, GW2 is the cheaper of the games, WoW has perfected the MMORPG model and set the precedent for the MMORPG style. Because of the money you pay to play WoW, Blizzard is able to offer better server maintenance, more servers to play on, better overall management and an all-around better gaming experience.
Guild Wars 2
Guild Wars 2 is an MMORPG developed by ArenaNet and was released in 2012. While it can’t quite boast the same number of players as WoW, it has sold millions of copies. Currently, the base game is free-to-play with some account restrictions similar but not quite as restrictive as WoW starter accounts. With the base game, you can play to the max level and enjoy all of its content except for their newest expansion, Heart of Thorns. To unlock the Heart of Thorns content, you pay a one-time cost of $49.99 for the standard edition. After, the trade restrictions will be removed from your account and you’ll be able to access the Heart of Thorns zones, story lines and character masteries.
When it comes to price, what really sets GW2 apart from WoW is the fact that players do not have to pay month-to-month to play. Like any other game you would buy on a console, you just pay for the game once and can play it as much as you like. ArenaNet makes extra money by selling in-game items which are mostly desirable for vanity purposes and not at all necessary to be good at the game. Though I mentioned earlier that WoW’s prices give Blizzard more power to please their players, that’s not to say that GW2 is worse than WoW because it is cheaper. Still, because it’s a paid MMORPG and not a free-to-play, ArenaNet has the budget to manage their servers well and create a positive gaming experience for their players.
MMORPG party system
World of Warcraft
In WoW, players are able to form groups called parties and work together to complete dungeons and raids. There are a number of classes the player can choose from, and each class has at least 3 unique specializations that determine the players’ roles in the party. The roles include tank, healer or damage (DPS). The tank’s job is to hold the attention, or “aggro,” the party’s enemies while the DPS attack them. Tanks are meant to be built to withstand the abilities of the enemies. The healer’s job, of course, is to keep everyone alive, especially the tank.
In WoW, a dungeon group consists of a tank, a healer and three DPS. Players are able to enter dungeons through their entrances in the world, or, the most common way, by using WoW’s Looking for Group (LFG) feature. Raids will have anywhere from 15-40 people, and the breakdown of roles depends on how many people the raid calls for. In a Looking for Raid (LFR), there are 25 players that are randomly grouped together. There are also Normal, Heroic, and Mythic difficulties for raids and dungeons, and the more difficult the raid is, the better gear one gets.
Now, as far as playing with other people goes, WoW differs from GW2 because you have to be around the same level as the other players to do a dungeon or raid. There are certain level requirements for each that a player has to meet in order to participate. This means if your friend is a higher level than you, you cannot run the same dungeons. In the next section, I will explain how GW2 differs.
Guild Wars 2
Unlike WoW, the GW2 party system allows players of all levels to play with each other. While lower-level players can’t participate in content that is above their leveled, higher-level players are able to participate in content that is below their levels. The way this works is that the game scales down the level of the higher-level player to match the zone or event that the player is in. This allows players to enjoy each other’s company despite level gaps. As an added bonus, events in lower-level zones will still drop items that are appropriate for players’ actual levels. This encourages a strong community and provides equal benefits for higher-level players to help out lower-level players.
As far as roles go, GW2 is an entirely different game from WoW. Instead of your specialization determining what your role you will be and what gear you’ll need, your weapons determine your abilities, so the role you play depends on what weapon you use and what class you choose. There are much fewer classes (GW2 actually calls them “professions”) to choose from in GW2, but the possibilities are endless when it comes to building your class.
As far as roles go, the roles in GW2 are less rigid than in WoW. While you can build your character to be like a tank, healer or DPS, there is no definitive system for roles. Each class has a healing ability and also self-preservation abilities that are good enough to make the need for tanks and healers obsolete. This isn’t to say that some players don’t choose to hone abilities that are beneficial to their parties. However, parties aren’t necessarily built around having players cover support roles. In my opinion, this makes the game much more difficult, because players have to be prepared to mitigate damage and self-heal in cases where support in the group is weak. Compared to WoW, this is a weakness in the game, but most players learn to overcome this and build more balanced groups.
MMORPG leveling system
World of Warcraft
MMORPG is a genre best known for the amount of grinding the player must do. A big part of this is the level grind. In WoW, players level up by completing quests, killing enemies, leveling professions and completing dungeons. Players can also receive experience from pet battles, where players collect battle pets like Pokémon throughout the game and battle other pets in the world or other players.
Arguably, questing is the fastest and most enjoyable way to level your character. Some might say that grinding dungeons is quicker, and if you’re playing a tank or healer, it’s probably true because these roles aren’t played as commonly as DPS, so players leveling tanks or healers are grouped more quickly. Otherwise, you can wait anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour for a dungeon, which will then take you about 15-30 minutes to complete depending on how good your group is. Completing quests grants a considerable amount of experience and also gives players a chance to engage with the WoW lore. Most quests are fairly easy to complete, and Blizzard offers a mini map showing where the quest can be completed and quest log tracking your progress in the interface to make quests easier to complete. Unlike GW2, quests in WoW are entirely linear, meaning there is a very specific path for each quest line. I will discuss how GW2 differs in the next section.
Also, WoW offers various ways to boost your experience gains as you quest or grind dungeons. If you have a max level character, you are able to purchase gear items called heirlooms. Heirlooms scale to your character’s level, so you can use a fully upgraded heirloom piece to level 100. Each heirloom piece your character wears, with the exception of some items that only increase your character’s power, give a 10% experience boost. By having a full set, you can breeze through the game with a 50% experience boost. Also, if you recruit another player with Blizzard’s “Recruit-a-Friend” feature, when you play with your recruit, you gain a 10% experience boost. Your recruit can also grant any of your characters a level for every two levels they gain as long as they’re a higher level than the receiving character.
If you want to start playing WoW but are concerned about catching up before the next expansion, Blizzard does offer a character boost where you can raise a character directly to level 100. Players get a character boost for free with the purchase of the Legion expansion, or players can buy the character boost for $60. The reason the boost is expensive is because Blizzard wants to discourage players from abusing the feature. Leveling the long way is the best way for players to learn their classes, and, often, players that use character boosts will play their new classes poorly in group settings, causing frustration for those that have learned to play the class. Still, if your able to sit down and figure everything out before you dive into a group, the level boost is a valuable feature.
Guild Wars 2
In GW2, players gain experience in many of the same ways that players do in WoW: questing, dungeons and crafting. However, GW2 players can also gain experience by completing events that appear periodically throughout the zones. These events are similar to quests in WoW, but they are completely optional and anyone can participate for the duration of the event. Sometimes, these events will be world bosses that drop rare items, and other times it will be to escort a merchant or gather items.
Earlier, I mentioned that questing in WoW is not like GW2 because it’s completely linear. While your questing path is already laid out for you in WoW, GW2 offers players more freedom in how they choose to progress in the game. The only linear quest line in GW2 is your personal story, which is a quest-line determined by your race and certain choices you make for your character when you choose your character’s backstory. When it comes to the world, though, your character gains experience through map completion.
Map completion is a feature unique to GW2, and it’s especially fun if you’re a completionist like me. To complete a zone, you must visit all of the different nodes on the map. One type of node is the waypoint, which is part of the GW2 fast-travel system. Unlike WoW, GW2 does not have mounts for players to travel quickly throughout the zones. Instead, they have waypoints where characters can teleport to different points on the map. Another node is the vista, which is a point on the map where there is a cinematic view of the area. Vistas are fun and are often challenging jumping puzzles. To complete a zone, players must also visit all the points of interest, which are just various notable landmarks in the zone. Also, there are points on the map that offer skill points which can be used to level the character’s abilities. To complete the map, players must also complete all of the skill point challenges in a zone. Finally, players must complete all of the hearts in the zone. Hearts on the map indicate people who need help, and to complete them, you simply walk to the area of the heart and complete whatever tasks give you credit.
In some ways, GW2’s map completion system can be more fun to players than WoW’s linear questing system. There is more freedom with leveling, because one doesn’t have to complete anything on the map to progress as long as the player reaches the level of the next zone. However, completing the map offers a sense of accomplishment, and the challenge that some zones offer keeps the game exciting. Of course, there are achievements in WoW for exploring an entire zone and completing all of the quests, which is also not required, but players only get achievement points for doing it. In GW2, completing a zone on your map grants you a lot of experience and you also receive rewards.
Since I mentioned WoW’s experience-boosting options, I should also mention that GW2 has ways of boosting your experience gains to level quickly. For certain achievements, map completion being one, you are granted various rewards which can possibly be experience boosters that will boost your experience for a certain amount of time or items that give you experience upon consumption. From my experience, leveling in GW2 is just as fast as WoW, if not slightly faster since the max level in GW2 is 80.
In a nutshell, if you are wanting a highly-developed MMORPG with structure, well-managed servers, a larger following, years of rich history and content, and you don’t mind paying for it, World of Warcraft is the game for you. If you are looking for something cheaper that’s equally playable, has more freedom in choosing your adventure and building your character, and you don’t mind the smaller community and a less-definitive role system, GW2 is the MMORPG for you.