But even though the storylines have their ups and downs, the lore itself is one of the richest and most fascinating I’ve encountered in an MMORPG. Tyria feels like a real world, revealing the fruits of seven years of the first game’s lore development to build on. It’s surprising how well ArenaNet works it into the hearts and dynamic events, allowing players to catch on to what’s happening if we pay the least bit of attention. Some of the hearts manage to instill strong feelings — I, for instance, could never feel comfortable helping the cat-like Charr drive out the once-human ghosts who still fight over the dead kingdom of Ascalon, which the Charr destroyed and took over 300 years before. As a Norn, I found myself angered that the evil Sons of Svanir have their own enclave in the Norn capital of Hoelbrak after all the hell I’d been through fighting them in the frozen wastes of the Shiverpeaks.
Each of the eight classes (or “professions,” in Guild Wars 2’s vocabulary) benefits from great gameplay variety, whether they be predictable archetypes like warriors and thieves to more unique types like the illusion-flinging Mesmers and Engineers, who bring a welcome brand of steampunk firepower to this fantasy wonderland. There’s also some incentive to play with specific races, as each of the five available has unlockable racial abilities — Norns, for instance, can shapeshift into a number of creatures — but they’re never so powerful enough to make one race perfect for a specific class. Instead, choosing a race has more to do with the setting of your personal storyline and aesthetic appeal (and it’s fun to create tiny Asura Rangers with pets that are twice as large as they are), although I’ve also found that it’s easier to complete GW2’s numerous jumping puzzles with smaller races.