GW2 vs TSW

Bronte asked his readers to compare GW2 and TSW. It’s something I’ve been pondering recently as well. Here’s a fairly detailed comparison:

GW2 has an excellent prosocial atmosphere; there’s literally no competition with other players for any resources in game, and the game’s mechanics encourage you to play with others. It also boasts a HUGE game world, with a lot of encouragement to explore and muck about. GW2 is the kind of game that I feel works best when unplanned; I log in and wander about doing whatever seems fun at the time. It’s generally a relaxing game, in this regard.

TSW uses a traditional “monster tagging” system, meaning there’s competition between players to see who can kill what. There are also some quest objectives in the game world that players can click on, and these are likewise shared. That means that sometimes you’ll be delayed by other people doing what you want to do.

GW2’s customization isn’t great; you can swap weapons to swap out your main skills, and you can choose from a smallish list of other skills to use once you unlock the slots and the skills. Still, by and large a Warrior who fights with a Greatsword will be pretty much like other Warriors who fight with Greatswords. All characters have healing skills and there’s very little “tanking” to be done (also little aggro control); having said that, characters in heavy armor do mitigate damage better than characters in light armor. Still, the holy trinity doesn’t really exist in GW2, which is a good thing.

TSW has the best character customization I’ve yet seen in an MMO. It’s entirely skill-based, with active and passive skills arranged in trees by weapon type. Active skills are restricted based on the two weapons you wield, but passive skills can come from any tree. There are a surprisingly high number of meaningful options to consider for any build, and a player who’s willing to put some time into understanding the mechanics can do remarkable things. Any character can swap between builds when out of combat, as well, so one character can be a tank, or a healer, or dps, as you prefer. TSW does use traditional tanking mechanics and traditional healing.

GW2’s story doesn’t engage me much. The cutscenes are… quirky… to be kind. They’re fairly static and show the characters in the conversation half facing each other and half facing the “camera”, with some abstract backgrounds. The voice acting is good, but the scripts don’t tend to give the voice actors much to work with. Granted, I haven’t played in a couple of weeks, but I also don’t recall any NPC names except Zojja, and I only know that one because I’m a big fan of Felicia Day (who did the voice acting for that char).

TSW’s story and lore are absolutely magnificent. I can’t overstate this. I’ll avoid spoilers… but… TSW is the kind of game where there’s a LOT more going on than first appears to be the case. As you spend time in an area, you can – if you wish – learn the history of the area, both by collecting lore (physical objects scattered in the game that unlock written lore in your in-game journal) and by talking to the NPCs. Very little is handed to us as players in TSW; we have to piece things together and do a fair bit of detective work if we really want to know what’s going on. Funcom made twitter accounts for some NPCs, and websites for locations and organizations in the game… so you can do “real world” research to learn e.g. about the budding romance between Danny Dufresne and Carter, the gifted young student at the Academy.

TSW and GW2 both have magnificent graphics, though the art direction is quite different. GW2 has a watercolor feel to the art, while TSW’s more photorealistic. Both games have good cosmetic clothing systems. GW2 has the best use of dyes I’ve yet seen in a game; basically you unlock a dye once per character and can then use it at any time to dye any piece of armor you have. Items in GW2 have two or three “dye slots” each, and you can put the same color in multiple slots if you like, so for each item you can pick one to three colors out of all your dyes. TSW, on the other hand, has a completely cosmetic clothing system; your character’s stats have nothing at all to do with the clothing you wear. That frees characters up to wear literally whatever they want, so you find a lot of unique looks. GW2 has better character creation options, with a lot of sliders for precise control, while TSW only lets you choose from prefab faces, noses, lips, etc.

Combat in both TSW and GW2 is fun and dynamic. Both games let you move around while using almost all skills, and both games require players to pay attention during fights and move around to avoid damage. TSW’s combat is more complicated since you have many more choices for skills to use at any given time. GW2’s combat does allow players to work together to form combos (essentially, one player creates a field of some sort and another player can interact with that field, e.g. player A creates a wall of flame and player B fires arrows through that wall, creating flaming arrows). In practice though, I don’t see a lot of combos used most of the time. Both GW2 and TSW feature limited hotkeys; in GW2 you eventually unlock 10 skill slots, while in TSW you have 8 active and 8 passive skill slots (one active and one passive slot are only used for the new auxiliary weapon types; the first of which is the rocket launcher).

TSW’s crafting is unique. There’s no crafting skill, so anyone can make anything, provided they have the right materials. All weapons and equipment that you find in game can be broken down into base materials. Materials can be combined to upgrade them, or broken apart to downgrade them. There are no crafting nodes in the world; all materials come from items you loot and disassemble. Because there’s no crafting skill, there’s no need to make any items except the ones you want to use; this is the only crafting system I’ve ever used that never once requires me to make a single thing I won’t use. That’s honestly very appealing.

GW2’s crafting is more traditional. Every character in GW2 can have two crafts at a time, though you can switch your active crafts around for a (nontrivial) gold cost. Materials are gathered from nodes in the game world, and tools are needed to gather with (mining picks, sickles, and axes). Many crafting components are also dropped by monsters, and it’s possible to salvage many looted items into raw materials. Gathering materials grants (normal leveling) experience, and crafting things yields both crafting and normal experience.

TSW’s inventory system is slot-based; the weight of items doesn’t matter. You have 50 inventory slots to start with and can unlock more by spending in-game money. You can divide your inventory into as many bags as you like; you may only fill as many slots though as you have unlocked. So e.g. I might have four bags showing, each 5×4 slots, meaning I visibly have 80 inventory slots, but I can only put 50 items in there before needing to unlock more slots.

GW2’s inventory is traditional and slot-based; the weight of items doesn’t matter there either. Characters start with one backpack of 20 slots and can loot, buy, or craft more bags. Slots for additional bags are unlocked via gems, which can be purchased in the cash shop for real world currencies, or bought with in-game cash. Yes, you can exchange in-game GW2 money for real world money, and vice versa. GW2 has a marvelous inventory feature that allows players to deposit all crafting items to their bank from anywhere in the world. Crafting materials are automatically sorted into the (account-wide) bank vaults when deposited, so it’s very easy to find things when you want them.

Both TSW and GW2 have auction houses that are game-wide. GW2’s auction house prices are incredibly low, meaning it’s hard to make much profit there, but it’s also easy to keep your gear upgraded for very little cost. TSW’s economy relies more on the expectation that players will craft some of what they want; in GW2, crafting is a good source of experience but is a gold sink.

TSW’s quests are often quite challenging. Investigation quests require players to do real-world research, e.g. looking up a famous painter and learning to identify his painting style so you can identify one of his works. Sabotage quests involve a lot of sneaking around in areas with foes that are extremely challenging to fight, so there’s a strong emphasis on stealth and planning. Foes in many quests are also designed to require a bit of creativity in the builds used to defeat them; in TSW, you’re expected to be able to change your build to fit a situation. So e.g. you might find that some foes are very difficult to defeat unless you use some damage-over-time effects on them, while other foes might be healed by any damage-over-time effects you put on them. In TSW, one size does not fit all.

GW2’s quests come in two flavors: renown hearts and dynamic events (DEs). Hearts can be “filled” by doing any combination of activities from a list of what’s needed in an area; e.g. you might be asked to kill some local pests, or collect data from malfunctioning robots, or use bizarre tech to investigate disturbances underground… and you can do whatever combination appeals to you. So you might e.g. kill a few pests, then collect some data, then kill another pest, then investigate those disturbances a bit… or you might just decide to collect data and nothing else… or you might just want to kill stuff. Dynamic events involve a series of pre-scripted occurrences, which lead to other occurrences based on player interaction. So e.g. some centaurs might attack a camp, and if they’re not defeated, they’ll set up some siege equipment, and if you don’t stop them, they’ll attack a nearby town. Whatever you do, it tends not to be terribly challenging on an intellectual level. Fights might be difficult in GW2 sometimes, but the quests are not. Players are not expected to change their builds much if at all during the course of normal gameplay, though different builds might suit different activities better; what works in PvP might not work as well in a dungeon. On the other hand, the world itself in GW2 feels very active… there are things happening all over the place, and monsters and NPCs running to and fro in pursuit of various goals.

TSW has no levels, traditionally speaking, but characters do advance and gain power, and gear is ranked by quality level, where 0 is the starter gear and 10 is the best stuff around (there are further divisions of QL10 stuff, going up to 10.4 for endgame gear). There’s a fair expectation that players will repeat content; all quests except the main story and investigations can be repeated. As players grow more powerful, the content becomes easier, in the normal sense.

GW2 has 80 levels, handled traditionally. However, all areas in GW2 have maximum levels associated with them, and any characters above that level are “downleveled” to match the area. As a result, characters never become overwhelmingly powerful anywhere in game. That’s a good thing insofar as it retains challenge well, giving players good reason to hang out in lower level areas (you get rewards based on your level, not on the level of the area), but then it can also be pleasant to experience the results of character growth, by returning to an area that was once challenging and steamrolling it; that won’t happen in GW2.

I’ve done a moderate bit of PvP in TSW and none in GW2 yet. I think GW2’s PvP is likely to be excellent though from what I’ve seen; the sieges look very promising indeed. Still, I can’t say for certain how they compare.

I haven’t yet done any dungeons in GW2. I really, really enjoyed the three dungeons I’ve done in TSW. Not having seen both sides though, I can’t compare them yet.

Honestly, both GW2 and TSW are fantastic games. They’re very different in atmosphere and feeling though. GW2 is bright and fairly simple and very social; TSW is dark and scary and intense and less innately social.

1 comment so far

  1. Aleksi on

    Good comparison of these 2 games, Ive played both and agree with all of this.

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