Guild Wars 2 | Getting Started

You've seen the videos, or maybe a stream. You've heard the hype. You want to try Guild Wars 2. This guide should help you get started.

Do I need to have played Guild Wars?

No. There are some minor benefits from having played Guild Wars. You can get a cool title and you might get a few of the lore references. But thats it. Theres no direct impact and, given Guild Wars 2 is set a long time after the first game, theres no direct continuity to the story. Guild Wars as a game feels very clunky these days, so feel free to skip straight to Guild Wars 2.

Getting the Game

Guild Wars 2 comes in three editions: 

  • Guild Wars 2 base game - this is completely free. There are a few limits on it, but these are mostly aimed at kicking the gold sellers to the kerb. You can play to max and access all content that came with the original game including all maps, story and both PvP modes.
  • Heart of Thorns expansion - this adds new maps and story, and all Masteries associated with Heart of Maguuma or Central Tyria, including Gliding and making legendary precursors, needed to craft weapons (you can still get them to drop randomly without this).
  • Path of Fire - this adds new maps and story, and all mounts and their associated Masteries.
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You might notice that neither Heart of Thorns or Path of Fire have 'new levels' against them. This is correct - expansions in Guild Wars 2 add no new levels. There are also no new tiers of gear.

There are also two DLC type packs you can buy to access more story content and maps, called the Living World. You can buy Living World Season 2 and 3 in the gem store if you don't have them. These episodes are made available for free as long as you log in while a given episode is 'live'. You needed to own Heart of Thorns to access Living World Season 3, so likely you will need Path of Fire for Season 4. You can unlock a chapter even if you don't own the prerequisites - you just can't play it until you buy the prerequisite expansion.

What this means is that if you are levelling, you should just grab the base game. Once you hit 80 you can consider whether you want to buy more content. You can buy the expansions as a pack, and you can find the Living World packs on offer. The story order is: 

  • Base Game
  • Living World Season 1 video (it's no longer playable) 
  • Living World Season 2
  • Heart of Thorns
  • Living World Season 3
  • Path of Fire
  • Living World Season 4

To read the lore to Guild Wars 1 through to Living World Season 3, you can read The Story So Far.

Character Creation

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Time to make some choices:

  • Region - unless you have a reason to do otherwise, select your home region for low lag. You cannot change region or play across regions, though guilds and mail work across regions.  You cannot easily change this later.
  • Server - the server has only one impact and that's on World vs World (which is Server vs Server PvP). If you want to do a lot of WvW, consider your server choice (check the forums for advice on this at the time). Else you can just pick a name. You can change this later, but it costs.
  • Race - this is purely an aesthetic choice in the long term - it does determine your starting city and early story, but ultimately the best choice is the one you want to look at the most. You cannot change this later.
  • Profession (class) - This determines how you will play the game. All the professions are viable in all content types, but not all specs of all classes. A class has a limited list of weapons they can use and each weapon has different skills. All classes have a melee and ranged option. Some classes can tank or heal, but this is largely only relevant in raids. You cannot change this later. Easy classes include the Necromancer, Warrior, Ranger and Guardian. The Elementalist and Engineer are the most challenging classes. The Revenant is only available with Heart of Thorns.

You then make some other choices that will impact a bit on your very early story, but really mean nothing later. 

Starting Out

The game will try to guide you to content. Let it. It will show you how the basic leveling experience works. There is a single main storyline you can follow, but that is not enough to level you up. The rest of the time you can just spend exploring the world and completing whatever content you come across. 

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  • You are scaled to the level of lower level maps, so a map that's tagged as being for 15 to 25 will still give experience at 40 because you will be scaled down to 25. 
  • Hearts require you do do something until they are full. The heart will then sell you gear, which is the main source of gear while leveling. 
  • Hero Points give you points with which you can learn secondary skills. These don't change with your weapon (though other things may change them).
  • Experience is always awarded for all players involved in a kill or event, based on their participation level. Other players are always a good thing to come across.
  • When your inventory starts to fill, click on the cog in the top right hand corner and select Deposit All. This moves all crafting materials into your bank automatically. 
  • Your bank has two parts - the open slots and slots for crafting materials. You can store up to 250 of each crafting material in the crafting materials bank.
  • You can do dungeons as you level, but they can be challenging with lower level, undergeared players so its not always the best choice with a random group. Arah, for example, is a challenge with well geared level 80 players!

Each zone has a story of sorts, but not in the way that a traditional quest based MMO does. However, most have hidden things to find. 

Getting Gear

There are five levels of gear you will come across while you level, plus two more at end game: 

  • Grey/White - you can ignore this gear after the first couple of levels.
  • Blue - this is better than grey
  • Green - again, this is better than blue
  • Rare (yellow) - this gear is better than green
  • Exotic (orange) - this is the best gear you will come across during leveling. You can do almost all end game content with Exotic gear. 
  • Ascended (pink) - this is the best gear in the game stats wise. You can only get it at level 80. It takes a while, but you get to keep it forever and it is account bound, so you can move items between characters.
  • Legendary (purple) - this has the same stats as Ascended gear, but looks prettier. Legendary items normally have a cool visual effect and look. They are also account bound, and you can change the stat combination on them. So again, you can keep them forever. 
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As well as your normal gear set, you will be able to have two weapon sets you can switch between in battle (for most classes) and you need a seperate weapon and an Aquabreather for underwater combat. 

Gathering, Crafting and Salvaging

You can learn two Crafting professions per character (you can add more with a gem store purchase). These can be changed for gold and you will keep the progress in the old profession if you deactivate and reactivate it.  Professions make gear, apart from Cooking. Cooking is hard to level at first, so don't rush into that one. Don't rush into crafting at all, in fact. All of the content you do while leveling is still a part of your end game, and if you are missing materials now, odds are you will have them later. Also, some low level materials are very expensive because they are used in high level gear.

You can Gather all the three types of items (ore, wood and plants) on a given character. All other materials drop from mobs. You need to buy Gathering Tools and equip them. They have a limited number of uses, so you will need to keep replacing them. They are cheap to buy and better ones are available as you level, so don't buy loads at first. 

You can also Salvage many items to gain materials. You buy Salvage kits for this. You nearly always want to Salvage Green/Blue items and low level items, but do check on the trading post. Near top level (68+), salvaging Rare and above can give you a crafting item called a Glob of Ectoplasm. You should salvage any Rare item that sells for less than a Glob of Ectoplasm (check the Black Lion Trading Post).

What do I need to buy from the gem store? 

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The quick answer is nothing. You do not need to make any purchase to play the game. The only thing you will feel pressure to buy, in my experience, is bank slots. If you are playing the game enough that you feel desperate for bank space, then you won't really mind paying out a bit. In the first instance, you should sell stuff and stop hoarding it in your bank!

Other than that, its all completely optional. Its pretty outfits and cool things for lazy people. You can save a few silver by buying the everlasting Gathering tools, and you can buy the Copper-Fed Salvage-o-matic which saves you needing to buy low level Salvaging tools, but is probably more expensive.

On top of all that, you can buy gems for gold you make in game (if you spend a LOT of time playing). You can also exchange the other way around, but, because Ascended gear is fairly easy to come buy, it never reaches pay to win. Instead its pay to save a bit of time grinding.

Is Guild Wars 2 a grindy game?

Not really. A few things are a grind to do. Legendary gear is one hell of a grind. But, that is what makes them Legendary. And because there are no new levels or tiers of gear, you get to keep using them forever. So grind is commensurate with reward, and that holds true of the game as a whole. Also, the game has few ways to grind a specific thing. You can't really farm mobs for high level crafting materials effectively, and theres no one source of gold. Because of that, you can choose your poison. If you want to run the high value mining nodes every day, you can do that. Or, you can run Fractals, or farm events, or do any of the things you enjoy. In fact, most of the grinds force you to vary your content (you need to do some PvP for a legendary, for example).

Above all in Guild Wars 2, just have fun while you level. There is far less need to race to max level. An awful lot of the content you can do at end game is accessible long before you hit level 80. So enjoy the world. The Personal Story is not the strongest leveling content in an MMO, but no game beats Guild Wars 2 for the enjoyment you get from just exploring the world.