The launch of Guild Wars 2 had the energy of an election night. The candour of ArenaNet's original tradition-defying mission statement gave way to a year of rising expectations, tempered by the trickle of information from the beta and the gloomy subscription forecasts battering its rivals. It was a relief when the game turned out to be something special.
Guild Wars 2 is a generous and thoughtful MMO. It supports a huge range of playstyles – from exploration and crafting to PvP, dungeoneering, and the pursuit of prestigious loot – by rewarding the player liberally for almost anything they choose to do. On the shorter end of the scale, its combat system injects satisfying mechanical complexity into the basic act of interacting with the world. The events system, while not fully supplanting traditional questing, creates life and variability where it was lacking before.
Reality, however, has turned out to be more complicated than that mission statement made it seem. Many players, unconcerned by the lack of a subscription fee, have bemoaned the absence of an 'endgame'. Then when ArenaNet introduced mathematically superior Ascended equipment – a step that suggested a backslide into treadmill MMO design – the community suspected a bait and switch and responded accordingly.
What we're seeing now is the revolutionary become a statesman. The average player trusts an MMO developer about as much as they trust a politician, and the onus is on ArenaNet to stay the course. If they can expand the game without betraying the principles that made it great, then its importance needn't be confined to a summer of hope.
Read More: Our Guild Wars 2 review .
Runners Up: Planetside 2 and World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria.