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Is Guild Wars 2 Free to Play or Pay to Win? A Complete 2023 Guide

As both a long-time Guild Wars 2 player and gaming enthusiast, this is a question I get asked frequently. With confusing marketing and restrictions on free accounts, it can be hard to decipher what exactly you need to purchase in Guild Wars 2.

In this detailed guide, I‘ll cover everything you need to know about the free to play model, paid expansions, and whether spending money gives unfair advantages. My goal is to help you make informed decisions so you can enjoy GW2 the way you want.

What is Included for Free Accounts?

I want to start by emphasizing that Guild Wars 2‘s core game is entirely free-to-play, with no time limits or trials. This gives you ample opportunity to experience the world of Tyria before spending any money. Here‘s a quick overview of what free accounts can access:

  • Reach max level 80 and acquire exotic gear
  • Play through the entire 1-80 personal story
  • Explore 90% of the open world across 5 starting zones
  • Participate in structured PvP and World vs World modes
  • Create up to 2 characters per account (5 total with expansions)
  • Access to Lion‘s Arch and all major cities
  • Customize appearance through outfits and dyes
  • Chat and join guilds with other players
  • Participate in dynamic events across all maps

As you can see, free players still get an enormous amount of content. I easily spent over 200 hours on my first free character without running out of things to do. Pandering to free players is smart business by ArenaNet – they want to hook you before you ever spend a dime.

What Major Features Are Expansion-Locked?

While totally optional, purchasing the expansions unlocks several highly desirable features:

  • Heart of Thorns: Gliding, challenging end-game maps, elite specs, mastery system
  • Path of Fire: Mounts, additional elite specs, large new maps
  • End of Dragons: Fishing, skiffs, siege turtles, Cantha region
  • Living World Seasons: Advance the story and unlock new maps

Let‘s go over these in more detail. Gliding and mounts alone are game-changers that make traversal exponentially more fun. Elite specializations provide powerful new ways to play your class. The mastery system adds progression past level 80.

Each expansion also comes with massive new maps that dwarf the core Tyria zones. They are more beautiful and packed with secrets – you‘ll spend weeks exploring them.

Living World Seasons continue the story between expansions and unlock additional maps. You must purchase these separately if you missed them when they first released.

What Restrictions Exist on Free Accounts?

To prevent abuse from gold sellers, free accounts do come with some annoying restrictions:

  • Max 3 character slots instead of 5
  • Limited access to in-game Trading Post
  • Cannot convert gold to premium gems currency
  • Reduced inventory size and bank tabs
  • No login reward bonuses or achievement points

My advice is to upgrade to a full account once you know you are committed to playing long-term. The $30 complete edition unlocks everything permanently.

Is Guild Wars 2 Pay to Win?

One of Guild Wars 2‘s key design principles since launch has been to never allow paying for power. The best gear (ascended/legendary) must be earned by playing the game – it cannot be acquired with real money.

There is also very little gear treadmill. A player in exotic equipment has 95% of the power of someone in top ascended gear. Skill, practice, and knowledge matter far more than minor stat increases.

Any purchases in the gem store provide either cosmetic upgrades or convenience/quality of life improvements. You never get gameplay advantages over other players by swiping your credit card.

Breakdown of GW2‘s Payment Model

  • Buy to Play – Purchase expansions to unlock additional content
  • Free to Play – Core game is free with some restrictions
  • Cash Shop – Optional cosmetics and account upgrades
  • No Subscription – No recurring fees required

You choose how much you want to spend. Play for free, buy convenience items like more bank space, or purchase expansions to experience it all. No monthly fees means taking a break anytime without penalty.

ArenaNet‘s approach is both player-friendly and profitable – Of the top 10 grossing MMOs in 2022, GW2 ranked #3 despite no subscription. Cosmetics and quality of life improvements make money while not alienating free players.

Should You Play Guild Wars 2 in 2023?

Here are a few key reasons why Guild Wars 2 remains one of the top MMORPGs in 2023 and is absolutely worth playing:

  • Regular Content Updates – Frequent releases of story, maps, features and balance changes keeps things fresh.

  • No Gear Treadmill – Easy to take breaks without falling behind. Your stats don‘t become obsolete.

  • Active Playerbase – Very healthy population with new expansions bringing surges of players.

  • Great Combat – Dodging and movement creates skill-based action combat. Fights stay engaging.

  • Stunning Visuals – Art style and graphics hold up incredibly 10 years after release. Runs great even on low end PCs.

  • Friendly Community – Encourages cooperation and lack of gear competition reduces toxicity. Veterans gladly help new players.

With Cantha region newly released and Steam launch coming, there has never been a better time get into Guild Wars 2. Both new and returning players will find a vibrant world with thousands of hours of content to enjoy.

Final Verdict: Play For Free, Then Upgrade

My advice for new players is to create a free account and spend your first 50 hours exploring the core Tyria zones. This will let you experience the gameplay and see if the style clicks with you.

Once you‘ve fallen in love with the smooth combat, beautiful locales, and dynamic events, you can upgrade to the full game. For $30 you permanently unlock everything described above.

Guild Wars 2 gives you the flexibility to play exactly how you want – 100% free or with full unrestricted access. The choice is yours! But with such a huge amount of free content, you have nothing to lose by giving it a try.

Let me know if you have any other questions! I‘m happy to offer buying advice or general tips as you get started on your Guild Wars 2 journey.



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.