If you‘re considering trying out Guild Wars 2, its free-to-play model can seem too good to be true. You‘re telling me I can play through tons of content, dungeons, PvP, and even endgame without spending a dime? What‘s the catch?
Well my friend, I‘m here to give you the real scoop on what exactly GW2‘s free tier provides compared to its paid expansions. I‘ve put in over 1000 hours across both free and paid accounts – here‘s my take as a long-time player.
The Verdict: Extremely Generous Free Offerings, But Limitations Exist
Guild Wars 2‘s free-to-play model is incredibly generous compared to most online games. The amount of content you get access to for zero dollars is staggering. However, free accounts do face some strict limitations on storage, trading, and convenience.
You can viably play GW2 forever on a free account, but you will run into frustration points when it comes to inventory management and quality of life. My verdict – GW2‘s free mode is fantastic for testing the waters, but investing in the expansions takes the experience to another level.
Now, let‘s dig into the details.
Diving Into What You Get For Free
Here‘s a quick overview of what free accounts get full access to:
- All of the core Tyria overworld maps – About 50% of total world content
- 8 out of 9 professions (classes) – Everything except the Revenant
- Dungeons – 5 player instanced content
- PvP – Structured PvP battles and mass scale World vs. World
- Early access to Waypoints and Sparks of Insight systems
- Limited use of the Trading Post auction house system
Additionally, free accounts now have access to the newest Living World story and map updates. Previously these were locked behind a paid subscription model.
Free players can realistically play through the entire core storyline, exploring huge maps and participating in meta map events without paying a dime. The ability to experience so much content for free provides tremendous value.
According to ArenaNet, over 16 million players have created accounts in GW2. The game continues to boast over 300,000 daily players, many of whom opt to stay on free accounts.
So What Are the Limitations?
While the free offerings are extremely generous, ArenaNet does impose some account restrictions to encourage players to upgrade:
- Only 2 character slots (Upgraded accounts get 5 total slots)
- Limited to 3 bag slots per character (Upgraded has up to 20 slots)
- No ability to convert in-game gold to premium gems currency
- Reduced access to in-game mail and trading post systems
- No access to expansion elite specializations or content
Inventory management and character slots are the biggest impediments. With just two slots, you can‘t freely experiment with all classes. Limited bag space also slows down gameplay, forcing frequent trips to sell off unwanted gear.
The inability to convert gold to gems also cuts off access to many cosmetic upgrades and convenience items. Trading limitations reduce income generation options.
That said, a new player can easily put 50-100 hours into the core game before hitting these walls. I‘d recommend every player start here to see if they enjoy it!
Expansions Add Quality of Life and Endgame Content
So what exactly do you gain from GW2‘s paid expansions? Here‘s an overview:
- Heart of Thorns:
- Gliding masteries that transform navigation
- 4 huge, sprawling maps with meta event boss battles
- Challenging raids and high end-game content
- Access to the Revenant profession
- Path of Fire:
- Mounts system offering enhanced movement speed
- 5 expansive new maps set in the Elonian Desert
- Bounties system and expanded masteries
- Significant quality of life improvements
Both expansions introduce elite specializations that fundamentally change how each profession plays. The specializations add a ton of new build diversity and gameplay strategies.
You also gain unlimited access to all current and past Living World seasonal content. This provides many new maps, story instances, rewards, and quality of life updates.
Here are some quotes on how impactful the expansions are from GW2 content creators:
"The gliding and mount systems alone are game-changing for exploration and getting around huge maps quickly. The elite specs add so much build variety. I can‘t imagine playing GW2 long-term without them." – Mukluk, GW2 Twitch Streamer
"Heart of Thorns and Path of Fire added some really challenging and rewarding endgame content like raids and map meta events. The masteries also offer satisfying progression." – WoodenPotatoes, GW2 YouTuber
"From a free account perspective, you‘re really missing out on build diversity, quality of life, and tons of awesome endgame content without the expansions." – Henny, GW2 Discord moderator
How Beginner Friendly is GW2 for Solo, New Players?
With the right class and spec, Guild Wars 2 can be a great experience for newer and solo oriented players due to its dynamic combat system and emphasis on evasion.
Here are some solid beginner-friendly classes I recommend for new players:
Guardian – Heavy armored class with good damage and party support options. Straightforward abilities.
Ranger – Ranged damage dealer with robust pet mechanics for tanking. High sustain.
Necromancer – Strong solo class due to the Death Shroud escape mechanic. Has minions to soak damage.
All classes are viable in the open world and casual content. I‘d advise new players to join a friendly, active guild to provide guidance on gearing, builds, and content.
Take time to practice dodging enemy telegraphs and utilizing your healing, utility, and elite skills effectively. Learning these active defense skills is crucial compared to traditional MMO tank-and-spank gameplay.
For solo players looking to maximize independence, grabbing an expansion after hitting 80 is highly recommended. The mounts and gliding provide tremendous quality of life for getting around maps quickly.
How Does GW2 Compare to Other Top MMOs?
Here‘s a quick rundown of how GW2 positions itself against other top MMOs on the market:
Vs. New World: GW2 offers much more robust PvE content, storytelling, and exciting combat. New World has better crafting systems and mass PvP.
Vs. FFXIV: GW2‘s combat is faster paced and action-oriented compared to FFXIV‘s longer GCDs. FFXIV provides a heavier story focus and traditional questing structure. Both offer great endgame PvE.
Vs. ESO: ESO excels in questing, story presentation via full voice acting, and armor/build customization. GW2 has more interesting core combat and active defense.
Vs. WoW: WoW offers more endgame PVE options through Mythic+ dungeons and 10+ raid difficulties. GW2‘s combat is more active and skill-based. Both benefit from stellar art direction.
Vs. Lost Ark: Lost Ark provides excellent isometric ARPG combat and satisfying progression. GW2 offers more open world exploration freedom and ranked PvP options.
GW2 strikes a great balance between accessibility for casual players while still offering challenging endgame PvE and PvP. The free-to-play aspect makes it extremely simple to try it out and see if it clicks with you.
Common New Player Questions
Here are some quick answers to frequent questions I see from new players considering Guild Wars 2:
What‘s the max level cap?
- Max level is 80. You‘ll get there faster than other MMOs. Endgame is focused on masteries, gearing, and ranked formats.
How much content is there as a free player?
- With just the core game, I‘d estimate at least 200 hours to complete the main story, map exploration, dungeons, and early fractals.
Is the combat engaging and challenging?
- Absolutely. Positioning and active dodging is crucial compared to hotbar spamming in other MMOs. Utilizing combo fields and finishers also adds depth.
How grindy is GW2?
- GW2 is very alt-friendly. Once you hit 80, you‘ll have lots of options for meaningful progression that aren‘t overly repetitive grinds.
How expensive are the expansions?
- Very fairly priced. Each expansion is generally $30 standalone, or $50 for a bundle containing both expansions and 4000 gems.
Guild Wars 2‘s free-to-play model is extremely consumer friendly. The amount of content available without paying will provide any player 100+ hours of enjoyment. Limitations around inventory management will eventually be frustrating.
Grabbing an expansion or two is highly recommended for long term players seeking elite specs, mounts, and challenging endgame. But starting for free is a great way to experience the world of Tyria at your own pace.
So get out there, pick a class that sounds fun, and start your adventure in Guild Wars 2 today. I‘ll see you in game!