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Well, the last beta weekend has come and gone for Guild Wars 2 and I couldn't be more excited for the game's release later in August. In my last preview, I mostly stuck to how the developers were improving player interaction and questing. So, if you're interested in how questing works or general impressions about the combat, you can catch up here. This time around, I gave greater focus to the offerings of PvP, exploration and trying the two newly available player races.
PvP was a major draw in the original Guild Wars, so it's no surprise that a lot of love has been shown to the completive side of the sequel. There are two avenues of PvP in Guild Wars 2, structured and World vs. World, and the two types offer very different approaches. If you want a fair fight to properly demonstrate your ability as the player behind the characters, then you'll want to steer towards structured PVP. If you'd rather lean towards the accomplishments of your character and your ability to mobilize large groups of players strategically, then you'll want to check out World vs. World.
Structured PvP removes the MMO issue of "victory through time investment" by giving everyone an even playing field. When you enter the structured PvP zones, you're raised to max level and everyone draws from the same pool of equipment. You're free to retrain your traits, swap for different upgrades and customize your character, but you're always assured that you're on the same level as everyone else. As you claim victory during matches and dispatch opponents, you'll gain glory that can be used to purchase better looking equipment, but the PvP gear you earn here has the same stats that you start with and can only be used in these PvP areas. In this way, structured PvP stays fair and disconnected from the PvE experience, and if all you want is to jump in and fight you can shortcut needing to grind to max level.
World vs World PvP pits three servers against each other, all vying for control of various points in massive zones. World vs World attempts to strike a middle ground between making everyone feel like they can contribute and rewarding player investment. You retain only your acquired skills and equipment, but your level and stats are bumped to that of a max level character. So a higher level character will generally have better items and have greater flexibility in their skills than a lower leveled one, but it's not going to be an instant one-hit-kill either.
The battlefields themselves are massive, supporting upwards of 500 players for a total of 2,000 across the four World vs. World zones. Each area has a number of camps, towers and keeps that players can fight for, and there are various bonuses awarded to the player holding them. These bonuses even trickle down to PvE so there is incentive to take part in both aspects of the game. The variety of controllable structures also means you can tailor your conquest based on how many players you can rally. A small group can still harry supply caravans or take smaller camps, but a larger number of players will be needed to tackle a siege.