SPvP in Guild Wars 2 is almost a separate game from the levelling and PvE game, neither one will benefit the other in any way. In other words, you can join sPvP at any level and be on completely even ground with all other competing players, leaving skill and build choices as the only ways to get an edge over your opponent.
Games are played in a “Hot-join” 8v8 format, similar to traditional battlegrounds, or in a 5v5 single elimination tournament style, open to single players but also allowing pre-constructed team signups. There are 4 different maps in total, and they do not differ at all depending on the format you play.
Getting set up:
To get started with sPvP you first need to navigate your way to the Heart of the Mists. This is the staging area where you can sign up for matches, customise your gear and build, and access cosmetic PvP reward vendors. Getting to the mists is as simple as opening your hero screen (H), clicking on the crossed swords tab on the left and selecting “Go to the Heart of the Mists” and when you are finished playing, leaving is just as easy. The mists house everything you will need to successfully play sPvP matches so take a couple of moments to familiarise yourself with the locations of all the relevant NPCs upon arrival.
All gear rewards from sPvP are purely cosmetic and for PvP use only.
As soon as you arrive you are bumped up to max level and given all of your class’s skills as well as full trait points to spend. Take some time to familiarise yourself with it all through the Hero tab and set yourself up with up a build that suits you, you can change it as much as you like at any time if it does not work out for you. If you wish to test your skills and builds there are a huge selection of active and inactive test dummies in the Heart of the Mists for you to play around with before entering a game. Vendors on the island will also give you any weapons and armour that you want for no charge, giving you the option to use whatever you personally prefer.
The 4 different maps offer a lot of variation in how the game is played, they all follow a capture and hold “conquest” format but each map has something special about it that alters the strategies you will want to take. All games end when 1 team reaches 500 points, collectively earned from holding points, taking additional objectives and winning fights.
Raid on the Capricorn:
This map is a coastal dock area with 3 capture points, the dock, the beach and the ruins, the unique aspect of this map is that the ruins is an underwater capture point. As such, this map is not used in tournament play and is only available in standard hot-join games. If you are familiar with the underwater combat in guild wars 2 then this will come easily to you, but if you are not then it can take some time to get used to all of your additional abilities that activate once you get into the water.
There are some fast routes for getting around the map, particularly between the beach and the dock areas which eases your ability to quickly snag the land points on the map. In the water there are also sharks that will fight for whoever controls the ruins, they do significant damage and as such, you typically need less people to hold the ruins, making it a highly lucrative base to take early on and defend throughout. Another unique aspect of the map is the cannon, this is situated at the south of the map and can be used primarily to fire upon the land based capture points and give supporting damage during assaults. Cannon balls are located on the ship in the centre of the map and can also be thrown at enemies to knock them down.
Legacy of the Foefire:
Legacy of the Foefire gives players the option to siege the enemy’s base in addition to capturing the neutral points. Breaking through the gates of your opponent’s base gives you the chance to assault their NPC Lord. Killing the lord gives 150 points towards your teams efforts but requires you to divert attention away from the capture points, the is especially a problem in tournament play where you have less players available to you. In reality a lord kill takes at least 2 people as an effort with 1 is too easily shut down by a single enemy and 1 person may not be able to be able to get through the lord’s significant HP pool alone.
This makes any attempt to kill the lord a very gutsy move in tournament play, one that is only typically considered in a time of extreme lead or desperation. Controlling the points is a far more stable plan if you execute it correctly and win your fights. The points can be easily guarded via various high walls around the graveyard which allow you to watch 2 bases at once and go where you are needed the most.
Forest of Niflhel:
The forest of Niflhel puts a MOBA-esque twist on the conquest format but adding neutral monsters that are killed for conquest points and stat buffs. These 2 monsters are Svanir and the Chieftain, neither seem to do significantly more than the other or be harder to kill, the just spawn at different sides of the map. Each kill gives you 25 points towards your victory and a buff which adds 50 to all primary stats. They spawn right at the start and take 3 minutes to respawn once they are killed. The points and buff goes to whichever team lands the last hit on the monster, making it valuable to contest and attempt to steal kills.
The keep can be easy to defend due to its height which gives vision of incoming enemies, however there are 2 back routes that lead into it which can make it easily ambushable, or easy for a single player to sneak into if it is left completely unprotected. Each teams spawn has 2 exits, one which leads towards their closest base and neutral monster, and the other which takes them far closer to the enemy’s base which opens up opportunities for aggressive strategies from the start.
Battle of Kyhlo:
This map also incorporates siege elements in a different way. Each team has a huge trebuchet next to their spawn point which is used to give artillery support when capturing points. A trebuchet hit will knock enemies back and cause heavy damage, having an experienced trebuchet user in your team is critical to success on this map. In addition to firing onto points the trebuchet can also destroy terrain, particularly that surrounding the central clock tower capture point which in turn makes the central point easier to attack from various angles and levels.
Due to the power of the trebuchets it is often favourable to go and take them out early, ideally done by a class such as Thief which excels at 1v1 fighting and can easily take out the player controlling it before destroying the trebuchet itself. Once destroyed, the trebuchets can be repaired via the use of repair kits found in the courtyard at the base of the clock tower but this is time consuming and takes a single player’s attention away from the capture points.
The sPvP in Guild Wars 2 feels fresh enough to be exciting whilst retaining enough aspects of classic MMO PvP to feel familiar to MMO veterans. All of this adds up to a balanced and enjoyable experience for all kinds of players. If you favour PvE and have not tried sPvP at all I urge you to give it a go as it may surprise you with just how much you enjoy it, even if you have not enjoyed arena or battleground PvP in other MMOs. I hope to see you on the battlefield soon!