Guild Wars 2 had its third and final beta period last month. Its the last time most people will get to see the game before its release on August 28th. We played the game for three days and weve got three days worth of thoughts on ArenaNets sequel to Guild Wars. Todays final entry will focus on the strongest area of the original Guild Wars: Player vs. Player combat.

I have been playing a new thief for less than 20 minutes and Im already at maximum level with a full set of PvP-optimized equipment. Thats just one of the strange, and welcome, spins on PvP that ArenaNet brings to PvP content in Guild Wars 2.

Just like in the original Guild Wars, the moment you enter a PvP zone youll find yourself boosted to the games maximum level of 80 and be given a new equipment set. After a short tutorial that teaches you the basics of PvP (downing enemies, healing allies and grabbing capture points) every character is thrown into PvP with roughly equivalent equipment and abilities to ensure that your victory or defeat is based on your own skill and not higher-level characters with better equipment beating you into the ground with pure stats.

Of course as you play the PvP game youre rewarded with new items and equipment, but these are almost always aesthetic improvements that offer no improvement to your character abilities. Instead you get to change the way your equipment looks, or the animation when you defeat an enemy player.

Most if not all of this should be familiar to Guild Wars players, and in general ArenaNet seems to have decided not to fix what wasnt broken with the small team-based PvP maps. The main addition to PvP in Guild Wars 2 comes in the form of the games huge Realm Vs. Realm Vs. Realm battle, an all-out war of players from three different servers that are competing to capture and lay siege to land across a gigantic map. While most of the skirmish maps can be traversed in a minute or two, the RvRvR map is larger than most of the games expansive PvE zones.

In addition to doing battle with other players the Realm battle also has a number of PvE tasks you can complete, doing small tasks for fortifications to make them easier to hold or assault and attacking roving enemies on the map to earn points for your realm.

While there are shades of this in the smaller maps, with the occasional monster popping up that your team can assault for a point boost, the number of tasks you can take on without fighting enemy players on the RvRvR map is huge (though many of them will require the assistance of your fellow PvPers). This also plays into the other distinction between RvRvR and other forms of PvP: RvRvR combat will have an effect on your PvE game. Not only can you get experience and skill points to progress outside of PvP in this mode, winning the battle for your server will provide several benefits, including an XP boost, to PvE players on your realm.

The RvRvR modes scale and length reminds me of nothing so much as Alterac Valley in World of Warcraft. In its initial conception AV matches were 40 man vs. 40 man battles (with numerous PvE quests around the map to give your side an advantage) and the battles could easily last an entire day. While WoW streamlined the battleground to be faster and more manageable, Guild Wars 2 seems to have scaled everything UP. Each round of RvRvR lasts for three days, with huge numbers of players popping into and out of the battle and doing their part to influence a battle on a massive scale. While it can sometimes make your individual contribution seem insignificant, it also makes a PvP battle feel important in a way I havent seen in an MMO for years.