Editorials

Guild Wars 2 Apps and Overlays Reviewed – 2016

The market for Guild Wars 2 apps is alive and thriving. But with core features in the game having drastically changed through the implementation or revision of new systems and Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns’ release, finding game-related apps that have been updated anywhere in the last, oh, six months, let alone the past two or three years, can be challenging.

Thankfully, the community remains ripe for the mobile pickings with numerous versatile, multipurpose apps designed to do pretty much anything except play the game for you. Be advised: I tested and played the following apps and programs after installing them on my desktop computer running Windows 10 or my Android OS smartphone.

Many of these websites/apps/programs require use of a Guild Wars 2 API key, which is available from your ArenaNet account page. Permissions will vary depending on the app, but you can set nicknamed versions within your account to keep them distinct from one another. Any third-party services that request use of your API key should follow, among other things, the Guild Wars 2 Content Terms of Use.

A word of caution: ArenaNet does not officially vet third-party applications, programs or websites, and has previously warned users that usage is at their own risk. ArenaNet does not provide technical support for any third-party applications (so don’t ask them if something goes sideways), and is not liable for anything that happens to your game client/account/computer, or disciplinary action applied to your account, that results from using any such program or website.

Browser-based or desktop programs

GW2 Efficiency by David Reeß / queicherius.2563 et al.

Spoiler alert: GW2 Efficiency is the greatest thing,

Spoiler alert: GW2 Efficiency is the greatest thing,

What does it do? Like its name suggests, GW2 Efficiency gets at the heart of what hardcore players seek: efficiency. Would you like to know how much your account is worth? How much individual characters are worth (and what they’re carrying)? How you stack up against other players? Keep track of your progress, unlockables, items, characters and wallet through this insanely detailed website.

Ease of use: Beyond the copy/pasting of your API key, the website is very intuitive and direct. There’s no real question about what is on any given page, as the homepage very easily breaks down what you’ll find.

How useful is it?
GW2 Efficiency is both a player and a statistician’s dream website. It’s not only clean and useful, but supremely comprehensive. Whether it’s personal inventory, wallet items, wardrobe, dungeon runs, fractal runs, shopping lists or your basic world boss train, this website will deliver pretty much anything you could possibly need from Guild Wars 2 except the game itself.

In addition to allowing users to keep track of what they have and what they don’t have, it can also keep track of what any represented guild has. Want to keep track of all the guild upgrades in one place? GW2E does that, then opens itself up for feedback, criticism, suggestions and more—whether in-game, on the website’s own subreddit or on Twitter.

In case none of that interests you, there is also a literal map of every possible bandit chest location in the Silverwastes and a guide to the Frostgorge Sound train.

Rating: 10/10

Gw2SPECS (formerly Gw2DPS) by DoM, Tyrox, Kozzy and Syphdias

If you want to feel good about your DPS, definitely use an elite specialization in Arah.

If you want to feel good about your DPS, definitely use an elite specialization in Arah.

What does it do? This program takes the much-vaunted damage meter jaxnX and expands upon it for raiding purposes, adding server capabilities so you can keep track of entire raid teams and small squads in a desktop meter. By taking screenshots of anywhere from 10-27 lines of combat chat text, Gw2SPECS (Guild Wars 2 Simple Player Enhanced Combat Statistics) will calculate damage per second either by averages or from encounter to encounter and, with the right settings, color code them based on class.

While it originally arrived on the scene as Gw2DPS, it has since renamed itself to avoid confusion with a different program.

Ease of use: After downloading the program’s files, a dialog box pops up with the required in-game graphics and chat box settings to run it. From there, it’s a matter of keeping it on or next to the game and just hacking away. The little box does the rest.

Unfortunately, the program is not 100% intuitive even though it’s easy to open. Without alt-text on the rather minimalist design and a rather lacking translation between toolbar symbols and actual functions, there was a fair bit of clicking around to figure out what’s what in Gw2SPECS. Of course, that didn’t completely help when I discovered the app has not one, but two reset buttons—a total clear counter (which looks a little like a two-dimensional exit sign facing the wrong way) and a toggle button that will reset the meter every time your character leaves combat (which is inexplicably the refresh symbol).

Gw2SPECS in action.

Gw2SPECS in action.

I also encountered several frustrations with being able to keep the program on top of my game’s windowed fullscreen (which it requires). For now, it looks like the only solution to this problem is to run the app maker’s fix program. Though I maintain a dual-monitor setup and could move the little box to my other screen, this could be a major turnoff for laptop or single-screen users.

To its credit, the actual settings menu (thankfully, the classic gear) was very straightforward and easy to customize with simple checkboxes and drop-down menus. Full disclosure: As a non-raider, I felt no compulsion to learn the server setup so I could see my entire team’s damage rack up. However, I hit the connect server button (it’s a person) several times; the only way to get rid of it was an ALT+F4. There is a brief text/image tutorial on the app’s (very pretty) website, but in a case of “show, don’t tell,” Gw2SPECS misses the mark with its current interface.

How useful is it? Raid groups and players looking to measure the effectiveness of certain builds will probably get a lot of use out of this one, with some caveats. Outside of the usual concerns over third-party apps in the Guild Wars 2 subreddit, the general reception for Gw2SPECS appeared warm, and the team seemed open to suggestions. As the program is open-source, that kind of collaborative effort could pay serious dividends down the road.

In a smaller quibble, like jaxnX, this program requires turning off chat timestamps so the calculations don’t yield confusing results, and requires combat-only chat tabs. If you plan on opening this one up, just don’t forget about those people and potentially missed cues in other chat channels. The numbers aren’t everything.

Rating: 8/10

Laurel Converter by that_shaman

PRIORITIES.

PRIORITIES.

What does it do? According to its creator’s post on Reddit, this open-source laurel-to-gold converter does the math on laurel items for you, determining their actual worth in gold based on the price of T6 material bags (purchasable for one laurel).

Ease of use: Using data from the Trading Post, the items themselves are broken into three tiers based on their potential sale outcomes, from lowest possibilities to greatest profits. In case its browser-ness is a turnoff, that_shaman included an imgur tutorial for adding it to the home screens of Android phones.

How useful is it? Picture standing in Heart of the Mists with your buckets of laurels, trying to pick between Chauncey von Snuffles III or infusions/accessories (hint: The correct answer meows). If that decision requires a tiebreaker, this is something you need.

It’s also open source, in case anyone wants to go poking around.

Rating: 7/10

Tactical Overlay (GW2TacO) by BoyC

In case you were wondering, the Gilded Hollow arena is totally measurable.

In case you were wondering, the Gilded Hollow arena is totally measurable.

What does it do? Intended as a PvE tool, the adorably named TacO offers timers based on map events; TS3 integration; map node markers (including locations of chests and collectibles); and prompts for raid mechanics such as Sabetha’s cannons. An update to the overlay that came out in late February incorporates a series of range circles for measuring 90, 120, 180, 240, 300, 600 and 1200 in-game distance, and a tactical compass. A complete list of current and planned features are available on its website, but it currently does not have Trading Post API implementation or boss timers.

Ease of use: TacO assumes a few things about its userbase that set automatic barriers: You have Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns and are comfortable with poking around in an application’s documents. Regular updates are released as new features are implemented, though the application lacks any auto-update option, so users must manually download and use newer versions should they wish to take advantages of any changes. Aside from that, using the application is easy enough – just download and extract the provided folder and launch the executable file. Note that your game client must be running in windowed mode for TacO to work.

How useful is it? For PvE, TacO is extremely useful – perhaps too useful. Raiding with the overlay will easily trivialize some encounters – namely Sabetha – by timing certain mechanics for you, and indicating key boss health bar percentages. It’s a fantastic tool for helping to clear content, but TacO users have a clear advantage over others, and of all the apps reviewed this one is most likely to overstep the mark when it comes to what’s acceptable by ArenaNet.

In PvP, TacO’s range markers update made me very nervous. After testing its range setup with a friend in our guild hall, I realized that this should never be used in proper PvP, whether for fun or profit. The advantage it offers players seems very much against the spirit of ArenaNet’s approach to third-party applications, and I can honestly only see bad things coming of it.

TacO is very cool, but also probably very illegal.

TacO is very cool, but also probably very illegal.

BoyC defended their implementation of this overlay on Reddit, noting that it does not take any more information than the official API offers, but this seems like a pretty hefty step over the line regarding third-party applications. Due to this, I can’t in good faith recommend anyone use TacO unless an official go-ahead is given by ArenaNet.

Rating: 4/10

Mobile

GW2 Utility by Future Thought

Gw2 Utility keeps track of some Trading Post activity, but it's unclear where it draws the line.

Gw2 Utility keeps track of some Trading Post activity, but it’s unclear where it draws the line.

What does it do? Honestly, probably more than we have any right to. Utility keeps track of your current Trading Post buy/sell orders, recent purchases and sales, items in your bank and both owned and missing wardrobe skins for armor/weapons—all from the convenience of your phone.

Ease of use: This app requires use of your API key, which is a quick copy/paste job from your guildwars2.com account page. That’s really it. It didn’t even take more than a few seconds to download.

How useful is it? Despite its wide variety of uses, I hesitate to say it has automatic appeal to much of the player demographic. While GW2U is extremely detailed, it doesn’t really add an overwhelming sense of function. Unless, of course, you want to think about your missing armor skins while afk.

Design-wise, players who invest the time to increase their banks beyond the standard size will find the bank tab utterly tedious on normal-sized phones, as you can only view 2-4 banked items at any given time (depending on the phone’s orientation). The Trading Post information appears to be its primary… something, I guess, since it’s the only thing that appears in the main overview screen, but it doesn’t keep any overall record of your flip profits.

Instead, you have to manually visit each transaction to find individual profits. There’s also no clear demarcation for when the app stops recording your Trading Post data—my last sold item was around 40 days ago, but my last purchase receipts stretched an additional week or so. Math is not exactly my best friend, so making repetitive touch/write/arithmetic non-optional in order to calculate my profits dims my appeal.

Finally, though one of the first things this app says is that you’ll need your API key, the actual settings menu is not totally clear. Alternatively, anyone with more than one account would have to manually switch between API keys, which is an obnoxious amount of copy/pasting. Those, uh, are also the only options, leaving you with no other design options like adjustments to the text/hotbox size or color schemes.

Rating: 5/10

Quaggan Bazaar (aka Dragon Thorns, but updated) by Kai MX

I can appreciate a good quaggan background image.

I can appreciate a good quaggan background image.

What does it do? This mobile app is the second iteration of a multipurpose Guild Wars 2 application by Kai MX which tries to do ALL the things. Not only does it keep a live list of everything the Trading Post has to offer broken down by subgroups, but it also maintains statistics on all of your characters, including number of deaths; your materials, bank items (featuring more items on a screen than GW2U manages) and more.

Ease of use: Before I get much further, it’s important to note that Quaggan Bazaar also requires an API key, so you either need to keep that very long code handy or make a quick trek to guildwars2.com for a copy/paste job.

Now, I’m pretty sure my experience with Quaggan Bazaar was more “my mileage will vary” rather than a hard and fast rule, but I could barely get this one to work on a recently replaced Droid Mini (older OS, newer hardware). In addition to the app just crashing multiple times when I tried switching from portrait to landscape orientation, I ran into several broken screens featuring various quaggan and multiple instances of drop-down menu text superimposed on other drop-down options, making it difficult to read and click out. Several of the menu options didn’t even work, namely anything to do with PvP.

When I could get the app to work, I was able to easily find items within Trading Post subgroups and rank them by price or name. It was also hilarious to see that my main character has died 3141 times in about three years.

How useful is it? This one’s a little tougher, mostly because I had a hard time getting the app to even work, let alone grade its usefulness. But in the scope of apps, it’s like a less updated version of GW2 Utility in that it’s missing an entire section of content: the expansion. Its legendary crafting menu, which gets pretty high billing in the sidebar, does not include any of the second-generation legendaries, and there is no mention of specializations anywhere, even on the character screens.

The daily achievements screen, which is in beta but also prioritized very high in the sidebar, is a jumble or poorly justified text that wasn’t even in line with that day’s achievements—because it was from September 2015. Given that the app was last updated Jan. 2, 2016, at time of writing, this feels like a pretty sloppy and glaring oversight for the app.

There’s also something that just took me aback: two donation tabs. One is a straight PayPal funnel to the app’s developer, who notes that Google Wallet does not work in his country. A domain lookup website lists the developer’s email account as being from Mauritius, which I absolutely believe doesn’t have Google Wallet. A second link, which opens the phone browser, is geared toward donating to ChildFund International. While Charity Navigator favorably rates this Virginia-based organization, which seeks to improve the lives of “deprived, excluded and vulnerable children,” there is no explanation for why Kai MX has linked this particular charity in a video game app, of all places.

Rating: 4/10

Overwolf

Guild Wars 2 Pocket Knife by Julian-Aziz-Haslinger

It's so pretty.

It’s so pretty.

What does it do? This app received two awards from the Guild Wars 2 App Challenge by Overwolf: first place in the player experience category and a special prize for outstanding utility. Like its name suggests, Pocket Knife tries to be a versatile utility for players through boss timers, dungeon breakdowns, links to patch notes and ArenaNet news; there’s even a calendar of the daily activities.

Oh, and that stuff’s only in the app’s launch tab. There’s also a dye counter, including color swatch previews of how they look on various armor types, character stats (including levels and crafting information), as well as a PvP tab. As a bonus, its design takes several pages out of the in-game’s hero menu, providing a familiar interface outside of the client.

Ease of use: Like Gw2SPECS and Quaggan Bazaar, Pocket Knife does need the API key in order to maximize its usefulness. At this point, you should really just keep it somewhere on your desktop if you’re trying all of these out at once. From there, the app maintains two tabs: a main menu for the app at large, including notifications and settings, and then the pretty and meaty game-focused part.

Boss timers, which can be adjusted to notify players of different world bosses around 10 minutes beforehand, will pop-up in a handy dialog box on the left-hand side of your game client’s screen. You have the opportunity to either dismiss the box or lock it so you don’t forget to go.

How useful is it? Its dungeon tab doesn’t look like it’s been updated since those rewards changed, but otherwise it’s pretty great. It’s comprehensive without being terribly overwhelming, with the exception of maybe the dyes tab, and provides many of the functions otherwise met through four or five different apps. Not to mention it’s drop-dead gorgeous for an Overwolf app, even the pop-ups notifying me of the various bosses.

This tab feels a bit like Home Depot, only less user friendly.

This tab feels a bit like Home Depot, only less user friendly.

In terms of criticisms, it can take a while for pages in the app to load, and there are a few issues when clicking through the dyes; namely, I couldn’t figure out how to note which dyes I already owned. Then again, there’s since been a system for that implemented in-game, so I wouldn’t have much use for the feature. Even then, clicking a dye does yield accurate prices from the Trading Post, so I’m willing to say those cancel each other out. As far as accessibility goes, it looks like Pocket Knife is only available in English and German.

They’re pretty minor quibbles. If you use Overwolf and don’t already have Guild Wars 2 Pocket Knife, you should get it.

Rating: 9/10

Jump! by Per Parker

I didn't even know there were four JPs in Caledon Forest before opening Jump!

I didn’t even know there were four JPs in Caledon Forest before opening Jump!

What does it do? This one was an honorable mention in the Guild Wars 2 App Challenge by Overwolf. Created to help knock out those jumping puzzles throughout Tyria, Jump! offers mini-maps displaying which puzzles are in a particular zone, will link to the GW2 Wiki, provide tracking while on a specific map, and permit users to check off completed puzzles, whether for the first time or in a running-them-everyday-checklist fashion.

Ease of use: If you can get Overwolf to even launch (a perennial issue I have), Jump! is very simple to use. It’s got a list of puzzles and four or five buttons next to each name, depending on whether the puzzle is in the zone. It also has a reset counter so you can knock out individual puzzles for the day. However, it has the same problem as Gw2SPECS: In order to take advantage of it on a single screen, you have to either tab out or play in some variation of windowed mode, as the app will remain behind the game.

How useful is it? Unfortunately, while Jump! earned its honorable mention from the app challenge, it was not updated for Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns, nor is its interface perfect. Clicking out for the wiki or the app’s own mini-map doesn’t always work, and even then it’s not perfect. The mini-map places green flags in the general vicinity of the puzzles, but doesn’t provide any information on where a particular puzzle may start, something that many players could benefit from.

Additionally, the puzzles cannot be moved or ranked in any specific order, and are not listed in the same way as those in the achievements menu, so a player unfamiliar with the puzzles they’ve completed (like me) would have to spend time checking their completed list against Jump! Ultimately, I think this app was better suited to committed puzzle-jumpers who just need a daily reward checklist, but it’s less fulfilling for players who are trying to finish puzzles for the first time. In that instance, I’d recommend using the game’s actual menu.

Rating: 5/10

Tactician by Dyana Rose

Your mileage with Tactician will vary.

Your mileage with Tactician will vary.

What does it do? This Overwolf app, the other honorable mention from last year’s app challenge through the service, provides a one-stop shop for copy/pasting various instructions for meta event and fight tactics.

Ease of use: Tactician is as useful as you need it to be, since you’ll be the one writing all the commands. Based on event subheaders (it preloads one for Triple Trouble), users can customize Tactician to their heart’s content by getting as specific or silly as they want for anything from Chak Gerent to the Mouth of Mordremoth. The actual data entry is pretty simple, and the app comes with mini video tutorials that are easy to follow. It even translates into 10 different languages, a welcome addition for the international player marker.

How useful is it? Unfortunately, the app does come with some technical issues that range from the mildly annoying to the ragequit variety. Despite its simple interface tutorial and video tutorials, it was unclear how to create delineations within fights, much like the initial Triple Trouble encounter commands offered. Instead of being able to create my own lists within lists, I had to edit the premade encounter so I still had access to three categories.

There were also occasions where hitting the ‘Edit’ button deleted entire sequences of commands I’d entered into the app’s clipboard. While trying to add other subheadings so I could take an initial round of screenshots for this article, I lost the entire screen—including the preset Triple Trouble commands. The only way to fix that was uninstalling and reinstalling the app, a rather frustrating solution for someone with a janky Overwolf setup to start.

Rating: 6.5/10

Final Thoughts

Overall, with the encouragement of competitions like the Overwolf app challenge, Guild Wars 2’s community has had some positive effects on the variety and choice of apps in games, but whether it’s a matter of dedication, resources or interest, many of the current offerings overlap or lack crucial information dating back months and years. While I’m hopeful increased implementation of the API will widen that field, that’s not the case yet.

Know any useful apps that aren’t mentioned here? Let us know in the comments below!

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