[GW2] My pros and cons

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Note: when I started writing the majority of this post, I had just participated in BWE 3. It’s now a week later, and I had time to consider this game more clearly.

With release only a month away, the last weekend of July was the final opportunity for pre-purchase buyers to participate in beta testing. This was highly anticipated, because it was a first look at the two races of asura and sylvari. Not sure if the other starting zones saw much play, but Metrica Province was packed with people. Asura everywhere!

At the time I was still not super-sure about Guild Wars 2. It’s best argument for me right now is that there’s no subscription fee, and the box price should be alright for all the content that’s there. There’s a lot of PvE content. Zones are huge, reward exploration, and 80 levels are nothing to sneeze at. But it’s yet to reel me in and not let me go, and that’s what I am looking for in a game I want to commit to. I also got a chance to participate in the MoP beta, recently. Overall, I enjoyed the Mists of Pandaria beta quite a bit, more than the two previous GW2 weekends. I definitely enjoyed The Secret World in its free weekend a TON more than GW2. I also have way more fun playing some single-player games like Arkham City instead of GW2. That does not bode well for me.

Back to BWE3. As described above, I wasn’t expecting to be swept away. Especially with the amount of no-fun I had on my mesmer in BWE2. I rolled asura, and picked a warrior this time. Warrior was the first character I rolled in my first beta, then a charr, and I wasn’t thrilled because Plains of Ashford, the charr starter zone, was brutally difficult at the time. It was however different this time round. My warrior was quite fierce, and I do love the asura zone. Metrica Province is a weird love child of lush tropical jungles combined with steampunk technology that should make the WoW gnomes totally envious. The personal story is a step above the really lackluster human ones. The Inquest make great villains. They also increased the quality of the voice acting, with the most important female, Zojja, being voiced by Felicia Day. Whereas the flow in Queensdale last BWE was totally off for me and I found myself frustrated, the flow in Metrica Province was pretty much perfect. I never felt any gaps, and completed the zone at level 15.

The likeliest difference is that there was an incredible amount of dynamic events going on, due to the high number of people in the zone. They are the best source of experience, no contest. I also spent my time going for map completion and hunting down vistas in particular, and that might explain the smoother leveling curve.

One of many vistas in Metrica Province. Now where’s my Eagle Eye button?

Vistas were newly introduced this beta weekend. They’re kinda blatantly ripped right from Assassin’s Creed, which is a bonus in my book, because I love those games. It’s been my favorite to find Eagles marked on my map in AC, to climb towers and enjoy the grand vistas of Damascus, Venice or Rome. Vistas do the same in GW2. They’re glowy map symbols clearly marked on your minimap, and you have to find a way to get there. It usually involves light jumping or discovery of a path up there. Once there, you are rewarded with vista completion, which goes right into map completion, and a cutscene with a sweeping view of the area. Fun!

I also spotted my first jumping puzzle involving floating islands and asura gates. I heard good things about it, but couldn’t figure out how to get up onto the first floating island, and decided that this would be something best saved for release, if I was to continue playing.

Warrior was probably the most fun I had with a profession so far. It is not without concerns though. I know there’s debate of people missing the holy trinity, and people missing clearly defined roles. All I can say from personal experience is that I don’t miss the trinity as such, but I miss support roles. Sure, every profession has support roles, but you really don’t get a lot of guidance how to play, and this early in the game, I am sure most people are still mashing buttons 1-5 in order, and that’s about it. I miss strategic play. Inevitably every single dynamic event with a champion mob is a zerg fest with no strategy, no cunning, no planning. Everyone silently pew-pew-pews. The most you heard about events and people talking about them was when people asked for more people to show up at specific events, like the champion ooze. I might as well have played with NPCs.

Melee warriors are no fun to play in a zerg, at least not for me. Fighting a champion, you eat dirt as the first person. Or you run from wave to wave, and always come a bit too late because ranged are picking it off easily. Melee is fine when you’re doing hearts or are just exploring. For events I found myself switching to rifle and longbow. I never thought I would ever be playing a ranged warrior, but dang, well done! Rifle warriors do a lot of single target DPS, and longbows are all about fire AoE pew-pew. Mind you, I hear melee warriors are beasts in PvP, but I don’t PvP at all, so who am I to talk?

In this beta, I was in a tiny guild with Spinks and Arb, and it was quite fun to actually have green beige text. My trepidation with GW2 is that it’s really not that much fun to play solo. Just having guildies around made a difference. Enough of a difference? I do not know. Probably not. It might be different if I had any sort of interest in PvP whatsoever, but I absolutely don’t.

So, a week later, here’s my personal list of pros and cons of GW2:

Pros:

  1. P2P – Buy the box once, play the game. I think a lot of people are drawn to this model, because it also means you can guilt-free drop the game for a while and play something else. As I am sure will happen when MoP drops a month after GW2 release.
  2. Gorgeous world – it’s really a beautiful world that ArenaNet has created. It looks hand-drawn, and I do love the art style of the world. Vistas are lovely. It’s colorful (unless you end up in one of many snowy landscapes). When you walk around cities like Divinity’s Reach, Rata Sum or Lion’s Arch, I couldn’t help but feel that the cities in other games are pale shadows.
  3. No trinity – Every MMO suffers from the requirement of having tanks, healers and DPS. Tanks and healers are always in low supplies, for good reason, and it seems like a dated model. It’s quite exciting to think this might be a working model where you can beat events regardless of what class is around.
  4. Cool non-human races – Charr and Asura are interesting, and implemented very well. The sylvari seem to be done very nicely as well, but I only had little gametime playing one.
  5. Exploration and adventure – my favorite gameplay in GW2 is that of exploration. You actively get encouraged to explore maps, getting a reward at 100% map completion. Maps are huge, and some skill challenges require some thinking and jumping to get there.
  6. Interesting crafting – Crafters can efficiently level through gathering and crafting, and the game makes it very easy to use materials, with direct deposits from bag to bank, an account-wide bank, and material access right from the crafting stations.

Cons:

  1. PvE gameplay – ultimately, PvE in GW2 is boring to me. HQs are not exactly the height of innovation, and the dynamic events don’t feel that amazing. I realize I might be quite alone with this perception. I am a goal-driven person, and I feel GW2′s PvE has no real motivation other than making it to the next required level for the personal story to advance. I have not found any event chain I found so exciting that I couldn’t stop playing. Dynamic events translated into zergs too many times for me during Beta Weekends. Also, what if the masses move on and people start late? I think some of the DEs are not easily soloable. Furthermore, the combat is not terribly exciting to me. There’s the initial excitement of learning new weapons, but once you found the weapon combination you like best, it’s 70-75 levels of pushing the same five buttons over and over again. Last but not least, the storytelling does not hold up compared to SWTOR and The Secret World. Heck, even WoW does better storytelling. It’s a shame, because I hear the Guild Wars novels aren’t that bad. I have completed the first three tiers of the personal story of the charr, and none of them were that compelling. The overall story with the Elder Dragons left me just about as cold as Deathwing left me in Cataclysm.
  2. No trinity – I know, I listed it as pro up there, and it is. But I felt that support and control as alternatives were not really that obvious. If you ditch a trinity model, then maybe you should hold hands a bit and make it clearer how you play together in control or support roles. The tutorials leave much to be desired.
  3. Lack of endgame – 80 levels is a lot of content to worry about endgame, but still. Eventually you will get to 80. And then? As PvE player I didn’t really see any other option for myself but 100% map completion in all zones, and dungeons. I haven’t played any dungeon, as the first one is only available at level 30. Exploration, dungeons and crafting? I don’t PvP, if I did, I’d probably be a lot more excited. Of course they might add more events as time progresses, but as I said above, none of the events left me saying ‘That was AWESOME!’
  4. Unpleasant community – one of my biggest issue with GW2 is the hype. Supposedly the greatest game in existence, and hyped by ArenaNet with its design manifesto and players both, some of the most rabid fanboys have the habit of going ballistic in just about any blog that dares to criticize the game. It’s quite possible that this post will draw one of them too. I don’t care. The hype and the extreme rage of the fanboys are actually damaging. I am not alone in this perception, as I saw Siha post about it as well.
  5. The light armor issue – I have posted about it before, and I can only stress how big of a deal this is to me. I find the absolutely disregard and radio silence from ArenaNet about negative opinions about the female humans and norns in light armor disheartening. I have tried to communicate this to them, but alas. I believe it would have been easy for them to fix the preview models quite easily, but they didn’t want to. I know people who switched races because they got tired of looking up a norn’s skirt. I am disappointed. If ArenaNet listens so well to suggestions, I guess they really don’t care about that segment of their playerbase. They did so well with medium armor, they did very well on charr and asura females, and okay on sylvari.

The sylvari light armor defaults. Okay, but a tad bit garish. From left to right: elementalist, necromancer, mesmer.

My cons outweigh the pros. I will do the logical and have decided that I will not buy Guild Wars 2. I am fine with that. I don’t begrudge the people who are really excited for it, but I will definitely say that I do not understand the crazy hype that’s even gotten to bloggers I respect a lot. I hope you all get to have tons of fun though, even if it’s not for me. You’re also welcome to convince me I have it wrong, but it won’t be easy. ;) I have one big regret: I will miss the excitement and giddiness of starting a new MMO with the masses. There’s something very awesome about starting a new game at release, especially when it’s been hyped to oblivion. There will be so much chatter about it, and I know I will feel left out. I will just have to wait for my fantasy fix until Mists of Pandaria is released, my one last beacon of hope for WoW and its poisonous community.

11 Comments

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you particularly excited about GW2 so I would have been actually surprised if you had decided to purchase a copy, so glad to see you sticking with your gut feeling. :) Personally, I have pre-purchased GW2 (though oddly, after over a year of excitement I’m suddenly more excited about Mists?) and think it’ll be worth it for myself considering there are no monthly fees but it’s also okay to not want to play the game and you know that.

    • That’s because the hype about the game has been pissing me off for at least six months now, hee. It made me dislike the game more than it should have. I got to play it, still think it’s ridiculously hyped, but hope the game will do well, because the MMO genre needs titles like TSW and GW2 to show that you don’t need to make a WoW copy to succeed.

  2. The nice thing is that GW2 will still be around if you ever decide to try it, and it’ll only get cheaper the longer you wait. I did really enjoy playing with you in BWE3 and the main lure for me is being able to play with Arb — it came to life when playing with friends. Like you, I wasn’t really grabbed by the solo game, even though some bits were cool.

    Anyhow, because of the whole levelling down mechanic, it’ll be easy to play together if you ever want to. I’m … now more ambivalent about WoW than I have ever been, even when I was taking long breaks from it. It seems that being back in the game and facing that I actually don’t have the confidence to queue for random groups any more, when everyone expects you to do random groups, is really hammering home that it may not be for me any more. I feel like I’m not good enough to play WoW :)

    • I can see how it would be different playing with someone else. My SO has no interest in MMOs anymore, I think SWTOR was a fluke, heh.

      WoW’s overall community is toxic, and I am not sure it can be fixed. LFD and LFR, gearscore and ilevel requirements, they have created this monster with a go-go-go mentality. Group content is something I would only consider doing with my guild now. I saw it coming in WotLK, and I still feel LFD is the worst thing that ever happened to WoW as a community. Of course it’s also the best thing that ever happened for accessibility of content, but that’s the price that was paid.

  3. Wow, you’ve pretty much nailed all my thoughts. Like, spot on. I may just be a tad more excited about the game than you, but I have to agree with everything you listed in your pros as well as cons.

    Re: Con #1 – I never really excitement over the game’s PvE and questing either. The mode is different, but my actions are still the same. And the story is not awful, but is waaay below the standards set by SWTOR and TSW. Re: Con #2 – I like that they are getting away from the trinity, but I have a feeling I’m going to miss being a tank or healer, one of those situations where I realize how much I appreciate something only once it’s taken away. Re: Con #4 – This. Scares. Me. Shitless. I don’t know what these people are thinking, but the zealotry I’ve witnessed from some of the fans of this game will do it more harm than good in the long run, imo.

  4. I have no great expectation about GW2, as a matter of fact I have no expectation of all from this game. The only thing is it will be a game I haven’t played before and open to trying it and whatever comes of it be as it is.

    Having said that this game is hyped to no end and the biggest turnoff for me on this game is #4. I can see how this can become toxic to the community from 10 thousand miles away.

  5. A friend linked me this post who I believe is in a similar position to you of having little excitement for GW2 and quite a bit more for MoP. I admit to being quite excited for GW2, although admittedly mainly for social reasons – my social life in WoW has almost vanished over the years while a lot of friends who have long since quit WoW are looking to start up in GW2. After reading your post I find a lot of points quite interesting, and feel compelled to contest a few (without, however, ending up being like someone described in con #4 :p)

    I agree that getting away from the “holy trinity” is a double-edged sword, but I personally disagree that there should be more tutorials or hand-holding. When I first played WoW seven years ago, I had never played an MMO before (I bought the game as a fan of the RTS games) and I had no idea there was even meant to be a trinity, yet I made my way through the levelling and early dungeons without too much hassle. In fact, part of the joy of being a newbie to it all was the excitement of discovering this system – some MMO veterans knew how it all works and could give pointers to people like me, but I’d be prepared to believe the majority were in my camp of “never played an MMO” and were bumbling about until we worked out/were shown that a trinity exists and what each role does. WoW also never came with any tutorials as far as roles were concerned, yet we all survived. As I imagine a lot of GW2 players will be ex-WoW players I expect a similar situation – everyone once again bumbling about adapting to the new system of NOT having the trinity anymore. While WoW’s launch players were mainly MMO newcomers, thanks to WoW (and GW1, of course), I expect GW2′s launch players to know the basic concept of what an MMO is and how it works, which should help them get to grips with ditching the trinity. It will still be a jarring experience at first, but I believe people will be able to adapt.

    As for the lack of endgame con, I mainly have a problem with the wording. Nobody knows exactly how much there is, and while you are absolutely free to make assumptions based on what you’ve heard, seen and experienced, phrasing the con like an absolute is a little misleading (and the sort of thing to get fanboys skimming your post on your back). Personally I think it’s a little early to condemn endgame in any case. ;)

    I will have to agree with you on point #4, though, despite having no personal experience of any rabid GW2 fanboys. I don’t read many forums or blogs and I tend to try and evade too much information about any game, firstly to avoid the hype machine and secondly as, if I decide I want to play the game, I like as much of the world and mechanics unspoiled as possible. However, based on what I’ve seen from other MMO launches, I can only imagine GW2 suffers the same problem. For example, when I played Age of Conan at launch any criticism made at the game in the general chat was instantly hammered down by a chorus of “gb2wow” “lol wow fag” “wow baby” and so on, and I’d be honestly shocked if GW2′s launch wasn’t similar. Sadly, assholes are everywhere. On the other hand, WoW’s community is far from pristine as I’m sure you know, but it’s still always saddening when people have to ruin it by being… well, people.

    I also agree that GW2 is probably not for you or anyone with little to no interest in PvP. I won’t make any sweeping claims like “endgame is all about PvP” as I don’t know how many endgame dungeons there will be or where the focus will be in any content patches that come out, but I do believe PvP is a significant chunk of GW2 that enjoyment and longevity will be significantly reduced for people who are mainly PvE players. Of course, the upside is you only pay for the box and as you said, there will be enough content to justify the admission alone.

    I will also agree to the quests, and their potential to possibly go stale. I did, however, like that each heart on the map is gained by filling a bar, and the bar is filled by completing any variety of objectives for that bar. When you need to kill critters, clean pools and open cages, it’s nice to know any combo of these three objectives will get the job done, while a WoW-like system could end up with you having 10/10 critters, 3/6 pools and 4/6 cages, and you wander around for an extra 15 minutes mindlessly slaying beasts that spawn hoping to right click a rare pool or cage spawn before somebody else. I didn’t play the beta weekends too much (again, that aversion to pre-release spoilery) but I do hope the quests vary some in later levels. On the other hand, I don’t dislike the system (at the very least it’s no worse than WoW’s) and the dynamic events do add a little flavour to proceedings.

    Overall, I am excited for GW2, albeit from a combination of the game itself (and I do think it does a lot of things right, and I have had some “why has no other dev thought of this before?” moments while playing the game), and the social side I look forward to because of my particular situation. I liked the combat and while the two weapon system also felt somewhat limiting to me at first, “pushing five buttons” is an oversimplification of what you can do and is again not worse than WoW, where questing can also be a 3-4 button mashathon. Here, at least, are 2 x 5 standard abilities from your currently equipped weapons, plus 4 unique abilities from your skill slots. Trying out different weapon combinations with different skills offers a lot of combinations. I wouldn’t call it a “spec” per se, but more like a loadout, and would approach the skills system with that in mind. I do like the traits system however, and believe it offers more than enough RPG flavour customization to make my character feel like my own.

    One last addendum: I assume your grievance with the armour is the lack of it on female humans and norns. Well, I like boobies as much as the next heterosexual male, but I appreciate it may not be comfortable for all female gamers and also that I will never fully be able to put myself in the shoes of a woman. I agree some comment from ArenaNet would be nice, and for me it wouldn’t matter if they got sensible light armour at the end of the day. What I do despise are the neanderthals who treat all criticism of skimpy armour as “feminazism” and proceed to tell the women to get back to the kitchen. But see above, arseholes are everywhere. And, sadly, the practice of skimpy armour is far from limited to GW2, and I imagine WoW will continue to also be guilty in MoP.

    So, yes, that went on somewhat longer than I thought. Maybe I should start my own blog :p I’ll probably get MoP and dabble in it anyway (GW2′s lack of sub means I have the freedom to do so!) but I am mainly looking forward to GW2, a fresh start, and hoping it won’t go down like the tortanic.

  6. I didn’t get to play in in BWE’s. I’m really kinda weirded out that so many companies want players to pay for beta. As much as I like Anet, this definitely disappointed me too.

    Like you though, I havent seen the hype lived up to in gameplay previews. Ive been keeping an eye on video footage and Im more and more uncertain of GW2. Im still getting it though. It feels to me my last chance to enjoy a high fantasy MMO and Im really, really crazy about the Asura :) Just love the idea of tiny people who are the worldest greatest engineers. Oh and the novels aren’t bad at all. I haven’t gotten through the second one yet but Ive started it. Theyre definitely teenage level, but I think they’re enjoyable nonetheless.

    • The whole pre-purchase is another thing that soured my ArenaNet experience. Putting down 50 bucks/Euros on a game that’s not released for a couple months, only to get an opportunity to play in beta events is a really shoddy deal in my book. I was just lucky to get a beta key without having to buy, but not everyone had that privilege.

      The design manifesto sounds so amazing, but the gameplay is not that amazing at all. The combat that’s been touted as so outstanding is not any more active than, say, combat in TSW. In TSW you dodge out of effects as well, just like in GW2, and it’s your standard 7 buttons hotkey game. Just like in GW2! Nothing revolutionary about it.

      The asura are one of the few highlights I experienced during my playtime. They’re fun and the ultimate engineers. I think most people will be able to get their mileage out of the box price, as it’s not a terrible game. I just think I’ll be happier playing other games.

  7. I mostly play LOTRO these days but as an alternate game GW2 fits the bill.

    I didn’t see anything really awful about it but it didn’t knock my socks off. Maybe…the Charr, I have to say the Charr are like nothing I’ve ever seen in MMORPGS. I was impressed by them, their design, story and game play. But other than that, it’s all just okay.

    I think the majority of my enthusiasm was dashed due to the awful armor for female characters. The fact that they look underage paired along with the mini-skirt/bikini look really disgusted me. And that ArenaNet doesn’t address it also gives me pause. TERA had the same deal going and they are struggling now to hold players.

    Women are 50% of the playerbase and that is a lot to lose. I don’t know why game developers don’t understand this fact.

  8. Dead post but nevermind :p I never go with hypes really of games, if I do get excited it’s always a few days before release. I find being excited for such a long period of time gets hopes up and you always expect more. They have done a wonderful job and i love the fact that its sub free and seems bigger than wow when that was first released as i am a veteran wow player.

    But anyway this game blows any other mmorpg’s right now out of sight imho and everyone i have spoke to at work and peers say the same except one who is a wow fanboy; But i think hes turning since i haven’t seen him off it for over a week now after convincing him to buy it :p

    I like how how you say gw2 has a unpleasant community, thats not rightly true as you may know within the gaming community there are fanboys and wow has definitely the worst as 80% of the population seems to be kids.

    Gw2 is certainly a worthy contender and i think wow seems to be more kid/teen focused with its pandas?

    BRING ON WARCRAFT 4 :P

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