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.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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!’
- 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.
- 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.
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.