All the hype in the world can't do this game justice. I'm 10 days in and I haven't been this in-love with a game since I first fired up WoW vanilla, and before that EQ vanilla. That's right, I love this game. LOVE IT!!
First impression, the game is just beautiful. The graphics during beta grabbed my attention, and those of the live game appear to me to be even better. No matter where you are, or what you're doing in the game, the artistic love and devotion and attention to detail by the Arenanet art team is almost overwhelming. I could devote an entire column to doing nothing but singing the praises of the ANET art team. In other games, yes, you can find places and scenes that are breathtaking; in GW2, you can pretty much stop anywhere to look around and soak up the amazing, styilish, lush art. It is, IMHO, a perfect blend of realism, old-school Disney-esque animation, and Pixar CGI. The ANET team breaks open the full palette in GW2 and demonstrates remarkable color sense and mood in all sorts of diverse locations. Every frame is like a piece of superior art.
And it's not just the visuals; the sounds and motions in Tyria are crazy deep and thoughtful. If you take the time to get off of Ventrilo and listen, just stand somewhere and listen to NPC conversations and ambient sounds, and look at things that are in motion, you can begin to perhaps appreciate the care put into this world. I've never been in any game - including single-player-games - that feels so deep and alive as GW2's Tyria.
This Tyria is a deep, broad and monumental leviathan of 3D audio-visual art unlike anything I've every experienced. There are countless nooks, crannies, alleys, rooms, meadows, overhangs, cliffsides, pools, rivers, waterfall, caves, inlets, trails, balconies, stairways, towers, ramparts, bridges, clearings, forts, garrisons, stations, villages, fields ... it goes on and on; all carefully constructed, decorated, laid out, populated and active, from people to confetti to snow to leaves to fireflies and just bits of floating and circulating stuff. I can't imagine first the amount of work it takes just to lay out someplace like Divinity's Reach or Lion's Arch, much less the mind-blowing attention to detail everywhere you go and look - and listen - in those massive, expansive cities.
Then there are the characters. In previous games, it was easy for me to pick a starting race because I could only really enjoy the look/style of one or two races. I like the look of all of these races, from the threatening, vicious Charr to the cute-as-a-bug Asura. There's a completely different emotional experience from race to race and between beginning locations/stories. Voices, movement, surrouding ambience, inflection, art style - even as different as it is from Charr to Asura, it all somehow still fits within the overall framework of the world of Tyria.
But, they really are all different, and interesting and fun in different ways, a diversity that is more than just polygon-deep. These diverse races have distinct styles all their own, a style that is deep and pervasive and is embedded in every nuance of the population, the architecture, the music, the clothes & trinkets and accessories, the voices, the sounds, the motion, the grunts, the movements - even the facial expressions.
Guild Wars 2 has, IMO, cashed the 3D check written by EverQuest in a way that no other game in-between has, by delivering a virtual world that is, in so many ways, deep, broad, detailed, and most importantly, feels alive.
I'd just like to finish this first post by thanking the ANET team for this obvious labor of love.