Guild Wars 2: Beta Impressions
Well the time has finally come for Guild Wars 2 to get it's day in the court of MMO players, and over the weekend I got a chance to spend a fair amount of time in the beta weekend event. The weekend was plagued with some techincal difficulties, but I supposed it is to be expected considering where the game is at in terms of stress testing (or lack there of) and development. So I want to jump right in and talk about some the ups and downs for me during the event. I tried to make sure I spent my time equally divided between the PvE and PvP side of the game, so hopefully I can cover both of these adequately.
Let's start with the PvE side of the game. I ended up rolling a Charr Ranger and pretty much played that exclusively the entire weekend events. The capital city felt really large, much bigger than the standard theme park MMO city. I spent a fair amount of time going in and out of that place and derping around inside, but honestly still didn't even see half of the place. I found myself constantly looking at the map, which by the way is honestly one of the coolest in-game MMO maps I've seen in terms of the way it looks artistically and zoom functionality.
When I finally walked outside it was weird not being told where to go. I just started walking and things started popping up on my screen. As things popped up I would wander over to see what was going on, help out in some event and collect money and exp. I absolutely love the fact that there is no kill stealing, I can't stress this enough. It baffles me that it's taken this long for a major AAA MMO to use this approach. Since people aren't worried about who has claim to what mob, people are helping each other out, picking each other up off the ground, and while there wasn't an abundance of chatter there seemed to be a shared understanding that if we help each other we can all benefit. The entire dynamic event system is really the next step in the progression of theme park questing. Warhammer really tried to do it with the public quests as sort of a minor diversion, Rift took it to the next level by making it a larger part of the experience, and now GW2 really takes it up by making it the primary means of PvE with the complete elimination of a quest log full of chores masked as quests. I didn't think it was Earth shattering or ground breaking, but it is the next logical step in the evolution of this type of MMO.
Despite throwing away the chore quests of bargin bin games past, I still got the feeling like there was a lot of content on the PvE side of the game. Aside from wandering around tripping over events, skill points cant be earned through spots marked on the map which gives people a reason to wander off to some hard to reach places. There is also a personal story quest that I found myself playing a lot more than I thought I would. These quests are voice acted and do ask the player to make decisions about who to help and whther certain people live or die. They also seem to be well varied in terms of theme, having me fight in arenas, fend of ambushes, and destroy back line siege equipment to name a few. Combine this with everything above and the PvE experience feels robust in terms of content, and of course the choice is yours to completely disregard this side of the game since PvP can also be a means of leveling.
On the PvP side of the things, you have a completely different experience. One option is to queue up for the standard instanced battleground type thing, which personally did not interest me that much. I played it maybe twice and moved on to WvWvW stuff. This is where the real meat of the game is at and will need to be to ensure the game has sort of staying power. If you played DAOC (Or WAR to a lesser degree) you know the type of stuff that goes on out here. Roaming warbands and keep sieges are pretty much the norm out here. With 3 servers fighting over the various control points and hotspots, I found it refreshing that 3-sided PvP has made its return. While roaming with our crew of INQ guys, we had some hilarious moments where we were killing one team, and within eye shot of the battle was the third team kicking down the second team's door. The entire 3rd party interference factor is great and helps make this the game that Mythic probably wanted Warhammer to be, but dropped the ball.
Another thing here of interest is how accessible siege equipment is right out of the gate. Instead of forcing players to grind out some trade skill to be able to get their hands on these things, pretty much anyone can access these things right out of the gate and put them together as long as enough supply is present. Supply is a mechanic that replaces the old days of players lugging around buying piles of wood to build machines and repair doors. Supply can be picked up from various supply points on the map, which can be fought over and taken in the name of your server. Once you have it, you can take supply and carry it with you in finite amounts, the good news is that it weighs nothing and takes up no inventory room. Supply can run out however at these points, and they need to be restocked via a supply caravan. Considering these caravans can be attacked, it opens up another mechanic of cutting off supply to the enemy team, and this can be done easily with only a handful of people.
During the weekend I took part in a lot of keep battles and saw first hand all sorts of siege weaponry being used by relatively new players. Catapults, battering rams, pots of oil, cannons, and arrow carts make for some really hectic and frantic combat. These items really become a necessity to effectively take down doors as they can stand up to a lot of player damage compared to those in previous games. The map also does a pretty good job of showing you where on the map fighting is going on so you don't waste your time hoping to find action. The areas are quite large and have a wide variety of terrain, but aside from the central area, the 3 outlining server borderlands are all indentical. As a gripe, I do wish these areas would be different but I do understand why they went the route that they did. Another issue is that performance was pretty dodgy for me and I have a pretty powerful system, but with this being beta I am hoping to see them get a better handle on this moving forward.
I can't really talk about all the classes, but I would like to talk for a second about the ranger since it is the one class I played. I read a lot of talk on the forums about the pet and how it factors into the class. Issues I had with the pet were probably that it is dead most of the time, especially in PvP, and that there is no health bar on the UI for it. This means I'm always finding out the pet is dead the hard way since he still walks around even though he has no life left. That aside, I felt that when the pet was dead I wasn't worthless. I also like the fact you can collect pets and swap them out on the fly. I also like the fact I can switch between my bow and my sword pretty quickly, but was facepalmong over the fact that my starting weapon was an axe. Ranger should start with a bow in my opinion, instead I spent the first hour in the game trying to find one.
The combat is going to take a little getting used to as well. I keep forgetting that I can dodge, although I am not sure how effective it would be if I did, so I won't judge yet until I get a bit better with the system. I did notice that other people were able to avoid my rapid fire arrows attack sometimes in part by running certain ways. This game also let's me fire an arrow straight ahead without any target selected which is kind of interesting. The combat is not quite TERA, but probably above the standard tab target face rolling once people learn to use the dodge mechanic a bit more effectively.
Overall though the game is worth 60 bucks considering there is no monthly fee. I figure if you play this game for a month and quit you probably got your money's worth. Considering the amount of PvE content in the game and the fact you can effectively go right to end game with PvP and stay there, most people should be able to get a least a month out of this if not more. I might a bit harsher on the game if it was charging a monthly fee, but it isn't. Guild Wars 2 will not cure cancer, but it's probably the closest thing to DAOC 2.0 (with a lot less crowd control) we are going to get. The fact that it does just about everything the other theme park MMOs can do and does them better without a monthly fee is going to mean serious trouble for other games on the market.
Co-Leader of Inquisition