For those of us who participated in the most recent Guild Wars 2 BWE, this weekend was a blast! ArenaNet was kind enough to add in some extra content that we haven’t seen yet. There were also some game play changes as well. Some were good, and a few others I’m still on the fence about. Overall I think it’s great that we are seeing changes to the game.
So what type of changes are we talking about? Most of the more noticeable changes involve the UI. I’ve talked about this topic a few times in the past, and it’s a very delicate issue for some players. I’ve designed a few UIs myself, and it isn’t an easy job. You have to come up with something that is easy to use, yet looks pleasing to the eye, all while not taking up the entire screen. In some ways the new build does a great job of doing all these things. The energy meter use to be a bar. Now the meter takes up less space, and arches around the health globe. Now we have one element of the UI that does the complete opposite, the mini map.
The mini map is a tool that MMO players use constantly, so to have a good one is very important. The changes in the new build are more than small. The shape of the mini map is now a square. You can adjust the size of it, much like a window on your OS. You can also zoom in and out, even scroll to see what’s around you. Sounds great, right? This is where I would tell ArenaNet to just go back to the original set up. The old mini map let you draw and ping a location on it. While the new set up still let’s you do this, you now have to press and hold shift. Sure that seems rather harmless, until you need to ping and draw on the map when you’re in the heat of battle! I like that there is new functionality to the map, but I can’t jump on board with it. I’m asking ArenaNet to find something in the middle. Take out the feature where you can scroll the around on the map. That feature does nothing for me and my guild, only me.
Another major change has to deal with skills. They decided to tier the skills, kind of like the traits. To unlock the next tier, you have to unlock 5 of the current tiers skills. It’s not really complicated, and does give a decent sense of character progression as you level up. Now, I read on the forums that some other players didn’t like this, and I can see where they are coming from. We all just want to unlock a specific skill when we have the points, not have to wait to unlock the tier it’s in. I get it, but I think this was a smart move. If you have all these skills, you start to think about different strategies. You really do play differently, and it makes you a better player.
The best part of the Beta: a new explorable area! As soon as I hit level 27 I ran to the Gendarran Fields. The chance to see more of Tyria is something I just can’t pass up. When I got there, it was a pretty nice change of pace. Sure it was hilly, with grass and large bodies of water. The real beauty of it was how it was set up. I also liked the spacing between settlements. You had houses that were much like other human structures, but also some all-metal builds, giving the Charr their presence in the world. I found a mansion that was near the water, decorated to fit a nautical theme. And what do you usually have in fantasy style games near large bodies of water? Yep, pirates. Their structures were about what you’d expect. Very dirty, ragged, and topped off with cannons. I loved running around and seeing all the sights in this area.
Of course there were some quests. If it’s a map, and it isn’t a major city, there’s going to be a few quests spread around. Sadly they were really dull at first. Some required me to feed cows, and another wanted me to clean that mansion I mentioned earlier. Sure there’s more than one way to complete a quest, but the choices were pretty disappointing. You don’t have to worry though, things pick up, and fast. Once you get to the areas infested with pirates and Centaur, time will fly and you will wonder where the last couple of hours went. The events are action packed, and progress into each other in a very smooth fashion.
I think ArenaNet did a good job on showing us the game’s progress. There are a few changes that I don’t really agree with, but nothing is final, it’s still a beta. I wish we had time to go over some other things, like the new Gem store and WvW, but we can talk about that next week.
What did you do in the Guild Wars 2 BWE? Any changes you liked, or didn’t like? Leave some comments and let us know.