Last week (Review in Progress Part 1) I spent the first of several “Review in Progress” articles talking mainly about Guild Wars 2’s exploration, dynamic event questing, and the overall feeling I have when playing the game. I also looked at some of the bad bits so far, and the good bits as well. Let’s keep up with this format as we dive into the 2nd edition of the series, which ultimately will culminate in our official review later in September. It’s now been almost two weeks since the Head Start began, and there are definitely some kinks to iron out, but one has to admit that ArenaNet has definitely increased its communication via social channels and their official site’s Wiki even as the players are being hounded by email phishing scams and the company has had to turn off first-party digital sales because the demand is too great. I guess that “being too popular” is a good problem to have when you’re trying to make a living.
THE ROUGH SPOTS (WEEK 2)
Last week, my main “holes” in GW2’s enjoyment were the queue times for WvW and the Trading Post being down. I’m happy to report that at least one of these is corrected (mostly) as of this writing. The queue times to get into WvW on Jade Quarry are beyond ridiculous. I’ve personally waited upwards of two hours to get in, and many of the Guild members have seen the queue last much longer. I’m going to try sneaking in during the wee hours of the morning as a work around, but I’m hearing there’s a queue even then. It’s a bit difficult to review the PVP portion of the game, if only half of it is able to be played (the sPVP). Here’s hoping that the next couple of weeks go smoother in this regard, as WvW is one of the game’s strongest selling points.
Something else bothering me a bit this week, and it’s actually a very minor complaint, is that I’ve felt on a few occasions the need to go into other zones that are along my level-range to progress. It’s funny, because I never used to complain in WoW that I’d have to go from one zone to another when I ran out of content. And believe me, I’m not really complaining about the “act” of going somewhere else to progress. I’m merely commenting on the disconnect between my character’s “Personal Story” and his actions as he will be working through a zone and then have to go elsewhere for a while to continue his personal story back in another zone. It’s jarring.
I didn’t expect the entire game to have a unique and complete leveling path for every single race. And in fact, from other folks I’ve talked to, you can indeed level in line with your personal story and never leave those areas if you’re also crafting a bunch, doing WvW and the like. And I’ll also say that when I have had to go elsewhere, it’s only been for a little bit. At most, I’ve only been a level or two behind the DE’s in the area. Hell, compared to the larger issue or not being able to get into WvW, I feel like I’m grasping at straws to find problems in GW2. If I was diligent enough and had help from the guild, I could level to 80 without ever leaving Rata Sum. So occasionally having to go to another race’s locations is no big deal. Like I said, it’s just a little jarring to suddenly realize you need another level before continuing to progress.
THE SHINY PARTS (WEEK 2)
On the other hand, let’s talk about just how well done the personal story has been so far. I see complaints about voice acting coming up now and again, and I just don’t agree. I’ve absolutely loved what I’ve heard of the Asuran lands so far. Perhaps the fact that the Asura and Sylvari were done later in the development process means that the devs had things “down pat” when they got to the two final races. But what I can say is that everything from the ambient narration that happens naturally in cities to the voice work of the player characters in combat, and the personal stories themselves has me really invested in the characters. I was concerned that after SWTOR’s cut scenes, and the even better cinematic takes in The Secret World, I would find GW2’s vignettes off-putting. But that’s not the case at all for me. It’s clear that you don’t need elaborate cut-scenes to get the point of the dialog across: you just need good writers and good casting… and the Asurans have been fantastic so far. Felicia Day was an inspired choice too.
I also love how difficult the personal story missions can be, even when played at level. They are solo adventures, and really amp up the difficulty as you progress. You’ll die, and you’ll get used to dying. But it always has felt (so far) like I’m only dying because I’m not playing at my best. I could have dodged this, or avoided that, or used this skill at the right time. Combat in GW2 is fast-paced, fun, layered, and difficult. There are no healers, no real tanks, and no real support classes. Everyone is everything, and while you can spec closer to a tank by focusing on Toughness, or closer to a healer by focusing on Healing Power and skills, you will almost always be asked to perform several roles in any number of fights.
You see a downed teammate? Go help get him up while someone else holds the mob. You see a group chasing a friend, use your slick-shoes (if you’re an engineer) to trip them up and give him some room. One mob? Focus fire him down with your best single-target attacks. Three mobs? Pull out that flamethrower and stack them up to watch them burn. Notice a bandit with an extremely long tell on a major attack? Time your dodge when he pulls back. Spiders with harsh poison damage? Stay away and use your crowd-control to keep them from downing you. In all, so far GW2’s combat is far and away the best I’ve played in any MMO. It’s varied, it can be hard, and it’s equally fun in PVE and PVP. You have to keep moving, you have to know what to use when, and experimentation with group-members is often rewarded with some serious skill-combos. I absolutely adore slaying things in Guild Wars 2.
NEXT TIME WITH OUR REVIEW IN PROGRESS
That’ll do it for this week’s Review in Progress. Next time, we’ll be digging more into the UI, Crafting, Trading Post, and Gems. Plus, we’ll see just how long the WvW queues are then. Maybe my vacation to a sunny resort will allow JQ’s population to stabilize a bit more and I will finally be able get into the Eternal Battlegrounds without a queue. A guy can dream, right? Have a great week folks, and please feel free to tell me your thoughts on the ups and downs of GW2 so far! I’d love to hear them.