I hotly anticipated EverQuest 2, couldn't wait for Age of Conan, and wet my pants with excitement over The Old Republic: in short, I expected too much, knew too little, and ultimately filled the gaps with my own desires instead of what was on the developer's mind. The result? Those MMORPGs just couldn't ever live up to the hype, and I was sorely disappointed. So now is the time to tell you that for 5 years, I have purposely stayed blissfully unaware of NCSoft's plans for Guild Wars 2.
I haven't read previews, interviews, or participated in betas. I wanted to come to this game fresh, without preconception, and to be pleasantly surprised by its mechanics and nuisances. At this point, if the game turned out to be an adventure that takes place in the mind of a sexually curious mackerel, I'd simply have to say "fair enough."
With the above in mind, I'd wager I'm one of the most objective players of Guild Wars 2 right now. I've been spoilt by nothing, and have no feelings towards NCSoft either way: I enjoyed City of Heroes, didn't mind Aion, and never played Lineage - to me they are the neutrals of development: they haven't destroyed any games, drowned any kittens, or implemented any NGEs. Yet.
Update 1: I Bought Guild Wars 2
I threw down my money, clutched my GameStation bag, and ran out of the store like a man excited by a thrice-annual event. A new triple A MMORPG is here! A new one! One that I am yet to be jaded by! I skipped home (or drove, whatever) inserted the discs, waited for the lengthy install, and finally excitedly thumbed in my username and password, and then. And then. And then. And then...?
Nothing. Apparently my firewall isn't taking kindly to the servers, wherever they are. But is that the truth? Like the online version of a significant other, ArenaNet is pulling a "It's not my fault - it's yours!" right now, blaming everyone and anything as it miserably tries to pick up the pieces and host an MMORPG. I sit, waiting patiently, trying to subdue the anger by eating cake and drinking tea, like a fine English gentlemen. Every so often I might slap my thigh and sigh "doh" with annoyance. I suppose there are still boobies on the Internet to pass the time.
Update 2: I Logged into Guild Wars 2
After much clicking, grunting with frustration, and peeping at forums to look at others venting their "anticipation" to play, I finally logged in. First and foremost, the artists of NCSoft deserve some amount of kudos. Menus are lovingly crafted, races are rendered with flair, and it all looks lovely - which is why it's a shame I always lump for the most boring race. I can't play a gnome with antennas, I just can't.
Perhaps because it's launch day and I'm feeling saucy, I picked the Norn in a fit of excitement - underpinned by the boring choice of a warrior but whatever. So the game starts, and I don't really know what to expect, I played the original, and can't remember much as it coincided with my becoming of a teenager, and realising I had all sorts of hair growing everywhere. Another story for another day.
So one thing that initially surprised me was an individual storyline for each race. So many games settle for one starter zone, so to see a separate one for every face shape is nice: especially when there's a certain lack of "YOU ARE THE CHOSEN ONE!"
But alas, I immediately run into one problem. While the opening excites, and the first area is lush with colour and brilliant animation, it immediately doesn't feel like a revolution of the genre, but a refined update. In the distance still marks the green dot of a NPC quest giver, and there they are, stood still, feet obviously hurting, staring glass eyed. Ah well, you can't win them all, one day we'll have an organic looking MMORPG.
As my adventures continue, I must admit I'm impressed, and more than once clutch the chair and yelp with surprise. Things feel a little different, less static and more natural, missions too feel less forced and more like an unravelling tale. It's nice. I feel like I can get lost here.
Although I'm not without reservations. While Guild Wars 2 undoubtedly looks excellent, and has a type of care and attention unknown to most studios, it isn't a massive stride in terms of innovation. Combat sits somewhere between WoW and Tera, which isn't a bad thing, but after 15 years we've only advanced past the point of tapping "A" to now dancing between "1, 2, 3, and 4."
Also, it still feels very much MMO-y. And what I mean with that is while it has inclinings towards a single-player RPG, those sometimes jarring set-pieces that are served up have the feel of something mass produced. Things don't always look outstanding, like they would in a game such as Dragon Age or The Witcher, which is a shame. But things do appear to look better than most in this piece of software.
But this is only after a dozen hours of play, and nobody can give a full opinion of anything after such a short time. I have yet to brush with player versus player, or any other fancy stuff, but I can tell you that Guild Wars 2 has impressed me.
And that's not to say it's a revolutionary game, because it isn't, and I don't think NCSoft meant it to be. Guild Wars 2 flows better than most, and at the same time gives airs and graces to older MMOs by giving you a huge map, more starter zones, and a little more freedom. I also adore the idea of smaller amounts of quest threads, and "events" that happen around the world that can change each time you visit. And as always, there's nothing like a chain gang of 20 players marauding through hundreds of dropping enemies in a cave: that was spectacular.
So after five years of stubborn ignorance? What am I? Impressed? Indifferent? Excited? At this point I'd say addicted and happy. I don't know what I'm yet to experience, but so far it's been enjoyable if not groundbreaking. But so far, this MMO takes definite steps forward, and very few back.
Well done NCSoft - now excuse me, I'm going back to play.