Freedom of Choice in Tyria
What can I say about Guild Wars 2? I followed the news about features and read some press info, watched some video beforehand, but otherwise didn’t oversaturate myself with information. I wasn’t afraid of giving into the hype; it was more a sense of wanting to experience this return to Tyria in a fresh light.
The beta weekend has been over for a couple of days now, and I’m still feeling withdrawal. Now, I am not going to go and get all fangirl on you guys, but let me say that the game will not be everything to everyone. This is still not going to be a sandbox, there are no PvP servers, and you can’t loot players or compete with them for resources. That said the promises from ANet that they were looking to do something different were definitely not hot air.
This game encourages players to play together in a way that games haven't in quite a while.
I was more than impressed with the way things felt playing. Events in the world were often filled with players cooperating with each other on multiple levels. Giving XP and achievements for reviving fallen players and allies was an incredibly deft move. All this brought me back to the days of strangers pausing to help you out on the road or in the middle of a field and my own times stopping to heal randoms or to even stop and chat. In GW2, even if you didn't always explicitly communicate with one another, there were a ton of opportunities to effectively join up and work together.
I jumped into the water and began killing salmon to level my weapon skills. Someone the same level came along and we fought through the depths together for the next half hour or so, rezzing each other if necessary and advancing together. That was neither the first nor last time I saw something like that happen. Nodes and resources, as well as mobs were all something you could share, so there's never kill-stealing or ninja-ing a node out from under someone.
Perhaps a more competitive player might take issue with the way things work, but as an Explorer and Socializer on ye olde Bartle scale of things, this is exactly the type of game that I have been wanting for some time.
Speaking of exploration, Tyria feels incredibly vast. In addition to pure terrain, there are a whole lot of layers to places, and additional real estate underwater and vertically. This is the first game since LOTRO where I’ve simply spent time running around exploring in awe. And underwater exploration had me going “This is so cool!” In my head with each new discovery. There’s a whole second city under Lion’s Arch, as well as some awesome animals and people. And the city of Divinity’s Reach has three levels and is huge, yet it feels lively and real. It’s also, like the rest of the game, very beautiful to look at. One of my favorite (and by no means only) moments where I stopped suddenly caught off guard, was when passing through the path to the Hall of Dwayna only to see this beautiful aquarium built right into the walls. Touches like these make an already beautiful game even better. The variety of everything everywhere adds up to something special.
As for some of the mechanics, combat was just plain fun. I primarily tested out a Norn Thief, which is the class I planned to play at launch. I usually gravitate toward rogues in MMOs, but this one is the least stealth-reliant one I think I’ve ever played and it feels both grounded and extremely flexible. The ability to learn multiple weapon skills is a nice tough, though I wish certain weapons weren’t limited to certain classes. It’s a minor quibble, but I felt longbow combat was so much fun as a Ranger that I was hoping to be able to use it on my Thief as well.
As for the things that went wrong, the login server issues were not fun, and the overflow server method needs some work. Our group got separated and couldn’t play together for a time. These are issues that seem headed for fixes before launch though. We hope.
Although I could go on for a while, I will conclude with one final observation. One of the best features of Guild Wars 2 to me is the ability to complete objectives in multiple ways. This caters to different playstyles in such a way that I really haven’t seen from other MMOs. By offering multiple means to complete objectives, Guild Wars 2 is miles ahead of the competition. The game basically drops you into your starting area and gives you incredible freedom in how you want to play.
Aside from the hardcore full-loot PvP fan, GW2 lets you handle objectives without fighting, by killing mobs, or sometimes a third method. There’s a quest in which you must honor the Norn Snow Leopard spirit. You could complete the quest in three distinct ways: kill the mobs attacking the leopards, destroy their nests, or….play with the snow leopard cubs in the area. I discovered the action key changed to “Play” and tried it out. And thus, I mostly completed it by playing with the kittens. Seriously.
And one of the best parts is that this “multiple ways to complete your goal” philosophy extends to PvP. There are gates to guard and repair, siege tools, and more in the Mists during WvW. During structured instant PvP, there are large weapons, capture and defend points, and other ways that you can help out your team. The variety here, in addition to the fun combat and the way people work together in just about every aspect of Tyrian life, made me want to PvP much more.
So then... when's that next beta weekend coming?