Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend #1 Impressions

Guild Wars 2 isn’t on sale yet but fans who pre-ordered it were able to Beta test the game over the last weekend. Below are some of my impressions of the first Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend I attended.

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I purchased it on Friday several hours before the Beta started and took a good 15GB to download the client. I wasn’t able to log into the game until late in the evening and many logging-in attempts. As tired of I was, and I wasn’t up the do an all-nighter like some of you, I briefly played it that night. I picked a Human Elementalist on the Sharp’s Corner server. The Human opening was weak and gave a really dissapointing feel.  It all went very fast, virtually didn’t have any character development and stocked you up against an enormously giant boss battle I couldn’t make head or tail of even at 2 FPS (/rants)

The story hasn’t really gotten any interesting the more I progressed further. Fine, I have a huge amount of respect for ArenaNet, so I can just let that one slip. It’s an MMO right, who cares about story? (/rant) The game also didn’t start to throw lore at you and quickly reverted to simple-to-understand things like “bandits destroying farms” or “spiders attacking apple trees”, which might be good for the many action-oriented players amongst you, but I actually need lore to keep me interested in the world. Just simple things like “May *random God name* bless you” shouting NPCs or loading screens filled with lore information, but ArenaNet simply doesn’t get there.

Gameplay

Gameplay’s great in general. The world feels very alive and there are seemingly tons of things to do, though nothing out of the ordinary for MMOs: quests, all gathering disciplines, parties, Guilds, Commerce system, Dungeons and PvP.

I still have to fully try these out, and I know from reading the GW2 Wiki that there’s a lot about them. Can”t wait to check out the Dungeons and PvP in the next Beta event. For now, I just wandered, around Divinity’s reach and some other beautiful enviroments thanks to the Asura gate traveling system where you can easily travel to other mayor parts of the vast Guild Wars 2 world.

One of the most remarkable and most-noticeable things in Guild Wars 2 is the way how quests are handled. No longer go you out to an NPC to accept a quest, instead they appear dynamically when you walk around the world. For instance, you might be walking around at a farm and suddenly it gets attacked by bandits. All players in the vicinity will get a notification saying a new “Event” has occurred and are encouraged to take part into it. This sounds great in theory, but needs some brushing up to make it usable. As for my playtrough which was mainly Divinity Reach, a single event was subscribed to a specific location, and timing and difficulty depending on the amount of active players still needs a lot of work. Running around and knowing exactly what event will happen and how it’ll play out can end up being a boring experience after a while. The map also has Points of Interests locations that give you additional experience when reached, stimulating you to continue exploring. Also, the world is HUGE, and beautifully detailed.

In conclusion: one side of me  liked the dynamic event system, it’s different from others and certainly a risk. Another side of me feels like there’s so much more that could’ve been done with it, and I’m heavily worried about how it will play it out during group PvE play. I loved the way Square handled questing in Final Fantasy XIV: players can choose from a wide range of quests in a central hub and choose between 5 difficulty levels, players teleport to the Aetherythe and off they go, resulting in a very addictive system. I’m really hoping group PvE play in GW2 will be as addictive as other MMO’s with such a big change in one of the fundamental parts of MMOs. For now, I’ll leave it blank as I know about six hours of play isn’t enough to judge something like that.

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Something I was eager to check out was forming a party or Guild, I wanted to be part of something and I don’t have a horde of friends back in real life that are in the game. Okay, I admit I might not have taken too much effort in looking for players, but I just don’t like  shouting around the game world or on Twitter that I’m looking for someone to quest with me. When randomly inviting cool-looking players to my party didn’t help I decided to join a Guild. It’s called Guild Wars for something right, joining one should be fun! Initially I had this idea that Guilds were kinda like Linkshells in Final Fantasy XIV, were players of Guild would be marked with an icon. Even up until now I don’t have a full graps of how the Guild system works, the game and official Wiki provides few help in joining a new Guild or where to find a suitable guild. in the end I started browsing Guild Wars 2 fansites and saw many Guilds advertise theirselves on the forums. I ended up joining Lunar Dawn as they seem like a casual group of decent people. I really hope I have overlooked anything related to Guilds, or otherwise I’m terribly dissapointed with how they’re treated within the game (or more like how they aren’t treated in the game.

In all of my dissapointment/excitedness I decided to spend all of my precious gold in the Commerce interface, a central hub where you can buy items from anywhere, as long as you pick them up at a Commerce vendor. Because as with so many of Guild Wars 2’s features the Commerce panel is so terribly not documented I ended up throwing away lots of money by clicking the “Buy” button multiple times without getting any “You bought…” notifications (and hey I thought it was the lag!).

Nevertheless I got to check out cooking and expected a fun and clever minigame like Final Fantasy XIV did, but no, instead I was presented with a dialog showing me available recipes and a craft button if I had the items in my inventory. I really hate these kind of gameplay systems where you don’t have to do anything aside from having the right items in your inventory, heck even Skyrim had those, is there really no intuitiveness left in Western developers? (evil smiley). I had to compulsory come to like point/item based gameplay mechanics as seen in Dragon Age, Skyrim and many other western RPGs but Guild Wars 2 would be an awful lot of boring if all the Crafting and Gathering jobs were like this.

I didn’t get to check out PvP yet but it seems very intriguing too, having the ability to easily fight against other players or even worlds (World vs World), with the only catch being that your equipment and skillset get swapped completely. I still have to try it out before saying I like that last bit or not. Also, you can swim underwater, which is lots of fun if you’re again okay with all of your skills changing on the fly.

As for other RPG features, mana power is gone, and so far there’s no real character progression system in place when you level up. I’ve heard there’s a Trait system that will become available when reaching level 11, but I haven’t reached that point yet.

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My PC Build & Final Conclusions

I use a notebook as my main PC, nothing fancy (a Sony Vaio) in specs but still spotting an i5 and Mobility Radeon 5650 graphics card which runs games like Skyrim great in medium settings. Guild Wars 2 also didn’t have problems in areas with few players and thus fewer network messages broadcasting. Things got really bad in towns or even outside when there were lots of players grouped. I’m sure it hasn’t anything to do with my graphics card, it’s supposed to run the game just fine according to “CanYouRunIt?” (which is a great site to check whether games are compatible with your PC hardware).

Even though I’ve heard people say they experienced lag, I don’t think it’s the form of “unplayable” lag like I’m having from time to time. Sure, their 48 servers and networking stack could use some tuning but for the most part I’m guessing my poor internet connection is to blame. My Windows 7 build’s ethernet controller doesn’t work properly so I’m forced to use a WiFi connection that sometimes even fails to ping my router downstairs and load simple websites like Google or Facebook. Believe me, I’ve gone to wits end in fixing my ethernet controller but can’t seem to get it working, even though it works fine on my Windows 8 Dual Boot OS. If I can’t get it fixed this week I’ll be forced to switch to 8 and play Guild Wars 2 on there.  

The lag really put me off in large areas like Divinity’s Reach’s city. I really couldn’t take in the beauty you see on screenshots & videos because things move at such a slow framerate. Nevertheless I’m fine with that, I know it’ll be fixed one day, and I know Guild Wars 2 is a breathtaking game anyway.

In general my opinions are mixed, even slightly leaning to positive.  The time I spent with Guild Wars 2 was short (~6 hours) so I know many of what I’ve writen might still change for the better. Furthermore my internet connection wasn’t up to speed really demolishing some of the impressions I should’ve gotten when visiting large squares. The world of Tyria was gorgeous even though I’ve barely scratched the surface. Gameplay mechanics are risky and might certainly put off some people. I’m dissapointed that ArenaNet seemingly has simplified lots of things I love about RPGs to accommodate for the players only interested in ruthless killing and PvP matches, nevertheless I really can’t wait to play it again, hopefully with less connection failures and see more of it. Nevertheless, I’m very excited and  really look forward to jumping into it again when there’s another Beta period. 

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