Monday, April 30, 2012

And...Relax! : GW2

The party's over. The last guests leave. The door closes. Now the clearing up begins, along with the gossip, reminiscence and recrimination

It was a great party.  I had a wonderful time. I have so many stories I could write a book, Well, a 10,000 word dissertation. I took three pages of notes and nearly one hundred and fifty screenshots.If I tried to get it all down I'd be blogging about nothing else for a month, so I'll try to control my enthusiasm.


I played all weekend and until I lost him in the Mists late last night I only played one character, a Charr Ranger of the Ash Legion. I played very much as I would expect to play when the game goes Live, as if this was my first, permanent character. By the end of the beta weekend my ranger was a whisker short of level 19, with a skill of 47 in Leatherworking. All comments I make on gameplay are based entirely on my experience of that one class and race.

My experience of GW2 was one of playing a very, very good iteration of the same MMO model I've been playing for over a decade. Many things are done more organically and elegantly than maybe we're used to but the things themselves are the same things. If you still enjoy Everquest (1 or 2), Lord of the Rings, WoW, Warhammer, Vanguard or any of the countless games that have become known as Diku-MUD MMOs, chances are you'll enjoy this latest variation on that theme. If you feel you've been there and done that then it will probably take more than you'll find here to put the fizz back in your mouse finger. Ironically, perhaps, if you were a huge fan of the original Guild Wars you may be less keen to dance to this old tune on a new fiddle. It's plainly the same world but the gameplay is something else altogether.

Ah, the gameplay. So many opinions, so wildly different. Can we all really have been playing the same game? I suspect GW2 is going to be one of those rare and wonderful things, the mirror that reflects back what you want to see.

For the first couple of hours on Friday night I dutifully did my Hearts, Events and Personal Story like a good consumer. It was fun enough but not all that involving so I packed that in and started instead to do just what I would do in any new MMO. First I went exploring, which led me to learn a craft. Then I went searching for the materials needed for that craft, which took me exploring again, along with a good deal of mass slaughter. That about sums up my weekend.

GW2 is an explorer's paradise. A huge, open world in which you can pretty much get to anything you see and what you see when you get to it turns out to be worth the trip. I didn't find any slopes that looked climbable but weren't or any barriers that felt forced. When I couldn't fight past something I could edge past and when I couldn't edge past I could just run like hell. By early Sunday evening I'd opened virtually all of the overland maps for the Charr and Norn lands that were available in the beta. I was hoping to get from The Black Citadel to Lion's Arch on foot, replicating the great journey of the first part of the Prophecies campaign, but sadly the final zone between them was closed.

The big difference between this familiar activity in GW2 and in other MMOs is the famous dynamism. I get what this is, now, I think, and mostly what it is is exhausting. As will these posts be if I don't split them up. More to come on the Dynamic world, on fighting things and on how much whimsy is too much.

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