Saturday, April 28, 2012

First Hit For Free : GW2

I wasn't planning on saying anything until Monday, but I can't resist a very quick summary of my impressions so far.

It's a beta. I really wasn't expecting that. I was expecting a shop-window with everything on show polished to a gleaming sheen but there are "Work In Progress" warnings slapped on every cut scene and I've already run into one or two minor bugs. Every time an Event ends or you complete a stage of your personal story a questionnaire pops up so you can review it and give feedback. I feel at least a little as though I'm doing meaningful beta-testing, which is great.

Log-in congestion was minor. Mrs Bhagpuss and I were both making characters within twenty to thirty minutes of the doors opening. Once in game I've had none of the graphical or frame-rate issues I've seen reported elsewhere. I let the game set its own defaults, which appear to be mainly "Medium" for me and the game runs smooth as butter.

Always darkest before the dawn
It also looks absolutely stunning. Screen shots and videos really don't do it justice. The whole thing looks like a hand-painted, animated movie. The color tones are just gorgeous, especially in the Charr capital. I have already spent more time taking screenshots (or more accurately framing up screenshots) than I have adventuring. Exaggeration for effect, obviously. If this quality is replicated throughout the whole world then I foresee this iteration of Tyria providing years of entertainment as virtual tourism, let alone whatever gameplay value it might also have.

The Cat in the Hat is Back
Ah, that gameplay. Is it a paradigm shift? Is it a game changer? A step change? A new generation? No it flippin' well is not. I'm very glad I wasn't banking on any of that nonsense because boy, would i have been in for a disappointment. Caveat being that any comments are based on just a few hours gameplay that have taken me only as far as level 6, but what I've seen is an excellent implementation of traditional, standard and familiar MMO tropes. Guild Wars 2 looks to be a really first-class AAA theme-park MMO. If that's what you want then you're going to be very happy.

My gameplay so far has consisted of:

A very familiar "throw him into a battle and keep him running about as if something matters" introduction.

A busy starter area filled with the usual quests, Public Quests/Open Events, random mobs to farm for crafting raws, and countless places to poke your nose into for discovery experience.

A huge, superbly atmospheric home city to explore.

Follow me! I have no idea where I'm going either!
A "personal story" questline that leads you by the nose through a series of instances and cut scenes. Well-written, good voice acting, involving if utterly unoriginal storyline and pretty good characterization. Overall, literally nothing gameplay-wise that I haven't seen elsewhere. But, and as the joke goes it's a big but, I can't say I've seen any of it done much better before. I've been having a blast.

I was apprehensive before I got my hands on the controls that combat would be too twitchy. It isn't. I picked a Charr Ranger deliberately to avoid having to deal with melee combat and so far fighting seems identical to any other MMO. Certainly nothing like the "action combat" of DCUO (which I like anyway) or even the micro-management of GW1. All I'm doing is targeting mobs manually, like I always do, hitting the special attacks on the hotbar with the mouse pointer, like I always do and occasionally hammering the left mouse button. Stuff dies, I don't (much) and I get "Gold" awards in the Events quite often so presumably it's working. To be honest, half the time I have no idea what's going on because I'm in a vast gang of Charr all pounding away on something I can't even see for all the fur and horns.

Anyway, much, much more to say but it'll have to wait for later because I have the game running in the background and the lush, evocative music is calling me. Must play more!


  1. Hey how come your screen isn't watermarked all over with your email address?

  2. Okay, I have to be doing something wrong, though I have no idea what it is. I realize that the class I picked to play (Mesmer) is supposed to be an "advanced" class, but staying alive is almost impossible. Yeah, it's a cloth wearer. Yeah, it starts off with a MELEE weapon.

    The thing is, I tried a Ranger and am having the same problem. Pet dies in two hits.

    I haven't even gotten to level 3 with either of them -- and it's a real drag.

    Honestly, I haven't been this frustrated with a game since I booted up UO in 1995 and immediately got killed by a snake.

  3. @Carson Hmm? Should it be? I rebound the hi-res screenshot key and used that instead of the Print-Screen default. The hi-res removes the UI automatically while the default leaves it on. Neither stamps my email address on top though. That would be very weird and unpleasant.

    @Gina The ranger pet seems slow to level. I just dinged 9 before I stopped to have lunch but my pet, the one I started with, is still only level 5. Mostly I've only died doing Events, where I get way in over my head and get AE'd to death by something I didn't even see. I did get trounced by a worm spitting huge boulders at me while I was out exploring, but on the solo content I seem to be able to handle most things my level or a couple of levels above.

    I did pick the ranger because I'm familiar with it from GW1 and it seems to play much the same, so I expect that helps. Speaking of starting weapons, he got throwing axes and didn't get a bow until level 4 when one dropped off a mob. That seemed like an odd design choice.

    You might try the necro next - you can generally rely on a necro to be overpowered.

  4. @Carson: no NDA this beta, therefore no watermark on your screen. There was a glitch early on where some people still had the watermark from previous betas, but this has been cleared up.

    @Gina: your experience will vary a lot based on what race you rolled and what storyline within that race you're doing. Though constantly dying in 1-3 hits does sound a bit excessive. Without knowing whether this is in your personal story, dynamic events, meta events, regular mob grinding, renown hearts, or other details of where you're getting killed I can't offer much advice... my IGN is Neriah Plainstrider if you want to hit me up with any questions.

    @Bhagpuss: Depending on where you go, your experience will probably change a lot once you get to level 10-15 or so, but maybe the charr area is indeed wickedly balanced to allow you to plink away like that. I don't know.


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