Saturday, December 1, 2012

Confounded Expectations: GW2

Long, long ago, when Guild Wars 2 was just a shimmer on the horizon, people wondered what it might become. Some imagined sunlit uplands, sparkling snows, where happy friends fed rabbits and merrily tossed snowballs. Others saw an ever-changing world, deep, mysterious, unfathomable, each day its own fresh revelation. Still others talked of glory, vast armies clashing on the plains, huge siege-engines hurling fire against towering battlements, war without end.

Left hand down a bit...
No, I'm not working up to talk about dungeons again, nor end-game bait-n-switch. Much. True, those things barely got a mention in the pre-launch PR or our endless castles-in-the-air imaginings yet somehow now they're almost all we care to see. That will sort itself out. Let's hope so, at least. What I'm going to talk about is World vs World.

Before launch a strong body of opinion held it that GW2 existed purely for PvP. It would provide the end-game this game with no end-game claimed it didn't need. GW2 would be a PvP game pure and simple, with persistent, three-way open-world battles at one end, structured eSport Arenas at the other and a dimly perceived, largely-to-be-ignored PvE leveling grind lost somewhere inbetween.

What's the collective noun for commanders?
I scoffed at this and I was right and I was wrong. GW2 is not about PvP. PvP does not define it. World versus World is, however, compelling in a way I did not anticipate. It has many flaws, some of which I already mentioned. Of the problems listed there, only the Orbs have vanished altogether. Literally. ArenaNet just upped and took them away. Of the rest, night-capping seems to have dropped off the radar. I guess we just got used to it. Server moves, those went from once a day to once a week and that storm calmed.

Not you again!
Which leaves the ladder. A new match started today. Yak's Bend plays Tarnished Coast and Fort Aspenwood. Who we played last week. And the week before. Who we may play for the rest of recorded time. It's not ideal, that's for sure, but how WvW might or might not be broken is not what I wanted to talk about, either. I wanted to talk about how much fun it is and how unexpectedly so.

I always planned to dabble. I stopped fearing PvP long ago. Other players are just faster, smarter mobs. They aren't real in the way mobs are real, though. In most MMOs fighting players tends to feel transient and unsatisfying and I probably wouldn't have considered spending quite so much time on the frontiers were it not for Mrs Bhagpuss's insatiable bloodlust. She's always out there, throwing down the blueprints for a catapult, running supply, raining down arrows and fire on the invading mono-colored hordes. Her kills are counted in thousands while mine come only in hundreds.

Fire Insurance
So I got drawn in and started to spend more time storming walls, battering gates, killing Dolyaks than I ever intended. And with sufficient time I'm slowly beginning to understand something of the strategies and the tactics. Coming to understand the layout, know the locations called in Team chat without needing to open the map. Even, miraculously, to make a little sense of the mechanics, how things actually work.

Ah! That's why they call it the Mist War
Because WvW is opaque in the extreme. There's no tutorial. You learn by trial and error or by asking. Questions are welcomed and answers given but framing either can be impractical when people are trying to kill you so it's a hit or miss approach at best. Absent the Trinity, largely without set roles, knowing what your class can or should do is tricky. Zergs forgive much but make poor schools.

Oi! Mind my flowerbeds!
I began with my Ranger, so powerful in PvE. Things went passingly well although my effectiveness as an agent of destruction seemed doubtful. As an Engineer things went badly and I died too much. I thought I'd found a metier as a Warrior, leaping into the fray, whirling, falling back and bringing up the bow. If I didn't kill as many of the enemy as I might, still I was hard to kill and the onslaughts of my fellows felled many as they tried in vain to hack me down.

You want some?
Being a warrior cat was plenty fun. Then last night on a whim I took my necro to the battles. Remembering what Ravious said, and being a mere 25 up-arrowed to a notional 80, my expectations were low. What a glorious surprise, then, to feel almost instantaneously at my most effective and to have that feeling factually confirmed with credit for kills and badges of honor. Laying down snares, piling on DoTs, calling up swarms from the air and wells from the earth, slipping in and out of Shroud, darting among the enemy causing chaos and disruption, I felt more in control of my abilities and purpose than ever before.

Which is odd in the extreme because as a Necro in PvE I frankly don't have a clue. The little Asura earned most of her 25 levels at the oven or doing events meant for under-fives. I learned more about playing the class in one evening on the Frontiers than in the eight weeks before it. All of which just makes me the keener to see how the rest of the classes play, and in what circumstances each might shine.


  1. Welcome to our little club of the damned. Necro's seem rather rare in WvW compared to the others and yet they are so powerful at times. Lots of control and with epidemic hitting more than 5 there a zerg buster

    1. What with everyone having generic names and coloration I find it quite hard telling what class people are, at least until I find out how they are trying to kill me, but I have noticed a distinct absence of necrotic pets floating and scuttling across the frontiers. Then of course there's the general impression in our current Groundhog Day match that one of the Worlds we are fighting brings nothing to the field but Elementalists and Thieves.

  2. Interesting. I've been working my way through the GW2 classes and the necromancer was the last one I had to experiment with over level 5. I made it up to level 16 over the weekend and I'm also quite confused about how the class is supposed to work in PVE. Pets or not? Should I be kiting or should I just stand and take it? Is using Death Shroud helping or hurting?

    But as I was signing off last night and mentally going over how I felt about the gameplay it did occur to me that the class could really shine in PVP. Which would be good because I don't need to take my socks off to count my kills.


    PS I rolled on Yak's Bend too, but US Eastern time-zone.


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