Guild Wars 2 beta weekend review

The week got away from me. I meant to write this earlier.

I spent most of last weekend in the Guild Wars 2 beta, available for anyone who pre-purchased the game. I hadn’t intended to pre-purchase. As a rule, I don’t. But I’d been hearing so many positive things about the game I decided to throw caution to the wind and do so. I figured based on the videos I saw, it wouldn’t be so horrible that I couldn’t enjoy it for at least a month, and since there’s no subscription, I could always pick it up and put it down whenever.

I started off with a Charr mesmer. The Charr are a race of horned feline humanoid. The mesmer is an illusionist class, lightly armored. Since I was Charr, I had actual clothes on my female character, something the lightly-armored Norn and human females didn’t get the benefit of. They were outfitted in Sailor Moon clothes and lingerie. Fortunately, my Norn thief and human warrior had proper clothes in combat.

My Charr mesmer hanging out in Lion’s Arch. The city is an explorer’s paradise.

 

Rather than repeat information on the way the tutorial is structured, I’d rather point you to an excellent video on Gamebreaker.tv. This is the tutorial for the humans, but the format is the same for all races.

One of the biggest changes in GW2 from the normal theme park format is the dynamic events system. Events can start anywhere at any time, and they’re always public. There are no traditional quests or quest-givers. If you check your map, you’ll see “heart activities,” where an NPC will give you information on an event that may be going on nearby. You don’t have to talk to them, though. If you step into the area, the event will show up in the top-right of your screen anyway. Besides the heart activities, other dynamic events will also pop up, either because the players succeeded or failed in a nearby event, or because of some other reason (like the time of day, or a player opening a chest or talking to a certain NPC).

Almost every event has multiple ways to complete the objective (such as killing mobs, collecting something, or doing something like watering crops or fixing broken pipes). Every player shares in the objective, and everyone who helps gets rewarded. The same goes for combat. There is no kill-stealing, no tagging mobs, no way to shortchange another player. Everyone who participates gets credit. You never have to dread seeing another player in an area. You don’t have to wait your turn to take on a boss. Just hop in there and start whacking away.

Side note: The other day I was playing Fallen Earth. I walked into an area where a small group was waiting on a boss mob to spawn. I wasn’t there for the boss; I needed something else. But the group hurriedly grouped with me so I wouldn’t kill-steal their mob. It’s sad when you look at other players in an MMO as something to dread. It took a little while to get over that mindset in GW2, but once I did, I not only didn’t hate seeing other players, I actively looked for them.

Combat is much more action-packed than most MMOs. You don’t have to actively target an enemy. When you start to attack, the game will auto-find the nearest enemy. And you must learn how to dodge effectively to avoid enemy attacks. The mobs scale in toughness the more players there are around, and some of those things can hit hard. You also have to learn to use your abilities to best effect. I’m not joking. This is probably the hardest theme park MMO I’ve ever played. You’ll probably die as early as level 2 until you have a bit of practice under your belt. You’ll have to throw out a lot of what you know about the traditional MMO if you want to learn to fight effectively.

Combat is truly exciting, though I honestly think they need to tone down the effects. When fifty people are taking on a huge boss, it’s impossible to see what’s going on through all the flashiness.

Night time in the hub city of Lion’s Arch, one of the most highly detailed game cities you’ll ever see.

And another nice touch: any player can revive another player. It was awesome to see people going around on the battlefield helping other players to their feet. There was a real sense of camaraderie, as if we’re all heroes in this together. The griefers in this game will be the ones who deliberately ignore downed players. Fortunately, outside of the newest of newbie events, where everyone was still trying to figure out what to do, those people were rare.

I haven’t even touched on the gem store (cash shop), crafting, or the personal storyline.

This is a game that rewards exploration, that is filled with so much detail that people have spent hours just exploring every nook and cranny, that shows a level of polish — in a beta no less — that is often missing from even released titles.

Needless to say, I absolutely loved this game. It was the most fun, intense, and exciting time I’ve had in a theme park game since the first time I played World of Warcraft. A part of me wants to avoid future beta events in order to save the game for release, but another part of me craves to play at every opportunity.

Another side note: several people on Massively kept calling GW2 a reskinned Warhammer Online. I decided to find out for myself if that was true. First quest in WAR? Go kill 3 somethings. Second quest? Go kill 5 somethings. Third quest? Yeah, starting to see a pattern here? Oh, but wait, here’s a public quest. Huh, looks like mobs are tagged to the first player or group to hit them. No shared XPs or loot for sharing the kill. It took less than one hour to see the similarities between the two are so superficial you’d need a microscope to find them. People, having both guns and magic in a world doesn’t make them a ripoff. Magical steampunk and Magitech have been around for a long time. And public quests aren’t exclusive to WAR either.

The Black Citadel, the Charr’s main home city. It has a very industrial theme.

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