Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling reports from the front lines* of the Massively Multiplayer Multiverse.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Adventures in Tyria: Guild Wars 2 Impressions

So my lovely bride, Sctrz, and I got into the Beta Weekend for Guild Wars 2 this past weekend. For various reasons we didn't actually start playing until Sunday morning, though I did mess around a little bit with the character creation appearance options on Saturday.

I must say the character creation process is pretty awesome, notwithstanding the naming issue I mentioned in my last post. Tremendous kudos to ArenaNet for enabling the seemingly impossible <space>, so I can finally have a last name for my characters. Sctrz and I both liked the customization process. After picking a race, gender, and profession(class), you start out with some basic body types and faces, which are then further customizable. So your character may resemble others, but will be somewhat unique, depending on the sliders. What we both really liked was the custom dye scheme available. I discovered toward the evening that the dye scheme carries through to new pieces of gear, but is alterable from the Hero(character) screen, so kudos again to ArenaNet.

We played three races: the Sylvari, the Norn, and the Humans. In the same order, Sctrz played a Warrior, a Mesmer, and a Thief. I played a Ranger, a Mesmer(solo), an Elementalist, and an Engineer.

Breaking the Ice

I could get a little facetious here and talk about the Sylvari as Elf stand-ins and the Asura as Dwarf/Gnome expies, but honestly they are well executed—and "Tropes are not bad." I liked that the Sylvari are not portrayed as "all Life is sacred" tree-huggers. One of the first quests we encountered involved killing fireflies simply to collect their glow powder, or some such. I'll admit, I didn't like the Sylvari starting area very much, but this can be attributable the learning curve I encountered at the start of the game. I wasn't that fond of the ranger, either; perhaps for the same reason.

The Norn are basically giant Vikings, much like the Vrykul in WoW. That is not a mark against them, by any means, just an observation. My Mesmer and Elementalist were both Norn, and I am intrigued by the mechanics of both. The Mesmer was the one I had naming issues with, as I mentioned in my last post. I do wish I could have picked the branch of Elementalism I would focus on right from the beginning. I thought I had done that in the character creation process, but then my first abilities were Fire- and Water-based. (This is assuming "Air" means "Lightning" which may not be the case.) I would play either of those professions again, though.

Overall, and admittedly we didn't not get far into either story, the Norn and the Sylvari were not very engaging. The Sylvari area, in particular, seemed very chaotic. The Norn didn't seem to have anything significant going on.

Picking up Speed

My original intent this weekend was only to play the game for an hour or two, besides character creation; and if that had actually occurred, I would not be writing this much about it. But Sctrz kept wanting to try something different, so we ended up trying the humans. And this is where the fun really began for us. Both of us agree that the professions we picked for our humans were our favorites of the few we'd tried. Sctrz picked Thief, and I decided to try an Engineer. I definitely settled on my main profession after launch. There's just something about the use of firearms that I like. Sctrz seems to have picked hers, as well.

We became much more involved in the story of the Humans right from the beginning, which involves a crisis in the kingdom. I am wondering whether the story, as it progresses, reflects the choices I made at character creation; for instance, whether I am of noble or common birth. Sctrz thinks that it does. That sense of purpose we got from the story quests in Kryta(?) carried us through for most of Sunday evening.
Talking Points

     Dislikes:
  • Initially, both Sctrz and I both had issues with the process of quest completion. There is simply a bar instead a specified set of tasks.
  • I also did not like that there seemed to be little benefit to grouping. That is to say, we received no group completion on quests that were individualized ("Heart" quests), and Event quests did not require grouping to complete. That left the story quests; which, while achievable together, always left one or the other of us out of the cutscenes and dialogues.
  • As I said earlier, I found the non-story quests in the Sylvari and Norn areas unengaging, and didn't experience very much of the story quests. Looking back, I realize that the different race stories ran in easily identifiable patterns.
     Trifles:
  • I wish my character would turn with the right mouse button. While the camera does turn, it is just like turning the camera with the left mouse button. I have to move to reorient my character.
  • Related to the last, the characters refuse to stand still it seems, and that makes for crappy portraits. The above picture of Kerlanda and Hazel was the best one I got. It was like child photography.
     Neutral Observations:
  • I was pleasantly surprised that the content was not as difficult to complete as I had supposed. I was led to believe that soloing "at level" was inadvisable. I found this not to be the case. In fact, grouped with Sctrz, we were able to finish story quests a couple levels above us. Now, some of the event quests might be a problem as a soloist could be quickly overwhelmed, but I personally did not find this an unpleasant situation. I am curious how these events will play out as player populations thin out in some areas.
  • The moment-to-moment combat is interesting, and the skill progression is promising. I put this under neutral because I don't find the system outstanding, but I have no issues with it.
  • The self heal takes some getting used to. I am usually a healing class, and left a tad rudderless by this lack of the unholy trinity, despite having railed against it for so long.
  • I will need to read up on the various cultures in order to come up with fitting names for my characters, as anyone who reads me regularly knows is of utmost importance.
     Likes:
  • Big like for both Sctrz and me is the aforementioned character customization. The clothing/gear system is a little different than TSW's, but the free(?) dying process at the beginning and in the middle of gameplay is phenomenal. I really liked the way my new pieces automatically fit my preferred color scheme. You will only look like a clown in GW2 if you choose to.
  • Sctrz felt that the various worlds were plenty immersive. I was not quite as impressed, but the scenery is very well done.
  • The characters themselves are beautifully rendered.
  • I really liked the Engineer, very steampunk—or maybe clockpunk. I spent some skill points on a machine-gun turret that looked really cool. Sctrz seemed happy with her thief.
  • The way the cutscenes play is an interesting change, though I understand it is inspired by older adventure games.
  • Some of the choices made at character creation play into NPC interactions in a way that I didn't realize it would initially, which is pretty cool.
  • [EDIT] I was just reminded of another like: Groups stay grouped through logouts and even across characters. This meant that Sctrz and I were still grouped even after creating brand new characters. Very nice.

In Sctrz' Words

Paraphrasing where needed, but this is basically Sctrz' personal observation:
Once I got used to the questing, I felt involved in the story more, and understood the "events" and how they worked as opposed to the "heart" quests. I liked that I got mail once something was completed. That was the signal that it was done, and I didn't have to run all over turning stuff in.  Area quests were triggered, that was good. It helped you remain in the "circle of things." And the heart quests were numbered by level. Once I realized that, it helped me plan out our path.

My Own Conclusions

People talk about The Secret World not holding your hand. Guild Wars 2 holds your hand even less. I don't know if it's because I am a seasoned veteran of MMOs, used to certain methods of questing, but there seems to be a bit of a learning curve on that front, that may be impenetrable to a brand new MMO gamer. Having said that, Sctrz and I had adjusted our expectations of questing and the world within a few hours of play on the first day, so maybe the learning curve is not too steep. The first area we tried seemed very chaotic to me, and the second not enough. The human area seemed just right, but by then we were getting the hang of things, and had roled professions we really enjoyed, so that may have had something to do with it.

While I had fun playing this weekend, and fully intended to play for only a couple hours, just to get a feel for Guild Wars 2, Sctrz really jumped into the game whole hog, very interested in playing all day. She had initially agreed that we would only need to play a couple hours. I'm glad we did play more, because the third and last area we played turned out to be the most fun.

In the end, GW2 did not grab me the way TSW, SWTOR, STO, Rift and WoW all did. I might get GW2 near launch if it were up to me alone. Sctrz, on the other hand, was caught up in it hook, line, and sinker. I have a feeling we'll be playing again as soon as possible, and loving every minute.

13 comments:

  1. You know, it's strange...not until TSW came along did I realize I haven't felt engaged while playing a game in a long time. By that, I mean past the initial excitement stage, past the "everyone else is enjoying it so it's infectious" stage, past all the hype and honeymoon stuff. Not even SWTOR did that for me; though I got really I to it, I suspect being in the long term testing program destroyed that for me.

    I originally thought GW2 would be the game to grab me hook, line and sinker the way it did scrtz, and until a few weeks ago, that was still looking to be the case. I went back this beta weekend, however, and realized TSW may have spoiled me a little. I just can't help but compare the experience. You talk about the GW2 story quests being unengaging, and while I didn't think so before, I have to agree with you a little now. I am now used to a much higher standard of writing.

    I also agree with you on grouping. I can see a lot of potential for GW2 grouping, but perhaps in smaller, more manageable organized groups. On Friday night, me and about 9 other guildies set out to quest and the experience was way better that way, vs. being one person in a group of dozens of strangers in a dynamic event where everyone was just doing their own thing. That simply isn't my idea of cooperation. There's no communication, no coordination, just one big chaotic mess.

    I do love the combat, the class mechanics, and the game is gorgeous. I can see those things fueling my interest, even if the story and quests do not. It's a wonderful game, and I don't expect to be playing it any more than casually anyway, which is perfect for me. Really excited for the end of August.

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    1. I'm looking forward to it, as well. But I am also far more engaged in TSW, right from the beginning, playing that last beta weekend. I have a sneaking suspicion they'll announce another GW2 BWE between now and 28 August.

      Thank you for your thoughts. :)

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  2. Some points:
    1- the story REALLY changes from the choices you make when creating your toon: human noble, commoner or street rat have diferent stories;
    2- at higher levels there are choices that too change the story: for example, what faction the player join;
    3- the stories are only for explain what happens at Tyria (so problably not so defveloped as SWTOR... but I feel we don't saw how that stories develop after levle 20, so we can not be sure);
    4- all stories converge at level 80 when everyone is fighting Zhaitan;
    5- while stories are not the strong point of GW2, we really don't know how what happens above level 20 and we can hope the story get more interesting while the plot develop (well, I played all 3 human main stories and some other races stoires, I have a sensation there is a PLOT);
    6- all races have a "dark side", you can see some shadow at the stories that go to level 20: for exemple, asura can be a lot more mischievous that than they can be pretty;
    7- take note that there are other dragons waiting for be destroyed and other game expansions waiting for launch (and problably other races, Tengu are a possible candidate to a new race, there is an entire zone closed by huge walls where no one can enter and where the tengu live): they will follow GW1, expansions will make money;
    8- if you don't like how a class plays, just CHANGE WEAPON; each weapon have a diferent skill set and diferent starategies of combat;
    9- the Dynamic Events (DE) are the main meat, not the hearts: the hearts are there just for make sure players know where to go, they were implemented after the first closed betas because players said they were lost;
    10- DE chain, so just stay at area for some time after th end of a DE and see what the NPC are doing, thye problably can start a new DE: for example, after kill the fireflies, the NPC activate the lights, but that bring giant mosquitoes and starts a new event, kill the mosquitoes;
    11- talk to NPCs, you can just start a DE;
    12- higher the level zone, more problable events chain and longer are the DE chains: you see the diference just at the next tier zone after (level 15-25) and devs said zone level 80 have no hearts and two times the number of DE (that chain multiple ways);
    13- the problem with grouping at GW2 is that effectivelly a player is grouped to everyone other: that solves problems as kill stealing and comeptition for nodes, but make harder to make in game friends.

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    1. Hey, thanks for all the information. :D I'm glad to see some of our initial impressions will bear fruit, so to speak. On my engineer, I did switch from a pistol and shield to a rifle, which was an interesting difference. I'll agree that the hearts were necessary to provide some direction to the players. Having the DEs be the main focus will take seom getting used to for us. :)

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    2. I never played engineer, but I played elementalist, ranger, warrior, guardian and necromancer. The mechanics changes a lot when a class is using a diferent weapon: a necromancer using two daggers is tottally diferent than a necromancer using a staff, a ranger with shortbow work diferent than witha a longbow (and my pet have more chances surviving if I use a longbow) and an elementalist with a staff can be heavy artillery (fire attuned) or a good suport rain maker (water attuned).

      My guardians (I tested that class more than one BW)started using sword and shield, but soon I traded it for a mace and shield/greatsword. Sometimes I use scepter/torch for have ranged attacks. I tested hammer for some time, it is an interesting choice too.

      My warrior settled for greatsword/rifle. Some people prefer greataxe. Warrior have the huge choice of diferent weapons.

      My ranger started with shortbow/greatsword, but ended with longbow/sword and horn.

      Everytime you change the weapons it is like you are playing a diferent class....

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  3. http://huntersinsight.com/2012/04/26/a-brief-guide-to-naming-your-character/

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  4. On your comments on the supposed "difficulty" and inadvisability of soloing at level, I spent some time after BWE1 and 2 debunking this widespread myth on my blog and in various comment threads. Maybe it has some dependency on class, but I spent quite a few hours specifically testing this proposition as a Charr ranger and found it to be utter nonsense.

    Not only was it easy to solo appropriate content at level, it was, of course, much, much easier than it used to be doing that in any MMO a few years ago. I think people forget, or maybe haven't been around long enough to have experienced, what soloing consists of when the mobs don't literally fall over at your very first attack.

    When I reported this, people told me to wait til I got a bit higher in level and I'd find I would have to stop with the equal-level content and stick to stuff a level or two below me. Nonsense again. I managed to get my ranger into the low thirties before the wipe and at level 32 it was still easy to do pretty much any solo content involving mobs up to level 34 and quite a lot where they were level 35. It was also perfectly feasible, and enjoyable, to pick off many of the higher-difficulty mobs (whatever GW2 calls elites) at and above my level.

    I did notice that if the level gap stretched to four levels some mechanic seemed to kick in preventing me from doing much damage, something I was very familiar with from Everquest. Also that you do need to learn which mobs are weak to which kind of damage. Going like a bull at a gate at every new mob type using the same strategy and skills you always used will cause you problems. Again, this is something I'm familiar with from Everquest.

    An ArenaNet rep said some while ago in an interview that one of their goals was to build a new version of Everquest (I paraphrase but EQ was the specific referent used) and I can see this clear as day throughout the world design and combat mechanics. Anyone who soloed EQ in the early 2000s will very quickly attune to soloing in GW2, only it will feel like soloing on speed.

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    1. Thanks for your insights. I've never played EQ, but I did recognize different techniques were required to defeast various mobs.

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    2. I did notice that I had some trouble soloing equal level mobs if I did not pay attention to what I was doing. I think because you can get yourself into trouble with your skill rotation if you are over eager. You certainly can't banzai your way through the content, but I have no complaint about that.

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    3. Hey, Hzero, MMO Melting Pot has a roundup of fairly balanced, if mostly positive blog reviews. tinyurl.com/clep7lt

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  5. You and your friend had a similar range of reactions to me and my husband. His reaction was like yours, whereas it was love at first sight for me with this game and I still felt that way on the last beta. But then I'm a Guild Wars 1 fangirl (I'm guessing you didn't play it, as they also had the ability to make surnames) and one of the things that impressed me was all the callbacks to the original lore. Plus the fluid combat, the love they've put into the environment, the vistas, the lack of a schlep back to town to turn in minor quests - I could go on, but I won't.

    You mentioned the dyeing system and yes, they are free for the limited palette you get at the start plus you sometimes find dyes as drops. If you are a dye completionist, you can get dye packs from the gem shop.

    If you are used to playing healer, you might enjoy Guardian: it can hold its own in a fight but has a greater range of support options than some other classes.

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    1. Thank you for your insights. Sctrz is my wife (@sctrz on Twitter), and we partner up in MMOs all the time. You're right I did not play GW1, but I did learn from Hunters Insight that it enabled (required?) surnames.

      I saw the option to buy dye packs in the Dye Interface, but didn't look too closely, since when I messing with it the basic packs were sufficient. I just think it's a great system all told. Thanks for the info on where to find them for purchase.

      I'll look into Guardian, that's one profession neither my lovely bride nor I actually tried.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting. :)

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