This Is Guild Wars 2: First Impressions
Wow. That’s all I can say. It’s been a long time coming, but finally the masses have had their first taste of Guild Wars 2. After hours of bug crashes and fumbling around with the control scheme, beta is finished with me barely scraping the sur-face of the game, and there’s a few things that stick out in my mind that made this beta weekend quite interesting. From the highs of getting utterly lost in Lion’s Arch, to the lows of dying alone in WvW, here’s my list of things that defined my experience in the beta. I played an norn guardian and a human noble engineer both up to around level 10, with almost no friend or guild interaction, and most of it was on the Friday and Saturday.
Friends are part of the system requirements.
If you want to have the best experience, you need to be playing with someone, preferably a friend or two. Yes, people join ad-hoc into miniature groups formed around the dynamic events, which I found to be one of the best parts of the game. But often I found myself by myself, wandering around without a care in the world. It was still very fun, but some things are very tough if you don’t know what you’re doing, and it does get lonely. This becomes startling clear in WvW to the point where I feel I need to issue a warning: If you’re planning to take WvW seriously, you will need a clan. You alone will not survive unless you are surrounded by others, and the only way servers will win these battles is through massive clan co-operation and tactics that normal groups of players just don’t have. Small groups of your friends will probably be able to tackle the small fry as an ambush group, but don’t expect to remain standing when you walk down a hill and find yourself face to face with fifty people marching towards the point you just came from.
Oh dear god this lag
I’m playing from Australia, so I wasn’t expecting the best ping. However, at a certain time when I was playing both days it got bad. Really bad. As in, I couldn’t activate any ability, everyone froze in position, unlimited dodge for full minutes at a time. We’re not talking seconds, we’re talking minutes. I’m going to assume that this is all beta issues due to the massive number of players on the servers, but even without that, I was noticing a lot of server-side lag. Moving trebuchets and firing had a second delay, and weapon skills and dodging wouldn’t register every so often. I was afraid to try melee for a lot of the game, as it would sometimes register misses when it was right next to me. Even the commerce window and trading post were taking an age to load, let alone buy an item. Thankfully, it looks as if this was caused by the massive influx of people as well as optimisation issues, and it was looking slightly better during the few minutes I played at the end, so I’ll be happy to report back next month to see if anything has been fixed.
I think I’m lost…
I’ll be honest- I was expecting to be handheld through a lot of this. When I think back to something like Star Wars: The Old Republic, it was quite simple for the first eight hours: follow this list of where you have to be, kill X and get Y, come back for the next thing. In Guild Wars 2, I was dumped into the open world in about 15 minutes, and it took me an hour to realise that I could go wherever the hell I wanted to. This has advantages and disadvantages. One of the biggest things I faced personally was that I started to lose my sense of direction, ending up trying to find something marked on the map but being side-tracked by a skill point that was in a hidden cave on the side, or finding myself saving bears from the Sons Of Svanir when I was really trying to find my next story checkpoint. Even better was the asura gates which teleported me over to Lion’s Arch, then the norn’s hunting lodges. One time I went from Lion’s Arch to a level 15 zone while I was still at level 6 and promptly got my ass kicked. It’s a big world with almost no boundaries, and with the limited time I had in the beta I only ended up utterly lost in one of the norn zones, started exploring one of the human zones, and didn’t even touch the charr lands. And to top it all off, we haven’t even seen the other two races’ home cities, or anything above level 30.
How the hell am I the best player on my team?
Structured PvP, while woefully unpolished, is on the right track to becoming a major part of the game. Right now, picking armour and weapons in the mists feels very weird, even if it does make logical sense. Going through a buy screen filled with weapons that your profession can’t use is slightly annoying, and I wish they broke up the weapons, runes and sigils into categories for better sorting, or at least have more than one cheeky asura giving you the gear. The mode itself is great in normal public play, fighting is dramatic and engaging and the mechanic of capturing points works. Of particular note are the two different maps and their quirks, the trebuchet and Roshan-like bosses. Having now played with the trebuchet, I am convinced that in the right hands, they are deadly and overpowered. With lag making everything move a second later and very bad aim from only playing a few games, I was still able to deal huge amounts of damage to points, each shot weighing in at around half of a normal player’s health, with knockback. It’s insanely fun to fire a shot and see on the kill feed that two people are knocked down by the one shot. As for the Forest of Niflhel, the bosses function much like in Dota 2 or League of Legends. While slightly hard to deal with on your own (although I can foresee people building “jungle” characters just for this map, and there has been higher tier players being able to demolish them), the points more than make up for it, although I feel that the buffs are not as noticeable as they should be. They’re also quite easy to steal right underneath the opposition’s nose and get away with safety, so it’ll be quite fun to watch daring attempts to get the last hit and run away laughing, once spectator mode is in.
Does it deliver?
From what I’ve seen, and considering that we’re still at least another few months away from any sort of release date, yes. Optimization, interface cleaning and number tweaking aside, the way the game handles itself in how you interact with the world is jaw dropping. The graphics are stunningly good, and I found myself blinking and wondering about how the background music was so good while doing some downtime trading. Gameplay is deep, and it’ll take a while to learn how to use every single action, not to mention how to spec your gear and traits. I do feel that it is lacking on the single-player side, with WvW being very hard and finding myself unfocused in PvE, but that aside it is a very solid base for the first large-scale public look at the game. In fact, this game is so good that it broke my new graphics card.