I’m back! It always feels utterly weird to take a full week off writing, but it’s refreshing as well. Recharges the batteries, y’know? Anyway, I want to sincerely thank the legion of guest posters who filled Bio Break with great discussions last week.
So I got home on Friday and was prepared to do my usual digging-out-of-blog-posts and MMO catch-up. Then a little birdie said, “Guild Wars 2 beta weekend!” and all hope was lost for me. I actually wasn’t planning on playing it, but I had a personal project I was hoping to complete over the course of the weekend (which I may tell you about some day), so I spent upwards of 10 hours in GW2.
Might as well write about it, right?
Thoughts on Sylvari
Ah, the Sylvari. ArenaNet’s “They’re totally not elves even though they live in trees and commune with the earth and ride around in giant poofy plant pods!” It’s the race I’m the least likely to play on launch — I think this weekend locked in the Asura for me, they’re so dang cool — so exploring them in beta was a no-lose proposition. All the game could do would be to win me over, somehow.
It didn’t quite do that, but I was very impressed with just how beautiful the starting area is. I mean, all of GW2 that I’ve seen is visually gorgeous, but this is right up there. Splashing streams, underwater ship graveyards, ruins, jungle-lite — it’s nice. Hard as anything to navigate at times, but easy on the eyes.
My character ended up with a mushroom for a head, which was a… unique character creation option. She ended up looking like a Chinese farmer because of it, and from a distance didn’t look any different than a typical human model. Some of the other Sylvari were a lot more diverse.
Thoughts on the Mesmer
I picked the Mesmer because it’s a class that I honestly did want to be swayed toward — pleasantly surprised enough to abandon my top two choices of Engineer and Ranger. After 10 hours with it, I have to say it’s in my top 3. If you can get past the purple-up-your-nose and butterfly aesthetic, it’s a much different-feeling class than you’d find elsewhere.
A lot of the Mesmer’s abilities revolve around illusions (clones of yourself that do different things) and messing with the enemy’s ability to function properly. You can have up to three illusions out at any given time, although they just last for one battle and have to be summoned again for the next one, and you can sacrifice them to gain a strong effect like confusing the enemy for five seconds. Like most everything else in GW2, your weapon choice impacts your core skills, so in this case it changed what kind of illusions I had going on. Pistols would allow me to summon an illusionary pistoleer, while other weapons gave me a tanking illusion or a warlock illusion. I actually got pretty good with this class in the time given, and while it’s definitely squishy, it can be devastating if wielded properly.
Thoughts on underwater combat
Originally I poo-pooed Anet going bananas over underwater combat — you know, we’ve been there, done that so many times in MMOs, and so on — but I gave it a lot more attention this weekend and swam away highly impressed. There are a few things that elevate this sphere of combat above the typical MMO underwater stuff, such as follows:
- The movement is very fluid (har!) (please stop me), and you move fast enough so that it doesn’t feel like a slog
- There’s a lot to see, and some of the underwater vistas are incredible — perhaps more so than what you see on land
- I really like the fact that you use a different weapon with different skills, which changes things up
- The underwater city with the Quagaan (or however you spell their names) was one of the highlights of the beta for me
Thoughts on the overall play experience
While I went through the personal story, I kept skipping the cutscenes so I wouldn’t spoil it for that bizarre future when I actually play a Sylvari. The personal missions were pretty challenging, yet I could keep rezzing to give them another go.
So from what I can tell, if you shy away from PvP, the flow of the game will be something like this for you: Intro –> Couple heart areas / events –> next step in personal storyline –> more events/hearts –> next personal storyline quest –> etc. Your personal storyline has specific levels attached to it, so if you try to head into one before you’re that level, you’re going to struggle or probably fail at it. So it’s good to keep things diversified.
What I found was that grinding mobs was a waste of time/XP gained, while doing hearts, events, and exploring points of interest did the most to level me up. I’d often just head to the next heart area, start doing whatever jobs there were, and pay attention for events around me. Events are almost always worth doing, especially since they seem to scale up and down based on participants, and they do have that RIFT effect of making the world feel more dynamic. I like how easy it is to be doing cooperative activities alongside of others without having to fiddle with grouping or any of that, and every time I’d be downed in an event, someone leaped to revive me.
After a few of these beta events, I feel that I have a good feel for the basics of Guild Wars 2. I think it’s going to be an excellent entry into the MMO field offering strong visuals, a slightly different way to play (less questing, more reacting to the world around you), and many small improvements over what we’ve seen in this genre so far. For some it’ll be the one MMO to rule them all, for others it’ll be a fun side diversion. Both are acceptable in my book.