Final thoughts from a final Guild Wars 2 beta weekend

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.

8 thoughts on “Final thoughts from a final Guild Wars 2 beta weekend

  1. Well The GW2 Platform still has many issues and many users that could not get it to even load properly since the last beta. I did manage to log in but the game maxed my cpu’s out.. Play was ok it did entertain me for the short time I did play. Guild wars forums had several postings on the fact that the game was not playing good for many people but moderators deleted them within hours of the postings. I think the game has a lot going for it but obviously there are still many issues in loading and gameplay. . In addition to this no refunds will be handed out after the launch date of aug 28th but that still gives people a couple days to try it out on the early start. So that is pretty fair on GW2’s part.

  2. I expected to loathe the Sylvari and was pleased to find my prejudices confirmed. I also thought their starting area was ugly beyond belief. Their lands improve a lot once you push out to where the mobs hit around 6 or 7, though. It gets less green, for one thing, and you can see the sky.

    If you plan on crafting and intend to get all your own materials rather than buying them, chances are you’ll be doing plenty of grinding, like it or not. At least if you’re a leatherworker or a tailor you will. I spent hours and hours doing that in the earlier BWEs and loved it. So relaxing. The xp per kill may be small but I found it ticked over nicely as my stacks of skins and cloth accumulated. I have to say that I think gathering mats for crafting is the single thing I’m most looking forward to when GW2 launches.

  3. The Sylvari area was fine when it came to Heart/Event density and getting you high enough level to smoothly go over to the next one. The Asura area though (and Queensdale, unless they fixed it) will require straight-up grinding of mobs and/or redoing multiple Events in order to hit the Recommended levels.

  4. The sylvari home felt the most like a non city to me, beautiful aesthetic and even more so at night but it was just missing that grand feeling the others have. The only indication of it being anything more than any other area was the masses of npc’s. I felt the tutorial part lacked a bit of urgency as well. In saying all that I really do love the race after the remake away from elves wearing leaves

  5. They are not elves because elves come from Norse and Germanic lore. The sylvari were originally planned as the sidhe, which come from Scottish and Irish lore. (I was into mythology and fairy lore long before I was into MMOs.) As for the game, sylvari aren’t for me either but I think ANet deserves a lot of credit for the unique design instead of simply going the people-with-pointy-ears route (even though I’m personally more inclined to play people with pointy ears than I am plants.)

    I love the mesmer’s butterflies. One of my favorite things in the original was the fireworks, primarily because of the butterflies so the fact that my beloved profession conjures butterflies at will makes me feel like the profession was made just for me.

    I had no problems leveling in Queensdale previously or Metrica without having to repeat anything. In fact, I probably missed a lot of events. Grinding mobs just isn’t an efficient means of leveling at all. Also, I think someone did the math and found reviving to be the equivalent of 3 or 4 kills. Gathering and crafting are easy XP as well.

  6. “My character ended up with a mushroom for a head… She ended up looking like a Chinese farmer.”

    What are you saying? :p

  7. The Sylvari I started almost ended up with a mushroom on his head, and that’s probably the look I’ll go with if(when) I role one after launch. While I went with the purple scheme for my mesmer, I would probably change it up with dyes in the live game. Do the advanced spells revolve around purple?

    @Aly It matters not what the mythological origins of the Sylvari are, they’re still elf expies. The sidhe and the Teutonic elfs served the same purpose in the lore of their respective cultures. However, as I said in my blog post on the subject, I think the Sylvari are a creative approach to the trope.

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