On the whole, I think Guild Wars 2 is a smashing game from what I’ve seen. That doesn’t mean it’s impervious to criticism or faults, of course. Developing a game over five years now has to lend itself to a few mistakes in judgment.
The more I think about it, the more I agree with several bloggers out there who are expressing dissatisfaction with the skill system and hotbar setup. It’s not impossible to figure out, but the game doesn’t go out of its way to explain what is pretty unique to the mechanic (different weapons/items radically change the skills on the hotbar). I really, really disliked having to “unlock” skills every time I’d pick up a new weapon type. This might be okay for the beginning game, when you’re slowly learning things, but when I’m level 12 and happen to pick up my first pair of pistols, I don’t want to be struggling through a couple dozen fights before I get all of the standard skills that I should be using.
Like my fellow bloggers, I totally didn’t understand the chain skills or combos, only picking up some of those after experimentation. Oh, I don’t need to keep jamming on the 1 key so that my three-skill chain goes off? The game just automatically does these once I hit the key a single time? Thanks for letting me know!
I understand that this format is in response to the craziness that Guild Wars 1’s anything-can-go skill builds created, particularly after a couple campaigns were added and balancing became impossible. But it feels like the pendulum swung too far to the other side, to the point where we’re not allowed to customize half of our hotbar. Is this progress? It looks like linebacking to me.
In 2007, maybe this was a good idea. Today we have a bevy of MMOs that allow players so much flexibility when it comes to builds and attack rotations that it comes off as needlessly antagonistic toward the player. I’m all in favor of a simple hotbar with 7 or 8 skills. But in The Secret World, I can mix and match between a whole bunch of skills to make up my rotation, whereas Guild Wars 2 gives me four slots and tells me I should be happy.
It’s probably a moot point to complain about this now; there doesn’t seem to be any obvious way to change this system without a major overhaul. I even kind of like the fact that there are weapon-specific skills, but I’d be a lot happier if these were limited to just one or two, giving us the rest of the hotbar for our own build.
Maybe it’s too early to pronounce judgment on this as well. GW2 does give you different weapon slots so that you can swap between them, and that does give you some flexibility between the preset builds. Changing weapons on the fly might be interesting and key to unlocking the fun here, but I didn’t get into that in the beta.