Guild Wars 2: First Blood

So apparently I still pre-own Guild Wars 2.

Have you ever received a rebate check for a product you do not remember purchasing? That is about how I felt towards this Beta Weekend part deux. “Oh. This is still a thing, isn’t it?” I asked myself, rhetorically. “Better get on with it, then.”

When we last left our brave adventurer, I was on Point 5. So…

Point 6: You will never be as cool as me

Exhibit A:

Badass GW2 character, i.e. me

Go ahead, you can stare.

I was tempted to leave that glamor-shot in its full resolution – you know, for the ladies – but it is already dubious as to whether the RSS feed can handle this level of BAMF, let alone with an extra thousand unfiltered pixels. Horatio Mazuma simply has that effect on people.

Point 7: Combat still feels… meh?

I spent a lot more time playing as the rogue Thief this time around, aka Horatio, and I am beginning to doubt the… legitimacy (for lack of a better term) of the combat system. When running around with double-daggers, your five skills are:

  1. Auto-attack.
  2. Heartseeker: Leap attack; more damage the less HP target has.
  3. Leaping Death Blossom: jump behind enemy, inflicting 3 Bleeds.
  4. Dancing Dagger: Ranged snare that bounces between 4 enemies.
  5. Cloak and Dagger: Inflict debuff and then stealth for 3 seconds.

Sounds cool, right? And it is. There is a kind of intuitive logic to those abilities, a sort of rhythm when you use them. Something woefully missing with many other weapon “combos.” For example, bust out a sword + pistol and you get:

  1. Auto-attack.
  2. Infiltrator’s Strike: Shadowstep to enemy, press again to teleport back to original location.
  3. Pistol Whip: Stun, then stab with sword.
  4. Black Powder: Basic shot + blinds nearby enemies.
  5. Head Shot: Basic shot + interrupt.

Those might sound alright, but in practice it just feels weird. None of those have a feeling of rotation or synergy, and it feels especially awkward to me when I couldn’t use Infiltrator’s Strike to “charge” to the next enemy because the return teleport option doesn’t go away for a long time. I suppose that this weapon combo may be better suited for PvP than PvE, now that I think about it. All I know is that the combat felt bad during this time period, and felt similarly bad when I was on the warrior unlocking other (possibly PvP) weapon skill sets.

Incidentally, the “play melee at your own risk” warning applies the same as before. I joined a “group” of players for a nearby event on two separate occasions with melee characters, and both times the mobs suddenly gained 2+ levels to “compensate” for the number of participants with predictably bad results. Nothing quite like running a level 6 event and then have a swarm of level 8 ghosts instantly spawn and mow down the front ranks.

Indeed, the more I experience the combat system in general, the less legitimate it comes across. Presumably you are supposed to be circle-strafing all the time to avoid positional damage, right? Or at least actively Dodging. But I am finding it incredibly difficult to ascertain the difference between a “Dodge this or else!” attack and a run-of-the-mill claw to the face attack. The mobs with a breath weapon? Sure, that’s simple. However, I am not in any particular mood to start memorizing the arbitrary Poker tells of a hundred different fantasy monsters when I am grinding XP yet again. In fact, let’s talk about that too.

Point 8: Quest Contortionist

By which I mean: the questing in Guild Wars 2 is disjointed.

You are given a “My Story” plot-driven series of quests which, at first blush, appears to be the “point” of the PvE game. There is some murder, some intrigue, a little treason, and enough hooks to get you to want to see where all this is going. But… you can’t. After finishing a quest wherein we decided to gather evidence against a particular government official, I found that the next step of the quest was 1.5 levels away. So… yeah. I opened my map, looked for a “quest heart” in my level range that wasn’t already filled in, and teleported to a field I knew bandits frequented so I could start farming the 0.5 levels I needed to gain before I could reasonably complete the quest hearts I found. Apparently there is an expectation that you will be filling in every heart and every Event in the area, or perhaps supplementing the XP gaps with WvWvW.

Or purchasing the +50% XP potions from the cash shop. Just sayin’.

Thing is, I did not care about these stupid farmers with their Israeli Settlements in centaur country. None of that had anything to do with the plot against the crown, which I was just in the middle of solving. Why am I out here again? There is zero connection. This is not equivalent to the sort of expansion-wide story arcs of WoW; this is literally a quest saying “I think Minister Wi was involved. Go gather evidence from that cave (Recommended level: 8).” And instead of doing that, I need to kill the spiders infesting the apple orchid because pies.

Point 9: Sharing is Caring

Remember how individual looting was the sort of wild-idea innovation that felt so good that you wonder why so many MMO companies did not jump on it earlier? Well, I have another one of those: individual resource nodes.

Genius!

If the picture is not clear enough, both myself and the esteemed Luke Duke [Ass] are mining the same Copper Ore node. As in, both of us are getting the customary 3 ore from this node. What makes this noteworthy is that to reach this node, we had to defeat 5-6 giant spiders to get there. Had this been, say, WoW or many other MMOs, I would have either glanced warily at my competition and went elsewhere, or attempted to ninja the node while Luke Duke [Ass] was occupied with spiders. Instead, we each had a common cause, a reason to work together, to get to the same exact location. It was 1+1 = 2, rather than the zero-sum game it typically is.

_________

More impressions about crafting and other miscellaneous items will have to wait.

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Posted on June 11, 2012, in Guild Wars 2 and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. I liked point 9 especially…

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  2. @6 Character creation options indeed look very rich in variety and I cannot imagine how much time I will spend in it. But probably something around lots^2.

    @7 It is a bit sad that melee characters still have a much harder time avoiding damage. Arenanet stated after the last beta that they had some ideas in mind for changing that; too bad they did not yet find a good solution in their bag of tricks.
    I actually am in favour of different weapon sets having different meaningful areas to use them. Sword and pistol seem to be alot about controlling the output of enemy damage with a stun, blind and interrupt. Probably you can use this at the start when running into a pack of 3, then to daggers to bring one down, switching back to renew the blind etc.

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  3. @8 I think questing is supposed to be disjointed.
    Usally in MMO’s you do a quest, then a quest, then a followup, then a new quest aaaand then a quest. With GW2 they want to avoid that. But you basically get experience for everything you do, be it a questheart, grind mobs, do a skill challenge, an event, a mundane task, collecting materials, pure exploring(even of cities), crafting and what not.
    If you choose to get your 0.5 level with grinding, it’s up to you.
    I understand that you wanted to continue your personal story immediatly, though it is not ment to be the “point” of PvE and possibly not supposed to be chained one after the other. GW2 doesn’t seem to have “that one point” of PvE, not one big arc per expansion that you have to achieve or to fail the game. If someone plays GW2 with the purpose of conquering that highest peak of mountains and then prance around on top of it, he/she might be playing the game wrong, or playing the wrong game.

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    • That is certainly possible.

      I don’t exactly see unintelligible questing being trumpeted as a feature though, which is where I suppose I come in. It would be one thing if there wasn’t a Personal Story… but there is, you know? ArenaNet cannot be on both sides of this fence.

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      • It’s pretty clear you don’t like the game. That’s fine. But honestly, it’s nothing like you’ve been saying. I’m not sure what you were expecting, but perhaps you should try to look at the game in a different perspective next time you try it (if you do).

        But it does seem like your reviews are a little trollish.

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      • But honestly, it’s nothing like you’ve been saying.

        Oh? And how is it, truly?

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  4. My post gets longer and longer as I edit it. Sorry for the blob.

    First time I played GW2 this weekend. I’ve never played GW and for me Diablo 3 comes closest to this game. I did very little research on GW2 instead using a more pure, exploring approach (but reading up and looking into stuff on the go as I reach obstacles). Yesterday I reached level 20 on my mesmer, unlocked all weapon skills, completed my profession (class) story, and about 75% of all quests in the second area.

    The different weapons allow you to respec “on the fly” using key ` which is conveniently located next to 12345, your weapon abilities. Having also lvled an elementalist (did I mention I like playing ranged?) to about level 8 they respec with weapon but more so also with switching to one of the 4 different elements. On my mesmer, F1-F4 allows me to execute abilities with my illusions (clones) whereas the elementalist goes to different elemental states which one could consider as a respec. Each elemental state has their own + and -, (play)style/preference, and functionality. I feel the same about the different weapons I used on my mesmer. The ` and F-keys have relatively long CDs so you cannot go back and forth between them the whole time but you can for example on a mesmer start with ranged weapon such as staff or 2H sword using your CDs, and then switch to DW 2 swords making you a formidable melee as the enemy approaches you.

    Having played thief briefly you mention you don’t wish to remember what ability to dodge. How did you or were you going to deal with shadowstep (which steals (copies) a spell from a an enemy specific to them)? I did not play the thief enough to comment on the weapons but having played the other 2 professions perhaps it is possible you like one weapon (skillset/spec) more so than another. You can try out all weapons because a weaponsmith sells them all though not with spectacular stats. This way, you can also lvl them up.

    About the questing feeling disjointed. Having played SWTOR I was able to breeze (or rather: hunt for) the class quests ignoring the rest. Here I had to gear up, I had to actually play the game well. When I went to farm some materials for my professions my level was downgraded to the appropriate content. First I did not understand why (the UI just communicated it though), but later I understood. Compared to WoW and SWTOR the quests are also fun and challenging ie. you cannot just zerg through it to get to end lvl to play end-game. I’d like to hear about games where the questing and lvling is _better_ than in GW2.

    Then we have the rally system. After you died, you lie on the floor with 4 basic abilities (depending on your current weapon(s)). If you kill the enemy you rally and stand up. It is like a yellow card for failing a mechanism of an enemy, or in PvP like kill confirmed in Call of Duty. One problem with it is that you can strategically not kill an enemy but having them near dead (and no AoE) so when you fall you can quickly get up by finishing off that enemy. Works well in PvE, not so well in PvP. If you play with others you can revive you, but they will not know to barely kill an opponent.

    I have not used any “boosts” whatsoever even when they were provided as quest reward. I cannot remember I did any quest twice. I never had to farm anything for XP, only for my profession. I did very little PvP (just checking it out) because I prefer questing (but it is very boring in most MMOs). Questing in this game was not boring because of the dynamic, natural feeling of joining (helping) others in questing. There is no such thing as kill stealing or ninja looting. The worst ninja I have seen in my gameplay was a fellow kiting adds towards me while I was standing in what I considered a neutral area to check AH. The worst ninja I did was mining a node while someone else was killing monsters before it, me not knowing we could both mine it. He wrote in /say as I read later “greedy”, but I shrugged since it is default in other MMO to be like this tho I did not find it to work in harmony with the rest of the game I later learned the nodes are shared. Speaking of TP (trading post, AH) you can fill buy orders there. Someone offers to pay an X amount of gold for an item and you agree to this price. Brilliant. Between SWTOR (crap AH UI) and WoW (needs addons to function properly but still limited) this AH was heaven although a bit slow in the evening.

    The lack of a subscription model is interesting. You need to purchase the game once, and furthermore there are some vanity/utility items which one can buy. This is an interesting compromise between P2P and F2P.

    Describing GW2 in one word: clever.

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  5. RE: 8, Isn’t it odd that all these MMOs still make this leveling game that serves as nothing other than a timesink until you can get to the intended “real game”? Why not just start you at max level and get right to it? If you think about RPGs of old, ‘max level’ wasn’t even a factor. It existed but hardly anyone got to it. MMOs today, however, are like action games with a leveling portion attached.

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    • I never felt that way at all playing this BWE; I didn’t care for levels, I never had pacing issues where I suddenly was too low to continue and I couldn’t have cared less about getting to some kind of endgame. I was enjoying the FULL game already and I felt like there was almost not enough time to cover everything around me. not once did I PvP.

      I don’t know how much of this is player mindset, how much is bad luck with timing etc. and how much is being helpless (?) at dealing with less railway. my explorer’s heart had a crazy good time with GW2, especially because there was so much freedom.
      if you’re waiting for the ‘real game to start’ later in GW2, you might be very disappointed.

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      • You say less railway, I say less coherency.

        I don’t particularly care about leveling in GW2 beyond it erecting arbitrary barriers between where I am and where I wanted to go, e.g. to see what happened next in the story they’re presenting. It is like you are reading a book and then your parents tell you to go play outside for half an hour, then coming back in and trying to reengage where you left off. It simply feels badly designed, especially after all the trouble they go through to make the story “exciting.”

        I’m glad you are enjoying yourself, although I must also commend your luck at happening to choose to explore exactly where the designers told you that you could, in their very specific order.

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      • But how would one introduce a personal story quest line without having these bumpers alogn the road?
        Either start the quest once you are max level, which I find unplausible since I have been an adventurer throughout the land for the last 80 levels, or let me gain so much experience that I can chain the events, making the world around me pointless.
        Third option, the personal story only takes place between level 1-10, not a great solution either.
        I have not played it myself so I don’t know what it actually feels like, but I understand why I have to be more experienced, diverse and probably in a more dangerous place the further the story takes me. So I can’t finish something right on demand, now or never, I think I’m fine with that.
        Else it would be like you are reading a book and as soon as the hero enters the magical world, he finds the magic sword and sticks it into the dragons heart right away. Usally you have chapters of lots of struggle in between, some of them might bore you to death, but then you can always decide to not read the book.

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    • I just read Tobold’s blog about character death http://tobolds.blogspot.nl/2012/06/handling-character-death-in-d.html also related to your point.

      We have 2 type of games:

      Rogue-like, where the game is about surviving and then lvling, gearing.

      MMO-like, where the game is about lvling, gearing and then surviving.

      The reason why rogue-like and MMO-like don’t go together is because in such a case you put your life (and countless of hours of lvling) in the hands of others.

      Early MMOs were more grindy, but either can be grindy. Die in rogue-like game? Gotta start over. Diablo 3 has this mode too, it is called hardcore. It is highly recommended to grind gear there, to play it safe.

      The lvling in GW2 cannot be compared to that in WoW or SWTOR because it feels far less grindy due to its dynamic nature in PvE, and it isn’t about raiding in end-game. I’ve heard from others Rift has (some?) of these features too which is interesting but I never played Rift. WoW’s strength lies in the end-game. SWTOR’s strength lies in PvP and lvling (the class story only stays relevant and the other quests are pretty boring). GW2 is about lvling and PvP but has less voice acting than SWTOR, and it doesn’t have a holy trinity.

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  6. Hmmm the more I read about GW2, the less interesting it seems.

    The good side is that it’s “buy once, play forever”, if the cash shop doesn’t end up being as in LotRO’s (“buy this or else!….”), it may still be good money.

    But I still wait for a game which gets rid of levels, allowing me to play with friends who have a completely different investment….. for the moment the solution is always “keep one character in level range to play together”, which means I cannot play the character I like when playing with them.

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    • In GW2 if you are level 20, your friend is level 5, and you join him in quest for level 3 you’ll both be downgraded to level 3. You won’t be able to boost him, you can just play together.

      I am not sure if this also lowers your gear.

      A game like WoW has what you say: end-game. But then it becomes a gear check.

      What you say is inherent incompatible with MMO because MMO is about lvling and gearing. I’d say the artificial nerf in GW2 is as good as it gets.

      The stuff from the cash shop was all vanity or utility. I found nothing outstanding, YMMV. The only one I used was the one which allows me to access bank from anywhere. But after I found out you can sell to TP from anywhere (just need TP vendor to pick up your profits), keeping lots of more stuff like crafting mats in my bank, and got my 8-slot bags from my tailoring my bags weren’t always full anymore.

      I have not played dungeon, so I cannot comment on it; has anyone played any dungeon? What was your experience like?

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  7. @Azuriel
    the first character I started leveling was a Norn I took straight to Queensdale. I do prefer the winter settings though, so the second time around I stuck to that, if not for too long.
    either way, I find it a moot point – you always have to start some_where and it makes sense to start off where your character was placed initially until you actually understand how the game works and what other areas exist. and once you also understand the Asura gates, you can swap with ease, without having to run through half the worldmap first in order to join your friends.
    the only thing that\’s obviously a bit sad is that HP only downgrades; I expected this to work both ways, so your choices would really come close to open world. on the other hand they probably wanted to keep a sense for the dangers and inaccessibility of the higher zones.

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