GW2 Checkpoint: Month 1
One of the best 1-month reviews I have read is Julian’s over on KTR. Not so much for the content of the review, but rather for evoking that sort of hollow feeling that I find Guild Wars 2 gives off.
Guild Wars 2 is like bungee-jumping without the cord. It is all fun and excitement on the way down, but there isn’t anything that snaps back and keeps you in the experience.
A lot of the reviews I have been reading (save one) do not do much in the way of differenciating between the game and the MMO aspect. From a game aspect, sure, it will give you more than a 2:1 return on hour of entertainment per dollar. If you are looking for a one-month stand, so to speak, by all means GW2 is your girl. In fact, with all the dynamic events and no-strings attached spontaneous grouping, it is practically a swinger’s paradise.
If instead you are looking for an MMO you can develop a relationship with, one that both allows investment and a perceived return for time spent, you are still basically stuck with pandas or space trolls.¹
But let me zero in on a couple of areas, including the ones I called out pre-launch.
A lot of people talk about the freedom aspect of GW2 questing, of spontaneity. And it is true. But it is a freedom derived from walking around not giving a shit.
It still boggles my mind how little press the complete elimination of quest text has gotten. I have talked about this before, but a month in, these Hearts feel worse than the most banal of WoW’s daily quests. I do not care if you never read quest text anyway, the point is that a writer/designer still had to at least go through the motions. Where are the motions here?
Have you even tried talking to these Renown Heart guys? The dialog interface is awful, and outside of Gravedigger Dumpy, it all feels like it was written by an accountant. Has anyone actually encountered a coherant narrative in the Renown Hearts? I haven’t. And what I mean is have you actually been interested in what is going on beyond the strict gameplay elements introduced? Do you remember any of the NPC names?
This is not about “location-based” questing, this is about questing without context. And if you have filled one meter, you have filled them all.
I have not reached the conclusion of the Story quests, so I shall reserve final judgment on them. But to be honest, most of what I have seen has been phoned in. Story mission difficulty oscillates between trivial and broken, the tone of the narrative is all over the place (one minute everyone is Lawful Good Looney Toons villains, and the next we torture/kill in cold blood), and I have seen no indication that this story is any different than every “dragon terrorizes the land” story ever made. Including and especially the one presented in Cataclysm, which I suppose is unfortunate timing on ArenaNet’s part.
As I said last time around:
If anyone in-game talks about Events a month after launch, it will solely be in the context of “Where do I level now?” and “Where are all the Events?” and “I’ve been waiting for X Event to spawn for six minutes now!” and “Lame, the Waypoint I wanted to use is contested.” Events are not Guild Wars 2′s killer app. Events are fun the first time, promote spontaneous grouping in the immediate area, and technically have branching paths, I guess.
Events also scale horribly with a lot of people (melee in particular get hammered by dozens of instantly spawned +2 level mobs), are boring the 2nd/3rd/nth time around, interfere with normal questing/exploring in the area (yay, 20 kobolds just spawned in this cave again), are not easy to find or fun to wait around for, and become just plain tedious when completed alone. Regardless of how successful or not GW2 does sales-wise, it will not take but a few weeks for the playerbase to diffuse across the leveling/zone spectrum, making the outdoor-raid-esque feel of beta Events turn into the Warhammer’s “Forever Alone” Public Quest ghost towns.
At a minimum, I try to complete the Daily Achievement during my play session, which requires 5 Events. For every day of the prior week, I have had to cheese the achievement by logging onto an alt and flailing about in the rapidly reseting starting zone Events because I simply did not encounter five working Events in 2 hours of level 50-60 gameplay. When non-bugged Events do spawn, a handful of people usually appear out of the ether, but the mood is more akin of starving dogs swarming over table-scraps than “oh, hey, here’s another one of those things which the leveling system is supposedly built around.”
Which is just as well in the scheme of things, because the majority of Events are worse than the Renown Hearts under close scrutiny. Kill X waves of Y monster. Pick up Z items and return. Aaaaaaaaand that’s it. Maybe I am doing the wrong Events? If so, go ahead and tell me where I can find these good “Dynamic” Events and how long I would have to wait in that general area to trigger them.
Is there anyone who is playing GW2 who feels like WvW was designed/executed properly? Anyone?
What I will grant is there are a lot more Waypoints than there was in the beta, making the graveyard slog not as bad. And it is nice that they are dropping the bags of loot from dead players at your feet now instead of asking you to drop down from the castle walls to collect your tokens. Then again… why are you asking players to furiously press F as they dodge and strafe in the press of the zerg, with people dying left and right? Is it a cynical design ploy to help throttle the volume of items generated in these encounters, since X% of legitimately earned items inadvertently go unclaimed?
Ho boy. I have completed two thus far, and… I am going to save my descriptions of them (and hopefully the others) for a future post.
By the way, I spent 45 minutes trying to get a party together for Twilight Arbor story-mode two days ago. As in, I was apparently incapable of getting four other random people grouped together. Is the lack of a LFG tool really a boneheaded mistake that every game designer is going to have to make from now on? Because let me tell you, limiting your LFG “tool” to self-flagged people only in that map is bullshit design that should have been laughed out of the office in 2012. Dungeons were already going to be a niche activity no matter what ArenaNet did, but to further drain the available pool down to “someone with an hour to kill, who hasn’t done the Story mode yet, who happens to be on a level 30/40/50+ character in a level 1-15 zone for some goddamn reason, who specifically replies to map chat requests” is beyond asinine.
With free server transfers, cross-server guilds, multiple guilds, and anonymous grouping, “saving the server community” is not even remotely a legitimate concern.
MMO Aspects Aside…
As a single-player game, it is probably worth your $60. Combat is nowhere near as responsive as WoW, character progression basically ends at level 30, and of course there is no endgame. But what Guild Wars 2 does succeed at is simulating an MMO without all that messy commitment. Which is kind of a shame considering how it succeeds in providing incentives for cooperation that most real MMOs curiously lack altogether, or feel necessary to induce via the threat of pain and loss.
In any case, we will just have to check in two months from now and see where things are heading into the holiday season. I am asking Santa for an actual LFG tool in GW2 and for Blizzard to tweak/remove the rather archaic-seeming mob tagging mechanic, myself.
¹ Yeah, yeah, or Tolkein, or rift chasing, or whatever else you are playing long-term.