First seven thoughts on: GW2 beta

gw2beta_castle

This weekend was the first time I’ve had a chance to play the Guild Wars 2 beta. This is still a beta, which means that things can change before launch (and afterwards, obviously), so I’m not going to sweat the details in favour of sharing some broad stroke impressions.

Short summary: Fun was had but I can’t say I felt hooked until I tried WvW with Arb. WvW is really good fun and looks to me like the heart of this game. PvE is fine also but the parts I saw weren’t as compelling. Mechanically, the game is quite fussy, bordering on complexity just for the sake of it. This probably depends a lot on which profession/class you pick. Not so much ‘easy to learn, hard to master’ as ‘easy to learn enough to play the thing and not realise you haven’t grasped your class’s core mechanics.’  While the game can be quite slow and peaceful if you are in a quiet zone or quiet time, if you are in a zone filled with players you may end up with sensory overload from stuff going on all over the place all of the time. The ‘heart’ style of PvE questing where you get some choices about how to make the local questgiver happy was pretty cool and I liked it a lot.

Oh, and I really liked the vistas (will explain below.) I cannot imagine how genuinely new players would stick with the game long enough to learn it though, and even experienced gamers may find things confusing.

Classes I tried were elementalist, warrior, and mesmer. Up to about level 8 on the highest. I will probably go with an Elementalist main, but I did like the Mesmer a lot even if I totally failed to pick up on the skill chains. I didn’t try any crafting.

Anyhow, here are some points:

1. The game world is large and bright, and interesting to explore.

Some zones do feel much more open than others, the Norn starting area is spacious for example. Asuras felt more boxed in. But Arenanet are comfortable with building huge structures for players to explore; the castle in the screenshot at the top for example. They’ve encouraged some exploration via exploring achievements (you get told how much of the zone you have discovered) and vistas, which are points marked with little floating maps that reward the player with a pretty, soaring, cut scene of the surrounding area if you can get to the vista point. Some have minor jumping puzzles associated with them.

We found them fun.

2. Tutorials are hit and miss. Skillbars get replaced a lot with no warning.

Some of the in game tutorials were great. The introduction to the mists (WvW) for example, was really well done. I did wonder why the guy was emphasising the need to carry supplies around, but we figured that one out fairly swiftly after actually getting into some keep take/defense action. The professions though don’t get much explanation at all. Best you can do is mouse over all your available icons, read the tooltips, and give it your best shot.

The game also loves to completely replace your skillbar icons when you pick up some usable item or get into a downed state (near death), typically without giving you any time at all to check what your new skill icons actually do before you have to use them. Cue random button hitting and hoping for the best. If you find this confusing, it is because it is confusing.

I now realise from comments on KTR that the reason I thought some of my abilities had flickering icons was because there was some kind of chain mechanism going on (where you hit the same skill button more than once and the skill that fires off changes). I have no idea how you were supposed to really figure that one out.

I don’t mind complexity as long as I’m not expected to grasp it all instantly, but it’s a good idea for devs to at least throw players a bone or two when it comes to figuring things out. Even if it’s just a link to a player-driven wiki.

3. Dynamic events are fun. Underwater is fun.

gw2beta_underwater

This is a bunch of Asura fighting a huge shark underwater – still not entirely sure how you can cast fireballs underwater but hey, magic!

One of the nice things about dynamic events is that you can just roll up and join in, no need to be part of a group or have a gear check, if you’re in the area then you’re in. After the event finishes, then medals are awarded for participation (ie. gold, silver, bronze) and you’ll get some xp, karma points (used to buy stuff from merchants) and in game cash. Since the xp is great compared to most of the other things you’d be doing, it’s pretty much always worth joining in. Also some of the dynamic quests have several stages and fun little stories.

I’m not entirely sure about how much they change the world (until the next time), because like most people, I probably wasn’t sticking around long afterwards unless I was already questing in the area.

Being underwater is similar to flying in that you have 3 dimensions in which to move. I enjoyed it a lot, albeit not really sure how badly I wanted to learn yet another tray of abilities.

4. Weapon switching is an interesting mechanic, but ultimately I preferred GW1 skill design

So, depending a bit on which profession you pick, you will have 5 skills that are determined by the weapon/offhand you are using, and 5 slots that are filled by skills earned using skill points, which are a bit more flexible. (It probably gets more complex than this at higher levels but bear with me, I only saw a few hours of beta.)

On an elementalist, for each weapon you can also unlock four different elemental attunements (ie. 4 whole bars of skills). This feels like a lot of skills to remember. Plus you have to unlock them by killing mobs/players while using that weapon. I had thought that needing to train up weapon skills had gone out of fashion but clearly that’s not the case here. The elementalist is a particular edge case because it’s crazy flexible and has a massive amount of abilities available at any time. I can’t actually think how other professions are balanced against it.

It is definitely interesting, particularly in the early game when you still have a lot of skills to unlock. I suspect later on things settle down and get less confusing as you get used to what is available.

But still, the weapons felt like a hindrance rather than cool themed sets of abilities. So I might have one cool ability to leap into combat and zap people and another that lets me leap backwards and leave a trail of fire … but they’re on different weapons and different elemental attunements so I can’t easily use one followed by the other. This is where I was missing GW1 and its more flexible skill set design.

GW2 (like GW1) is a bit fussy with its buffs and debuffs. There is a fairly complex game around applying and removing various buffs, conditions, and other variously named categories of buff/debuff. There are also combos in the game, which I know because the game told me I completed one during one dynamic event. Since it did not tell me anything more than this, I have no idea how that happened or how to repeat it. It is something to do with how abilities of different professions interact, presumably it’ll a) all be documented on websites somewhere and b) we’ll have more time to figure it out while playing with friends anyway.

5. If you hate miniskirts, avoid the Norn casters.

gw2_beta

This was the point where I decided my elementalist would not be a Norn. I don’t care how soon I am able to pick up a longer skirt so I don’t have to see her knickers when she runs, IT ISN’T SOON ENOUGH.

Asura costumes are fine though. The characters generally looked good, and I was sad about the knickers thing because I liked the Norn hairstyles (even though long hair clips horribly). Anet give some good long hairstyles for male characters also. I was also amused that I could create a human male mesmer who looked a bit like Littlefinger.

6. World vs World PvP is really good fun. We were reminded a lot of DaoC (which is good)

In our brief 2hr stint in WvW, Arb and I had a lot of fun. The zones are large, the keeps and castles are large also. There are siege engines. You can tote supplies around and help build siege engines or mend damaged walls/doors (and in fact you probably should.) It can all seem quite complex at first but if in doubt, you can just follow someone who looks as though they know what they are doing, or look for current battles marked on the map. People were quite good about yelling useful instructions (like ‘go to keep X everyone’) on the general chat.

The WvW zones have some vistas and skill challenges, which work the same as PvE zones. I’m not sure if they have dynamic events other than player driven ones.

gw2beta_siege

This is us with a zerg attacking a keep door (I think we are Team Blue in this zone). You can see fire being flung from the trebuchet behind us. The green door is where Team Green (ie. the team who held the keep currently) could slip inside, which is a similar mechanic to WAR and DaoC. The gate’s healthbar is shown in red, when the health is zero the gate breaks open. You can also attack sections of the walls. Defenders can stand on the ramparts and shoot at attackers, stand behind the gate and repair it with supplies, or use their own siege engines.

Basically, if you are involved a keep siege you WILL want a ranged attack otherwise you will be very bored. I think every profession has at least one ranged weapon

gw2-oil

Defenders have access to burning oil which they can throw on people attacking the gate also. I probably shouldn’t have been walking so close to the burning oil with a lit torch.

gw2beta_treb

Trebuchets have a pretty long range. I marked the treb with a red circle here, and you can see its been set up well out of reach of the defenders (unless they have a treb of their own) but can still attack the ramparts.

In our game, we ended up with a three way fight inside the big castle – there are three teams involved in every WvW zone, coded red, blue, and green, and players will also have a name label showing which their home server is. It was a bit mad and the lag with a lot of people involved was quite significant.

Arb said immediately, “Lets go upstairs, you always have to go upstairs in keeps. There is probably a keep lord.” And she was absolutely correct. To take a keep, your team kills the keep lord who is an NPC.

7. The Auction House has buy as well as sell orders.

You can buy or sell on the AH from anywhere in the world, but have to actually be in a trading post to pick up things you have bought. This all seemed to work very well. It is possible to set up buy orders, and when someone sells an item, they will see if anyone has buy orders out on it. If so, and you sell for that price, it sells instantly.

I would imagine the buy orders are generally lowball so you’ll probably make more by selling at a higher price and being patient. But this was beta so who cares, really?

I liked the functionality of it. By comparison, the mail is weaker. You can’t mail your own alts, so if you want to give them spare items, you will have to leave those things in your vault (which is shared between alts on that account/server). You can however, send and receive mail from anywhere.

26 thoughts on “First seven thoughts on: GW2 beta

  1. Random niggle, the Human caster women wear the same clothes as the Norn caster women, and look even more ridiculous (since they have creepily disproportionate bodies).

      • I agree on the female casters, I do think, especially the norn, female hunters and engineers look amazing. I am still kinda disappointed with both the male and female memsers though, as I feel like their armor looks more like a clown getup than the court/actor clothes from GW1, which I really liked. I did try switching to the town clothes, and those look much more mesmerish to me, but then you loose all your skills, wish they were just a skin.

  2. I could really do without the skill unlocks – it feels like a boring chore as an elementalist. it’s neither a challenge nor interesting, one of the few things that bug me. I agree on the ‘sensory overload’ comment – all the environmental effects and markers take some getting used to (and then there’s that performance issue I personally feel). some of the controls and menus still feel fussy to me, I can see how some players might struggle. it’s nice that mail is available anywhere, but no direct trade option is again fussy – and a tad puzzling imo.

    I was a bit disappointed they didn’t address the FP view camera issue for this third BWE; I hope it’s only a matter of time. And my caster is SO gonna be a Norn! ;)

  3. I felt the same way for the most part. RvR was fun. PvE was a bit ordinary. The combat system feels a bit like Guild Wars 1, suprisingly enough, in that I have very strong suspicion that people who know to optimise are going to horribly butcher people who don’t and use their skin to craft an elegant sex kilt, though with less opportunity to completely screw your character forver in the first zone.

    • Further than that, I think servers with large, organised PvP focussed hardcore guilds will totally dominate WvW. You can assume the usual suspects like Goons and 4chan already have their servers picked out. For sure, the WvW gets shuffled around from time to time and because there are three sides, the weaker two will probably end up teaming up if they have any sense, but yeah.

      It won’t be as bad for those of us on non-US timezones, but I do wonder what effect it’ll have on how fun WvW is for more casual players. (Cos otherwise, joining a zerg is a good way to take part in stuff without it mattering too much about your specific build.)

  4. It’s only norn and human female light armour wearers that have the skimpy starter clothes, every other combination is fully clothed. The funny thing is that I’ve seen complaints about not enough sexy clothes, even though there is some outrageously impratical stuff to be acquired later on. Asura elementalist is what I’m going with, found the race really cool and fun.

    Don’t mind the skill unlocks so much, it’s just enough time between unlocks to read the tooltip, and work out how to use the skill and in what situations, unlocking AoE weapons against waves of mobs is too easy. Agree better explanations are needed, but this is the first BWE to feature the help feature, so it is definitely a work in progress, and the classes will have a big balance pass between now and release, so detailed tooltips are a bit pointless at this stage.

    Love exploration in this game, and there is some really cool features and neat touches. One of the events has players repair an asuran gate, then the asura in charge tested it out to no success, then another attempt, the asura enters it and disappears, and I’m left there wondering should I enter as well and it turns into another event. It’s that kind of reward for paying attention, where it’s too easy to run off before events unfold, and the game not being too obvious with things that’s really great about the game. Another example is a pipe organ in a quaggan village, with a quaggan humming a familar tune nearby, talking to the quaggan tells a sad story, and it’s up to the player to figure out the notes for a reward, not being led by the nose to find these things is refreshing.

  5. Some points:
    1- bank is shared by all your toons: so, you don’t need mail items to your alts;
    2- elementalist have 4 elements they can attune, but cannot change weapons while at combat: other classes can change weapons at level 7 and above;
    3- it is good to use all weapons disponible to a class for gain all skills at that weapon;
    4- if you don’t like how the class is playing, just change weapon: each weapon have a diferent skill set and the strategies are tottally diferent (an elementalist using staff is artillery, an elemnetalist using two daggers is close melee);
    5- there are items at world that are non-static: you can pick a bottle at a bar fight, you can get a water buck for extinguish fires at buildings;
    6- I am not sure if PvP is the main factor at GW2: they made a PvP with DAOC estyle, but everyone can go to level 80 without try PvP, PvP is made in a separate “world” and give some bonus to the PvE world;
    7- the main meat are the dynamic events (DE), not the hearts, the hearts exist only for show the players where to go: they put the hearts because after the first close beta the testers said they were lost;
    8- DE help to complete hearts and if a player follow a DE chain she can discover after she complete some hearts she never get to;
    9- DE chain, but that is happens less at lower zones, it is more frequent at higher zones: higher the zone, more DE chains and longer the DE chains;
    10- it is a good idea stay at place after a DE, because the DE can chain and a new event start: just see what the NPCs around are doing and saying, they can start a new event;
    11- talk to NPCs, they don’t have a “!” over the head but can start a new DE: if the NPC rund to you and say that needs help, talk to it and start a DE (or at least be directed to a place where an event is happening);
    12- DE change the world, but it is more visible at the zones level 15-25 and above: players can lose events, players can win events, each situation will turn on a diferent set of new events;
    13- at launch (and BW3), the massive zerg of players just make almost impossible someone see the world when set by defeat at events;
    14- however, a commenter at this post (http://knightly-slumber.com/worldofwarcraft/node/5423) just fought a boss mob where was a normal heart; take note that it is at a heart not at main way, so problably few players there and it was easier to lost an event there;
    15- I played all 3 BW and all stress tests, played a lot of human characters and until now i never saw that boss at the swamp; the events are dynamic, so you can have bad luck and never fight a boss;
    12- story quests are only for show what is happening at Tyria: all stories converge at the end for a massive battle against Zhaitan at level 80;
    13- I see a lot of people saying that GW2 don’t have deep stories quest like SWTOR, but we really don’t know how deep are the stories at GW2, we just get to level 20 at all betas: however, from what I saw at all 3 main human stories (noble, commoner and street rat) I can join some pieces and feel there is something happening behind the curtains…

    Finally, GW2 is paying a price because GW2 IS NOT A WOW CLONE: the game appear be confusing at first time, but it is because everyone is playing WoW or a WoW clone.

    SWTOR is a WoW with lightsabers, Rift is a WoW with rifts, TSW is a WoW with zombies. Rift lose the chance for change the MMO gaming when they quit the idea to make only rifts and make the main meat be quests.

    GW2 main meat are DE, there are no raids at the end game (“sorry, you cannot join the raid because you need better gear”), everyone can level at any zone (because there is an automatic downlevel system, so eveyone can play at the starter zones and gain xp and loot), there is no kill stealing, there is no competition for nodes.

    GW2 can be an evolution, not a revolution, but a fish with legs too is evolution and a fish with legs had open to a branch of animal species a new world: the dry land.

    We are just entering at a new world at MMO…

    • I’d disagree that TSW is a WoW clone; it’s as different from the WoW-generation MMOs as GW2, just in different ways. Other than that, though, I agree with pretty much everything you say here. :)

    • Like many gamers, I have played many many games that were not WoW clones. If I say I find a game confusing, it’s because I found it confusing, not because I’m incapable of playing anything that isn’t WoW.

      • I’m really hoping they put some tutorials in, or some way of examining one’s abilities more closely in action. Those chain abilities? Well, I mostly gave up trying to work out what they did, and just left them on autocast.

      • To be honest, at the level I played (up to 15-20, mostly PvE), I didn’t find many things that confused me. New skills are always hard to get used to, WvW strategy was confusing but that was expected too; the only other thing I can think of was the downed state. I remember previous beta weekends had the tutorial bosses force you into downed state; I assume it was done to get the players used to it but it didn’t help me much. (I only played the BWE3 tutorial before the graphical engine upgrade which resolved the low FPS issue.)

    • Siha, if a MMO have the holly trinity and quest givers, it is a WoW-clone.

      Playing TSW I see quest givers (they just don’t have the “!”, but NPC and objects are quest givers…) and see chat “looking for healer for dungeon X” and “looking for tank for dungeon Y”.

      TSW have the holly trinit and quest givers, so TSW IS a WoW-clone. And the “zombie appocalipse” setting have the same problem that the “3th pillar” have at SWTOR: someday will be boring.

      TSW will ahve the same fate that SWTOR had.

      • That is the most stunningly shallow definition of WoW-clone I have ever seen.

        The WoW format is more to do with the style of combat (hotbars with a fairly large amount of skills), the layout of the world (quest hubs with overlapping goals), the progression of the game (pve solo to dungeons to raids), etc. ‘

        It sounds like you looked for a definition that allowed you to label your preferred game as Different.

      • Man, by that definition, *EVE* is a WoW clone – which is patently ridiculous.

        It takes a bit more similarity than just “holy trinity!” and “questgivers!” to be a ‘WoW clone’.

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  7. The female caster armor for Humans, Norn and Slyvari are all those horrible mini-skirt/tutus in various shades of puke inducing colors. Not only that, all the characters look too young. So pair those tutus with the 12 year old faces and hello creeper city!

    How did this game make such a serious misstep? The beta forums have been filled with complaints about the armor and young character models since the first open beta.

    And I’ve played until almost lvl 20 and the new drops are the same. It looks as if a player is stuck in the those horrible flouncy, underwear revealing outfits for a long, long, time.

    Horrible.

    • Your personal story offers 3 different armor types as rewards if you don’t like the default style, plus you can craft some very different light armor (with pants) for female casters, with a level 5 requirement I think. I’d have liked the female light starting armor a lot more if it had been similar to the male design, which is very nice. Interestingly, the male light armor options for the early levels seem to look worse than default, while the female options get better. I will miss, somewhat, how each profession in GW1 could be identified by their armor styles, rather than just lumping everyone into 3 groups, as in GW2. The up side is getting a lot more armor sets overall, and I’m sure we’ll see a lot of mixing between sets as well.

      • I played one character quite a bit until almost 20 in the previous beta and all my story reward armor looked like the starter armor. Supposedly craft armor looks different too but again, all the crafts looked like the beginning armor.

        Frankly the armor felt like a practical joke and the joke was on the player playing the character with the tutu.

        And I don’t think they will change it either. And throwing in new armor later in the game does nothing to change the fact that this particular armor set for female casters is horrendous.

      • @melponeme_k

        Here are some pics of the low level female light armors:

        http://www.ign.com/wikis/guild-wars-2/Light_Armor

        They are different than the starter armor and you can mix and match pieces to get a look you like, as well as use transmutation stones (which I was getting from doing the personal story I believe) to keep a look as you continue on. So either your client was broken or perhaps you might have been picking the leftmost armor reward, which might (???) have been the same as the starter armor. I always went with the rightmost (Velvet) reward after picking it as the first reward, to get the full set.

        The crafted set (Embroidered) is completely different as I made a set myself. The next level crafted was also completely different.

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  9. No Yarr I wasn’t picking the armor on the left side. And why should that matter anyway?

    Even covered up it still looks ridiculous. Every other character looks professional but the female casters have to look like they ride the short bus.

    I never received any of the other outfits that supposedly were available in drops. Nor could I find them on the game’s Black Lion auction shop.

    And considering that there was post after post of complaints about this armor in the forums, not many people did receive the slightly better armor either.

  10. I can’t yet tell whether it’s a blogger-only complaint, but I keep seeing it over and over — the inability to make an old grizzled looking character (or a more um… “portly” character).

    With the emphasis on personal story, I’d have thought that ANet would have wanted a bit more background diversity. I understand why the characters are usually physically fit, because they all are a combat class. Not a crafting, economic, or political class. Still… miniskirts really need to be optional instead.

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