Guild Wars 2 Beta

The first thing that I noticed upon loading up Guild Wars 2 is the sound, or more specifically, the noise.  Even at login, the game is far louder than any game has the right to be by default, and I found myself instantly off put by the noise factor.  The second thing I noticed about the game hastened my foul mood as I found myself back in the World of Warcraft and Fable style of graphics.  Having come from Star Wars: The Old Republic, I was used to being in a "realistic" world where I was not front and center of every camera pan, and every step didn't bounce my character's short skirt a little higher.

$39.99

After ten minutes in the game, my demeanor had gone from overly enthusiastic to down right foul.  The User Interface may seem intuitive to people who played Guild Wars, but as someone who thought the original game wasn't worth the time, I found the learning curve to be outrageously difficult.  However, after a few hours, I slowly adjusted to the shock.  I gradually grew to enjoy the change from the dark atmosphere assocaited with being a sith lord, I learned the UI and character customization, and I began to branch out and truly play the game.

Then I started to notice some of the other things, like load times.  This game is every bit as busy as SWTOR, but the load times are less than a third of the standard loading time for SWTOR. Also, need I mention Corellia?  Good Lord.  I also took into account the local events that happen in various places, which reward you with "Karma" one of the game's three currencies.  These events encourage players to explore and accidentally group with strangers to reap performance baced rewards.  They're very similar to the encounters you faced in RIFT, but far less random and more controlled; in fact, the events themselves are like prizes given to the players for completing certain tasks.

Additionally, "whereas other MMOs use the "treadmill/loop/carrot" raid model, which requires repetition of content and continuously increases your avatar's power, thus rendering content obsolete as you out-level or out-gear it, Guild Wars 2 takes a completely different approach. When you reach the level cap, you turn right around and go back the way you came, because there are still plenty of challenges, places to explore, hidden rewards, discoveries, and adventures to be had, in the world itself. The game does not revolve around endlessly increasing numbers in a single narrow tier of instanced content as its primary mode of "progression". In Guild Wars 2, You Actually Get to Eat the Carrot. From Level 1." [S]


Player Vesus Environment & Questing


Since I was all, "OMG, PVP" I didn't really do too much PVE during my beta weekends.  I did, however find a phenomenal write up here:

There are no Quest givers in Guild Wars 2. NPC's will simply point you in the direction of unfolding events instead of giving you very specific instructions through walls of text. Even then, it's entirely unnecessary to interact to these NPC's as events are automatically pinged when you are within a certain distance of them. Although there will be limitations, the foremost requirement to participating in an event is simple to be in the right place at the right time.

Events are intended to prevent spawn camping and kill stealing of major objectives prevalent in other MMORPG by allowing any interested players to cooperate towards an objective without needing to form a party and each who "contributed significantly to the combat" will be rewarded for their participation and receive 100% of any experience gained. In order to prevent griefing, ArenaNet has developed an array of methods to stop potential griefers from ruining the fun for players who actively participate in an event: Events never encourage player conflict, and never have fail conditions that can be triggered by players. The conditions that may seem to fail an event actually just trigger another series of events. Higher-leveled players will be de-buffed in areas that are intended for lower leveled players.

Dynamic Events happen in real time with or without your participation while affecting the game world. An Event with Bandits ransacking a village, unless stopped, will ultimately end up with them establishing a new base of operations there, causing an Event in which the player must take back the village from the Bandits. Continuing this process, if the Bandits are left unabated, they will send out new raiding parties from the village that will cause new Events, so on and so forth. However these are not simply chains following a lateral sequence either, but can splinter off into multiple, and differing Events depending on yet unknown factors. Speculation assumes that splintering events can be triggered depending on how quick an event is completed, special items used, protecting a specific NPC, etc, but really, the potential and possibilities are to numerous to list.

Certain events will only occur when specific conditions are met, like a snow storm rolls into the map, or night falls over the graveyard. Although the cyclical nature of the system means that consequences are ultimately temporary, event results can persist for days, weeks, or even months. A player cannot know exactly what state the world is in and what one might see wandering around, even if they have quested in same zone multiple times. This means that experiencing every possible Event with all professions can never really happen. The world continually changes making it so you can never truly ‘accomplish everything’. It's almost like rewarding you for exploring the map, because according to ArenaNet, there are going to be 1500-1600 events going on in the persistent, "living" world for players to engage in.


Player Vesus Player and World Versus World Combat


If you played Dark Age of Camelot, then all you need to know about the Guild Wars 2 PVP system is that it is going to tickle your fancy in a way that it hasn't been tickled for a little more than a decade.  If you weren't around for the glorious days of RvR combat, then buckle your seat belts.  The game play is frighteningly smooth, even for a Beta release, and the keep sieges are pretty action packed.

(Click the Image to be taken to a full Gallery of Images of WvW combat)

The Ranger got a little boring during the actual siege itself, but it became a blast again during the sallies and rallies; not to mention, the initial charges and final stands left me breathless.  There was a lot more to do during the sieges than simply shoot arrows down ontop of your foes, with a resource system already in place, defenders can repair, modify, and upgrade their keep to better augment their defenses.  Meanwhile, attackers can build siege weapons to attempt to expedite the storming of the keep.

The keeps are pretty well done too, and terrain is going to be a big factor in the defense of your homeland.  Unlike DAoC, fortifications are placed in intelligent places in an attempt to slow the flow of invaders, and the keeps are not all created equally.  I didn't make it a point to count the keep models, but I noticed at least three different models, with the main castle being just shy of stunning.  The detail in the keeps were pretty high, and sitting atop the castle walls, you could clearly see the curvature of the world.   Slight exaggeration, the game isn't that advanced; but you definitely got the appropriate feeling of awe that should accompany standing  on top of the battlements.

Between your self heals and dodging, survivability is remarkably high; so guilds with voice communications (and the ability to identify and single out targets) are going to be paramount to the success of a realm, even in WvWvW.  Guilds are also going to dominate in the Warzones, as survivability is only slightly lower in this environment.  The Warzones are pretty well developed and offer no clear advantage to one side or another.  

The game play in the warzones is very fast paced, and players are often times find themselves sitting at <50% life for the majority of the instance.  I only managed to play by myself, so I'm not even sure if joint queuing is an option yet, but I can only imagine the PVP in this game is going to get better with social interaction.  Where WvWvW is about patience, strategy, and siege weaponry; Warzones are about raw skill, survivability, and tactics.  While there are some siege weapons, their use is usually at your demise. 


The Professions


Click the links to visit Google Plus for a full review of each class with a gallery of Screen Shots

Mesmer

The learning curve is still pretty steep for the Mesmer, but since it pales in comparison to the Necromancer, I got the hang of it after an hour or two. I loved it. The game play is fast paced, complicated, and involves a lot of juggling to keep your abilities on cool down, your illusions up, and your weapons swapping.

Thief

If the Ranger is the master of Long to Medium combat, then the Thief is surely the master of Close Quarters to Medium ranged attacks. Armed with a variety of weapons (My favorite was a Sword and Pistol), the theif can close gaps, evade attacks, and gun down fleeing victims. The initiative system is vaguely reminiscent of the rogue or operative play of some of the larger MMORPGs out there, and the class was a easy to play, but hard to master.

Engineer

Guild Wars 2 did a great job improving upon previously released concepts from other game franchises, and the Engineer is no exception. Modeled (by accident, I'm sure) after the failed game WARHammer Online, the Engineer was by far the most enjoyable class I played during the beta weekend event. Juggling not only two weapon sets, but up to three different "packs" (which are defacto weapon sets), the Engineer is an exceptionally versatile, durable, and deadly profession. 

Elementalist

It lacked creativity, balance, and I ultimately didn't stay with the [staff] spec for very long. However, I have to give credit where it is due; a dagger specced Elementalist is quite a bit of fun, if for no other reason than it's a very gritty and "in your face" play style. However, the lack of (long) ranged abilities and low health pool make the set up frustrating to play if you find yourself on the losing team. There's not much else I can say about it, other than I hope the development team at Guild Wars takes a good look at the class.

Ranger

The class was extremely versatile and offered great DPS, had excellent survivability, and was an all around joy to play. Some of the abilities of the melee weapons were a little hard to navigate, and the torch seemed a little underwhelming, but the longbow and short bow were both deadly weapons. Pet management seemed really lacking. I rarely knew where my pet was, his pathing made it difficult to get him to engage the enemies when I was perched on a roof somewhere, and he often times died requiring lengthy revivals that were seldom worth the time investment.

Interested to know more?  Check out the teaser videos that were released during the game's announcement, and follow me on Google Plus or Twitter as I update fellow players over the weekend!