So this weekend was the first beta weekend for Guild Wars 2. I got a chance to participate on it and to say I liked it would be an understatement. In fact the only thing I think I didn't like was that the game isn't released yet! 🙂
This will be a difficult post to write and I am still not sure if I am taking the right approach to it. The reason for this is that Guild Wars 2 does a lot of things its own ways. Since the game has been widely covered all over the place, with much better explanations on how the game will work, it just feels like I would be parroting them if I tried to explain it here. Another problem is I haven't been keeping up with Guild Wars 2 news until relatively recently so I don't feel like I have the proper knowledge to explain some of the systems. The drawback is people who also have not been keeping up with Guild Wars 2 information may feel confused as I ramble on. To those who fall on that category I apologize and if you have any questions, please ask in the comments. I will do my best to answer any questions or at least point in the direction where the information can be found. Also apologies if some parts of it feel inaccurate or missing. I am writing everything from memory and after 2 days and one night playing it, it is hard to remember every detail. Not that I have a good memory even on better circumstances but I digress.
Before I ramble on about it, if anyone wants to get an idea of how beautiful the game is, I highly recommend the Lion's Arch - Screenshot Gallery over at Nerdy bookahs and their travel guide. I also recommend their Guild Wars 2 in a Nutshell - a FAQ to get a basic rundown of the game. Actually, I will just recommend reading the blog itself! They have a very nice writing style and the posts usually start some good discussion. 🙂
With all that said, on to my own little report of the beta weekend....
My original plan for this beta weekend was to try something as different as possible from what I intent to play when the game goes live. My first character when the game goes live will be a charr engineer. So I didn't want to spoil myself with their newbie zone, the class or the personal story. My decision then was to play on this weekend as a human mesmer. The plan was to try the class, see the human newbie zone, experience the personal story and perhaps dip my toes in the World vs. World. Well, that plan didn't live for very long but I will get to it in a bit.
With those goals in mind I went on to create my character. It was the usual steps of picking a race, choosing a class, customizing your appearance (with the option of even dying you clothes). What they added to the usual was the character questions that seem to be based on your race, with one question based on your class and one generic question that... hmm... I forgot the term they used but it is kinda like your attitude towards people, like charming, dignity, etc.
As a human I got questions about his previous social status and his biggest regrets. This was a little tough for me as I also want to make a human character at some point after the game is released. I am just not sure which class he will be. I picked the options that seemed unlikely for me to pick for him later on. I went with poor for social status as the idea of a magic user with very extravagant green clothes seemed to give an amusing contrast with his previous social condition. The biggest regret was for not having ever met his parents though I didn't play enough to see how much impact that did in the story. Then there was the class question which was more subtle. A mesmer has a choice of 3 masks, with each one representing a different emotion. I believe my choice with this one was sadness. Lastly was attitude, again I wasn't sure how much this would influence things later on so I picked charming.
After character creation was done I had my character explaining his situation, including my choices during the character creation itself, and how he end up in the tutorial zone. The tutorial zone was cool as it threw you already in the midst of events. In the case of the humans it was a nasty attack by centaurs on which you end up volunteering yourself to help fend off.
When the tutorial zone was done they explained what happened after those events, gave me a hook to the personal story in the form of a daily visitor while I had been recovering from my wounds and let me free to explore the world. Which is the first thing I went to do!
First stop scout to find what the purpose of the area was, what they needed help with it, etc. The nearest task, neatly marked with an empty heart icon in the map, was helping a lady in a farm. Years of playing MMORPG inducted me that before doing anything one should talk to the NPC to get a quest. Well, I talked with the lady but there was never an option like "Accept quest" or a message popping-up saying "Quest accepted" or anything like that. All she said was what the problems on the areas were and what I could do help. There was a empty heart icon on the top right of the screen with a brief description of what tasks I could do to help out. That seemed like a pretty big clue to go out and do stuff.
Task done, did another and an event. Until that point things were fun but I was also starting to get the feeling that everything might be nothing than a big "public quest" that could turn out to be boring very fast. To make things worse I couldn't stop feeling like mesmer was a bad choice for a first class to me. I guess it was because I was expecting them to be the same thing as illusionists in Everquest 2 which was to have an illusion up all the time and then throwing spells for damage and crowd control. Although they can throw spells and do crowd control just as well, they do it in their own way. And the way I was doing it just felt like I was under utilizing the skills of the class. Suddenly making a warrior class just felt like a better idea. Melee classes are much more my thing and the class sounded straightforward enough to learn the basics of the game. Then I saw someone with a charr running around the human starter area and that sealed. I threw my plans off the window and made a charr warrior! Rawr!
The questions for the charr were different from the human but I didn't think as much about them. The warrior was indeed a much better fit for me to learn the game. It was also while playing him that the beauty of the different game systems started to sink in my mind. The tasks feel much more natural than quests. All you have to do is get to the area and then do whatever it says that will help. Also since there is usually at least two options you can just do whatever fancies you at the time. Events feel a little bit different from public quests too, at least for me. They can change if the event fail and happen enough that you might just do them if you are in the area for some extra XP, coins and karma.
Having anyone who kill a mob get the same amount of XP and loot was also something very cool. There is never that worry about kill stealing. All that I thought was "Those are the enemies. Time to kill them." Sometimes I even found myself jumping in to help another player to kill a mob or sticking around an area where we can get a skill point to kill the mobs so the other player could get his skill point. Which bring me to my next point...
I love being able to resurrect other players regardless of my class. It feels nice and natural to just help another player who got defeated. Plus it gave me warm fuzzy feelings to do it. It felt like extending a hand to a stranger that can quickly go back to having fun. It also felt nice when people would come over and do the same for me. All these together made it feel much more of a social game than any other MMORPG I played so far.
Another area I felt a lot of flexibility was with weapon choices. Having the skills being linked to weapons and each weapon having different skills make a class as simple as a warrior feel much more flexible. If I wanted to do AoE I could just use a two-handed sword. If I want to fight from afar I could use a bow or a rifle and be just as efficient with them. And there were times I felt different weapons were better for different purposes. For example, there was an event where players had to stop a giant flaming charr effigy to reach a certain place. I found the painful way that getting close to the monster was a bad idea since it had an effect to damage anyone near it. I didn't have any ranged weapon set as a secondary weapon set and I couldn't change weapons in the middle of combat either. So the best I could do was to see others fighting it and resurrect anyone who fell.
Combat itself though was a little hard to adapt to. MMORPGs got me used to just standing in a spot whacking at the monster until either it is dead or I am dead. With Guild Wars 2 I had to get in the habit of moving and dodging. Took some time but it made the combat feel more fun.
Underwater combat was also another pleasant surprise. When I read about it I thought it would end up as a gimick, clunky, system just to add another bullet point in the game's box. Turned out though it actually flows (no pun intended!) just as well as normal combat.
I guess I should give a brief comment about the personal story too. Before the beta I thought it was going to be more class based, like Star Wars the Old Republic or with your character getting somehow thrown in the middle of events like in Final Fantasy XIV. I like both styles but I was pleasant surprised that the personal story in Guild Wars 2 seemed to be based purely on how you answer the questions during the character creation. That made it feel much more... well, personal. I didn't get far enough to see how some of those answers affect the storyline or if the chosen class does at all though. At least with my human the people back in his poor neighborhood didn't seem to care that he was a mesmer or that his clothes looked much more fancy and extravagant than everyone else there. Though perhaps that might be a factor later on. I honestly didn't go too far in the personal stories of my characters since the writing was so good that I was beginning to feel attached to them. Since I don't plan to follow the same storyline after the game is released I didn't want to get tempted to make the same choices just to see how the story continues.
I did get to spend a few minutes on World vs. World too. PvP is not my thing but I liked it enough since it feels kinda like a medieval siege with each side trying to control key points in the map. I am not too sure how people can build the siege machines, I think it might have to do with taking resources from the key points you control. Besides that not sure except that resources are also used to fix up the buildings your side controls. There are also events in World vs. World, for example helping some NPCs to fight off some monsters and then they will help your side. I don't think I will spend too much time on it but I do think I will jump on it once in a while just to spice things up. Plus even though I am terrible at PvP I might be able to help out somehow by keeping places fixed up or doing events. We'll see! 🙂
Lastly, I am impressed with the level of polish on this beta. I think the only bugs I saw during the entire weekend were pets from rangers appearing with an icon that they were dead, you could even resurrect them. But they still run around and fought just like they were still alive. There was also one part in the human personal story where it hang for a bit but I thought at the time it was lag but now I am not too sure. It could have been either.
With all that said, I feel Guild Wars 2 is a breeze of fresh air that is much needed in the current MMORPG market. I am not going to say it will be "The Next Big Thing" because that is a concept that doesn't make sense to me nor do I think it need to be one. I think it will be very successful though, as it is a solid game, and hope that a lot of its good ideas will be copied by other future MMORPGs , improved and added upon. In any case I am already pretty sure I will spend some very fun years with the game. 🙂