A Guild Wars 2 First Impression

Guild Wars 2 had a free trial this past weekend.  My friend Gaff, who has been playing it, sent me a code for the trial.  Apparently you had to get a code from a current player to be a worthwhile prospect, which isn’t a bad theory.  If you know somebody who is already playing, you are probably more likely to want to keep playing after the trial is up.

So I spent Wednesday night patching while I slept and then patched some more after that because ANet had an event planned and since I was being handed a full version of the game for the weekend, it was theoretically possible I might get to it.

I did not.

I will point out that if you look at my Raptr profile, it will tell you I have spent 15 hours playing Guild Wars 2.

I did not spend 15 hours playing Guild Wars 2.

More about that after the cut, as this gets long and has pictures and the usual.

Raptr is mis-informed.

I have spent about four hours playing.  The rest of that time was spent patching or just letting the launcher sit there idle.  It seems that Raptr flags the game as active when launcher is active.  A point those who think they can “prove” a game is less/more popular versus another game using things like Xfire, which was coded by the same people and, as I recall, behaves the same way.  It used to count EverQuest time with just the login screen running. (And it would never count EVE Online for me, so go flawed numbers!)

Anyway, patching done, I was able to get into Guild Wars 2 on Friday evening.  Gaff said to choose the Minge of Denevi Camera server… or some name like that.  It was a name clearly meaningful to Guild Wars fans, but opaque to anybody just showing up.  The game warned me not to take this choice lightly, as there would be many servers like it, but this one would be mine for all time and all characters or some such.

I had to double check with Gaff that I was choosing the right server.  Kind of a big choice to have right up front, so I hope everybody I ever wanted to play with is on that server.

Then it was character creation.

I have to go with the Star Fleet Dental  view of character creation.  There are humans, or, if you must be different, there are Norn.  But why would you want to be different?

Can’t go wrong here…

And then there is a bunch of trash which represents exactly the sort of thing we should be given a handful of silver to go out and slay.

I mean… not without uses, but…

So I went with human my first round.  A ranger, because when has ranger EVER been a bad choice in any game? (Those without sarcasm detection on: If there is a bad choice, it is almost always Ranger.)

Character creation offers quite a few options, especially in the facial area, which you will are likely to cover with a helm at some point.  And who is ever going to be close enough to you be able to judge the width of the bridge of your nose?

I ended up being vaguely dissatisfied with my character model.

That certainly isn’t a bad sign because, honestly, I cannot think of a game where I have been totally satisfied with my character model.

I always just try to make me, and this time around the “me” seemed a bit more effeminate than I would like to imagine myself, in an anime hero, pretty boy, male model sort of way. (Those males who rationalize playing female characters by insisting that manipulating your own big breasted Barbie doll isn’t a latent indicator of anything at all might have missed this.)

Then I ran through the initial tutorial, did some stuff in the very empty starter zone, and eventually decided that Rico Suave and his pet bear were not the class I wanted to play.

Actually, I am not sure how empty the starter zone really was.

For all the talk of removing artificial groupings and tearing down the barriers to social interaction, I have to say I felt the whole thing to be a bit less social for a couple of reasons.

The first is because I am comparing things to Rift, the game I have been playing for the last year.  You may not like that you need to be in a public group for instant adventures, or zone events, or your average rift, but at least you know who is working with you.  You have a list of names, you can see them on the map, you know you are on a team.  I actually end up chatting in those groups.  In GW2 I could some times tell if somebody was helping out, but a lot of the time it was unclear if they were passing through, AFK, or there for some other reason.

The second is because, honestly, I couldn’t distinguish players from NPCs a good chunk of the time.  Though my trying to figure out the ranger thing might have contributed to the whole thing.

You’d think that with all of four skills at his peak, it would be easy.  But it was a play style that didn’t seem to gel with me, so I set him aside in the middle of some sort of bar fight scenario and rolled a new character.

This time I went with a Norn warrior, who at least looked a bit more masculine, in a Tom of Finland sort of way.  Still not me, having muscles and all, but at least a better idealized me I suppose.

The Norn starting area seemed to be a lot less hand holding and a lot more Viking-esque “Hey, have a beer and kill some shit with us!” in feel.  Maybe that was because this was not my first character.  Or maybe that is just the Norn.

Anyway, the warrior seemed to be a lot more my style.  You get a skill to hit a thing.  You get a skill that has you charge a thing to hit it.  You get a skill to hit a thing so it cannot run away.  A skill to hit a thing with your shield, should you have one.  And a skill to turn all that rage you build up from hitting things into healing yourself.  What is not to like.

So I went about hitting things.

Hitting a big bird… like a boss

That second skill, charging a thing to hit it, did seem a bit off.  It seemed unable to handle distances outside a certain set, but would let you charge anyway.  So sometimes I charged and stopped a good 15 feet short of the thing I wanted to hit.  Sometimes I would end up five feet past the target of my hitting desires.  This is not good.  If you are not facing the thing you want to hit, you will not be hitting a thing today.

But overall, hitting things was quite satisfying.  That would likely be my path to continue on post-trial.

Character models aside… and, as I said, I have come to realize that I do not like the character models in any MMO… the game it very beautiful.  Seriously.  When people rave about how pretty it is, they are not over stating things.  It seemed to be night most of the time I was playing, so I only ended up with one screen shot that might give a hint as to that aspect of the game.  And it is spoiled by JPEG compression.

Behold the forest from the trees

We are clearly past the days of bad linoleum ground textures.

But so far that combo sounds like the original Guild Wars, beautiful terrain, ugly character models… though Guild Wars character models were ugly to the point of making the game unplayable to me.  That is not the case here.

The UI looks a bit different, but is comprehensible.  I like the idea of not needing more than one hot bar full of skills.  And once I learned that pressing “F” was the “do what I need to do” key, life got a lot better.

That key thing, by the way, is one of the things I miss from EverQuest II, where “F” is the “do the thing” key.  Open a door, harvest a node, pick up a sparklie, all can be accomplished with the “F” key.  So GW2 taking this and going all out with it… I mean, seriously… talk to a dude? F!  Manipulate a thing? F! Loot a corpse? F! Take the loot? F… is a pretty big deal.  I like it.

I also like the little “you’ve been here” path on the map.

Right to the point where I died…

I am not sure why I need that path, especially since I only seem to notice it when I am looking at the map after I have died, but it is nifty.

The game is pretty good about telling you things.  Though some times it keeps telling you about things even after you’ve dismissed that particular factoid.

Yes, higher level = better loot, but I’m busy right now

The trial itself wasn’t a trial in terms of my patience, as sometimes these things can be.  The game was far more subtle than, say, playing EverQuest II for free, where it can remind you about the gold subscription level in the middle of combat.  Instead, all Anet did was put up a little banner in the upper right corner asking me to upgrade to the full game, which changed to a counter every so often to point out how much time I had left to freeload, and sent me an email explaining the benefits of upgrading now.

We’ll give you things to help you avoid playing the game as much!

Well, that offer has expired now.

One nice thing was that it put Gaff on my friends list and me on his, so I could chat with him right away.  I never actually saw him in game because I was in the lowest level zones and there were more interesting things happening in the world.  But I could say, “Hi” easily enough.

My only real UI complaint is about the camera.  At first I thought the controls were somewhat unresponsive, but I later narrowed that down to the camera and its rather casual attitude towards angles it deigns to chose.  It seemed downright resistant to my wanting to see things from a given point of view, seeming to favor focusing on my left ass cheek from ground level during combat.  Running around it seemed to be okay, unless I wanted to see something besides the back of my head.

Camera doesn’t have many choices in a tunnel

The upshot of this is that I seemed to have to work a lot harder to get the camera pointed where I wanted it than in I do in similar games.  Not the worst thing in the world, but it was really noticeable in switching off between games over the weekend.

All in all, I like the game.  There were a couple of nit picks.  For example, the game didn’t go out of its way to explain some of the events.  I kept running into a pack of rampaging minotaurs that was part of an event in which you had to divert them.

Minotaur Train!

The process of actually how to divert them was left as an exercise for the student.  Since all my skills seemed to involve getting close to things and hitting them, I attempted to get close, at which point the minotaurs would send my flying out of their way.  This is where, in what I will call a “conventional” MMORPG, I would open up the quest log to read the quest text in detail, just to be sure I understood what was going on.

No such option here though, so I was unable to do much but get the hell out of the way of the minotaurs.

But for the most part, it was “same-ish” enough to not feel like I had to relearn the genre from scratch, yet different enough to have its own unique flavor.

But I am still not buying the box.

There are some small things preventing that, like SynCaine asking me to so he can see me write in rage about how bad the dungeons are. (I have yet to see a good mention of dungeons from a source I would trust to share a point of view on dungeons similar to my own.)

But mostly it is the fact that I have other games I am playing now, so I really wouldn’t have time for GW2.  Why spend the money now?  The box price might go down by the time I am ready to play.

So, nice game.  But not different enough that I am going to drop what ever I am doing now to run off and play it.  It will wait.

Addendum: And then Psychochild puts up a much more insightful look at GW2 just a couple hours after me.

15 thoughts on “A Guild Wars 2 First Impression

  1. Troy Christensen (@ShalimarTroy)

    I had similar experiences with you this weekend with Guild Wars 2, but rather I enjoyed my experience. I still have not bought the game, but if I do get a new game it will be GW2.

    I thought the quests were far more interesting than the typical collect 50 and see if I could get 5 done method. Certainly there were times I was caught off guard with rampaging whatnots but wasn’t something I thought was broken or incomprehensible.

    I liked the fact that there was no need for a healer or a tank, but everyone did their own thing.

    I played around with crafting and that seemed interesting without getting overly boring real quick — as in EQ2 where you have to make 50 objects just to sell and repeat.

    There are many odd quirks about the game — for example, it seems like each class is played completely different and have different set of buttons to mash? Also it appears I had a completely different set of underwater spells than above water — nor did I ever have to come up for air?

    I really do like the no subscription, but the cost of the game is keeping me out at present. I would certainly sign up for 10 months at $6 a month or some sort of fixed long term payment plan.

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  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Troy – “I had similar experiences with you this weekend with Guild Wars 2, but rather I enjoyed my experience.”

    I have to say that if, at the end of my post, you got the impression that I did not enjoy my experience, then one of us has really failed on the whole communications thing.

    It wasn’t an epiphany that made me want to drop all the other games I have been playing. But it is still a good game that I will get to at some point, as I did with Rift.

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  3. bhagpuss

    I am the mirror-image of you in that the very last thing I would ever do in an MMO is try to make a character that looks like me. I can do that in real life without hardly trying! As for the Norn, I did try to make one but I hated everything about him so much that I was literally unable to log in and he got deleted before he was ever really leted, so to speak.

    Charr all the way! Ahem.

    The camera is famously awful. It really is bad and this is after they improved it. You’d think camera movement and views would be basic entry-level programming in MMOs by now but apparently not.

    I haven’t even done any dungeons (well, one) so I can’t comment but general chat this weekend was ringing with unsolicited testimonials to how wonderful the new “Fractal” dungeon is. Apparently everything that is wrong with the original dungeons is right there. If I ever do one maybe I’ll find out.

    I think you are absolutely right not to buy it if you don’t have time or the inclination to play. It will be around for many years and one day you may have an MMO slump like I did when I ended up playing WoW 5 years after everyone else and then you’ll be glad you waited like I was.

    I should have taken my own advice before getting Storm Legion, because no matter how much I would like to be playing Rift, and I would quite a lot, it appears I really want to play GW2 more because that’s what I keep logging into every day. Embarrassment of riches – too many good options right now.

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  4. Dril

    I don’t think it would be unfair to say that GW2, in terms of art style and animations, is like LOTRO but a lot better. LOTRO veers arbitrarily between a smooth painted style, a gangly EQ2-ish style and the goofy characters. GW2 has a more consistent painted style (as a side note, though, if the art style in game was really stylised like the concept art I would be all over that game) and the characters are less ridiculous.

    The camera’s location is, oddly, changeable, in that you can have it centred, slightly off-centre or with your character quite far over to one side. I have no idea why, but messing with sliders taught me that thing at least.

    At level 52, the biggest issue I have is that the core content (Events) are unreliable in terms of where they spawn, how difficult they’ll be, how long they’ll take (yay kiting a champion mob for 15 minutes because no one else turned up) and whether or not they’ll actually work. Moreover, they’re not really any better than quests, so all I get is way more hassle for less world (so much emptiness that seems devoid of life or interest), less enjoyment and less fun than I could be having if they’d just let me grind quests and level up so I can go do shit (because fuck being a drain on everyone else and doing things when scaled up; 80 or death).

    Then again, perhaps it’s a good thing that there aren’t more quests. The personal storyline is written with such banality that I actually feel slightly offended as a consumer that they would ever try and sell me this tripe as anything more than a way to gain XP fast(er).

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  5. Dril

    @Dril

    Following on: the events being so tedious is a problem when I could have a far more interesting (and emotionally charged) 30 minutes playing LoL instead.

    But, hey, no sub fee! I can come back in 6 months when my apathy for yet more variations on the theme of “fill coloured bar” is gone and replaced with a lust for bars of all colours.

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  6. NoAstronomer

    Like Bhagpuss all my characters are not even remotely like me, or even me with muscles. And actually half of them are female. I’ve never viewed the on-screen image as being a projection of myself into the game world but more of a chess piece to move around the board. I did get lucky with my Norn warrior: I accidently hit the button to skip the character customization and she looks great.

    I’ve had the game for two weeks now and, with some reservations, I am enjoying it. I can definitely see that it wouldn’t fit into your schedule and I really don’t think the game is suited for your instance group at all.

    My favorite moment so far: I came across a escort que… sorry … I mean dynamic event in Sylvari starting area. When I started it off the NPC asked “Do you mind if we run?”.

    Finally I would have thought that to an gaming veteran like yourself the solution to the minotaur problem would be obvious: you kill them!

    Mike.

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  7. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    Yeah, one of my quirks is that I like to have at least one character that is clearly my physical (virtual?) manifestation in the world. I can have other characters. I even have a couple of female characters, though that is pretty rare. But some main character of mine is always just me, which I think stems a lot from the fact that my motivations in game are always internal to me, not something I just make up for a character.

    My EVE Online character, for example, is pretty much me, in about 1990. I even had those sunglasses.

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  8. Mekhios

    I find GW2 a pleasant way to spend an evening after a stressful couple of Clan Wars battles in WoT. It’s a very relaxing game. I rolled all eight character classes so always have something different to do. I love the variety of skills available to each class.

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  9. Nick Seegmiller (@NickSeegmiller)

    In my opinion, the biggest win of GW2 is that is tears down all the barriers that exist to dissuade team work in other MMOs. Somebody grinding the mobs you want? Just help him! You both get loot. Somebody run by you to farm the node while you kill the mob? Who cares! There is a node for you too. Somebody just spawn the big boss mob? Join in! And so forth. It really changes the feel of the game. Of course, all that assumes the zones/events/etc aren’t empty. I played right after launch and had great experiences.

    If I was solely interested in picking an MMO based on a regular instance group (like I feel you mostly are), I think it’s a bad choice, but as far as a game to hop into every once in a while by yourself or with a buddy, it’s really great because you don’t feel so obligated to play without a monthly fee and there is plenty of content and ways to level to never be forced to do something you really don’t want to do.

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  10. silvertemplar

    You make a good point there about the social aspects in GW2. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until you mentioned it. I was doing an Instant Adventure in Rift last night (in the expansion) and if i wasn’t in some sort of raid where i could see where everyone is going and whether they are actually part of the IA (considering the IAs are taking place right there in the open world inbetween regular players who most likely gets very confused at a raid running through their little fishing/harvesting/solo expedition) , i would not have had alot of fun, nor played very intelligently.

    A very large part of the Rift IAs are of the “kill 20 rats” variety, but if you are 5 players, you can either all solo 4 rats each (kinda boring), or you can join a 5 man and do the “lets see how many we can pull and AOE down” trash kill thing (more fun, especially with the Rogue’s new soul having flamethrowers and all). Also the “carry 20 rocks to some collection point” variety is quite the opposite, now you can see where NOT to go.

    This particular IA takes your across the entire zone by teleporting you around , if you’re too early or too late , without being in an actual group you wouldn’t know where everyone went.

    So yes, in contrast, GW2 just have this “free-for-all-go-with-the-flow” thing going, except if you are not part of the flow, you won’t even know there is a flow and will end up solo’ing the rats and wondering who is making all the other kills.

    Interestingly Trion also went for the “hearts” thing you find in GW2 in the expansion . Basically not having “quest hubs” where you pick up quests and return constantly. The most notable form of this is the “Carnage Quests” , which alot of players are not too fond of because they are too obviously “kill 10 rats” quests, except you get the quest by killing 1 rat (you will then get quest to kill more rats) and you automatically get your reward for completing it.

    That sounds almost identical to GW2 hearts (in terms of the idea), however admittedly i prefer the Rift way of having an actual quest. This implies i can kill the 10 rats ANYWHERE where that particular rat is found, where with GW2 hearts your kill mysteriously stops counting if you go out of the heart-range . Plus you can track your rat kill progress better without having to venture back into some arbitrary quest range radar.

    I think Arenanet did do one thing right in terms of “hiding” the fact that you are still killing 10 rats. They never actually tell you to kill 10 rats, there’s just this bar that fills up, so you don’t quite know how many it is. Definitely a bit of psychology there, since i groan if i see a quest that says “kill 20 mobs” as opposed to a bar that fills up slower. Arenanet also gives you “options”, instead of just killing 10 rats, you can now throw a bucket of water over them and it counts towards the bar filling up too. But eventually it will dawn on you (when your character is not progressing as much) that these hearts are kill 10 rats quests, plain and simple.

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  11. Syl (@Syl_RM)

    Hehe…GW2 is actually my first ever MMO where I did not create ‘me’…:)

    “Seriously. When people rave about how pretty it is, they are not over stating things.” – thanks for pointing that out by the way !

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  12. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Syl – “So Pretty!” has been said so much that it was high on my confirm/deny list. I shouldn’t have doubted it I suppose. GW was also very good looking when it came to the actual world.

    @Silvertemplar – I did find myself, when doing heart quests, trying to measure exactly how much progress each action I did would move the bar. I know there is a set amount and I try to figure out how many by instinct I guess. So I am not sure hiding exactly how many rats you need to kill is a good thing or not. Some people will want the data and figure it out.

    Rift has gone a lot more towards even more openness in groups. There is the whole “no tagging” change, where you get credit for killing mobs for your quest so long as you damage a mob that somebody else is fighting. No kill stealing or “damn, he got there first” frustration.

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  13. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    Sorry for stealing your thunder! I did like your analysis, though. Although, I do like the character models and I think the alternative races are kinda neat. Of course, my bar is pretty low after Meridian 59, and I’m probably self-justifying a bit after the Asura Engineer was the character that stuck with me.

    Funny enough, I actually did create a human character that looks a bit like me. But, I made him a Necromancer and I didn’t care for the class. So, my digital representation of myself sits there, unloved. :/

    I still need to dip my toe into a dungeon. The structure makes me wary, as I want to do story mode first, but it seems most people have already done those and want to dive into the explorable modes only. But, thanks for setting my expectations low. :)

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