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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.