Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend Rundown

gw020In all honesty I thought I would never be writing this post.  I got an opportunity to play the game last year, and what can I say, I really hated it.  The entire thing felt extremely “grindy”.  I felt clueless as what I should be doing and what I should be focusing on.  I went from heart to heart, and event to event, and would still end up having to go out into the fields and grind random mobs just to get to the next story element.

All that said, I was just honestly expecting too much for the state the game was in.  There has been so much obnoxious hype surrounding this game, and so many often times violently devoted fans force feeding the notion that Guild Wars 2 was the gaming Messiah.  After all of this, and after reading the Guild Wars 2 Design Manifesto blog post, I was expecting bottled magic.  When this unrealistic expectation did not appear before me, I rejected it wholly and had essentially written off the game.

What changed my mind

gw055I really hated the original Guild Wars, but even saying that I own two different accounts from two different attempts to play the game.  I expected to give Guild Wars 2 a chance, regardless of my pre-disposition.  With the very public beta weekend coming up, I went ahead and preordered the game to give it another chance.  Essentially I went into this weekend expecting the game to be horrible, based on my previous experience.

I allowed myself to play the game with a fairly clean palette.  What can I say, the game has grown on me.  I can’t entirely attribute this to my change of attitude, because really the game is in a much more polished state.  Previously most of the mobs were not even properly itemized, so that only added to the feeling of purposeless grinding.  This time around I allowed myself to wander aimlessly, explore, and work my way through the various objectives on the map in a much more fluid way.

The Strong Points

gw012Dynamic Mentoring:

This is by far my favorite feature of the game.  As you move through the world, and it is a huge one, your level is automatically mentored down to the content.  If you wander back in a level 4 area at level 15, you will be scaled down to level 6 or so allowing you to participate in events.  The best part of this is that you gain experience and karma similar to your native level.


Auction House Anywhere:

This weekend there were some major issues with the Trade post system, but when it was working it was nice.  Essentially you can open up your commerce window, and buy and sell from the trade post anywhere in the world.  Once the bugs are ironed out, this will allow you to clear your bags of anything worth selling very quickly.  The only negative of the system, is that it is not terribly straight forward, and it takes a bit to figure out that you have to physically go to a trade post location to pick up your items and earnings.

gw007Dynamic Role Switching:

Early in the process, they have claimed to be abolishing the holy trinity of MMOs.  This is certainly true from one perspective, but I like to look at it slightly differently.  Each weapon set, gives you your first 5 hot bar abilities.  Each weapon combo, gives your character a completely different feel, and you can swap these out on the fly based on your situation. 

I tended to focus on a sword and board style tanky warrior all weekend, but my choice of main hand greatly changes the flavor.  From my shield, I gained hot bar slots 4 and 5, but if I equipped a sword in my main hand, I gained a good deal of mobility with a nice leap, as well as a powerful cleave.  If I swapped in an axe, I lost the mobility, but gained a strong 360 multi target AOE.  If I changed it out again for a Mace, I gained several new defensive abilities, including a really strong block/counter attack combo.

If I dropped the shield entirely, and equipped a two handed sword, it gave me a series of very powerful AOE attacks, perfect for playing a more dps role.  If I equipped a rifle, I had the ability to actually do powerful ranged damage.  To complement these weapon abilities, are a series of skills that you purchase with points earned by doing the various skill challenges spread across the map.  While there are still very clear tanky, dps, ranged, style roles, it feels like you have the freely to swap between them at will just by changing out your gear.

gw025Huge Detailed World:

I cannot emphasis this one enough.  The world is massive, and filled with tons of exploration candy.  I put on several levels by just roaming around aimlessly trying to unlock the various points of interest on the map.  A lot of times in these games, you sacrifice detail for size.  However every little corner of the map seems to have the same artistic care as the main hubs.  I found lots of little secret paths, stuff hidden under water, and plenty of other reasons to go off wandering.

I have a friend who claims she is part mountain goat, and she would have felt right at home in this world. If you can see it, there seems to be a way to get up there.  I’ve only actually seen a very tiny portion of the map in my roughly 20 hours or so of gameplay.  I’ve already seen snowy mountain peaks, lush forests, and murky swamps.  The best part of the world are the cities, they are more detailed than I have ever seen in an MMO.  They didn’t just get the city proper right, they got the surrounding land, and suburbs as well.

The Weak Points


Limited To Original Server Choice:

This one is pretty massive to me.  When you first log into the game, you are asked to choose a server.  At this point there is no real way to fully understand the ramifications of this choice.  Essentially this server becomes your home server, and the only way to change servers is to pay 1800 gems (which if it follows standard cash shop trends equates to $18).  There is a system in place, that lets you play on other servers as a guest, but since this was disabled during beta weekend it is uncertain how limiting this will be.

Why is this such a huge deal?  Well this is just one of the ways the game is not super friendly to groups of friends that want to play together.  As a long time guild leader, it is always a struggle to try and get all of your members on the same server at the launch of a game.  SWTOR had a great system that let you preload your guild onto a server intact, but even with that there were a good number of stragglers that could not be bothered to sign up for the system.

As a result, even with that system in place it was a mess those first few weeks getting everyone re-rolled in the right place.  Essentially there is no re-rolling on a new server without an additional cash outlay.  This system is going to be a wholesale nightmare for large guilds, and will likely cause a certain measure of un-necessary fragmentation.  I know personally that I can afford to pay to swap servers, but not every member of my guilds can.  My only hope is that for a few weeks after release they turn on the home server moves for free.

gw005Overflow System:

This honestly could have just as well gone as a positive, but it has some rather crippling side effects.  When you load into your server, instead of placing you in a queue, you get placed into the Overflow system.  This is great because it allows you to get in and play immediately, but in essence it places you in limbo.  You are not really on the server as the rest of your friends. 

So if you are trying to hook up and play with other players, you can wind up in separate instances with no way that I could find to swap between them.  Since this entire system is a bit murky, I figure this is going to cause more than a small bit of headache.  All that said however, I applaud the efforts they have made to remove queues from gameplay. 

gw033No Golden Path:

This is what gave me so much trouble when I had played it last year.  You have series of instanced storyline quests that move the tale of your legend forward.  The problem is there is no clear path outlined for you to get from point a to point b.  If you were like me and went into this expecting the same basic quest construct as the rest of mmo-dom, you will likely find this as mentally jarring as I did. 

Guild Wars 2 essentially is a sandbox, much the same way as Skyrim was.  Quests exist out in the field, in the form of the various hearts on the map, but there is no guiding hand to make sure you go by and visit them all.  On your map, there is a completion score showing how many hearts you have completed, points of interests discovered, and waypoints unlocked.  I found that wandering around and exploring, took me across most of the major hearts and events, but I just had to change my mindset.

gw032Voice Acting:

This is something odd, because while playing this weekend I recognized a good number of the voices from SWTOR.  The male warrior voice, sounds like the same actor that played the Jedi Consular.  Another voice I recognized as the woman who says “Oh Spanios” during “Lovers” quest on Tython.  The problem is, the voice acting as a whole is not nearly as high quality as it was in SWTOR.  While some of the same actors obviously were involved, the delivery just feels a good deal more stiff, and forced. 

On the positive side however, the world is full of dialog.  As you walk through the cities there is often times a murmur of multiple conversations going on at the same time.  It really makes these areas feel more lived in.  The only place you really notice the stiff delivery of lines, is during the story quests, when you have nothing else fighting for your attention.  It wasn’t bad enough to keep me from playing, but it was noticeable.

The Takeaway

gw029As the weekend has gone on, the game has grown on me more and more.  Essentially I have adjusted my outlook to fit the game, rather than trying to mold the game into what I was expecting from other games.  GW2 harkens back to an older era of MMOs, where the focus was on exploration rather than following a pre-planned path. Will I be cancelling my paid subscription MMOs to play it?  Not likely, but I will be playing Guild Wars 2 when it releases.

Scarybooster put the game in perspective for me this weekend.  Essentially he said that he is viewing this game as competing with the other free to play experiences.  When you view it in that way, then it wins hands down against the other f2p titles.  The world is huge, engaging, and as you move through it you are in no way gimped for not having spent money.  When you look at the game like that, it is a complete no-brainer to buy.

For many players this game will be enough to make them cancel their subscription accounts.  For me, it just scratches a different itch.  I have no plans on cancelling either EQ2 or SWTOR for the sake of this game.  I am in the position where I can do that.  I think for your average player, this game will be enough for them.  The game is a much more polished experience today, than it was at the tail end of last year when I initially tried it.  So I have some hope that all the little bugs and annoyances will be given a thick coat of shine before release.

So all this said, I am taking back my opinion on the game.  I am officially “un-writing it off”.  I look forward to release, and look forward  to seeing how the  game progresses as we go through other beta weekends.  As we close out the weekend, I made it to level 15, after 20 or so focused ours of gameplay.  With 80 levels worth of content, and large chunks of it unique to each race, it looks like there will be more than enough content to satiate us.  Fun combat, lots of content, and no subscription fee seems like a win to me.

11 thoughts on “Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend Rundown

  1. They have also said they are working on the over flow server problem and no golden path is definatly a good thing

  2. I agree with almost all of what you wrote but as far as the server switching goes the reason for this is WvW (world vs. World) and if you didn’t get a chance to try this during the beta you missed out but you have a home server so that they dont have people jumping servers to get on winning servers they have a system for balancing the servers were winning servers end up fighting against other winning servers. And as far as voice acting goes i have played swtor and yes i think its better but i thought it was pretty damn good for beta they have said they are still tweeking that part so we will see how it turns out. Those were my only two beefs and i apologize for spelling and grammer errors lol good review buddy

  3. Anet will have success but it will not be the game changer that the rabid fanbois of the game are hoping it will be. Do not get me wrong, I will buy the game as something to do every now and then because honestly I can do that since it has no sub. But if it did have a sub, there is no way I would pay for it.

    Its a good game, just not a game changer, there is nothing really revolutionary in the game. Dynamic Events as ANET has called them are honestly ANET’s spin on Public quests, but they have done nothing to fix the problem of the public quest. For example, Bel, and myself played Warhammer Online when it first launched. Public quests were amazing. Everyone said the same thing. It was just plain awesome. Yet once the game started loosing people, public quests became tedious because you no longer had enough people to actually complete them. That exact problem still exists in the Dynamic Events of GW2.

  4. I hope Anet isn’t listening to you all the same ; ) I agree the dynamic events are found only by exploring, but at least the hearts are shown when you talk to the binocular guy, which I believe I found out via an in-game tip. So many little things in game that could use some better explanation. That hearts indicate a mini faction quest, and you can then buy upgrades from that NPC once its filled in, and that these are not the much vaunted dynamic events – could use a much better explanation at the start of the game. I could see that confusion turning some away.

    Really wish Anet success in what they have created here, and just want them to err on the side of deeper gameplaye and appealing to the explorer rather then dumbing things down to increase widespread appeal.

  5. “You have series of instanced storyline quests that move the tale of your legend forward. The problem is there is no clear path outlined for you to get from point a to point b.”

    There is a bright green arrow on the minimap that always points toward your quest objective. And a glowing green star on your world AND minimap indicating exactly where you need to stand to move the quest forward. This is how it worked in GW1, so I knew to look for it. I am assuming you werent aware of this feature?

    And for general questing, no handholding is a strong point for the game imo. So refreshing to not see NPCs with exclamation points over there heads. Just look on the world map for the general area that is appropriate to your level and start wandering. Of if you need more handholding talk to the guys with the binocular icon and they will draw all the heart quest areas on your map for you.

    Overall though agreed with your comments. Glad I didn’t play SWTOR as the cheese in the voice acting is not a problem for me. It adds a nice element to the story quest, and its better then nothing.

    • Well the big green dot only actually applies to story-line quests. Unfortunately you cannot level through only following the storyline quests, and you have to wander around aimlessly looking for the hearts and events to really be successful. The not hand holding you is both a positive and a negative. I think it is good for the game in the long run, don’t get me wrong. But it will be one of the biggest hurdles towards broad based acceptance. Folks are used to having a path to follow, and in the absence of one the game often times feels like it doesn’t have a purpose.

      I agree that the openness of the game is a good thing. It takes some getting used to however, if you have come from what has become the template for an MMO. The game as a whole was not just sold to fans of Guild Wars, it has been sold as penicillin for the MMO industry. That means you are going to get a lot of players that are fans of the modern theme park genre, and for them and myself included not having a path to follow is mentally jarring. I got used to it, and I assume others will as well. But this is the biggest aspect that leads players to play it, but not really “get it” or like it. If you stick around long enough it starts to sink in.

  6. “No Golden Path”

    Uh…that is NOT a weak point. No more had holding could be the ultimate panacea to the tired boring gameplay of so many other MMO’s.

    No Golden Path: POSITIVE all the way!

  7. Great write up. I do agree on the voice acting. It sucks compared to SWTOR. I felt like I was listening to a bunch of nerds RPing around the D&D table. Other than the wonky overflow system I’m sure they’ll rework a bit, the game is awesome. And F2P, you can’t beat that

  8. I must admit, your first paragraph was what made me avoid the beta (I’ve pre-ordered) and is what will make me avoid the future ones; I really want to play a good game, and don’t want it soiled by the rabid promotion it gets by supporters of the franchise.

    That said, from what I’ve seen so far, it’s going to be a good game in its own right, just not the earth-shatterer it was touted as.

    /fingers crossed.

  9. I am honestly wondering about something…. since I know these are some of the same voice actors from SWTOR… we know they can deliver non stiff sounding dialog. What I am wondering is if they are using some kind of soundfont technology. Where they record a bunch of words, and then proceduraly string them together into sentences. I know voice xml does a lot of this.

    That would account for the somewhat robotic delivery. Just a theory though.

  10. Having played it the whole weekend as well. (Wolfborn Norn Ranger) I agree with all your assessments. The story and voice acting is at time very very bad to simply laughable. The entire no golden path drives me nuts. Its like they saw the public quest system from Warhammer online and decided that was how they were going to do the entire quest system in their game with out trying to fix the problems the public quest system had in the first place.

    Sad thing is that I want to really like this game, I really do. I am in love with the Norn(I have a thing for shape-shifting Norse I always have). And I like the way the weapon system works. But damn they need to do something to give a player a feeling of purpose in the game.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: