I had the opportunity to participate in the Guild Wars 2 open beta weekend which started on the 27th for anyone who pre-purchased the game online and from participating retailers. As with any beta, I prepared myself for the worst as I was pretty sure I wasn’t the only one eager to try out this anticipated MMO title. It would take me several hours before I would be able to delve deeper into the game due to system and technical difficulties stemming from everyone trying to get in. When I finally did get in, I was not disappointed. I had already looked into the classes that were going to be present in GW2 and decided a long time ago that I would definitely make my first character a Guardian since I’m familiar with tanking when it comes to MMOs.
Character creation felt exciting unlike most RPGs that have a similar setup and features when it comes to personifying your character. I had the chance to tailor specific things such as proportions for my nose or if I wanted something like chest hair or even a goatee. While some of these aspects aren’t exactly groundbreaking, it felt really nice and easy to interact with the creation process, even if I didn’t think he had to be really tall. While the thought of my character running around with an afro was quite funny, I decided on getting a hairstyle that was somewhat familiar to most of my characters from other games. While the details aren’t super detailed, its quite decent enough that most machines can handle the graphics to a certain extent.
During this process besides the physicality of my character, I had the opportunity to personalize him further with aspects about the background of his life. I ended up deciding that he was raised as a noble, was a truthful and honorable person, yet never knew about his true parents. On top of that, I got to choose which deity favored me. I thought the truth and honor part was interesting because the game does give you the option to choose which trait would be your strongest since being charming and intimidating were my alternatives. Guild Wars 2 at the time being does integrate those traits in determining how a NPC reacts to you depending on the choices that you make which would reflect one of those three traits. Also, you can improve those traits by successfully using those abilties most likely determined by difficulty with NPCs. However it doesn’t have the complex multiple choice answer setup that some games are known for but steering the game in a different direction, Guild Wars 2 most certainly succeeds in giving the player a more intimate control of how they would want to respond.
Almost like taking a cue from many other games, the cinematic unfolding a brief back story flow like a artist’s paint brush as visuals and dialogue unfold. The art reminds me of paintings as some of the stills in the intro suggest it despite the different instances of panning and zooming as different scenes unfold in your story. It most certainly draws you into the Guild Wars setting as details become that much more fleshed out and physical. What seems to be a trend in most RPGs and MMOs is full voice acting for NPCs and various characters. Bringing that aspect to any kind of game not only enhances the experience and story of the game but for those of you who aren’t on their daily caffeine regimen, it helps keep the rest us awake. But jokes aside, I feel that it is important to not only have voice acting in any game like this but have the dialogue thought out very well which Guild Wars 2 seems to be doing decently with not only text and audio but you can visually see the characters emotions and expressions in these little cut scenes in your story quests.
Comparitively from the first Guild Wars game, menus and the overall UI look has been changed and overhauled. Seemingly somewhat familiar yet a different taste in arrangement, I actually like what has been done. Stats are easy to read and easy to find while at the same time, players aren’t bogged down with the sheer amounts of numbers and bonuses that affect your character. But at the same time, I could only hazard a guess of what would be beneficial for my class which hopefully may come with another beta weekend or with the end product when the game is officially released. GW2 also has a “Easy” button just like the Staples commercial to organize important gear and other vendor trash so that it makes it a lot easier to sort what you want to keep and save, trade off, or to get rid of for some quick cash. What’s also pretty neat about the whole look is that you get a manican to show what equipment looks like as soon as you equip it, though there isn’t a way to preview an item by via ctrl+left click yet.
Now as with the previous version of Guild Wars, there were no skill trees. But the great thing that was implemented in this sequel is the fact that you get to see what kind of weapons are available for your class plus what kind of abilities that are associated with that weapon. Initially, I started off with a Mace but pushed for a Sword as soon as I could. Once I got a shield equipped, that also came with associated abilities that I could use on top of my main hand weapon. Later as you progress, you will eventually unlock class abilities and traits which would boost your versatility on the field. Initially I only had a self healing ability that cured a certain amount of HP while blocking attacks. Unfortunately, it had a 30 second cooldown. But as I later progressed with my “Guardian”, I eventually got several abilities such as one ability that gave me an AoE attack and one that summoned a spirit weapon that danced around and defended me for a short amount of time.
Combat was a fun aspect to try out considering that as soon as you finish creating your character, you’re thrown immediately into a chaotic situation and are forced to fight. GW2 doesn’t have an auto-attack feature which isn’t a big deal if you’re used to the gameplay for SWTOR. Using the #1 key for your main attack on top of any other abilities isn’t too stressful or overwhelming as the cooldowns give you enough time to consider the next phase of your attacks or buffs depending on the class. Damage indicators are apparent as numeric counters appear over your target clearly and legibly, especially if they’re critical hits or misses. If you’re running from a fight, your screen will have a CoD type of screen flash as the more damaged you get, the sides of the screen become more red. From running around doing the events and story quests, combat seems to be pretty solid though I will say that some of the harder events will require a lot more people to handle a monster that you initially thought you could take by yourself which I think was set by design from the beginning. Despite that, GW2 does seem like it has some kinks to work out especially with some of the balancing when it comes to mobs, as zone events seem to require more than just 5-6 players to take down a gold elite of the same level. The aspect that seems to work like a double edged sword in this case as well as is the level capping for the different parts of a zone. Through out the beta while roaming in the beginning area which was from level 1-17, certain areas capped at level 4 while others were at 10 and so forth. While this seems to give players an even playing field, it seems to backfire when involved with a giant elite during a zone event. Now this doesn’t happen for all zone events however, there are instances where it seems like the developers do need to take a second look to be sure that it is appropriate for players of any skill, regardless of their knowledge of MMOs or not. The plus side is that during these events, there is no need to party up or setup a raiding party as the only thing is required of you and possibly the friends that you are playing with is just your involvement. The more you contribute to the event, the higher your reward is which is evident at the event completion where it is rated with a copper, silver, or gold medal. Of course, besides the visual accomplishment on your quest log, you do receive a XP, Karma, & currency reward.
Graphics look great even on the default lowest settings for the beta weekend. Plenty of light effects and other fluff enhances fantasy of the Guild Wars world. Its so distracting that you actually might get ambushed by one of the many random mobs that are roaming around the zone. Besides all the nice scenery that Guild Wars 2 has to offer, magic abilities, lighting effects, and equipment textures look wonderfully rendered in a major way in comparison to its predecessor.
Crafting is another thing that I’ve noticed a major change with compared to its predecessor and other games in its class. Normally, one would just queue up a number of things to craft and walk away. In this case, I had a rather large stack of materials that I managed to gather during my endeavors around the Guild Wars weekend and figured this would be a good time as any to explore that aspect of the game. Now this isn’t revolutionary in a sense compared to other games, however, there is a separate station that allows you to figure out additional recipes, as well as the amount of time to do crafting is pretty quick from my perspective. Whether crafted items versus rare items differ in character benefits remains to be seen.
All in all, Guild Wars 2 has a lot to offer for the typical MMO player as well as someone who is just starting with their first. However, they also have quite a ways to go before this game is considered ready for shipping. But the good thing with this beta weekend is that they had the chance to figure out what the major problems were with the game that people were running into and now have the opportunity to fix and address them before the next open beta weekend. While some may scoff at the fact that this is another MMO that has a lot of similarities to a few games that remain popular and played by many, this game is certainly one that is worth waiting for.