Another Take On Guild Wars 2

Beta test weekends are tricky devils especially the final one, because you know its a stress test by another name. Not only that, but a wobbly first impression can put you off the game, even though you know it’s not necessarily representative of the final product.

With SWTOR, my first impression was not good. In fact it was so bad I can cancelled my CE preorder.

I’m not about to do that with Guild Wars 2. First up, a caveat. I only got to play for about an hour and a half, so this is superficial at
best. Also I knew next to nothing so I had no expectations at all, a complete tabula rasa.

Initial impression were promising with an elegant painted style that is throughout the UI and immediately marks the game out as something different. The character creation screens are logical and flexible enough to tweak your character to your satisfaction. Controls are fairly standard and even though it was a stress test weekend, there was no lag that I noticed, despite plenty of other players rushing about.

Conversations with quest givers are animated, but instead of trying to integrate them into the gameplay, you are gently lifted out of it as your avatar and the quest-giver hold their exchange in front of an elegant background.

Combat is engaging and fun, some strategy is a good idea as button mashing, even at an early level, not only gets tedious but won’t give you the best effect. One aspect of the game I particularly liked was that you are not made to feel like you are on some heavily scripted linear progression, a long standing frustration I have with some other games. Here, you don’t get led around by the nose but are encouraged to explore what appears to be a sprawling environment and locate events and quest-givers with only limited support from the map.

Even though I had such a limited time to try the game and despite not being hit over the head with plot points, I still found myself being drawn into the story. So that’s another tick.

Finally lets talk quickly about the graphics. One word – sweet! GW2 isn’t having to wrestle with a relatively untried engine. It looks
excellent, with detailed textures and draw distances that always remind you that it’s a big world out there. Considering I’m still using a creaky ATI 4850 and didn’t bother to tweak any settings I could quite happily pick up where I left off without touching a thing.

While I don’t doubt there are flaws, bugs and other irritations that I’ve yet to discover, I can honestly say I’m looking forward to
returning and waking my toothy cat guy from where he is currently laying down and sleeping deeply.

Guild Wars 2: Beta Impressions

With the beta weekend now kaput, I wanted to jot down some impressions as a first-time player of the franchise. I’ve never played the original Guild Wars and I only signed up for an account with GW2 a few hours prior to the event starting. So it was with a very fresh set of eyes that I embarked on downloading the 25GB client.

The download process was flawless and installation the same. The login screen just requires your username and password (which I’d set up while waiting for the client to download) – I’m hoping there’ll be some sort of authenticator option come launch.

On login I then needed to select a server – this is of particular importance  for oceanic players as knowing which server is the unofficial oceanic one is important if you want lots of people to play with. For the beta, Sea of Sorrows was the unofficial local server in the US cluster (we’ll be publicising any unofficial or official oceanic servers for launch once we know), but it was full so I selected another US server at random.

Then it was on to the character creation screen and this is where I became a fan of GW2. I know a lot of people don’t care that much about what their toon looks like, but I’ve always liked to tweak (usually to the ugly side!). GW2 has delivered that tweak ability in spades without making it complex – you can change most parts of your body and also choose a 3-way colour scheme for your gear. In regard to class selection I also like the small series of questions asked to work out what race and class you’ll end up favouring. The descriptions of each are well done as also. A huge thumbs up overall for this part of the process.

Sticking with my tradition of always rolling a mage-like character called Wheezinhenry, I chose an Asura Mesmer  and jumped into the starting area (pictured above). Like any MMO, first impressions in-world are extremely powerful and GW2 was no exception. This is a mighty pretty game – there are the inevitable WoW comparisons for sure but graphically those comparisons wouldn’t hold up that well – this is a generation newer and it shows.

Movement is pretty standard although I tend to use the arrow keys for movement and the left and right arrow keys are set for Strafe Left / Right which I needed to change, but that’s an individual preference. I loved the fluid feel of the movement and also the dodge move from pressing a direction key twice. There just seemed overall to be more of a feeling of control of the toon than I’ve experienced inWoW or SWTOR – as well as feeling more natural. Combat is your standard key pressing – nothing excitingly new there.

Questing is quite different in that it is still somewhat linear but there’s more of a need to find the quests for yourself. The combination text/voice dialog works well and there are times you get to choose a response which is nice – it’s not as nuanced as say SWTOR, but it does open up options. I really enjoyed the boss at the end of the starting area – it showcased both the fun of group combat as well as showing off the camera angles the game is capable of. Looting / gear equipping is all pretty standard nothing of particular note to report there. Cut scenes were pretty, with ‘Work in Progress’ graphic plastered over some as you’d expect with a beta.

Like any beta there are also glitches – I know the Mesmer class struggled as far as damage from what I saw on forums. Some experienced big lag issues although I wasn’t one of them.

Overall, I was impressed with GW2 as a beta, so I can imagine it’s going to be a step ahead by launch at the end of August. I pre-ordered the game prior to download, based purely on what I’d heard from others. After my short period of time playing I’m glad I’ve handed over the cash and I’m looking forward to developing Wheezinhenry to his full potential. The lack of a monthly subscription fee is what has convinced me to make GW2 my third regular MMO after SWTOR and WoW – I doubt I’m alone in that and I’d imagine lots of ‘WoW-Killer’ talk will float around, as ridiculous as the proposition is.

So over to you: did you check out the beta, and if so, what did you think?

A couple of notes / disclaimers:

1. I don’t own a dedicated Windows PC. I have an iMac (2010 model) running Boot Camp and I can report that GW2 ran beautifully on it with no tweaking required.

2. As far as playtime, between commitments I only played an hour or so – my impressions above are pretty much limited to the first couple of areas.

3. I played zero PvP.