I have now spent several hours with Guild Wars 2 and have gotten the opportunity to try all the classes and some PvP as well. My hype was mixed. Partly because of the fact that I hated the first Guild Wars but some hype existed because of all the things ArenaNet have been saying about the game and its esport direction.
I will breakdown my impressions in categories to ease the read of interest for you guys and that way you won’t be forced to read everything unless you want to.
Graphics: The graphical department of Guild Wars 2 is a complicated one, at least to me. Design-wise, most specifically focusing on the character design, I think its awful. In terms of atmosphere and detail and the world, to 99% I think it’s fantastic. It creates a visually stunning world that I want to explore more and more and it is indeed beautiful. But there are some extremely questionable design choices that truly limit my appreciation when it comes to character design and the interface in general. Technically speaking, we all know that MMO’s won’t look like Crysis 2 any time soon, but I would say Guild Wars 2 is about average there. What it lacks in horse power, it makes up for with an amazing atmosphere that surpasses World of Warcraft and Star Wars by far.
Sound: The sound department is where Guild Wars 2 truly shines. The soundtrack is beyond godlike and enchanting. Just sitting and listening to the sound at the login screen is emotional and beautiful. The sound effects in the world such as thunder and rain are superb, outshining all competition I can think of. The voice actors are doing a superb job and they feel alive and in the moment. For a game that doesn’t brag about its voice cast like Star Wars did, this is even more impressive and I would say that some voice actors even surpass the ones of the Star Wars MMO and that’s an wickedly impressive feature. Yes, like I said, the sound department in Guild Wars 2 is already masterful and an astonishing achievement for ArenaNet.
Questing: Guild Wars 2 aims to get rid of the traditional MMORPG concept of questing. You no longer run to certain people in areas to get a very specific quest and then return. The focus here are world events and you are more or less dragged into them by “choice” if you want to while doing your main quest story. Now, the absolutely biggest flaw in Guild Wars 2 is the poor balancing in terms of leveling content. The content always outlevels me and it makes it extremely difficult for me to complete it without doing some “grinding” in terms of helping a lot of villagers and other side missions that I don’t want to do. I was around three levels too low for my main quest and it was impossible for me to complete it without dying numerous times. I have heard that most of my friends have similar problems and it is really bad. ArenaNet seriously need to change the balance in leveling as it is below standards as it is now.
Gameplay: The gameplay is fast. And I mean fast. Coming from a World of Warcraft and Star Wars: The Old Republic background I can say that this game is faster than those two combined. Spells fly with great speed and combat is insanely paced with a lot of fast decisions required. There is no annoying global cool down like in Star Wars which slows the combat down and makes it kind of dull in the end. This is a great step forward in the right direction and I encourage all MMO’s to follow suit. This is the way games are meant to be played with swiftness and skill that matter the most. And that is exactly how it should be like.
User Interface: Here I once again have mixed feelings. The design of the skillbar and health are superb. I mean world class. But after that, it all falls apart. Queuing for PvP is an insane hassle. You have to go to your hero screen and then to the last menu click and then select what you want to queue for instead of having a PvP button in the top left corner with all the others for a two-click queue process that’s fast and standard in today’s MMO’s. Another thing is queuing with friends and trying to party with them. It’s a hassle. It’s very unintuitive and not at all close to standard for 2012. Definitely something that must be address. Also the options menu feels too small and squeezed in and should be split up in bigger more clear sections because as it is now it’s just a hassle to read through and I don’t fancy it one bit. A lot of it feels very “early” and primitive. I sure hope they fix it.
Player versus Player: Guild Wars 2’s treasure is supposed to be PvP. With esport focus and all. Sounds good. So how does it play out? Well, I’ve tried both of the PvP maps that are available in the beta and as well as the World vs World vs World PvP. PvP is fast and nice. It’s fluent and works (Haha, works, yeah right, in the beta it was down constantly and rarely available) but what I meant is that the PvP is fast and fluent and design fairly well. My main complaint is that I feel that because of the fact that every class can heal and has fairly high HP the fights tend to stretch out a bit more than I want them. I like quick and effective battles but I guess it takes time getting used to it.
World vs World vs World: What separates GW2 from other games is WvWvW. Where three servers are fighting each other for territory in a massive open world PvP area. This is cleverly done where you fight for resources and try to take over the other servers bases and it will last for two weeks and in here you gain experience PvP points and tons of fun. Though I only tried it briefly, I can imagine how fun it will be running around after launch with full teams and having a blast ganking people and trying to take over massive bases and experiencing epic battles.
So there you have it folks. My overall summary with be: mixed feelings. It’s new yes, and I am no stranger to change, but somethings I just feel are below industry standards and I really want ArenaNet to address these issues such as the UI/PvP queuing and the fact that the main story immediately outlevels you and forces you to do boring side missions that ArenaNet has said wasn’t necessary.
Have you tried the GW2 beta? What are your thoughts?