One of the best parts of getting my hands on Guild Wars 2 is that I now have a real perspective from which to contemplate it. Before this weekend the general previews of GW2 had been so glowing that I actively sought out dissenting voices to balance out the hype. Now armed with reality I can actually bring pertinent observations to the table.
Note* For a more game-play focused post check out part 2
Guild Wars 2 is a very good game but it is not a perfect game and those expecting it to be will be disappointed. The first problems I had cropped up due to the active combat. With mobs often having smash attacks that can one shot you lag spikes go from an annoyance to deadly. Along with the extra danger from lag the constant movement of combat limits the number of people who can be considered competent. I remember reading about a quadriplegic raider in WoW and thinking that that was brilliant that WoW could be so accessible; this will not be possible in GW2. One way to mitigate the negative effects of lag spikes is to play in a group which brings me to the second potential issue; Guild Wars 2 is not a solo game.
The trend in MMOs of late is to make them into solo friendly games where you only group at endgame or for a dungeon. I have spent countless hours solo in SWTOR, WoW and even in GW classic and only occasionally have I felt frustrated by my progression. Eight hours into guild wars 2 I began to feel the frustration born of slowed progress. It’s the same feeling I had in Fallout New Vegas on hardcore mode where all directions were open, but I could only viably survive by traveling a certain route through the game. I was saved by a guild invite to Relics of Orr. I joined up with Coehl and later Aneksi, Spirit and Hunter, together we were able to take on content several levels above our own and the content gating effect what greatly lessened.
That said there are some issues with grouping especially in regard to overflow servers splitting up groups. We also encountered an issue where entering the catacombs dungeon split our group up. Obviously both of these are beta issues and Anet is well aware of these issues as evidenced by their responses on the beta forums.
Speaking of the beta forums how about that gem(cash) shop forum? I was surprised by how sane and well articulated many of the posts on the beta forum were. That said I’m somewhat worried about the direction the cash shop is going. While I understand that Anet needs to make money from their cash shop I don’t think it is ok for them to conveniently forget statements they made regarding elements of their game. Specifically in this article one of the main points Kristen Perry made was that the dye system would be account bound rather than character bound. The current dye system is character bound and which dyes you get comes from a random number generator. Normally I wouldn’t make a big deal about this sort of thing, but the subtle bait and switch ANet is pulling sets a poor precedent for future cash shop expansions.
Tinfoil hat time*
Even worse is the possibility that the finance people are using the per-character-unlock system as a bargaining point. For example what they may actually want to do is have the in game dye system character bound and the gem store system account bound. Since ANet already has stated the dye system will be account bound they needed to set the beta system to be universally character bound to condition us to that as their current plan. Once we all complain and point to their previous post they will offer a “reasonable” compromise gaining what they really wanted in the first place and mollifying the forumites.
Since ANet has said that they want our feedback about the cash shop I encourage anyone with access to the beta forums to log in and discuss the pros and cons of the new system, I certainly did. Many of the posters in the dye system thread seem to think that this is a bug and reported it only later to learn it was “working as intended”.
The jump shot is another element of the game that is “working as intended”, but plays merry hell with the difficulty of jumping puzzles. Using jump shot I could bypass entire sections of jumping puzzles especially the animal shaman puzzle in the Norn starting area. In that particular puzzle there are platforms where shaman take animal forms and try to knock you off. I was able to skip the raven and wolf shaman and go directly to the bear platform with a single jump shot. Hunter suggested that I submit a bug report as it is clearly an exploit that favors engineers. In the same spirit however next beta I’ll be playing a Mesmer and attempting to use the teleport to let people bypass the really annoying parts of the puzzles. Personally I view it less as a bug/exploit and more as a feature of the profession.
On the topic of bugs I was fortunate to not encounter any game breaking bugs, though I was annoyed to find that glue shot was completely broken. The only other significant bug I encountered was my character occasionally freezing mid animation. This usually lasted until I used Jump Shot or was knocked down by an enemy. The final bug I found was a “hidden” area in Lions Arch I accessed by wall-glitching (the kiddies call it wall-hacking but then they also refer to latency as “ping”). I was exploring the south east part of the map and followed a Charr who hopped up some bales of hay and onto a roof. From the roof we dropped down into a hidden courtyard with more bales of hay along a wall and some scrub-brush in the corner. The brush hid a small tunnel that led to a steep hillside overlooking the southern beach and waterfall. If this place is meant to be in game this would final destination, but the Charr wanted to jump off the water fall and he would not be deterred. With a few adroit hops the charr found a way up the rock cliff surrounding the hill and then let me know I should follow by hopping encouragingly. Not one to be left behind I tried unsuccessfully for several minutes to reproduce the Charr’s masterful parkour skills.
Fortunately I was playing on my engineer and decided to cheat and use Jump Shot. The reward for us was a look behind the façade of the guild wars maps. We found floating stones and a gargantuan stalagmite jutting from pool of water in a deep hole. Leaving the pool behind we made our way to the top of the mountains in the south where I discovered certain rocks had no collision. Running through the rocks brought the two of us to the edge of the world where we stared out into an indigo abyss. Unwilling to fling ourselves from the cliff at the edge of the world we returned to the pool pit and jumped in. The drop was roughly equivalent to the diving board in the south west of lions arch. Swimiing about the pool in the bottom of the pit I discovered that the stalagmite stopped just beneath the surface of the water and never actually connected to the ground. Satisfied with our exploration we ported to the nearest fast travel point then returned once more so the Charr could fulfill his quest to leap from the top of the waterfall.
At the end of the day GW2 isn’t perfect especially in regards to the cash shop, but from what I’ve played and seen on the beta board ANet is trying and succeeding at making it a great game.
Read Part 2 of my impressions here