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First Impressions of Guild Wars 2

30 April, 2012

So, the first open beta weekend for Guild Wars 2 has been and gone, and I spent most of my weekend glued to it. There are posts and comments and whole blogs devoted to the game all over the internet, so I won’t go into a massive amount of detail here. Instead, here are a few of my first impressions (bearing in mind I didn’t try PvP, or crafting, or get past level 14) – and if you’re not interested in the game itself, you can always enjoy the pretty screenshots!

Bugs.  Let’s get this one out of the way first. GW2 is still in beta testing, and whilst it generally ran smoothly, there were a number of bugs to be found. These ranged from the mildly annoying (a bit of server downtime and a bit of lag; NPC voices not following the script onscreen), to the massively frustrating (inability to consistently get into the same district as friends, or to travel as a party), to the downright hilarious (managing to complete quests in the wrong order and having the NPCs involved first get stuck in a wall, then jump around as if they’d had too much caffeine).

The centre of the human city, Divinity's Reach, with its massive glass dome and orrery.

Combat.  GW2’s combat has got to be one of its strongest points. It’s fluid, engaging and much faster paced than in many MMOs, with an emphasis on moving around and constantly changing tactics, rather than just standing in one place and spamming a single skill.

Skills.  Having said that… the skills are a bit limited, moreso for some classes than others. Coming from the original Guild Wars, where – for example – a Ranger might have a hundred different skills for use with a bow, GW2 has something like ten which are bow specific. Whilst there’s a lot of variety from one class to another, within each class, the option of creating different builds (sets of skills) seems fairly nonexistent.

The glorious fields surrounding Divinity's Reach, where human characters start.

Events and quests.  ArenaNet have said a number of times what Guild Wars 2 will be completely different to other MMOs in terms of quests – namely, that there aren’t any, but the game is comprised of dynamic, ever-changing events instead. In practice, this doesn’t quite hold true. Even over the course of a weekend, I found quite a bit of repetition in the randomly-spawning events, whilst those that are there all the time and can only be completed once were essentially quests tied to a single area. Not quite as revolutionary as the game’s developers have tried to make out, although it’s possible more events have yet to be added.

Story.  The ‘personal story’ quests for each character are an improvement, though. Each player will advance through different story quests, depending on the choices they make in the game and in character creation. The scripting, cut-scenes and coherent plots of these personal stories were all top-notch, and make the game a bit more… well, personal.

Another view of the impressive Divinity's Reach, showing some of its scope and complexity.

Setting and landscapes.  I think it’s fair to say that ArenaNet have some of the most talented concept artists and level designers in the business. Guild Wars 2 is an absolutely stunning game, with constantly inventive and beautiful landscapes. The music and sound effects are also excellent, making the overall setting wonderfully immersive – something that screenshots and even YouTube videos really can’t do justice to.

So, what are my overall impressions of the game? I’ll admit to a little bit of disappointment. Having played other, recent MMOs – and after having seen this game hyped up for several years now – Guild Wars 2 isn’t as inventive and ground-breaking as it likes to think it is (when compared with Rift’s similarly social, dynamic gameplay, for example), and there’s a certain amount of restriction to the classes that many MMO players will be unhappy about.

However, it’s also a beautiful, high quality game, which looks polished before it’s even finished. Is it a game I’m happy to have paid for? Will I likely spend hundreds of hours on it after release? It’s a resounding ‘yes’ to both of those. Will I still be playing GW2 seven years after release, as I did with the first Guild Wars? From the evidence of the beta weekend, I’m tempted to say ‘no’, but I feel that’s a bit unfair. After all, the game has yet to actually be completed – there’s still a lot of work to come from ArenaNet yet, and I’m sure the game is only going to get better.

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  1. Guild Wars 2: The Second Beta Weekend « Not All Those Who Wander

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