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Guild Wars 2 Beta Review

On Friday Afternoon Guild Wars 2 started its first open beta to people who pre-purchased a copy online. It took three and a half hours just to log in because there were so many people trying to pla at once. But after two coffee filled nights of playing I made up the lost time, and here is what I found.

Appearance: Guild Wars lost some of its uniqueness. In the original game there was a certain flare of art that made the environment look beyond this world. If you compared the original Kaineng Center or Lion’s Arch and compared it to the cities in Guild Wars 2 you too would have your spirit a little crushed. It looks to me like they tailored the graphics closer to WoWs. It still retains some of its originality, but now it’s harder to distinguish from other MMORPGs.

On the plus side the natural environments were defiantly improved. Walking around the world is exciting and easy on the eyes. The scenery drastically changes depending on where you are in the world, unlike the original that had all biomes looking awfully similar. They did a good job of making each

A group of Norn players getting ready to fight.

zone a unique place to adventure.

There are two types of cut-scenes that I saw during the weekend beta. The first and less common one was when I was doing a quest and something big happened. Either a giant Earth Elemental popped out of the ground, or a giant Ice Wurm. These cut-scenes were short and dramatic, which added greatly to the boss fights. The other cut-scenes that were mostly dialogue were done with the characters standing in front of a piece of concept art that depicted the background. These reminded me of the epic loading screen art in Guild Wars 1. I think this type of cut-scene works really well. It relays the information in a clear way and retains some of that original Guild Wars feel.

In terms of graphics and interface the game is exactly what we were expecting. We’ve seen gameplay from the closed beta a couple months ago. We also saw gameplay during E3. The graphics are great if you can run them on high, but they also have the option to make them simple and for your computer to run fast. The menus and other interface options are simple and easy to use.

Character Customization: Guild Wars 2 strives to give players a unique experience in a MMO world. It starts with character creation that allows players to really customize their player’s appearance. Each race and profession has unique options that change what they look like. There are tattoo options for the Norn, and hide patterns for the Charr. After choosing your appearance you select your character’s “background.” This is where you’re asked questions based on your race and class. Maybe you pick your engineer’s favorite tool or your human’s social class. Your answers effect how NPCs treat you, your quests, and your skills.

A sample of the character creation process.

This character creation does a great job of making each person’s experiences and quests different. Instead of every human going along doing the same things new players get spread out. Sure there were some quests that I saw lots of people doing, but at the same time I went on quests that I saw no one else doing. This also makes for great replay ability. You can have an entirely different experience making the same profession in a different race with different unique traits.

Character customization doesn’t stop there. With numerous skills, elite skills, and weapon skills you can easily define the way your character fights. Every class has some more utility based builds as well as more full damage builds. Then there are traits which encompass both attribute points as well as perks. With so many options in building your character there is a huge variation on how different people are playing the same profession.

Combat: Guild Wars 2 made an interesting move and made the first five skills on your skill bar based on the weapons you are using. By directly relating the attack skills to the weapon it makes combat fun and look great. When my ranger used his long sword and war horn his melee attacks were agile and condition dealing. The war horn summoned birds to attack my enemies and offered a boost to my party. When he used a great sword he was like a warrior that charged into combat and hit hard. Each weapon’s unique skills have unique animations. It makes it so when you’re adventuring with people combat looks different for people even in the same class.

Dynamic combat with lots of different animations.

Anet also added a couple cool RPG elements that weren’t in the original Guild Wars. Now characters can jump and evade. Evading enemies is as simple as a double click in the direction you want to roll, but is necessary to survive. When fighting the giant earth elemental the only way to dodge his attacks was with a quick evade. Also, when you roll forward and attack from behind an enemy you do extra damage. Changing the amount of damage done by flanking and sneak attacks makes both PvE and PvP more tactical. Players can’t just run in and button mash skills. They have to evade, retreat, and switch weapons.

One part of combat that I would have liked to see more of is the skill complementation between classes. Anet has made skills from different classes work together to provide bonuses for each other. The only one I saw was when my Ranger was firing arrows through an Elementalist’s fire ring. It made my arrows light up and do fire damage to my opponents. But this was the only instance I saw during the Beta. Hopefully there is more of this to come in the future.

Random Events: A big seller for Guild Wars 2 was their emphasis on the random events. While exploring the countryside or assisting a farmer a window will pop up in the corner of your screen and say that there is a random event starting. Everyone in the area gets the message and is welcome to come and assist in whatever the quest is. Sometimes it’s protecting a farm from a bandit raid, sometimes a boss like foe is on the loose and players have to take him down.

Who knows what you'll find around the corner?

These random events start right away and if you want to join you have to run over and help. Any player is welcome to come and go which makes the random events fun. There might be 20 characters fighting off waves of bandits together. Not only are they focusing on damage, but everyone is using utility skills to boost each other’s skills and helping revive downed players. Guild Wars 2 also scales the amount or power of the enemies depending on how many real players are participating. If it’s just you expect to fight two or three bandits, but if there are twenty players get ready for waves of fifty bandits.

These random events are a great addition to the game. Because they are thrown in to every area of the game you’re always having the chance to jump into one of them. The rewards they offer are great. Not only do players get karma, gold and experience, but a lot of the time the random events overlap with other quests. For instance, you’re helping a farmer out on his land clearing pests. Then the bandit attack occurs. Killing the bandits will count towards helping the farmer on his land and kill two birds with one stone.

Because these events are so rewarding all types of players are joining when they pop up. It makes it fun and encourages players to fight and adventure together. Everyone is going to that part of the world to do their own thing, but once they get there they band together to complete the mission.

Other Features: Overlapping Quests- One thing I noticed while playing was players were in the same place as me, but doing different things. When I was in a cave collecting stolen supplies for a quest other players were vanquishing the bandits, and others were diving deeper into the cave for different quests. Seeing a variety of actions in one place in a MMORPG is a rare sight and a little aspect I really appreciated. No more seeing 12 lvl. 2 rangers all running into the same forest to get the same plant for a quest. You see people off all classes and all levels accomplishing different goals.

PvP- The PvP in Guild Wars 2 is so much better than the original Guild Wars. Instead of having to make PvP characters to immediately be able to jump into combat, any character can go to the PvP realm. Your character is automatically bumped up to the max level and has all skills unlocked. The environments are intractable and my character was breaking glass windows to fire his arrows through. The PvP in the beta seemed limited so I’m excited to see what they’ll have when they fully release the game.

A screen shot of the easy to use trading system.

Trading- Guild Wars 1 was full of people in major cities spamming over and over again what they were buying or selling. To make things easier and less annoying Guild Wars 2 has a pop up window trading system. Players post what they are selling or buying and anyone online can browse people’s prices for specific items. It’s easy to use and the competitive market means you’re getting a good deal. It also makes it so you’re not getting ripped off because you can see what numerous people are selling the same item for at once.

Crafting- The crafting in Guild Wars 2 seems an awful lot like WoW. Still, it’s nice to have another thing to do in-game. There are eight different crafting skills that players can choose two from. It’s easy to change skills and so you can find which ones you like before spending time leveling them up. They can be used to make your character equipment, make money, and add experience to your overall level.

Conclusion: All and all I though Guild Wars 2 was a fantastic beta. It defiantly had elements that other MMORPGs lack. However, I would have liked to see a little bit more of a classic Guild Wars feel instead of a more cartoony look. Also, the hype of Guild Wars 2’s originality was over played. Is it bringing a whole new element to the MMORPG world? I don’t think so. It adds some unique features, but it plays more like the average MMO than it was supposed to. I do think that it is a great game that has potential to receive a 10/10 with its full release. I also think it has the ability to compete with WoW if enough players jump on board. Looking at the beta there are defiantly enough people interested to push Guild Wars 2 into the next big game.

 

But this review is coming from a huge Guild Wars fan. In order to keep the review as fair as possible I’ve added the opinion of another Leviaythn member Ron Hoffecker who also played the Guild Wars Beta:

 

I have to say I’m a bit underwhelmed.

The character creation is very nice and the models look pretty good. The music is exciting and I was happy to see focused conversations with NPC’s in the game. It makes me feel the story is somewhat important in the game and not just thrown into a little window with accept or deny buttons. When I first logged in the lag was nonexistent but it slowly and steadily piled up until actions took almost a minute to complete. I was locked in an area because the next one was filled up. These are obviously beta woes and we’ll see them fixed but the next couple of points aren’t.

I think the way the game is presented, such as the menus and UI, are beyond any other MMO out there. However, I was not a fan of the combat or the direction the game gives you. Ever since I’ve played TERA Online traditional cooldown-based, standing combat has been too boring for me. The way TERA brings in constant movement, ability chaining, and skill-based actions just keeps me so involved and excited. The way the quests are littered around the area leaves much up to the player. There is no flow to the game. You head towards a point on your map, get the quest by being near the area, and complete the tasks. It doesn’t feel like I’m really completing anything, though. I’m just moving from one section to the other picking stuff up. I know that sounds like every MMO but at least you expect some kind of flow. These four quests are in these woods, I’ll complete them and hand them in then get told to head to the village up ahead. Or something like that! There is nothing of that in Guild Wars 2. You get points on a map and you gotta go complete them all. Then it’s on to the new area or instance. This means a ton of slow walking and just a feeling that you aren’t doing much. I don’t feel like I’m progressing.

I’m not saying TERA is better than Guild Wars 2 but ArenaNet’s newest offering to the genre already feels stale and slow. It honestly feels like it tries to take what World of Warcraft, Rift, and Guild Wars did right and perfect it whereas I feel games like TERA are trying to evolve the genre. I’ll continue to give GW2 a chance but right now I find myself more excited for En Masse Entertainment’s head start on the 29th then logging back into Guild Wars 2.

Ed. Note: Ron here, I wanted to add something to my review here. I played a bit more during the weekend and found the combat to be better then I had initially thought. One of the commenters down below is right in that the combat in GW2 favors movement. Perhaps the game needs a better intro or tutorial. I found the Mesmer to be quite an awesome class. I still can’t say I’m happy with the dynamic questing system. Just feels out of place. More game time will tell as we await news from ArenaNet on the next beta weekend.



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