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.

There are 13 comments

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  1. Aikata

    To be honest, I’m not  sure that Mr.Hoffecker was taking full advantage of the combat system. The developers have stated multiple times that their combat is all about movement and positioning.  I’m not sure how that translates into “standing combat”, but after playing this weekend myself, I have to agree that a lot of movement is required for skillful play.

    Did Mr.Hoffecker complete any storyline quests? That is where most of the “direction” for questing come from, but quests within the open world are completely different and without direction.  This is where Arenanet gives you the freedom of choice about where and when you want to play. Did he participate in any of the larger events, like centaur and harpy raids or world bosses? These, combined with the dynamic quests, really work to break up the monotony.

    Judging by the length and content of his review, I feel that Ron didn’t really give much time towards the game and its mechanics.  If he did, then I’m sure he would be seeing greater contrasts between GW2 and “standard-MMO’s”.

    As for Travis, I do agree with most things you said. Combos were hard to see, but they were definitely there!  I was hitting through Necromancers’ AOE skills and saw “Combo!” popping on my screen.  This also occurred with the Guardian and Elementalists.

    Looking forward to seeing you both in game. 🙂

    • Querr Tee You Ee Op

      I just want to commend you, sir or m’am, for being a non-insulting, intelligently speaking commenter. These are the comments more people should write. No insults, no attacks on the writer’s manhood or writing ability, just stated points and counterpoints. Beautiful.

      Thank you, Aikata. You’re a breath of fresh air.

      • Aikata

         W…wow…Well, thank you for giving time to read and reply!  I’m happy to help with your comment woes.

        And yes, it is Sir Aikata. 😛

    • Ron Hoffecker

      What a great comment. I had to say something. I did give it another chance over the weekend with a Mesmer. I did get a bit more out of the combat though I still find myself disliking the quest system. I’m sure I’ll be testing more but as of right now I find TERA to be more up my alley.

      • Aikata

         Aw shucks, just giving my two cents guys.

        I haven’t tried TERA yet myself (which is why I chose not to compare), but it looks really exciting.  I understand your gripe about the quest system though.  GW2 is breaking a lot of “rules”, so it definitely won’t be to everyone’s liking.  I actually did find myself a little lost at what to do a couple of times, though I after figuring out the heart system and the random events occurring, I decided to do anything I want. (Including fighting mobs four levels above me. Yikes.)

  2. Werewood

    Good 2 reviews actually.

    What I liked …
    I think that the game feels different enough. Combat is great in my opinion. I invested 2 hours learning how to best the boardsword and longbow for warrior and eventually got it. Its not trivial and switching between the 2 weapons is critical for mastering combat. Positioning is also critical with movement. 

    I also liked the dynamic events. (but disliked the heart system, see below)

    What is broken atm and should be fixed to release …
    1. Optimization and lag. With 20 people around you the game is not working well at all. And I have a good machine. With around 7 around you and its a pleasure to play. Solo is also fun.
    2. Due to optimization I guess but could be fundamental issue maybe (no idea), WvW queue time is horrible. Who wants to wait 30 minutes plus to get into the WvW map?! It was a horrible experience.
    3. Overflow was NOT group synched! This was the biggest lame problem of the beta. Grouping with your friends, ensured a ton of frustration, with multiple zone overflows and no way to find the group back. BROKEN!

    What I disliked …
    Progress and jumping from one point to the other was kinda boring and pointless. The heart quest system is disappointing. I disliked it.
    Dynamic events are great but need more chain events! Standalone events are half the fun.

    • Darksideofman

       Lets see here…

        So, I was an original beta tester for Guild Wars and honestly through the years I find myself to be the anti-mmo’er in one respect above all, I compare all other MMO’s to GW. That being said, I would not say I am bias, I have good and bad points about both GW1 and 2. I will elaborate in a moment but first let me say that I can definitely see each commentators point(s).
        To begin I would like to say that going back to the Bible itself, Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 1:9 “There is no new thing under the sun.” Some take this as meaning that there is really no such thing as an original idea. Everything we see; hear, read, say, watch or conceive, at its core, has been done before. I agree and disagree with this. I believe that maybe there isn’t a such thing as originality in design anymore but what about how that design performs?
        One common reason I hear as I read these comments are how GW2 is being compared to other games of its ilk. At this time 10 million people play WOW, that is almost 5% of the entire U.S. population, thats half the population of Texas. Needless to say I can see how easy it would be to have “WoW Blinders on” as it were. Go ahead and compare GW2 to its predecessors, most will, just keep an open mind. Now for my comments…
        WoW is hailed by many as being the greatest MMO available. I have played it for several years and what I find is that it is going stale. It has fallen into the “Dynasty Warriors (console game)” rut of dishing out a new game (expansion) every couple years to keep the money coming in. Sadly it has lost the innovation and, I feel, grown stagnant. I’m sorry, I don’t feel a monk Panda bear is a worthy expansion update. Don’t get me wrong though, GW started doing the same thing, the difference? Anet stepped back and created GW2 from scratch with all the knowledge they had gained. On the other hand, WoW HAS become the benchmark other MMO’s wish to attain and eventually surpass and I personally feel that GW2 has all the tools available to do just that but some things must be fixed to do so. I am a bit long-winded so in effort to keep this short I will discuss my three favorite things and three least favorite things about GW. I will not go into loading times, wait periods or server issues because this was after all just the first beta and I am sure this will be cleared up by June 27th when the game rolls out. 
        First off, GW has always been centered around PvP and that shows in GW2. I could not imagine a more fun PvP on the market nor have I seen any other game that compares to it. It is fun for all players whether a “newbie” or vet. The ability to dodge attacks and roll into enemies from behind to deal extra dmg. The combo effect from working together with other classes to create new attacks to enemies is flawless. These innovative (for MMO’s) idea adds more depth to the combat system than any other MMO I have played and is welcome.
        Second, Anet has broken the mold… well the Trinity anyway. No healers? No DPS? No Tank? I my GOD! What are we to do??? Apparently we are to enjoy the hell out of it. If you scour the net for GW2 Beta Reviews look for any comment from any player wherein they say that they missed the trinity system. I dare you. I have yet to find one. Now just sit back for a second and think about that…. Did you really miss it while playing? I bet not. I know I didn’t. Anet had some serious balls to do away with that outdated system but they did it and you know what, it worked. For three days I completely forgot a main staple in any MMO party and I didn’t even notice because the fighting was so fluid. This is the definition on innovation. Thumbs up to GW2 and Anet for taking that gamble because you know what it teaches us most, that the original formula that has been ingrained in us for years is not necessary.
        Lastly, above all else I have always loved the storyline GW created. I have played RPG’s since “Phantasy Star” I have an extensive library of books and I also write Fantasy. Too often in other MMO’s I feel bored because there is no story to move me along. No goal. No greater good that ushers me to move forward save the next better piece of gear I may collect from Gruumash the Troll Lord (I’ve had to fight 30 times because people keep selecting gluttony). I love that in GW I have always felt that I actually mean more to the world around me than it means to me. No other MMO on the market come close to offering me the experiences I have mentioned here as well as GW2 possibly can.
        Now for my cons…Yes I agree, It does seem that the world has become a little more cartoon like in its design. I don’t feel the same awe in GW2 as I did in GW. I must say though, I have a friend who played GW for a short period of time and stopped because he thought GW felt too “Asian” as he put it. So I am unsure as to how other will take the graphical change.
        Secondly, though I may not 100% like the “Heart Quest” dynamic, I do understand it. This is an MMO, unfortunately or fortunately (according to your disposition) we do have to grind for levels. The only cure to this is completly doing away with an exp system and though Anet have proven to have a large pair, I doubt that they wanna be the first studio to take that step. That being said Though I dont dislike the “Heart Quests” I do dislike the fact that i can use the gates to teleport to new areas further along in the story and start doing the heart quests there. This breaks the flow of the story up for me and one thing I hated about Wow was having so many open quests at a time in my log. At points it became overwhelming. Now I do not know if this was just an option in the Beta or if it will be in effect when the game releases but I hope it is the former and not the latter.
        Lastly, and this actually is not so much as in game related but something Anet said. Anet set up the skills the way they did for one reason above most. MMO’s nowadays have a habit of giving you pages of skills to set to your toon that allow you to play it in many different manners. Anet wants to stray away from pages of abilities and keep the game more “user friendly” If this is true it makes me wonder about future expansions. From my time with the beta I found that in relatively no time a player can unlock all of his abilities. My question is what comes next. They have also set a high lvl cap of 80 and with the face of MMO’s on the market that doesn’t give much room for expansion. I guess my fear is that I will play for a year or two, be greeted by 1-2 expansions and then hear word of GW3 then have to wait 5 years for it to come around. Anet has done a good job in trying to change our preconcieved notions of past games but will they ultimately repeat their own?

  3. Ikkon

    “I understand your gripe about the quest system though.  GW2 is breaking
    a lot of “rules”, so it definitely won’t be to everyone’s liking.”

    Very true, but it seems like most of the detractors have on WoW blinders; they expect things to be a certain way because WoW has been the standard for so long (speaking of, I have NO idea how Travis can liken GW2’s graphics to WoW’s at all, or the crafting system for that matter). I can understand Ron’s review a little better because his doubts about the game seem to be more about preference. Travis’ seems to be more in the “yes, but … ” vein. Admittedly there were some problems, mainly overflow servers breaking up parties and having to completely log out to switch characters, but other than a few minor bugs, I thought the game was fantastic. Not once during the weekend did I feel like I was playing anything close to WoW, WAR, or any other similar MMO; I felt like I was playing the next evolution of an MMOs, and, damn, was it fun …

    • Aikata

      Well, I don’t believe Travis has anything like “WoW blinders” on seeing how he’s loving TERA at the moment. It’s important to see the difference between stubborness from WoW and expectations. For the past eight years, expectations were that you could walk up to an NPC and they’ll tell you what to do. It was simple. There was direct flow from one quest to another, and most importantly, it worked for eight years of MMO games which spans multiple generations of gamers of various ages.

      If someone walked in and said, “I’m gonna do something different!”, I think it would reasonable for some to be sceptical or just plain dislike it.

      Myelf, I had an absolute blast playing it this past weekend, but as I said before, I did feel a little lost at first. Combat is great, characters and story were enjoyable, but the looseness of the quest system will be a turn-off for many.

      I never plalyed WoW(only freebies based on it), so I can’t comment on graphics or crafting. I did feel a little grindy at one point in GW2 though…finished the heart quest for the swamp area, but I wanted the Shadow Behemoth to spawn. I was closing underworld portals for a good hour with some others before it showed its face.

    • Travis Freese

      Guild Wars 1 didn’t have anything like the crafting system in guild wars 2, which is very similar to WoW. I definatly don’t have WoW blinders on, as you put it, because I’ve played less than a weeks worth of the game. My Guild Wars account, however, has 7 years of hard core gaming logged. In my honest opinion the graphics got more cartoony. Maybe not as bad as World of Warcrafts, but not the original elegant and artistic feel that Guild Wars 1 had.

  4. Guest

    Wow I could not disagree with you more about almost everything you said. You sound like you didn’t research the game at all before playing it and never really understood or utilised the vast majority of the game mechanics. I strongly recommend giving yourself more time to get used to and understand the way the game works before judging it. Personally I found it grew on me increasingly when i focused on one character and progressed out of the overcrowded starting areas, unlocking more things and understanding how to get the most out of the combat system. Because the game really is very different from most MMO’s it can take time to understand it and how to get the most out of it.

    You also sound like someone who has played very few MMORPG’s and doesn’t really understand the genre and its problems, which is why: (1) you say everything is similar to WoW when there are so many other MMO’s that are far closer and (2) you don’t understand why the mechanic changes in GW2 are so significant and so much more innovative than the combat system in Tera.

    I played Tera for over a month, I liked it in the beginning but it only got worse. The novelty of the combat and pretty starting areas wore off quickly when I started to notice the endless grinding (in this case gathering large amounts of mobs higher level than you and kite-aoeing them for hours on end), potion spamming (awful mechanic), lack of real depth in the combat system (you will find when you get all your skills, its actually not a very complex combat system at all, it requires far less strategy and feels more like a simple hack and slash console game which really doesn’t require that much skill), korean gambling gear upgrade system (disaster), linear questing system (0 innovation here), pathetic lack of class customisation etc. (not to mention gear) Tera is completely plagued by relics of the asian mmos most western players hate.

    Ironically Tera’s human city is a lot more like GW2’s human city than WoW’s. Only Tera’s city is 90 percent background graphics, its not actually that big at all, the majority of it is only seen but inaccessible. It doesn’t feel anywhere near as alive and it isn’t as detailed. Not to mention the massive amounts of completely barren land outside it that appears to only be there so it looks pretty when you fly over it on the pegasus (WoW gryphon, time wasting mechanic, yet another thing that makes Tera more like WoW than GW2)

  5. raistlin

    Ive only played this game a meere hour or so but ive played many mmos and can say that this game is far from being anything like WoW Have you ever played final fantasy online? I would say this game is more like that and miles away from how WoW is played.
    This game IMO takes its gameplay from multiple MMOs and not just one If I were to compare it with any game I would say FF XIV but like I said it takes certian aspects such as its events and dynamic combat from other games as well.
    Earlier I found myself explain to a friend over skype who hasn’t played nor able to watch myself that it reminded me of a mixture between FF XIV and Fable ( I never really got into FF and fable was a single player game but I’m loving how GW2 is being played and how within the first few minutes of the game I felt like i was in a 40 man raid on WoW defending the garrison as a human character)
    I can only hope the game play doesnt change much once the game is released and ppl progress. I’m afraid that as I fell in love with how the game started other players months from now ( after the games been out for awhile) will not get the same experience as myself because there are not as many new players in the begining quests as themselves.

  6. gsep

    I have several reactions to this article. First and foremost I think the “lack of quest direction” that has been talked about several times is a double edged sword. Too much direction and you get the monotonous grinding common in WoW-esque MMOs. Too little direction and you have players who are hopelessly lost in a world they have never seen before with new mechanics they do not fully understand. One game that walked the edge of this sword was Skyrim as you were freed from your chains and had no idea where to go in the world to start questing. Although this is a huge break from the traditional MMORPG archetype it is important to realize what we gain from this paradigm shift. Instead of focusing on “completing quests” and such I feel that Guild Wars 2 really focuses the energy of a player in learning their class well. I mean that not only in the sense of being able to play well in both PvE and PvP environments but also puts it upon the player to unravel the mystery of their profession. Go out and learn not only to play your class but what it means to be your profession. Guild Wars 2 really does provide a splendid change to the MMORPG environment. Hopefully it continues to grow and progress and becomes part of a new brand of RPGs that move away from the rather mindless, grind oriented WoW model. Props to ArenaNet for doing a great job so far, can’t wait for release!!

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