First impressions: Guild Wars 2 beta

by manylaughs on June 11, 2012

First impressions mean so much. As they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Of course, the same is true of MMOs. It’s become common, now, for developers to open their MMOs up to the public for beta testing, prior to the MMO’s official release. This helps developers stress test their MMO, find bugs and identify areas of the game that need improvement. It can also build buzz about the MMO: gamers start posting on Facebook, tweeting, sharing their experience on game forums and even creating fansites.

If it’s a good game, this is a great thing, helping the developer sell more copies of the game. If it’s a bad game with lots of glaring flaws, like The Secret World, all this buzz might have a negative effect. (After a couple of beta weekends, Funcom delayed The Secret World’s release.)

Guild Wars 2 (GW2) has been in open beta since April and recently had another beta weekend. How is Guild Wars 2 looking? How was its first impression?

Character customization is great
Character customization is important to an MMO because players like to feel like their character is unique. If an MMO only has a few customization options, the MMO can look like there are a lot of clones running around out there.

There are lots of character customization options

Guild Wars 2 provides players with lots of customization options, more than you might expect. There are options for height, body type (e.g. skinny, muscular), hair style, facial hair, plus eye, hair and skin color. And, if you’re feeling adventurous and really want to customize your character, you can tweak most of your facial features, making your nose longer or your cheeks narrower, for instance.

Also, GW2 introduces a nice innovation with armor sets, allowing you to choose and create a color scheme for your armor sets. There’s a wide range of colors available so you won’t feel restricted, plus you can get more dyes in-world. If you’re lucky, you might pick up a new dye color through gathering.

Change your armor coloring scheme

Traveling is easy
Guild Wars 2 makes traveling around easy. As you explore the world, you’ll unlock waypoints. If you need to return to any place you’ve been, simply open your world map and double-click one of the waypoints. This allows you to get to the action quickly without having to ride for 5 minutes or have a sorc port you or wait for a blimp.

Thank you, ArenaNet.

There’s a learning curve
There’s a lot that’s different about GW2. You get your new skills on the fly, not from a trainer. Questing is varied and random. Your character can use lots of weapons and as long as you use them a lot, you’ll actually be good with them (Your assassin in Aion might be able to use a bow, but it’s pretty much worthless.). Some quests can be resolved with charm, dignity or force of personality – i.e. not everything is hack and slay – and these are traits your character can actually develop. You don’t buy new crafting recipes; they need to be discovered through experimentation. And you can swim and fight underwater, but you need a different weapon for that.

Sometimes your character has to resolve a quest with charm

In short, GW2 is very different from more traditional MMOs. Most new MMOs you probably play for just a few hours and start feeling right at home; GW2 might take a few days or even longer before you start feeling like you know your way around.

Dynamic questing works
GW 2 has traditional quests – you go to a specific location and help so-and-so, storyline quests and what ArenaNet has christened dynamic quests. Dynamic quests pop up randomly everywhere around the world. If you played Rift, they’re somewhat similar to the rifts in that game, except Guild Wars 2‘s dynamic quests are more varied and the success or failure of a dynamic quest actually does impact the world. For instance, sometimes when you fail a dynamic quest, the enemy takes over a waypoint, making it harder to get around.

Dynamic quests also give you more to do. The traditional questing won’t get stale as fast as it does in traditional MMOs since the dynamic quests help spice things up.

PvP is lots of fun
GW2’s player-versus-player (PvP) is simply amazing. If you ever played Dark Age of Camelot or Warhammer: Age of Reckoning, you know that endgame PvP can keep a game interesting in spite of an MMO’s flaws. GW2’s PvP offers both instanced PvP – go fight in a pre-determined scene – and what they call world-versus-world (WvW), which is up to 100 players in a large sandbox PvP zone.

There’s plenty of instanced PvP and there seemed be enough different scenarios to keep most players satisfied, but the WvW is GW2’s real strength. WvW puts you into a large PvP zone with lots of objectives: There are keeps and towers to capture; PvE monsters to attack and contend with;  supply depots and caravans to capture; and, of course, other players to kill. WvW keeps you busy and the constantly changing objectives means no two WvW conflicts are ever the same. GW2’s WvW is so much fun you might spend all your time there.

Transformed into a rabbit with antlers. How fun is that?!

First impression: PvE instances are still in question, but in early beta testing, leveling a character up to level 15, the game is a lot of fun. Outside of not finding any low-level PvE dungeons, GW2 doesn’t seem to have any major flaws. It has lots of character customization options, fun quests and some kick-butt PvP. All this combined with GW2’s F2P model (You pay only for the game; there are no on-going fees.) makes Guild Wars 2 look like a winner.

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