Guild Wars 2: Beta Event Weekend – first impressions on gameplay

Guild Wars 2 opens with a brief history of what’s happened since the end of Guild Wars. It also briefs players on the background of the character they built. The images in the opening are beautifully illustrated.

As I started playing, it was quite obvious to me that the feel of the game play would be immensely different (not good, not bad, just different) than Guild Wars. The whole world is persistent – the first noticeable change from Guild Wars one. There are people EVERYWHERE. This will likely improve as the Beta Weekends continue, and once the game goes live, I would bet that the amount of server lag caused by it will decrease as well. I am trying to play with an open mind, and remember that the game is not complete. It’s hard to forget it sometimes, too, because I’ve been disconnected from the server a few too many times, and have had a few failed “instances” – important parts of the game that you do by yourself or with your party alone. Usually, exiting the game and starting it up again will solve the problem.

The first thing I noticed when getting into the game is the ability to search your inventory. AWESOME!! That will make life a LOT easier. Also, instead of having a health “bar,” players have a health “ball,” (for lack of a better word). Also newly noticeable on that front is that they’ve done away with resurrection shrines. Instead, the game uses waypoints both for resurrection and as ways to fast-travel while in the game. Using the waypoints costs several copper, about 12-14 from what I’ve seen so far.

The compass in the lower right of the screen functions like the old Guild Wars compass and mission map in one – the dots mark where you’ve been and the compass shows you where to go to work on the next mission. The red circle in the center of the screen is the health of your character. This is a screen shot from Luna Nordseth, my Norn ranger. Pets come automatic with a ranger in this game, but a ranger can still charm other animals. The skills for the pet show on top of the skill bar, to the left. On top of the skill bar to the right is the ability to evade incoming attacks – a very necessary and useful feature! The skill bar still looks pretty similar to Guild Wars,  only skills become unlocked the more fights you get in.

Here you can see what she started with for her attack and healing skills.

Here, you can see two skills unlocked, as well as a third on it’s way to being unlocked.

Previously in Guild Wars, when a player picked up an item that wasn’t their weapon, they were given two options: Carry it or drop it. Now, carrying things (in this case, a “bundle” of food stolen from a Grawl cave) gives a new skill set, which gives it more realism. In this case, the bundle gives two options, one to make an attack with it, and one to sprint. In this case, I was in the middle of helping in a dynamic event, which shows up on the upper right side of the screen in orange.

A dynamic event is an event in which multiple players, whether partied together or not, are notified of something going down near where they are. An icon will appear on the compass (shown above as what looks like a bucket and an arrow pointing down for this event) and players can chose whether to participate or not. Most of the ones I’ve participated in have been fun, and not terribly difficult when there is a large group participating together.

Here, you can see that where the dynamic event was listed in my quests, I have been awarded a medal for my participation. Medals are either gold, silver or bronze, based on the amount of participation. I have yet to figure out what, if anything, the medals are good for.

You can also see that players will come together to team up in the events pretty effectively. Here, all the players are working towards eliminating a large group of enemies together. It was a kind of controlled chaos, and actually, quite a lot of fun.

One of the things I said to my husband was that I, surprisingly, didn’t like the persistent world as much as I thought I would. There is something to be said for being able to take my party out and about and have it be just us. Our successes were ours alone, and our failures were also ours. But, unlike other MMO’s, players don’t have to worry about other players “stealing their kills” or anything. All players that participate in a kill are able to loot items. All quests involving picking things up and moving them regenerate very quickly, so I never found myself feeling like something had been stolen from under me, and now I had to wait 15 minutes to do it again.

Another big difference that helps with the persistent world is that there is almost always a player around that can resurrect another fallen player, and rarely have I seen someone, whether deliberate or not, pass by a fallen player without stopping to help.

When a player falls in battle, instead of instantly dying, they enter into a fight to survive. Here, you can see the screen of my human thief, Amalie Beatham, who has fallen in battle. She has new skill bar with things like “smoke bomb” and “bandage” which will let you do exactly what you’d think – fight to survive. In this case, I was playing in an instance – a section of the game that loads and takes you to a place separate from all the other players, it is something only a player and the party can enter. Unlike Guild Wars, though, players don’t all have to travel together. A party can be in three separate towns, but still be partied up.

One big issue that my friends and I playing this weekend found was that it was difficult to find each other sometimes. We knew we were all on the same server, but  we couldn’t find each other in the same areas. Perhaps we were all in overflow for the area we were trying to be in, but none of us thought we were.

That, and the overflow or waiting in a queue for a certain area were the two most frustrating points about the beta that I stumbled across. When stuck in the queue for an area and we couldn’t get out of Divinity’s Reach, for example, it make the game slow going. I attribute this to the fact that it was the first weekend of open beta, and I don’t doubt that they will be working to correct this.

Another bug, which ArenaNet was made aware of early on affected me and the people I was playing with – we couldn’t end up finding each other on the same map. Now, they attempted to come up with a solution, but many people did not find this working. So, this will be something in need of improvement.

Other players have had trouble with getting kicked off the server, or kicked out of the game. I’ve had this happen just two or three times, but it does appear to be a problem. I have no doubts that between now and either the next beta weekend or the launch of the game, they will be correcting this so it will be a minimal problem, if at all.

There was an immense amount of server lag on the first day of the beta, but when you think about the sheer number of people that were playing for the first time, this was to be expected. The lag amounts went down a lot too, as the weekend progressed.

Now that the beta has ended, I’ve had the chance to think about what I really enjoyed and what I’d like to see different. The biggest thing I miss from Guild Wars is the quiet from the player chatter. There is no time during Guild Wars 2 that a player can explore the world without the constant talking in the window.

Another thought I had was about the dialog within the game. I’ve been playing non-MMO’s for a while now, and I’ve become accustomed to a dialog wheel. When I develop a character in my head, this includes their thought process, voice, and how they would talk. Guild Wars 2 completely does not have one, and this is problematic for me. My Norn ranger, in my mind, would not act the way she acts in the game, and the voice acting for my street-rat human thief sounds exactly the same as my noble human elementalist, which doesn’t make sense.  The option for voice sets and a dialog wheel would have made for a lot of extra work, I’m sure, but I think it would add a lot into the role playing of the game.

There was a bug with some of the voice overs, also, that caused some players voices not to play. I don’t doubt this will be repaired in the final release.

Some other things have changed, here are some of the things we’ve come to know and love in Guild Wars, and what’s similar-but-different in Guild Wars 2:

Guild Wars Has:

Guild Wars 2 Has:

Xunlai Chests Account Vaults – speak to a banker
Elementalists attuned to one element at a time Elementalists attuned to all elements
Only play as human Multiple races
One story for all players Various personal stories based on race
No armor that breaks Armor that breaks based on deaths in battle
Death penalty Death penalty, though less noticeable
Trading with other players Trading posts to sell across entire server
Trading with other players In-game mail system with ability to attach items and money. Can be used when receiving player is offline.
Seeking quest givers in each area Able to pick us some quests as soon as area is entered.
Seeking quest completions in each area In-game mail allows for quest completion on the spot.

 

When you look past the fact that it was the first Beta Weekend Event open to the general public, the game felt very well polished. It was easy to lose yourself in the game, and, bugs aside, forget that it was still a beta.So, overall, I think ArenaNet has done a great job putting Guild Wars 2 together. Will it live up to all the hype thus far? Maybe. But they would do well to listen to the feedback from the players from the Beta Weekend Event. There was a lot of very constructive feed back from the people that took the beta seriously as just that – a beta.

To conclude, I will simply leave you with a few more screenshots. I will continue to post as more Beta Weekend Events happen!

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