The first official Guild Wars 2 beta event, held from the 27-29th of April and open to all with an active pre-order of the game, was an amazing experience. Though not without its own share of beta issues, the overall event went smoothly for most players, allowing them to complete their personal story campaign up to level 20 and access gameplay content up to level 25, join PvP battles and participate in the epic WvWvW – an all-out, siege enabled server war with more than 1200 players. Join Cody Hargreaves, Daniel Owens and Tobias Masters as they share their experiences on Guild Wars 2.
Cody: Logging into Guild Wars 2 for my second beta event, I was even more excited this time than the last, not because I already knew how much fun I was going to have, or because I was looking forward to getting back into the PvP ring and slappin’ noobs, or even because I was begging for my first taste of WvWvW – no, I was more excited this time because I already knew what character I was going to create.
It’s the ‘character’ element of any MMORPG that I’ve always enjoyed most – and Guild Wars 2 offers a terrific sense of individuality in the character creation process. You can style and tailor just about everything, and can dye every piece of your outfit – but more than that, you can customise your backstory and beliefs, and that’s the part that had been keeping awake most nights for the last month.
Dan: It was definitely a relief to get my precious GW2 back, I instantly dove into the game and recreated my previous character, a human thief. The character creation is fabulous, as Cody has said, but what had me truly excited was the effect that the initial character creation had on your personal storyline. I didn’t have a chance to finish my storyline in the last beta, but I made damn sure I completed it this time around.
Everything from your choices on your personal history to which god you worship, these decisions alter the path you as a player will follow. More decisions will have to be made as the storyline progresses, further altering the path that is taken. You as a player will have to decide which memorable NPCs will live and die. It’s like reading those choose-your-own-adventure books all over again, and i’m loving it.
Tobias: I was relieved to play GW2 as well, having endured the constant drooling from the two of you after the last event and finally getting to try it for myself. Personally, I was blown away at how every aspect that we consider to be “the norm” in MMO’s lately was completely overhauled; most developers don’t seem to be willing to take that kind of chance.
During my time in the beta, I really struggled to find a fault with any element of the game. Aside from small beta issues like GPU support, GW2 is exactly what gamers like me have been waiting for for over a decade. So far my favourite feature has to be that it’s already got a terrific community – nothing but friendly faces as far as the eye can see! I, along with a good number of other beta players, believe that GW2 could launch tomorrow and not a soul would complain.
Cody: I’d be willing to bet that ‘friendly community’ won’t last’; it’s a common phenomenon in beta events for awesome games – everyone’s happy, and they want to show it. It does make for a great gaming experience, but I can’t imagine it’ll be that way for long.
Guild Wars 2, for the most part, is a hugely enhanced version of Everquest and World of Warcraft. It’s the same formula, and it offers the same experience, albeit this time it’s been given one hell of a new coat of paint.
That paint isn’t just a metaphor, either – the art direction in Guild Wars 2 is nothing short of spectacular, utilising a unique combination of visual stroke effects in everything from the character creation to the skills used in combat. And the art direction isn’t limited to effects, the entire game offers a creative blend of hand-drawn art off in the distance, and rendered textures up close.
Dan: The art style really does complement the action taking place within the game world, it’s very satisfying to tear down a building in PvP. It’s one thing to have cool special effects and destructible environments, but to have an MMO with all these features and great graphics, that’s one in a million. Even with the limited graphical options and lack of GPU support in the beta, the game still makes you feel like a total badass as you cut through your enemies, both NPCs and players.
I spent a lot of the previous beta playing around with the WvWvW PvP, so this time around I wanted to focus more on the structured PvP. Similar to what would be called a battleground in other MMOs, these are instanced battles used for friendly PvP and competitive tournaments. It’s just like running through Alterac Valley, if when you destroyed a tower it actually crumbled. The only problem I found with structured PvP was the same problem a lot of competitive games face, no one follows the f**king objective!
Tobias: I spent most of my time in PvE, totally agog at how wonderfully fluid the questing/leveling structure is. Instead of the ‘kill X over and over’ quests, events simply pop up when you’re nearby. Each event could be considered a quest, however it didn’t matter how much or how little you chose to participate, or even if the event failed, you’d still be rewarded based on your contribution. The way that events could fail, but still continue on was a sorely needed addition to the fantasy MMO genre; In GW2, if you’re unable to stop the bandits from taking over some poor woman’s dirt farm the event changes and your objective becomes driving them off the land they took.
The collection-factor really appealed to my inner nerd as well; finding all of the skill point challenges, points of interest and hidden treasures around the map was a load of fun, not to mention collectables like mini-pets and dyes that are obtained similarly to a TCG: buying ‘booster’ packs and scoring common/uncommon/rare pets and colors.
Although, the graphics were probably the lowest point for me (albeit my graphics settings were as low as possible and I still managed 8fps on average). Not that they’re bad, mind, but there are so many other incredible, innovative features on offer that I barely had time to notice artistic direction.
Cody: The skills point challenges were one of my highlights, too. Unlike the traditional MMORPG structure, in which skill points are awarded for attaining a new level, skill points in Guild Wars 2 require… well, skill.
Strewn across the maps at various locations, these optional (and often difficult) challenges award those players who complete them with additional skill points to spend on developing their character. The nature of the character development compliments this system perfectly; as you’re only allowed to assign 5 skills – 1 healing, 1 elite and 3 assist – this system, instead of allowing an overwhelming advantage to players willing to track down skill challenges, offers those players more choice, thereby allowing them to better prepare their character for any situation.
Combined then with the dynamic and incredibly fluid quest and event system, as Tobias mentioned, and the more-than-epic map, you get an amazing sense of wonder and excitement in every new area. And that’s without considering crafting.
Dan: Crafting in Guild Wars 2 is something that shouldn’t feel very foreign to the seasoned gamer; it’s built upon eight professions called disciplines, and like professions in WoW, players may have two disciplines active at any given time. The disciplines currently on offer are; Weaponsmith, Huntsmen, Artificer, Armorsmith, Leatherworker, Tailor, Jeweler and Cook. Materials are gathered from around the game world or by salvaging old or useless equipment.
The system has been magnificently built, created to ensure that players only make enough items to match their current character level, rather than having 100 useless leather belts lying around. The part I liked most was the ability to switch to any of the other six disciplines and still retain all your skill points and recipes from your abandoned discipline, ready to be taken up again when required.
If you have no interest in crafting however, there’s no need to seek out crafted equipment, as outside a difference in appearance, the gear is no better or worse than other equipment of the same level which can be obtained through other means in the game.
Tobias Masters: I was a huge fan of the crafting myself, though I did find it a bit stilted at times; you only make gear at 5-level intervals (5, 10, 15, so on) and I had to craft plenty of items I wasn’t going to use in order to hit the next interval. The ability to experiment with your materials was terrific fun, too.
One of my favourite features with crafting was the ability to send gathered materials directly to your bank from your bags anywhere in the world, freeing up space for more treasure!
I could go on all day – all week in fact – about how awesome every little facet of the game is; I truly enjoyed it. For now, I’ve diagnosed myself with a not-so-rare case of Guild-Wars-Twoitis, and the only cure is more Guild Wars 2.
Cody: You can send your materials to your bank directly from your bags?! You have no idea how much time that could’ve saved me… we were on Skype for about 40 hours this weekend and you never mentioned it once?! That’s it… you’re reviewing Call of Thrones next…
Back to topic: crafting, for me, wasn’t much different to any other variant, but there’re still another 50 levels I haven’t played yet, so I’m hoping to be surprised. One thing I will mention – I was given a 2% bonus to critical crafting for my server’s participation in the WvWvW arena, and so far as I’m aware, I didn’t critical craft anything. So there’s definitely more to the story here, and I can’t wait to see it.
Speaking of WvWvW, I spent a lot of time this beta pwning noobs in the Green World – one of the 5 areas on offer in the WvWvW arena, and though I didn’t see a lot of variety, I did get a massive sense of ‘epic’ from it all. I watched one world attempting to break down another’s fortress with a trebuchet, only to have it destroyed by a group of archers on the wall, effectively repelling the attack. And I was awarded a nice slab of experience for defending our own fortress and supply camp from attack – alongside learning that I could upgrade the supply camp’s guards and defences for a price.
I also saw a glimpse of how guilds will interact within the WvWvW arena – it seems that in order for your world to capture a fortress, a guild must claim it, and the guild leader then gains access to a bunch of different abilities, not including the entire guilds ability to upgrade defences and units via the Guild panel. I didn’t get enough time to give it a proper go, so that’s all I’m going to say for now, but at the very least the guild interaction within WvWvW appears properly fleshed out, and true to the name Guild Wars.
Dan: No game is perfect, and Guild Wars 2 isn’t either, but from what we’ve seen it is definitely a title which has the potential to have a huge impact on the industry and the genre itself. With a complete overhaul of the gameplay we are familiar with and a new hybrid business model, Guild Wars 2 is the game that you don’t want to miss this year. An official release date is yet to be announced, ArenaNet has stated many times that “it will be ready when it’s ready”. While the release date is still uncertain, you can be sure that these three gamers are ready for more.