#GW2: Beta Weekend – The Good, The Bad & The Not Ugly Enough!

So my first taste of Guild Wars 2 goodness is over and as expected I’ve been left wanting more. Not as feverishly as might have been expected but I blame that on the way LOTRO broke my heart and ground it in to the dirt in a grindfest of grindy heartbreak hell. Sigh.

Still, LOTRO aside, there were many Good Things about Guild Wars 2. There were a few Bad Things. There were even one Not Ugly Enough Thing. And so, Ladies and gentlebumps, I present to you in no particular order *drum roll please* my list of stuff I liked and stuffs I didn’t. Oh yes.

The Good:

  • The graphics were gorgeous, even on the lowest settings they managed to look lovely and let the action tick along nicely. When switched to 11 I actually gasped at the light and shadow detail on the characters.
  • The sound design was beautiful, everything from the musical score to the ambient tweets of the birdies, everything sounded lovely. The script on the other hand… Oy vey!
  • Dynamic Events are simply brilliant! OK, they may not be new but in this incarnation they work! Things happen in the world around you and if you go with even the smallest event it begins to blossom & branch out until you find yourself in a pitched battle and smiling like the Cheshire Cat!
  • Combat is fun! Really, really fun! After it being so dull in LOTRO, so static and boring, having to retrain myself to dodge and move and find cover was wonderful. And when people just join in to help you fights really come alive. In fact the more people you get involved then not only does the difficulty ramp up, but things get unpredictable with mobs leaving areas and fights rolling all over the landscape like a bar brawl thrown of the tavern and let loose on an unsuspecting world. I never had one fight I could say was dull or repetitive and in this respect the gameplay is a hell of a lot more like Left 4 Dead 2 than LOTRO.
  • The personal story was very engaging indeed. Now I’ve not played SWTOR and I’ve seen many folks saying that the SWTOR stories have the edge in terms of choices. Maybe they do, but that doesn’t take away the fact the story in GW2 really does feel as if it’s about you and the beta left me wanting more where as I can’t bring myself to carry on with the Epic Story in LOTRO because all the game wants me to do is grind through it in agony rather than just enjoy it.
  • The UI was just beautiful to use. The first thing I did in LOTRO was move everything about and shrink things because the screen felt so bloody cluttered. Not once did I feel the need to move anything in GW2, hell! most of the time I forgot the UI was even there.
  • The map, the way it moves, is gorgeous and the idea of way point travel is wonderful – it means no more 10 minute boring horse rides, thank fuck!
  • Divinity’s Reach is the single most beautiful, impressive and amazing place I’ve every visited in a game. EVER. If LOTRO devs don’t take notes and make Minas Tirith at least as good as this then Turbine don’t deserve the IP.
  • The way it scales you down so that lower level areas are still a challenge is brilliant – it means there will be no high level ‘gods’ any more – in LOTRO I found playing with high level people was just boring as they zerged everything and I struggled for some scraps at the end. That makes for dull gameplay and once again Arenanet have worked it out of their game.
  • The downed state is sheer brilliance! I means death is no longer a bad thing but an epic struggle – genius!
  • Underwater movement & combat is not only easy & natural, but damn good fun. Moving underwater is  something most MMOs seem to have either left out or botched, but as a veteran of Second Life I found GW2’s implementation just so easy.
  • Cross server play means I can finally play with my ‘Merkin friends!
  • The overflow servers are just amazing – I never have to queue again!

The Bad:

  • First impressions count. I’m going to overlook servers melting and lag booting me out a few times, this was a beta event after all. Rather for me the worst initial impression was one of absolute chaos. When I started in Shaemoor it was only because I’d watched all the videos from the Press betas that I knew what to do. The whole place felt like a riot was kicking off, and not in a good narrative driven way. Still, I’m willing to bet this was just due to the sheer number of people logging in for the first time at the same time. I reckon this will calm down immensely after launch. Mind you, if you were doing it alone I wonder if it would actually feel like a real threat? Hmmm, that will be interesting to find out.
  • The next fly in my gaming ointment was the combat requirements. Now I know I said I liked the combat (and I do) but the addition of the dodge key meant I needed to re-evaluate my key bindings and this caused me great bother. In the end I had to ditch my mouse and go for all keys (I fear my hands will cramp to claws after a few hours play) and I found myself wishing two things: that Arenanet would let all actions be re-bindable to all keys, even the mouse buttons 1-3; and that they also give every possible action two possible bindings. PLEASE! Think of my hands guys!
  • The voice acting, whist good, included too many modernisms that made me think I was watching an episode of *insert current American teen TV trend here* and it was very immersion breaking at times. If I hear one more “Yeah…” in a teen drawl I’ll kick something!
  • Speaking of voice induced rage, the inclusion of Arnie-esque one liners into combat is a very, very, VERY bad idea. If I wanted to hear my adrenaline pumped killing machine of a Warrior snarl something to his enemy I can assure you it would not be “Eat my dust!” I won’t type what I think it should be as you may be reading this at work and most places don’t look kindly on the kind of profanities I use on a daily basis, but there seems to me a happy third option. Ditch the cheesy crap and add some combat specific stuff instead, something to notify you of, as well as help you understand & use, combination moves. “Firewall going down!” or “Fire through the static field!” would be better than “Eat my dust!” Christ.
  • The camera was… erratic to say the least. For a start the game really needs to allow a first person POV when you scroll the camera right in – this would for a better combat experience inside small buildings because from what I experienced I would avoid ALL internal fights right now, they are a nightmare! Also a FP POV would make better screen shots possible 🙂

The Not Ugly Enough:

  • Everyone is too beautiful. After the Black Death in the mid-1300s the population age shifted drastically and those in their 20s ended up outnumbering the rest of the population leading to a dramatic shift in the social-political make-up of Europe. As far as I can tell this hasn’t happened in Kryta, rather the devs just made everyone a frigging underwear model! For christ’s sake give us some old people, some war-savaged people, some overweight people! Give us some variety! Don’t make the most beautiful, alive city in a MMO and then populate it with boring NPCs!

A Fun Memory:

  • I had lots of fun times in the beta, the dynamic events providing me with unfolding dramas and epic-feeling battles throughout and one in particular sticks in my mind. Somewhere south east of Shaemoor I came across a group of bandits, wandering into them oblivious and alone, and was killed immediately for my stupidity. By the time I had jumped to a way point and run back to avenge my murder more players had pitched in and there was a real scrap taking place. I joined in even though the bandits were pushing us further into the farm fields until we were in the middle of a ranging battle. Players were dropping and being revived everywhere and bandits were being slaughtered by the cart load until we suddenly we hit a tipping point. I don’t know what happened or what caused it but suddenly the bandits were the ones being pushed back! Soon we had them out of the fields and were fighting them into their own camp and it was at the point when I began to shout aloud “We’re pushing them back! We are actually pushing them back!” that I knew I was not fighting in LOTRO anymore. The joy of pure adrenaline-fuelled fun as we began to swing the battle in our favour and then drive the enemy all the way back is one that has stayed with me all weekend. This was dynamic events at their best working in harmony with a very flexible & fluid combat system and it was intoxicating!

My Overall Impressions:

In LOTRO I found a game mired in the past, built to stop you having fun in order that you paid your subscription every month, and after eight months it broke my spirit to the point I never thought I’d enjoy another MMO. But where LOTRO is all about rationing your fun and doling out endless grind, Guild Wars 2 is entirely about fun. No monthly fees means Arenanet doesn’t need to build in artificial brakes and instead can just give you fun, glorious repeatable fun.

If Arenanet manage to deliver on all their promises then I really can’t wait to play the finished Guild Wars. Although I very much doubt I’ll become quite as addicted as I did with LOTRO. This will be a good thing 🙂

Now, roll on the release date as I have sooooooo much more I want to do and explore!


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