Guild Wars 2 First Impressions From a Real Newbie

This guy and I killed a haunted statue together!

You know that whole “me posting more” thing? Yeah, GW2 wants wants to end that. That should be a testament to how good I’ve found this game. This past weekend I’ve been able to sink about four hours in and, as you might imagine, I’m extremely impressed with nearly everything I’ve seen. Having gone in without much foreknowledge, I didn’t know what to expect; I’ve been seeing everything through newbie eyes. What I’ve found is one of the most polished and beautiful launch MMOs I’ve ever played — and I’ve played a lot of them. Like Syp says in yesterday’s post, this is a game that exists to wow you… or anti-WoW you, as the case may be. Digressions aside, here’s what I liked most.

The game is large. Everything about it is big… well, except for bag space which is pretty gimped, honestly, but the world itself is vast and that’s a fact that gets impressed upon you quickly. The zone you’re thrown into following the tutorial (which is awesome, by the way) is huge and it’s filled with events. And to these newcomers eyes, they really do feel dynamic; not in the “that was totally unscripted!” da-hurr-da-hoo way, mind you, but the “I was wandering here and these things just sort of happened” way. Like RIFTs rift/invasion system except isolated to a WAR like public-quest. It’s pretty cool and keeps things fresh.

Initially I was a little overwhelmed. As much as I’d like to say it was smooth beginning, the game really does expect a lot from a new player. While the pop-up tooltips help, there’s still a good deal to wrap your head around. Figuring out how to play your class is notably harder when your abilities change with every weapon… and thereby your rotations and playstyle. It’s downright strenuous if you’re a min-maxer that wants to hit the ground running, yet it’s also apparent that there is a lot of depth to be had, so theorycrafters should have a heyday. Also, figuring out basic things like where to buy gathering tools, which mobs drop which mats, and what exactly class trainers are good for (I’m not double-digit level yet) is pretty vague if still discoverable.

While those questions vary in importance, I was also struck by how directionless the game initially feels. Mind you, this fades once you play around a bit, but it’s tempting to simply follow the story quest instead of explore and gain some experience. Without set quests, it’s a little unclear that the real expectation is to explore and participate in events as you go. It’s also not clear that story missions and tasks aren’t the sole means of progression, hence a lot of repeated “how do i lvl” questions getting asked in chat.

That very exploration system is one of the things I love the most, though. With no quest hubs, I’ve been letting map notes guide where I go next. Point of interest this way? Great, I’ll check it! Vista that way? Awesome, off I go! And if I notice the mobs are getting a little above my level, I hold back and head off to explore somewhere new. Combined with the vastness and beauty of it all, following my own path is just a heck of a lot of fun.

Other things I like. Achievements. They’re well done and having daily and weekly goals makes for a natural motivator… but the points they reward, what are they for? Gathering. You can collect everything there is to gather and get great XP and valuable items in the process. Plus the trees actually fall when you harvest them. I haven’t crafted yet, so no thoughts there. Capital cities are huge, multi-leveled, and are packed with detail. I was stunned by the upper gardens in Divinity’s Reach. And a whole mini-zone to reflect my story? Awesome! Speaking of, the cutscene delivery is nice, the voice acting tends to be very good, and it’s interesting! I’ve made three characters just to check out the beginning of their story and re-rolled one after an hour just because I chose the wrong companion by mistake. Finally, I’m enjoying the combat and its challenge.  It’s nice to have positioning count for something, number one. Things will kick your butt if you’re not careful and if you’re just spamming you’re likely to miss as they move out of range. Number two, they did a great job with the “sense of hit” stuff they were talking about before. Smacking something with my sword feels impactful and not like whiffing the air in other games.

There are things I don’t really like too but I haven’t really played long enough to come up with much. No /who is annoying, I guess, but they do have a search bar in the social pane for finding friends. Not being able to /1 /2 /3 for chat channels is also weird. And what’s up with ctrl+clicking automatically sending item links to chat channels? I’ve linked random things at least a half dozen times now trying to preview them. There also doesn’t seem to be a way to go first-person for screenshots. I really don’t get why this wasn’t in for launch but an AMA on reddit says it’s coming. I’m trying to think of more (and I’m sure there is) but I’m not coming up with much. It’s a little buggy at times? The auction house has been down?

Also, before I finish and get back to playing, let me just say that overflow servers are the new thing. I don’t care if they’re buggy right now and it’s hard to group. Every MMO from here on out needs to have them or be needlessly annoying. To be honest, I totally forgot about them until I went to log in at the beginning of head start and *gasp* had no queue. Do you know how long it’s been since that’s happened with a major MMO? Never. Not in any launch I’ve been a part of anyways. A lot of people complained because the servers were down for a few hours on Saturday. Boo-hoo, honestly. When they came up you got to play immediately, so stop whining. This was an MMO launch and smoother than most.  From now on, though, there is no excuse for making people wait hours to log in to your game.

I’ll be reporting on this game much more in the coming days and weeks. I’ve barely scratched the surface of a 40lb salt lick here. So much to see!


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