Guild Wars 2 (PC) Beta Weekend Event 2 Impressions

  • Guild Wars 2
  • Developed by ArenaNet and published by NCSoft
  • For PC.  Game is not yet released and is still in beta.  First open beta test was in May 2012.

Note – this is the second BWE, and the third public-ish test, after a closed beta and then the first BWE which I unfortunately couldn’t participate in.

First, I absolutely love the first Guild Wars. I played the game for over 1200-1300 hours, probably the third most of any game ever (it’s behind only Starcraft and Warcraft III, specifically). GW1’s in my top 10 PC games ever list. I’ve been worried about GW2 from its announcement, though. Well, overall, I’d say that the game IS fun — at least it is that, so it’s not as bad as I was fearing — but I do dislike how drastically different it is from the original. I know they don’t want to just make the same thing again, but these changes will take a lot of getting used to, and they’re not all for the better.

First though, I want to say that I know I don’t know everything about the game; I’ve been skeptical about the game since its announcement, so I haven’t read all of the details.  I’ve read some stuff here and there about GW2, but wasn’t in the first BWE (my computer’s graphics card died earlier this year, and I didn’t get a replacement until after the first BWE), so this is my first experience with the game. Also, I haven’t played PvP yet. In the first game though, I only ever played random arenas — I never was in a guild relevant enough to play any GvG matches, so I’ve never done that. I did play a bit of the Hall of Heroes back in the GW1 beta when you could do that with random groups, but stopped once the game came out and it became a more organized thing.   GW2 multiplayer is quite different though, as I will explain.

+ Good graphics – this game looks a lot like Guild Wars, but better. Guild Wars was one of the best looking games of its era, and still impresses in terms of its great art design in both the world and the concept art. I don’t know if GW2 impresses me as much in 2012 as GW1 did when I first played it in May 2004, it probably doesn’t, but it does look very good, with good art design, art, and graphics. I expected the graphics to be great of course, and they are.

+ Good music – a lot of GW1 music returns, but there’s a bunch of new stuff too, and it’s all great. The original game had a fantastic soundtrack, it’s nice to see it return, with additions.

+ Though it is an MMO, the game is far more fun than any traditional MMO I have ever played. I can see getting addicted to this game for a long time. The game is addictive and fun to play – I already played it for seven-plus hours in just the first day and a half of this beta.

+ More options in character creation – customizable faces, multiple body types, etc. Very nice.

+ There’s a big world to explore, once again, and it’s quite different now, as expected for a game set 250 years later.

+ Permanent maps for all underground areas. Finally.

+ You can actually go into a few buildings here and there; in GW1, you can quite rarely go into buildings. In this game you only can in places which have a story/quest reason, but still, it’s something.

+ The tasks you have to do for people to get the hearts — helping the farmers in the first zone, etc — are fun. I like that there’s some decent variety there, a bunch of things to do, and some of those special timed events that appear at random in the area, too. Fun stuff.

+ The “incidents in the world” system, one of the game’s key original features, is an interesting one, and leads to some fun, crazy-mobbed challenges.  The idea is that timed events will happen at random times in the overworld.  These will be special enemies to fight, bosses, etc.  While it lasts, any players in the area can come over if they want, and help out in the quest.  You get rewarded at the end based on how much you helped.  The system isn’t perfect — you can get none in an area for too long, and then several together — but still, it’s a cool idea and I like it overall.

+ Choices – you actually can make choices in this game, and they actually matter, at least a little. GW1 had no moral choices at all — you were a hero, period. In this game, you’re a hero, but you can at least take a few different paths with your replies. Nice. In addition, you can choose several different origin stories at the beginning, and they have an impact on some of the early quests, so it’s worth trying all three origins for example.

+ Stability – The game didn’t crash very often at all, which was nice. I only had one crash in the 10+ hours I played, and that one was in the Ashford zone, during the ending event, when it was very crowded with people.

+ Beta end event — This is a GW tradition, of course, and yes, the ending event was fun. It’s too bad that we didn’t get to see what happens when you get 100% corrupted, though… it got up to quite high on the bar, but then stayed there, as people figured out how to come back in as humans and just enough survived to keep the bar from maxing out. And yeah, Rytlock was there too of course, killing everyone he saw until the end.  However, that end was too anticlimactic — there was no big final incident, it just stopped abruptly in the middle of the event right at 3am. Disappointing. The event was fun, but it needed an ending bang, and there wasn’t one. I also miss the onscreen text you always got with GW1 events, with the “hosts” talking into the chat channel and stuff; there was none of that. Still though, they did have an interesting concept, even if it needed a little more work on execution.

+ PvP Multiplayer – GW2 has two main PvP modes.  One is World v. World, a mode I did not try.  The other is a timed, point control style match with a server browser to choose matches in.  GW1 had more different modes (random arena, team arena, Guild vs. Guild, Hall of Heroes, and more at special events), but this has only the two, it seems, unfortunately, unless there’s a Guild vs. Guild mode I don’t know about (could be, I’m not sure).  The basic mode in GW2, and the one I played, is much more complex than the Random Arenas in GW1.  Matches are 8v8 (or more perhaps) if full, and you have to seize and hold control points.  The team with the most points at the end of the round, based on control and on kills, wins, and you move to the next auto-selected map.  I don’t really know if these games actually end, or if this just goes on forever, with the matches cycling between the different maps endlessly.  There were only three maps in the beta.  Players can respawn at their base after being killed.  The maps are much larger than the RA maps in GW1.  I like this gameplay mode; it’s very much like the capture-point-based multiplayer modes in games like Battlefield, Return to Castle Wolfenstein.  It’s also somewhat like that multiplayer mode in one of the GW1 betas (removed before the retail launch) where you did an 8v8 match in the Fort Ranik map where one team tried to capture the fort while the other defended it (it was a cool mode, too bad it went away!  That map’s too big for 4v4…).  Anyway, returning to GW2 multiplayer, I have some definite problems with this multiplayer mode too — see below — but it IS fun.

 

+/- I’m not sure if this is a positive or a negative, so I put both here. One of the most interesting changes in GW2, and one I’d either forgotten about or hadn’t read about before (I suspect it’s the former, but don’t know really), is that magic points are gone. Yeah, no MP at all in this game, you just have health, and skills that you can use based on their timers. Class skills do have special qualifications, for some classes (like the meter that powers necromancer class skills for example), but they’re not the same. This is a very interesting change; MP was of course central to GW1, as with most RPGs, so removing it from the game entirely is a somewhat odd choice. I do remember one online RPG with a setup sort of like this, with a skillbar and timers but no magic points system at all, the (complete flop of a long-shut-down title) Fury, an action-focused online RPG, but that’s the only one I can think of really. This removes some of the strategic depth from GW — no more worrying about MP, no more MP recharge skills, MP steal abilities, etc — so I don’t know if I like the change, really; I mean, the game’s quite fun, which is why I give it a +/-, but like some of the other changes, it seems to simplify the game versus what the original GW had. I remain to be convinced that GW2 has GW1’s level of strategic depth, let’s put it that way. It’s certainly a very good game, but does it match GW1’s level of greatness? GW2 needs a quick, easy multiplayer mode with a clear ending, like GW1 RA.

+/- Cities – In Guild Wars 1, cities were fairly small. Even the largest cities, like Droknar’s Forge and Lion’s Arch, were of a quite reasonable size. They dealt with this by having lots of districts, depending on how many people were in the zone. Well, with GW2 instead having a server-based design, and with the “match those other MMOs” design focus, they decided to copy games like WoW and have the main city for each race be bloatedly huge. Divinity’s Reach is an absolutely massive city, and the other two capitals are every bit as large. Now, there IS actual gameplay to be had here — many of the early missions take place in the city — but still, it’s kind of absurd versus the amount of land around the town. How do they feed all of these people, for instance? I know GW1 didn’t have many farms versus the size of the town, but here it’s much, much worse. There are like four tiny farms outside of this huge, highly populated city. And I don’t know if the other two have anything at all. And it’s not just about farms; the scale of the amount of countryside to explore, versus the scale of the cities, is outsized. The cities take up too much of the world map, versus the total amount of terrain, I think… this balance was better in the first game. I like some of the effects of having these large cities, don’t get me wrong — they’re pretty, and it’s fun having missions in the towns, and I know 250 years have passed — but overall, it’s clearly a WoW-and-such inspired move. It’s not one that makes the game any better, though. I just hope that the final game has a lot of territory to explore, like GW1 did, outside of these cities. GW1 focused a lot of exploring large amounts of wilderness, while GW2 clearly spends quite a bit more time in town, and has towns that take up a significantly larger amount of the map as well. And again, there IS fun to be had in the cities for sure. I mean, Factions had a third of its entire map taken up by one giant urban landscape. But because of the design, full of action zones, missions, etc., that felt quite different from GW2’s mostly peaceful cities that you’ll rarely do anything much in, apart from the missions that are set in them, or trips to the far-spread-apart armor and weapon smiths, item stores, etc.

 

– The game isn’t as good as the first Guild Wars. It’s maybe 80% as good, to put a somewhat random value on it.

– Why is Kryta a medieval forest now? It’s supposed to be a jungle. I know 250 years have passed, and there were some forests to Kryta’s north in the first game, in areas you couldn’t go to much, but still.  Way to make it more generic.  Divinity’s Reach is huge, but design-wise is generic medieval stuff, and bears almost no resemblance to Kryta or the architecutre styles of Lion’s Arch; this is more a European version of the city in Factions than anything.  Towns that do return from the first game, like Beetletun, have suffered similar declines in uniqueness.  I know a lot is going to change over time, and a lot of people from Ascalon have come to Kryta and that would have an impact, but still… is anything left of Kryta at all? And why are the trees all normal trees, with no sign of Kryta’s jungle anywhere near where it was in the first game?  You have to do down to Lion’s Arch or points southeast to find the jungles this time.  “Changes over time” is a good excuse, but “changes over time to something more generic” isn’t a great one.

– Servers — In GW1, servers were based on region only. Everyone in America server was on one server. When in towns, you’d be broken off into Districts based on how many people were in the zone, but you can switch between Districts with a menu on the screen, so it’s not a problem. However, GW2 does things entirely differently — like with traditional MMORPGs, you have to choose a preset server that you’ll be on. There are 48 servers each for the US and Europe. Each is entirely separate most of the time, with its own separate version of the world and separate playerbase. You can temporarily change servers in PvE from the character select screen, but cannot change while playing, and you are always stuck in only one server at a time. The only exception are Overflow servers, for when a server is full; those are shared between multiple servers, but you return to your main server once space is available so that’s a somewhat minor point.

So, yes, another MMO element brought to GW2 that didn’t exist in GW1, now in this game you’re tied to a specific server. You can change servers, with minor penalties, so it’s not as strictly limited as it is in many other MMOs where characters on a server are stuck there forever, but even so, this is definitely yet another more unwelcome than not MMO carryover feature included because they wanted to make this game more likely to be as popular as WoW, so they made it into an MMO.  But darnit, Guild Wars was a better game than WoW… sure, I get the idea of having servers — it ties you at least somewhat to a community, allows for the World v World multiplayer, however that works, etc — but still, versus a GW1 style of just having everyone together, with a number of servers to flip between on screen depending on how many people are in the zone? Seems inferior to me. And I’m sure they could have come up with ways to have other multiplayer modes, so I don’t think I could quite believe a “it’s required for WvW reasons” explanation. Obviously the answer is just “because it’s an MMO now”, but well… see the rest of my comments. :p  I don’t like this system where you have to choose a server, and then only see people from that server… it’s such an artificial breakdown, when the contents of all the servers in each region are all the same.  GW1 had a better system for sure.

– Servers: more on the major problems with GW2’s MMO-standard server system — So, why is the GW2 system so bad, and so, so disappointing compared to GW1?  First, as I said above, splitting everyone up into so many different, hard-locked servers, where you can only temporarily switch from server to server (permanent main server switches require real-money payment!), is worse game design than having everyone together, as GW1 does. I’m sure this point could be argued, but while I can somewhat understand a regional server breakdown, I absolutely do not like having a breakdown like this within each region. It divides people for no good reason. Sure, in GW1 with all of those Districts you’d run into a random number of people each time, but it’d always be DIFFERENT people. In GW2, you’re only going to see people from your 48th of the regional server each time — it’s an obvious, and substantial, downgrade.

And on that note, beyond the limited number of people that draws from, that has potential playerbase-per-area problems as well. I mean, for anyone who remembers GW1, in the opening weeks and months after a new game launched (of the four, or the free mini-addon Sorrow’s Furnace), there’d be a lot of people around. However, over time, as people move on, player populations in earlier zones decreased. They helped this a bit once Expert mode was added, but still, the fact that there were now three worlds, one with two campaigns on it, did lead to a spread-out playerbase. In many missions or towns, if you wanted a player group, you could wait for a long time with no success, and this was in a game with one server per region (remembering that the US, EU, etc were separate servers too in GW1), not 48.

But in GW2, GW2 does the MMO-standard thing of having separate servers, each with entirely different player populations. That means that if you have areas with few people in them, like GW1 has lots of these days, you’ve got 1/48th as many people in any one specific server, yes? And sure, you can switch servers from the character select screen, but you’re still stuck in only one server at a time, and THAT is the issue here. That’s an artificial restriction that didn’t exist in GW1, regional servers excepted, and shouldn’t exist in the sequel either. GW1’s Districts solution is a far better one than this.

Of course, as I said in my last summary post grouping isn’t nearly as important in GW2 as it was in GW1 because of the MMO design, so the effects of this aren’t quite as significant as they would be in GW1. If the answer really is “well this is an MMO now and not GW, so don’t worry about it because grouping doesn’t matter as much as it used to anyway”… well, that’s getting pretty far away from what the whole point of GW was, that’s for sure!

Anyway though, regardless of that, it IS a potential issue. I assume that they’re hoping that the fact that there’s only one campaign right now instead of four, the massive game design changes, and that they’re hoping for even more sales this time, will deal with the potential issue, but we’ll see if that is accurate or not. No way to know right now, but based on what I saw in GW1, I’m skeptical; there never were any such issues in the betas, not with the time limits and with how they didn’t let you go to the whole world, they appeared in the full games after release, over time.

It’s nice that you can have friends in other servers, group between servers, etc, but seriously, that’s just fixing things around the edges of the problem, much like how they apparently want to add a lot more viable builds for each class, but of course won’t just let people make their own skillbars, and are sticking with this stupid weapon-based skillbar concept. I saw that excuse that that wouldn’t add that many “viable builds”, but seriously, that’s a weak excuse.

 

– Character creation – I wish that the old hairstyles and similar faces returned. With how customizable the faces are this time that part’s not really an issue, but hairstyles are — there are only so many of them, and very few of the first game’s ones return. I was hoping to create some characters as similar to my GW1 characters as possible, but with how different the hairstyles all are, that’s impossible, unfortunately.

– Costumes – I fully understand that the costumes are clearly a work in progress, so I won’t complain about much here (this is something that comes together late, of course), but I do want to state my disappointment that each race has one preset, unchangeable, identical underwear set for the whole race. All Human females have identical yellow bra-and-panties sets, for instance. In GW1, underwear was class-specific, so each class looked different. Not anymore, apparently, unless they’re going to add it later.

– Framerate – The framerate’s … iffy, at best. Now, I know that my computer’s not exactly high end for this game, so I was expecting this — though I have a GeForce GTS 560 now, the Core 2 Duo 2.4Ghz CPU I have holds it back for sure — but well, that’s one reason why GW1’s mostly-instanced design was great. The computer I played GW1 on (from the first betas in ’04 until early ’07 when I got a new machine) was pretty dated, and I’d often hit single digit framerates in the larger towns. Kaineng Center for instance absolutely kills the framerate on that computer, when at all busy. But out in the zones, I’d get playable 15-30fps framerates, so I could keep the graphics settings high, which I like. But in GW2, it’s an MMO, so you’ve got lots of people on screen at once. And owrse, they try to draw in lots of people with the time-based events. During those, on this computer the framerate just completely falls apart. The game’s quite playable most of the time (I don’t know the exact framerate, is there something like -perf for GW1 to have a framerate display on screen?), but when a lot of stuff starts happening, it gets really, really choppy. Makes it hard to play to say the least. But if I reduced the graphics settings to minimum, it’d be kind of a waste because I want to see it looking nice, and most of the time it’s playable. Bah. Just one more reason why I like GW1’s design more than this, as interesting as the events-in-the-world concept is. They need an option to have the graphics scale down automatically as the framerate plummets, or something, and then have it scale up again once you’re out of that fight. That’d be great.

– Skills – The skill system seems much more limited this time. I know that you unlock more options later on — the ability to switch between two different weapons, additional Traits you can choose between, etc — but still, in GW2, a lot of skills are tied to weapon types. I understood that they were trying to greatly reduce the number of skills in GW2, versus the huge bloat GW1 had built up after four chapters, and they have, but instead of letting you equip any eight you want, in this game, the skills you get depend on the weapon you have equipped. Each weapon type has a preset group of skills that it enables, three skills for the main weapon, two for the secondary, plus four class-specific abilities, and the Traits I mentioned above that you unlock later. I like some of the new options, like the class-specific stuff, and some of the changes (Mesmers are easier to use this time, for instance), but there are some real issues with this design. I mean, I want to choose what skills I want to use, I don’t want to have it preset based on weapon choice! That limits skill options so much versus the first game… seems like it’d be hard for it to do anything other than reduce the strategic depth of the system. I assume they added the other stuff to try to make up for it, but while the system isn’t awful, sort of like in Phantasy Star Portable (which has weapon-based skills, as opposed to the free skill selection system of PS Online and PS Zero), why did they do that in the first place? It’s not as good. You have more skills available at any one time than you do in GW1, but because of the limits on what skills you have (choice is much more limited), at least early on you actually have a lot less options. Disappointing. (Also, do you ever get any choices for class skills, or is everyone in each class stuck with the same four?)

– Skills etc. – For instance, my main in the first Guild Wars was a necromancer. I focused on blood magic, so I had all skills from the blood necromancer line (and a few monk skills for healing/res). But in this game, at least for the weapon skills, you seem to have far fewer choices. Is there more to be revealed that we don’t know about, or do the skills you unlock later on help give you more choice? I have no idea, but I’m only at level 5, so I’m not exactly far in the game.

– Skills/Classes, and how much they are like their counterparts from the original game – Another thing I want to mention about the skills is that the skills in this game are almost all new, it seems. The classes mostly have the same names or concepts, though there is one entirely new one in the Engineer, but the skills are all new. This is understandable, they want to do something different, but not only are the skills all different, the classes play pretty differently too. My biggest concern about GW2, ever since it was first announced back in ’06 or ’07, was that it sounded like it wasn’t enough like Guild Wars, and that they were aiming for World of Warcraft players instead of aiming for Guild Wars players. Having played the game, I think that impression is absolutely correct. As someone who absolutely LOVED Guild Wars, but has never been interested enough in traditional MMOs to stick with them for more than a few hours, this has always been very disappointing to me. Well, the game IS good, but it’s not very much like Guild Wars in a lot of ways. The classes play differently, the skills are different, the basic game design is different (preset weapon-based skillsets, unchangeable class-specific skills, etc.), the game’s an open-world MMO instead of a mostly instanced game, etc. This is a good game, but it’s not anywhere near enough like the great original title!

– Enemies – You can’t clear out zones anymore. That is, in the first GW, enemies you killed stayed dead until you left the zone. This gave the game a sense of permanence — Death penalty returns, but enemies respawn, QUICKLY, in this game, which means that the challenge of dying and then having to decide about whether to go in and try again, because you’ve killed a lot of enemies in this area and if you give up and leave you’ll have to kill all the ones you’ve beaten already over again, or retreat back to town, get your DP healed up, and try it again from the start, simply doesn’t exist in this game. The closest thing GW2 has to it are those timed missions; obviously, you don’t want to warp somewhere far away (because warp points in GW2 are far less frequent than res shrines are in GW1, so you’ll have a much longer trek unless someone rezzes you. At least anyone can rez someone down, though, going by the “healers are gone from this game” design.), because you could run out of time. Apart from that, the main other thing would be related to the point below. Anyway though, I liked being able to clear zones, so this “the zone is full again by the time you’ve gotten just a few screens past where you just were” is pretty lame in comparison. It really hurts your sense of accomplishment when an unending stream of spawning enemies keep appearing behind you, replacing the ones you killed! GW1 has no stupid spawning enemies. Better design, in my opinion. (And yes, I know you can’t have permanent kills in an MMO like GW2. That’s one more reason why I like GW1’s instanced design.)

– Transport – The game has fast transport, of course, but for some insane reason, you have to PAY to use it. And it’s both not cheap (well, it is, for short-range stuff, but the costs add up!), and increases in cost depending on how far you want to go. What the heck, ANet, why would you do this? This is seriously one of the worst things in this list of negatives. You should not have to pay to use the fast-travel system. It should be like how it is in GW1. Also, how about some resurrection shrines, instead of forcing you to hope someone shows up to heal you, or forcing you to warp back all the way to a warp point and then walk the whole way back to where you just were? That’d be like if in GW1 there were no res shrines in the zones, and instead you went back to the zone entrance, or the middle of the PREVIOUS zone, when you died. Um, there’s a reason the first game had res points all over, it’s annoying when you have to run long distances! And on the same note, it’s a complete pain when the game forces you to warp back and forth for missions, paying money every single time you want to use the warps. Bad design!

– Exploration – One thing I really loved about the first Guild Wars was exploring the world, and having that exploration matter as I revealed the black areas of the map with each character. Some areas didn’t have permanent maps, like caves, the Underworld, etc, and that was annoying, most most did. In GW2, however, exploration is mostly removed from the game. Instead of being able to explore for yourself, the instant you step foot in a zone, the entire zone is revealed to you on your map. It’s tremendously disappointing, and is a significant design flaw in my opinion. They try to keep some shreds of an exploration element by having Waypoints (places you can transport to) to find, and by marking certain points on the map for you to reach and reveal their names, but those points are marked on your map already from the instant you get into the zone, so there’s no surprise, and no actual exploration. This is Guild Wars, Dumbed Down Edition. Now, I know you can look up maps online, but still, being able to explore the zones myself was so much fun in the first game. “Go to the exploration points marked on your map” is a pale, pale shadow of that. Pretty sad.

– Guild Wars 2 doesn’t have “click on the ground to move” — it’s been removed from the game, you have to move with the movement keys only. Now, I didn’t use click-on-ground-to-move all that often, but I did use something else relating to it all the time, as did everyone — in GW1, you can click on a character or enemy and then hit the button, and your character will automatically run over to that character and attack or interact with them. In GW2, this is entirely gone — you have to manually move over to whoever you want to interact with. In crazy-hectic battles with my screen completely full of action, this makes for a challenge, because just figuring out where the enemy I just selected even IS can be tough. I assume this is to add more skill to the game in some way, because of all the other changes I’ve mentioned that seem to reduce strategic options, but seriously, this just ends up being really annoying. I don’t think that forcing players to move to enemies themselves, and entirely getting rid of all auto-move functions, is a good change. At least autorun on R makes a return, but that’s about it as far as I can tell.

– 80 levels instead of 20 was unnecessary. They obviously increased the number in order to compete with WoW and such, and people who expect lots of levels, but GW1 showed how all of that stuff isn’t necessary to make a great online MMO. Of course PvP is at a flat par, as expected — all players are lv. 80 in PvP from the start — but for the single player, it’s a pointless change.

– Negatives of the Standard PVP Mode, or, Where is the Random Arena? – The main criticism I have is that there’s nothing like GW1’s 4v4 Random Arenas (RA), which as I said at the top was my favorite thing in GW1’s PvP side, and the only GW1 PvP element I played much.   However, while GW2’s main, point control-style multiplayer mode, as described above in the “positives” category, mode is pretty good, where’s the simpler, team versus team mode comparable to the Random Arenas?  Why in the world would they not include that in this sequel?  I know that they’re changing a lot of things in this sequel, but this is another one that by no means should they ever have even considered removing.  This GW2 mode is much more complex and doesn’t have the quick-fun, play-a-few-minutes-and-go simplicity of the 4v4 random arenas.   It also doesn’t have a clearly defined ending; instead, you just keep spawning, and the matches just keep coming.  RA is not something they should not have removed.

 

Finally, I’m going to have a special section for missions, because they were one of the most important things in the first Guild Wars.

+/- Missions, GW1 Background Information —  In the original GW, the main (story) game centered around a Mission – town/travel to next mission – Mission sequence. That is, the centerpoint of the game was the mission tree, bringing you through the mostly linear story.  Each game had 15-25 missions, sometimes with some branching options in the later campaigns.  As I said, this was designed for parties, and for the first couple of years after launch, one of the best ways to play GW in a group was to do that in missions. Playing Quests with others — that is, the quests you get in the towns and do in the main overworld — could be fun too, but since the overworld is so large, people often want to explore there. As a result, unless you were with people you knew, or were in a guild with, or something, apart from groups to go to the next story destination, grouping in the overworld would be less common; people want to do different things. In Missions, however, the design brings people together, like it does for PvP but with a story and a PvE focus, and they were great.

However, after the release of Nightfall in ’06 and the addition of Heroes, that started to break down, and people mostly played the missions with their Heroes, AI allies you could set up skillbars for and give orders to. Heroes made soloing missions (playing missions without any other human players on the team) much more possible than it had been before with just the dumb AI Henchmen. Also, people were spread through three and then four campaigns, which didn’t help.  ANet did add the Party Search window to help here, but that doesn’t help so much when very few others are looking… still, it was something, and it did help. And indeed, when you did actually manage to get a group together for a mission, it was as fun as ever. The same goes for when you got together human groups for things like the EotN dungeons, etc.  However, overall, the huge reduction in player groups in missions really hurt the game, in my opinion — yeah, you can beat most missions with just heroes and henchmen, but it’s not the same.

+ Missions in Guild Wars 2 –  While I also have some important criticisms, GW2 does do some things right with its missions.  In GW2, missions are much more single player focused.  While you can play them with others, as I will describe in the “negatives” section, they are mostly designed for solo play.  This isn’t good from a multiplayer standpoint, but does lead to many more choices in the missions, as I mentioned earlier, which is great.  I like being able to actually make choices and have them have some kind of effect.  The missions are fun to play, too, whether they’re entirely solo, or whether you play them with an AI ally.  The story is solidly done as well, no complaints there.  I also previously mentioned the multiple opening arcs, depending on your origin story; that’s a nice touch.  I had fun with the missions while playing them.  Missions are varied too; one even was entirely non-combat, which was pretty cool (though it could have been longer, maybe, it was definitely fun).  Note that like in EotN, Missions happen in sectioned-off parts of the overworld, not in special mission zones.  I like the special mission zones with lobbies, as used before EotN, more, but this works okay.

– Guild Wars 2 Missions and Multiplayer – In GW2, at least so far, the story tree seems to be entirely a single player affair. You can play missions with others, if you’re partied with someone, but only the first player gets to make any of the choices; everyone else just watches, and only does anything during the action. Also I didn’t see anything like the Party Search window; that’d be a significant loss, really, given that the game in general is, like most MMOs, not designed for as much formal party formation with random other people as GW1 was. It’s clear that while the option is there, the focus is strongly on people doing this in single player.

Anyway, I like that the missions are instanced. At least something is. However, I find it so, so odd that they seem to have decided that the solution to the “people aren’t grouping for missions very often” problem was to, well, mostly get rid of parties in missions, as I explained above. I understand that that allows them to allow you to make more choices, which is good, but Nightfall and EotN had a degree of branching, while still allowing parties of course. I don’t know, there has to have been a better way of splitting the difference here and both allowing choice, while maintaining the multiplayer nature of the missions. And given that GW2 has neither Henchmen or Heroes, really, just occasional AI allies in the missions, people would have some incentive to group…

Of course, that there weren’t enough people was WHY they added Heroes to GW1, I assume, but still. I know that these are tough problems, and I can kind of see why they did what they did, if I’m right about it (can anyone clarify for sure? Does it stay like that even after the personal intro story part, for instance? Or are they not revealing that part yet…), after trying a bunch of different things through Guild Wars 1 and its addons, but… there has to be another way than this…

– MMOs and Formal Grouping –  This isn’t exactly about missions, but it’s a good final thought.  On a related note that I referenced above, because of the instanced design, in GW1 you’d often make formal groups with a random group of other people, either in random arenas, or in missions when you actually had a player group, or for a special dungeon, or what have you. But in an MMO like WoW or GW2, that seems less common, because you might run across someone in the world in that same area who’d help out at that moment, something that couldn’t happen in GW1, but without the conversation or actual grouping that you’d get in that game.  I mean, in something like GW2, or WoW, how often do you actually make groups, or talk with the other people while doing stuff? I’m sure people in guilds do, for raids or what have you, but for the kind of thing I’m talking about? I admit it happened more in GW in the earlier years than more recently, but still… there are going to be many more people around in GW2, but will, like often seems to be the case in MMOs, there be less actual (verbal/written) interaction? It looks that way to me, unfortunately.
Overall, the game’s very fun and addictive. The numerous problems I mention above, and some others I surely didn’t get to mentioning, are issues, but they don’t ruin the game. As I said I do think the first game’s better, so far, but … well, seven hours in a day and a half? It’s been a long time since I’ve played a PC game that much… I’ve gotten a whole stack of stuff from digital-download sales, and a bunch of used older (’90s/early ’00s) PC games too, but somehow it’s been several years since I’ve played one a lot, like I did with Guild Wars back in ’04 to ’07 or so. Well, this could be that game…but no, it isn’t Guild Wars, it’s something quite different with similarities in name, graphics, and music, pretty much. I wonder if ANet will succeed this time. I mean, Guild Wars was successful, but ANet clearly wanted it to match World of Warcraft, but that didn’t happen. So, the sequel is much more of an MMO this time. Will that make it more successful than the first game as a result? I loved GW’s mostly-instanced design, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this game does do better, because a lot of people seem to prefer MMOs like this to GW’s style.  I don’t, but there are some things to like in this game even so.

About Brian

Computer and video game lover
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