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I think it’s the best-looking MMO to date. I’m not just talking about the graphical fidelity, or even the art direction (though I do think the game excels in both of those areas), but the world is very well put together. They definitely have some skilled artists and level designers on their team. Some of the zones reminded me of Skyrim (probably the only other game that I actually stopped and looked at the scenery). It just looks nice, in my opinion, and I enjoy being in the world because of it. The underwater sections are also noteworthy. It has the coolest looking underwater areas I’ve ever seen.
The level of detail this game is insane, down to every gravestone having something written on it. There are so many unique textures and design elements that it’s mind-boggling. Not only that, but there is so much random dialogue, a lot of it being really entertaining. The game also has a wonderful sense of humor. I regularly find myself laughing at all the little bits and pieces.
I really like the attempt at versatile content. I remember one of heart quests in particular was a bunch of math questions. Also, the jumping puzzles are a nice distraction. A few of them seemed a little contrived, but I think the majority of them are designed well and feel pretty organic.
Many of the dynamic events can be loads of fun. Occasionally, they can be giant zerg-clusters, and some of them just aren’t very good, but overall I’d say I like the majority. I’m not joining the group that feels that they are revolutionary, because a lot of the time the tasks themselves aren’t that much different from what I’d normally be doing in a quest, but they feel more fun in execution to me. And that’s the important part.
The interface and options are clean and appealing. I feel like I have all of the options that I need without any clutter. I especially love the map/minimap. Being able to zoom/pan them is awesome and makes navigating a breeze. I also like the “painted” effect when I zoom out too far; it’s just kinda cool.
I really like the trading post. It’s actually not the first game in which bids to buy can be put up, but it’s done better than I’ve seen in the past. It’s organized well, and overall, I think it does a good job of facilitating trades.
The cities. I almost put this in the “on the fence” section because some of them can be a pain in the ass to navigate, but they’re just so damn awesome. They are literally epic. I was going to lump them into the overall design paragraph, but I feel that they needed special mention. Also, I feel that the NPCs and random dialogue add a lot to the atmosphere of the game.
The ability for any player to revive another is awesome. My favorite MMO also had a feature like this. My only qualm with it is when a player is defeated, it takes FOREVER to get revived, and in a combat heavy situation, it’s often not worth it / possible to get someone back up. Because of this, I make a very strong effort to help people that are simply in the downed state. It’s much faster.
I didn’t really get the “it’s a living, breathing world” feel from it. Honestly, most of the leveling process wasn’t all that much different from any random theme park game. That being said, I still like the dynamic events far more than standard questing. However, I really didn’t care for most of the heart quests, and I feel that the game has so much structured content that it distracts from how gorgeous it is. I often find myself focused on my minimap or the objectives rather than taking in the world. It has a strange dichotomy, and I’m a little conflicted about how the game is put together.
For me, I still felt pressured to get to the max level despite the presupposed philosophy to the contrary. I was thinking about why that is, and here’s what I came up with. For one, there is so much structured content that the game feels like it’s constantly pushing me forward. I think this is partially why I wasn’t keen on exploration either (but I’ll get to that in a moment). 98% of the game’s content is a checklist. Albeit, a more varied and entertaining checklist than most MMO’s, but a checklist nonetheless. Another thing (and I think this is more important than people realize) is that the gear is quickly out-leveled. I first noticed this when I was playing Rift. I was approaching max level, and I was trying to get some better gear. For the hell of it, I was checking out some of the max-level gear in preparation of my anticipated spec. It was then that I had a much stronger drive to get to the level cap. Then it hit me, gear is pretty meaningless until the max level. See, pretty much every game instills its players with a need to get good/better stuff. But even if you manage to get it, you’ll simply outlevel it. Guild Wars 2 is no different in that way. I found myself becoming anxious to get to max level so I would stop outleveling my gear. Personally, I think that’s where much of the “rush to end” mentality stems from in many games.
As much as I’ve heard people praising the game for its rewarding exploration, I can’t say that I agree. The first reason being the one that I listed above. The vast majority of the content is identified for you, and the little bits of content here and there, that aren’t plotted out, isn’t quite enough to justify praise in my book. Don’t get me wrong, the jumping puzzles are fun, and well designed as I mentioned earlier, but it terms of exploration, it just doesn’t do it for me. Secondly, The zoning hampers things quite a bit... for two reasons. One, the non-openness of the world. Yeah, I know the zones are big, but they all still feel pretty removed from each other, and going from one end of the world to the other really loses cohesion. Two, the level restrictions. I was able to get a few levels out of my league, but eventually the statistical gap got the better of me, and was forced back into my level-appropriate area. And considering that each zone is divided among ten or more levels, that doesn’t give one a large amount of stomping ground per level.
I don’t think that the underwater combat is very fun. I’m sure part of it is me, but there are a few things are are just plain less fun. For one, I don’t care for the limited weapon (and by proxy limited skill) options. Getting downed while underwater is a giant pain in the ass and is often frustrating. For instance, if I make it to the surface and an enemy follows me up, pulling me back down every few seconds, it makes me want to scream (and I do sometimes). Also, the enemies seem to move much more erratically, and it’s almost impossible to recognized a telegraphed attack or even if an attack is coming my way. The part that’s probably me is the control. I don’t like the way the dodge feels; it seems like I can never go the direction that I want.
I also don’t care for the crafting... like, at all. I like the how I can customize stats and insert gems, etc, but I absolutely hate the system of having to level a craft by creating tons of crap that I may, or may not, need just to advance. Not only that, but the items that I can make aren’t really much different than what I find out in the world. The only discipline that really stands out is cooking, because I generally haven’t found many (if any; I’m not really sure) food items. But in most cases, crafting isn’t a big part of the game. I know a lot of levels can be gained from doing it, but I’m talking about content-wise. If crafting was removed, I think the game would play largely the same. Admittedly, it’s rewarding to be able gather some resources and craft something useful; it feels good, but the chore of having to level up my crafting (and making sure I have enough of the mats to do so) dilutes that feeling of satisfaction.
The personal quest. I can’t say that I’m disappointed, because I wasn’t really looking forward to this feature in particular, but I still don’t really care for it. I’ve nearly finished it with the human, and I have a few other lower level humans in which I chose different paths, and none of them are particularly interesting to me. I don’t want to say that they are half-assed (because I don’t really think they are), but they definitely weren’t the focus of the development. There are a few moments that were entertaining, particularly some of the humor, but beyond that I’m tempted to skip most of the dialogue.
I don’t really care for the control or the camera. The character seems to have a slight delay to its actions, and the movement is a little jerky and floaty. Also, there is a weird acceleration thing going on with the camera. I’ve gotten used to it for the most part, so it’s not really much of an issue anymore, but it really bothered me for a while.
On the fence:
There are a few things that I couldn’t quite place in either category, combat being one of those things. Overall, I’d say I enjoy it, but there are a few things that really keep me from putting it squarely in the “like” section. First and foremost, I can’t stand how my movement speed decreases when I enter combat. It makes fighting feel more sluggish, and it is insanely frustrating when I’m trying to run by (or away from) enemies. It really hurts the entire experience, and when combat is 85% of what I do in the game, the overall fun factor decreases. Also, I’m not super-keep on having skills tied to the weapons, because it seems that there are always a skill or two in each set that I don’t really like, and when there are only five skills to choose from, that’s crucial. I’m a little frustrated that I can’t mix and match to my choosing, and I find it really hard to settle on a set that I can be content with. Lastly, the dodge mechanic. I’d say I like it overall, but it’s too restrictive. I mean, I only get two rolls every so often; the rest of the time, I’m still soaking up most of the hits. Because of this, I tend not to use it very often, because I end up saving my endurance for a telegraphed attack. I’ve been in a few situations where having limited dodges made the fight more interesting, but most of the time I just don’t feel like I have enough.
Level scaling. At first, I was really stoked about this. One of my biggest qualms with MMOs was that leveled zoned would quickly be abandoned and the game would feel totally empty because of it. Having actually experienced it, though, I’m not as optimistic. For one, it’s not really that beneficial to go back to the old areas (exp/karma/money aren’t that great), and I don’t see people returning to old zones just for the hell of it very often. Not only that, but feeling of progression is hurt more than I had anticipated. See, one thing I like about RPGs is occasionally coming across a tough monster, then leveling up and smashing its face. It’s a nice feeling. The other is totally crushing enemies that used to give me a hard time. But in games like this (with leveled zones that are clearly marked) the first option doesn’t really happen that much, unless I intentionally go into a harder area. So, that leaves much of that feeling to come from the latter. That’s where it gets hampered with GW2. Even though I do get stronger, much stronger, it is diminished by the scaling, and it kind of makes the whole leveling process seem arbitrary. I’m on the fence about it, because it still offers more in terms of keeping old content alive compared to most MMOs. I just think that there is a better way to go about it.
Next is the lack of a prolonged endgame. Like I mentioned earlier, the game still feels like it’s pushing me to the end. However, once I reach it, it’s just that; the end. Yes, the game has content up the wazoo, but I’m a little less motivated to do it once the tangible benefits run out (i.e. I stop getting stronger), and I don’t think think that the DEs are enjoyable enough to participate in without the drive of reward. That being said, I’m happy to see a game that doesn’t focus all of its content on keeping players locked in a gear grind. I like the direction it’s going, but I don’t feel that it’s quite there yet.
The trait system is nice because it allows an added layer of customizability, however I don’t feel that it’s flexible enough. Ofttimes, I’m frustrated by how the stats are paired up, and I dislike some of the minor traits that I’m forced to get.
Waypoints are convenient and are sometimes essential in getting to an event in time, but I feel that it also distracts from the world in the same way that I mentioned earlier. In fact, I made a conscious effort not use them hardly at all, and I’ve actually had a better experience because of it.
WvWvW. I’m not terribly opinionated on this because I haven’t done very much of it, but here’s what I think of it so far. It seems like it could be loads of fun if you have an organized guild or a small group of friends to go in with. However, my only experience with it was solo, and I didn’t think it was very fun. It was mainly a zergfest of ranged AoE spam. I can tell that there is a lot of strategy involved and there is a steeper learning curve than it seems. I’m sure I’ll give it a stronger go at some point, but for now I’m just a little ambivalent.
On the whole:
Looking back, I can see that the dislike list is a bit longer than my like list, but I tend to nitpick, and for some reason it’s easier for me to critique aspects that I don’t care for. Overall all, I enjoy the game, and I even enjoy many of the aspects that I have a few qualms with. I can see how someone might not like it, but I don’t see how people can flat out call it bad. The game clearly had a tremendous amount of thought and effort put into it. It’s very ambitious, and it tries to step outside the box a little, even though doesn’t reinvent the wheel. I hope its success will motivate other companies to take even bigger risks with the genre in the future. Who knows, at some point we may even see a AAA sandbox.
Edit: fixed typo in title.