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Guild Wars 2, in an attempt to ring in more players, has had a free trial extended this week all through sunday, the end of the weekend. I FINALLY got my hands on it and installed. I missed the last free trial because I did not want to install all those gigs for 2 days, and I had fear it would not run good on my 5 year old lap top (ATI mobility Radeon HD 5470 1gb native, with 8gigs on the ASUS system and a 2gig power boost).
I did a website "can I play it" check. It passed great. I was hestiant, but gave in this free trial. It ran great! Here is my experience and first impressions levels 1-10.
(I am in a living work of art)Character Creation: I was actually shocked at how little you could customize. For a game that was designed with other games as competitors in the F2P world, it was shocking to find so many limitations on a human body. You have very strict and solid hair styles to chose from. A few body profiles to work with. A few facial tweaks. Nothing that changes to much. And the only thing really worth talking about is the ability to change the color of your starting armor. Otherwise all very standard. Was not a fan of the cartoon like models. I was hoping we would have a more realistic like models. Like Vindictus etc. But it borders that cartoon land look. Guild Wars 1 had a very gritty human touch to it so to get a little tooned up was a let down. I also did not like how most faces were of young adolescents. Maybe 2 or 3 that had adult male faces... And usually looked like strange adolescents that did not shave. Very odd and felt like they cut out a certain part of the audience by catering to the young boy crowd. But all in all it get's the job done.
After the standard look and armor coloring you then go on to chose an alignment, or sort of back story. It is not very deep and generally pre made. You just feel in the blanks. Literally: "You are A) Poor Middle class C) Nobel family". This some how ties in with vertain things in game I never really figured out in a trials worth of time. I have a HUGE suspicion it has to do with npc dialog (more on that later). I did kind of like this little touch. Reminded me of allot of single player rpg's I played....
(Oh no! RIFT is invading Guild Wars 2!)
The Game Play: You'r noob experience is a scripted event and moves generally one direction. The town is on fire attacked by Minotaurs. At this point you will learn that this game does not have actual quest log like features but a sort of move along story for the region you are in. Yo have, in the place of quest text, a green text with a brief blurb : "Go to windmill". The map will be pinged with a green whirlwind ball always showing you where to go. This is the main quest arc that pushes you out over the land and gets progressively harder as most arch story lines do. Feeling like a tutorial, boxed in, one lace to go, I went ahead and studied my UI first.
The UI needs tweaks in default. Change now the turning speed. The camera is SURPRISINGLY clunky and not user friendly. It felt like a consol game camera got glued in a PC mmorpg...The standard speed is slow. The odd turning as you run...it is hard to explain. But I have been doing a level 1 - 50 RIFT review this month and play allot of RIFT and games like it. The camera is typical, smooth, mmopg character camera. In GW2, I have no idea what they did, but it feels, as a player or mmorpgs, CLUNKY. It is not "broken" or "game breaking". But noticably off that I had to note it as a something wrong. Especially since I had to change the standard settings right off. I heard there are jumping puzzles. I would HATE to discover these with this camera. I am sure, I hope, most fans found add ons to change this. I had to change the standard buttons to do things, like the open the MAP, I had to bind to "M". Character is "H" for some reason....small things like that all re-arranged for no logical reason. So I set it all right.
Back to the game. The game pushes you out on the main quest which will show off the fluidity of the world and combat. You kill some enemies (combat below), you interact in the lively environment, and you have your first encounter before being set off in the world. The encounter...as epic as it was, had no real big build up. It was just "oh, that is happening now" and reminded me of a RIFT rip off. Enjoy this cinematic scene, it is the last you will enjoy. After an epic cut scene of a RIFT thing forming and centaurs attacking. You run out to stop it, of course! My battle, due to that CRAP CAMERA, was a zoomed it blind click once, lack luster poo fest. The battle ended and I was on my own. I was not impressed, but I get it. Tutorial over.
I am in the large world map now. To summarize, Guild Wars 2 does not have traditional quest hubs, where you run up and pick up quests and move on, grab more. What you have is "I am here. Grind it out bro, with your CURIOSITY". What my silly bable means is that if you look at the UI buttons, there is no quest log button. There is only Inventory, Character, and some other little options. So this really simplifies the game down to what is actively going on around you. No quest or thinking "I need to be where". You are just in your "zone" right for you.
Now, this is different, but at it's core, it means where you quest in the current may be up to you, but you are super railed in a very linear progression game, where the direction is dictated by zones. You can zoom out at see instantly, on the map, that your frontiers are dictated by levels. Like all mmorpgs. Since I am currently playing RIFT, this reminded me allot like RIFT's maps. You are in one zone, can run around different camps and pick up quests. The point is, it is open in your zone, do as you wish, grind it out, but you will be confined to that zone only, and you will linearly progress one direction. Some games, like AION, etc.. will have you "taste" other regions, even if it is just to talk or do a few tasks, and leave you with about 2 regions minimum to hang out in for your level. I call it the "star pattern" because if you trace where you go, it is like a star, not a linear path A-B. Some games, like PWI, use one large open world where mob levels dictate where you should be. Guild Wars reminds me a bit like this. One large open area dictated by mob levels mixing together. I would be fighting some level 3 mobs, only to find a few level 6 roaming inside the same pack or not far off. So you had to be careful and you knew the limits. And once traced out. Super linear. So it is hidden, but creatively.
(The cartoon like map: Doing things that are "important" because there is not allot of anything else to do)
Now, becuase there are now official quests to take out, the land is filled with "camps" or areas that have NPC' farms etc. YOu have meters to fill. Each area pops up a meter to show you, like faction points, how much oyu have progressed in helping someone. Once filled, you unlock items from the npc store, and get rewarded and can move on. Each map has things to do in the form of HIDE AND SEEK. That is, in each map there are "Teleports" - "Panoramic" - "Place of importance" to find. For example: First map 0/10 teleports to run and find - 0/5 panoramic to find. Panoramics are spots, if found, you click on a glowing map thing, and there is this little cinematic cut away that zooms out and shows you the beautiful world around you. A complete distraction. And a sort of pokémon gotta catch em all thing to be had EACH map. - Place of interest usually corresponds to places to do NPC tasks.
NPC tasks are the things that will really level you. It is where the grind is hidden. That main quest hard? Want to level up a little before leaving? Want to discover some things and get involved with local goings on? Go to a place of interest. There are NPCS that want you to do things to fill up that meter. Example: I walk into a farm, this "zone of interest" wants me to "help feed pigs, kill off monsters, clean up poop". So, as you walk around, you will notice barrels of feed. You click on it. You feed it to the pigs. The meter goes up you get EXP. Everything you do gives you EXP. Farting gives you EXP. No joke. Seriously... These tasks are easy. Nothing requires opening another window or doing finger acrobats. "F" is the action button. So just stand in front of something press "F" to pick it up. Press "F" to use it in place. DONE! LEvel up, fill the meter, NPC happy, gives you rewards, move on!
(Look at the diamonds on the map...who needs mounts, roads, or anything when you have magical teleporters. Just pay the invisible man (god?) and you are teleported)
My first impression with the game in first hours: "OMG I can literally play this one handed!". They remove the emphasis of multi windows. You will not need to open windows to pull things out, use certain things, look at stats. You have 1 window MAX at almost all times. This is cool because there is more emphasis on the game, what is going on in the live world, and the fluidity of the game. The problem for me, is that it creates the most easy mmorpg, skill lacking, reward showering, theme park mmorpg I have ever played. EVER.
I expected SOME kind of something to bite back. OR some kind of depth to something. There is none. It is like everything that was used that killed World of Warcraft was used as the building blocks for this game. WoW got to the point you can just sit in town, open a group finder, hop in a dungeon, kill all, get the rewards sign off. That killed it for me because the rest of the world was useless. This game does that with features. No need to think about allot things. Just click. Coming from RIFT, 3 skill trees that have roots so actually 6 skill trees each changable role, with about 3 roles = 18 different skill tree laoded with icons to manage on chose to your skill bar....then I went to Guild Wars 2. All you do is EQUIP the weapon you want, and ALL THE SKILLS THAT GO WITH IT ARE AUTOMATICALLY PLACED IN THE HOT BAR. No work, no nothing. All automatically done.
THe mail system. Open it ANYWHERE. It is just a button to push to open to send and receive ANYWHERE. This feels odd in a game that has detail in every nook. Then the realization kicks in. Besides vendors, the world is just beautiful painted walls. It is shallow, and not in depth. It is the ultimate theme park. You can hear the sound of *click click click* of the wheels of the attraction turning as you are showered in happy images. *que the music ITS A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL*. The question just begs, why all this illusion of DEPTH with giant towers, layers of city, etc etc, when the only thing it serves is paintings for the rails you will be glued too. Why not have post stations and all the other elements of other games? They went as far as interactive, like picking up bottles in a bar and throwing them...but it is USELESS. Ok, I picjed up a bottle...And I threw it...I threw it right through an NPCS beautiful face...nothing happened. It is just a detail of nothing! It is FLUFF. That is how I summarize this game in one word: FLUFF
The hot bar and UI looks like my Lego set as a kid. Very yellow, red, green. It is stale, plastic looking and very out of place. The world is rich, why in the world do we have the most ugly looking UI? I have played games from 2008, 1995, that have better UI? What happened??? Is this another "use this add on" I should know about? I was shocked to say the least.
Everything is about exploring. I storngly believe the game design did not try to change hub hub linear (because it is there), but they wanted you to move as much as possible before moving to the next map. To do this, they scatter out points to find on the map. You find them, you get points to add to skills. This is the exploreres game. If you like to walk to every crack and corner and take screen shots. This game is for you. The sort of sad part, is that they take out the EXPLORING work half the time by having INSTANT TELEPORTING. Like the MAIL, you just open the map, click on teleporter, and POOF you are moved to that spot on the map. No spell cast bar. No NPC talking. BUT YOU DO PAY A FEE. What world of logic did this game come from??? So...they did not design teleporting npc's but you reach in your bag. Grab coins...throw them in the air and POOF you magically teleport??? is that how it works???? Are coins magical???? Wha....who are you paying to teleport??? I regress on this point if I missed it (and I apologize)...but I felt so silly just POOF, avoiding walking (which is never very long compared to other games). I paid a fee, I insta ported. I actually LOL"ed in real life and thought to myself "wow...this is the most lazily odd game design I ever had. It does one thing: KILL THE INTEGRATION OF A FANTASY WORLD. It kills the depth!
Speaking of depth. That epic cinematic will always be cut off now by a puppet show style of dialog. Two characters talk in a sort of seperate puppet show window. No more cinematics, why? Also, RIFT has live action story telling, RIFT also. Where once you speak to some one, they tell you right there, in front of all the other players, what is going on, and an animation happens...Perhaps a monster summoned. Guild Wars relies on MASS INSTANCING to tell it's story followed by cheap cut puppet show. RARELY do you get a cinematic or live action play out. I found this very odd. It made me wonder what the instancing was about since it was not very dynamically scripted. Honstly, everything the NPC's did in the instance story for me, was no more dynamic than what happens in RIFT in the open world. I guess the point of this is: It was different but never seemed better or more in depth or game changing or anything else to stand out from the other F2P titles that exist. So...why this design? Is it easier to do for the developers? Considering behind every beautiful mask in this game, is a lazy design, I would come to that conclusion. YES, it is because it is EASIER to instance things than work on the large open world like other games. Again, making the game environment look great, but that game play. *click click click...*
I guess it is time to speak about armor and combat:
(Questing is literally BS. You go from saving the castle in level 1 to cleaning poop to grind out levels there after)
Armor and Combat: Armor comes in sets a little slow. Weapons are given out a little faster right away. There is a reason for that. I made a guardian human. As this class I had maces, staffs, lances, swords n shields, and 2 handed swords. I had a big list of weapons to wield. Early quest rewards and drops are different varieties of these weapons. Like I said above, each time equipped, it automatically auto changes your hot bar. So, want to go from shielded mass swinging heal / support with 1 attack to a two handed mele damage spinning top???just slick on the sword...done. I changed INSTANTLY. Only 4-6 principle attacks = you need to brain work to find the best combos or what does what. Walk up. 1....2.....3...or 4. All there is too it. I know this gets more evolved later on. But honostly...It felt...not deep. My characters identity is nul. Who am I??? I am Conan the bat super super dude who does all is who I am....*click click click of the theme park wheels*
The worst of this...One click wonder. I started out level 1-3 clicking every swing (Like in RIFT). I then realized you only need to do it once. If you cilck ATTACK once, go leave to make a sandwhich, the rest is automatic. EVEN if the enemy runs away, then runs back, your character will whack away. I even un clicked and walked away, as soon as I got close, auto attacked. Dead. It is soooo effortless! It is very "sliding" and hit boxes super questionable. I was killing enemies at least 1 body length apart. Just spam the attach, stand back and poof. You are basically invincible. Nothing really poses a threat, combat slidy easy and effortless. The only reasons I EVER died was because they would mix in some one 3 times my level higher. Seriously. Early quests have you check out bandit caves etc. You kill level 2 and 3 enemies going along just fine. And since you'r brain is turned off, you do not realize right away that you just whacked a level 6 dude. He takes you out. You sit there like what...search to find his level...ohhh ok..he is 3 times (literally) higher than me..that makes sense. For moment I thought it was just a strategic battle to learn how to counter against etc...but no, it is just cheap design.
(Instanced content = single player RPG in the end with multiplayer support XD)
This sort of mob mix also makes it so you have to go back later after grinding a few levels. I felt a little slighted, like, why make all these elements so easy and theme park but then through in a monkey wrench? It was like an after thought like, "oops, it was too easy...better toss in this guy 3 times higher to get them out there to farm back". Things like this really surprise me because I really thought the box price and the hype and the rumors would be true. That this was a game changing game. What I found was bare bones desing. Weak desgin, covered in a gorgeous package. Combat is easily forgettable and wile I am sliddign around playing whak em bop em with the enemies, the easy to slide over items to pick up and interact with. Everything just feels "slide n go, slide n go".
Again, the camera in the battle is also wonkey that is is frustrating some battles to feel the "epicness" of it all.
Death is interesting. You die, you have a few moments to get revenge with some attacks or heal up...so if you die and your enemy has a little bit of HP left, you can kill him and get back on your feet. If you happen to die and the enemy is dead or runs away, you can heal up (bandage) your wounds and pop right back up. This game is so easily handed to you that you can cheat DEATH HIMSELF! or herself if it is a woman. WTF really.I will play devils advocate and go pr GW2 here: "We installed this feature because we did not think it is a waste of time for players to have a soul run back to it's corpse, or deal with resurrection points (all deaths in GW2 revive at said teleporters above)." The result in lazy game play? You lose the sense of IDENTITY, DEPTH, AND worst of all DEATH. Identity, what makes you special or the enemy if death is cheated? The enemy is just a molded code, doesn't matter, just reward me attitude. You'r survival skills are just equal as all other classes so what is so special about a support character (which is not as emphasized in this game). You are not really special based on SKILL to survive in this savage wold but just looks and status.
DEPTH: This death model makes this game extremely super shallow. "GEt me in, kill, go". Death has a HUGE role in games. It teaches you to not make the same mistake twice. It makes things just unerveing enough that you adapt, you forge a sense of revenge, and you become a hunter adventurer. It is the specialness to being alive in the game. It is the penalties that make every one of your efforts worth it. In this game... EHHH forget aboutttt itttt!
Death itself. In such a living world, everyone shouting epic things and epic things happening...and death such a limp slp on the wrist...it takes the epicness out of the world and the sense of being "ALIVE".
(THIS IS CALLED PUPPET SHOW! I want CUTSCENES! Or please live action??? I clicked SKIP around level 5)
It was around level 5 I noticed I was no longer interested in the battles or combat, my eyes drifted towards the TV. Several times I engaged in combat. Clicked to attack, ALT TABBED out to browse. Came back...Still alive. Everything dead, looted. Went on LOL! Effortless. It is free swinging combat with target elements but it is so mummble jumbled targeting is just meh. I barely could tell if targeting helped or not. Just press attack and run in...everything else happens automatically. Probably the worst combat I ever touched. As far as engaing action combat, TERA still takes the cake. You have to think your battles, dodge etc in TERA. In GUILD WARS 2, dodging was just fluff. If I used it, I ususally just ended up rolling off a mountain so meh, plus the counter of a dodge is less effective.
Guild Wars 2 likes to use area of combat physics. That is, almost all classes have an AOE to throw down to get the fighting grouped up close. They even went as far as making some NPC's RUN out of the AOE zone if you get to close. This sort of works, but not as cool as or smooth, or smart as in TERA. When TERA does it, it feels like a real reaction to the combat. In Guild wars, it just looks stupid. I have seen NPC's run of in odd directions. Fall off mountains, run up and over tent walls. It also has no realy super outcome in combat. Please keep in mind, this is all PvE combat. I can see how this is taunting and probably more fluid and logical in PvP...But I never touched PvP...1) Not enough players my level (and I was on a high pop server) and 2) I preferred to focus on PvE only this run around. Also, and most important. There are no guild wars in a game that is titled Guild Wars 2. Imagine if Dragon Prophet had no dragons in it........
There is, of course, no armor repairs. And I will not talk about armor collecting etc. There is not armor treadmil. This is that theme park that stops at NO STOPS. Not even the fun stops. It is strap in. Look at the pretty. Go on. You are all equal and loved. Isn't it nice?
This reminds me of the MMORPG with training wheels. For any child wanting to play his first mmorpg. START HERE!
Speaking of pretty, time to talk about pretty.
Graphics: This is what kept me playing and not uninstalling quickly. WOW! If you follow my blog, you may have noticed I keep the RIFT graphic distance low and grass textures low. When I ran TERA on my system on mid/high, It ran my fans hard and my system got hot. This game runs BEAUTIFULLY on my system. I got it mostly on LOW and a few settings like textures on medium...and it looks AMAZING and runs SMOOTH! Even when other players run by me or when things get crazy. NO LAG, NO graphical hickups. The quality of how this game runs makes me want to buy it after the trial.
(This is what my first epic battle looked like...Camra was crap. Monster to big. Things where happening. I won...)
Conclusion: On the scale, this game gets easily 2/5 - 1 point for the graphics and performance. Another point for features that I might be good end game that I did not have time to touch in this trial. But all in all. NOTHING ELSE. Again, it is the everything that killed WoW: the ease of showering all in theme parkness and killing the groups and guild activity only to do certain group and guild activity (see my article about community in my blog). This is kind of a "shoot self in the foot" design. You create a game that is themed out, easy, skill less practically, and then expect to have groups for some content with a heavy emphasis on PvP (that requires groups). It is like giving dessert before eating diner...it leaves it a little gross to take in and odd and to filling to fast. That said, the graphics and performance are AMAZING! I have decided I Will not throw cash down (EU asking for 31,99 for this game after Trial) right away. I was itching to go right back to the RIFT experience and continue my game I have been progressing in. Guild Wars 2 will be on my "After I finish RIFT and get where I want to be until I am bored. Then, when it goes on sale, I will get it assuming something better is not out at the time". I do recommend it for those not wanting anything demanding in an mmorpg (childs first mmorpg). I also advise to stay away if you are a fan of ANY of the original Guild Wars games (nothing in this game resembles it except the legal use to the names and locations etc.). To all the current players. Enjoy, and one day perhaps I will be there with you. Until then, this game made me appreciate my current game a little more.
Any one else try out the trial? What do you think?