Between taking care of family, work obligations, and side projects these past few years, it’s been a reeeeally long time since I let myself get all wrapped up in a new MMO, so I’ve decided it’s time to have some fun. After lots of reading and seeing what’s out there, I’m going to go with Guild Wars 2, in part because it sounds like the game designers have done some interesting things to play with traditional MMO game dynamics that I’d like to experience for myself – like getting rid of healer classes, scaling up or down players of different levels so they can play together, dynamic story lines, world vs. world events, multiguilds, and more.
What, You Say? No Healers?!
I know right, that’s what I said too. I’ve been a cleric / priest / healer since the original Ultima days on the C-64 – every RPG I’ve ever played ever, my main is ALWAYS a healer. So what the heck am I going to do in a game with no healer class? I dunno yet, I guess that’s part of the fun!
I pre-purchased the game and managed to play a few hours of the stress test last night (I made a Guardian as a sort of variation on the healer theme), so I thought I’d share some first thoughts with the class in case I can entice you to come play with me.
(Also, I guess this means I’m looking for either a guild to join or, if enough peeps are interested, I guess we can make one ourselves too. Ping me or something if you want to play. 🙂
The Good Things..
First off, it’s just plain fun to come into a new game and a new world that hasn’t already been analyzed, played, and written about to death. It was exciting! I haven’t had that addict’s itch in a good long while, and I’m looking forward to developing a new character and a new story in a new world. I also like that the designers have attempted to create a more complex player class/profession/story interaction than most traditional MMOs do with something called the “personal storyline”, and I’m excited to see how that plays out. Apparently there are over 7,000 different player combinations available, according to the GW2 wiki.
Second, the performance on my machine was terrific. If the experience during the stress test is anything to go by, the servers held up very well; I had one tiny disconnect hiccup, but otherwise the performance was picture perfect with good frame rates and beautiful graphics. All that despite the fact that the newbie areas were completely overrun (of course).
Third, the combat system seemed different and interesting. I didn’t play the original Guild Wars, so I came into this as a total n00b in that respect, but I’m a veteran of a million other games. I only got to level 5 with my first character so I can’t even say I got very far into the combat, but what little I did experience felt somehow a little fresher than I was expecting. Interesting effects and strategies, the “Events” happening nearby that I could go join, and the novelty of playing a new class to me since my old standby of healer/priest/cleric wasn’t an option all made for a fun first impression.
Fourth, it felt like randomly helping strangers was rewarded and cooperative play was encouraged. That’s a very nice touch and a sign of good design if I felt like cooperative behavior was encouraged right from the very start. Especially during something like a pre-release stress test when you’d expect the hardcore jerks to be coming out of the woodwork, but I didn’t get that feeling at all, at any point. It will be interesting to see how that plays out too, when the game goes live, but at least my initial experiences were very positive ones.
Fifth, I really really REALLY liked the Dynamic Events. The Guild Wars 2 wiki defines dynamic events as:
Dynamic events refer to any event that occurs in a persistent area as a result of players interacting with and exploring the world. They are called “dynamic” because there are multiple outcomes that also result in new events, creating a cascade effect. Once an event has triggered, it will develop whether or not a player attends it. Because of this, there is no real concept of failure or success – the result of any event will simply cause a change in the surrounding area. For example, if monsters are successful in raiding an area, they may become strong enough to occupy a fort, which could then be taken by players. 
These are the kinds of things MMO players have wanted 4ever – the ability to actually affect the world in persistent ways. I don’t know yet how pervasive these kinds of events are in the game, but again my first impression of the few I experienced last night left a very positive first impression.
The Bad Things..
All that being said, there were a few not so positive notes in my initial experience.
Why is my first character mostly nekkid?! The first thing that kind of bummed me out was my very first experience creating my very first character (a Sylvari). You go through the creation screen and pick her shape and skin color and hair color and all that stuff, and painstakingly color her armor and accent colors and everything.. but when you first “awake” as a Sylvari, you’re mostly naked.
Why oh why can’t they give the poor girl some clothes to start with? I know it’s cliche for women gamers to be cranky about the way our avatars are portrayed in games, but it really did annoy me. Here I spent all this time making myself some badass ebony and silver armor only to come out to a chick in a bikini – and THEN the first thing I need to do is go run over to someone else to get my clothes. Why do that? Why not start the character dressed in the clothes I picked?
The Sylvari starting area also felt a little too.. cartoony. I’m not sure what kind of artwork I was expecting, and my later experience with a human character felt different, but my initial impression with the Sylvari starting area was that I was playing a game for little kids. Maybe the artwork in that area just doesn’t suit my aesthetic, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.
Speaking of cartoony, the interface still feels a little rough, as does the cut scene artwork. Again, maybe my expectations are too high or I just haven’t played a new MMO in so long that I expected there to be something revolutionary by now, but the whole interface just felt.. not smooth – graphically or functionally.
For example, the interactions with merchants felt a little wonky. I’ve organized my inventory into bags, but when I go to a merchant to sell stuff, I get this big long list of items instead of the visually and neatly organized inventory bags I’m carrying. Why can’t I see inside my bags instead of giving me a big long list, as if I remember the name of every item?
Another example, the big red circle in the center bottom screen indicates my health, but what are the two orange bars on top? I’m not sure and I don’t think it ever told me. And when I have buffs and debuffs, mousing over them for info sometimes hiccupped so I couldn’t tell what was happening to my poor character.
By the time I decided to try playing a human character, the stress test was almost over so I didn’t really get any further than that, but overall the experience was fun and I’m looking forward to checking out the rest of the game and hopefully finding some fun people to play with.
Are you planning to play Guild Wars 2? Let me know here or @fleep on Twitter!