I prepurchasd Guild Wars 2 this past week. As others have pointed out, the whole “prepurchase” thing is a dangerous precedent. I personally justify supporting it because I really don’t buy all that many new games anymore, a trend that I see continuing. This year I’m buying GW2 and last year I bought Skyrim. The last brand-new title I bought before that was Warhammer Online in 2008. So much for staying atop the curve, but I did play both Rift and SWTOR in beta.
Almost all of us in the MMORPG blog space have by now seen the guts of Guild Wars 2 in broad outline, whether via the myriad videos now showing on YouTube or directly in one of the various beta trails happening. I’ve watched a lot of videos but have not been in any of the events. Having committed to buying it makes me hope that it’s less damnably frustrating than the first game.
GW2 is sure to improve on the original in a number of ways, even without considering the actual innovations which are, to my mind, still untested in a live environment. Once a game goes live the dynamic changes, and what you have a couple of weeks in is very different from what you saw in beta. Warhammer Online was the perfect example of a game that was terrific until it launched, where the dynamic that worked so well with a limited number of fairly serious players completely disintegrated when the launch tides rolled in.
Considering that GW2 is doubtless several months away from release, we actually know quite a lot about it considering where we are in the process. That two of the five starting areas and races aren’t yet in test is a bit worrying, as is the fact that anything over level 30 is still under NDA. But we are still some way out yet. For me the big question is whether I’ll find it as goddamn frustrating as I am finding the original. Hopefully not, and I think I won’t.
GW2 will fully abandon GW’s greatest crimes against MMO-dom: its linearity, its lack of free movement, and its instanced, non-persistent world. Right now I’m most worried about how well the controls handle, and that’s something that each player will decide for themselves. I won’t know until I actually get to play it. GW1’s controls are, to me, very imprecise, much more like those of an Asian game than of a traditional western MMO. The tab-targeting is also very irregular. I can handle both MMO controls and shooter controls readily, and hybrids like DDO or AoC, but I have a real problem with MOBA and Diablo style controls. My failure to make GW’s interface second nature is likely part of the reason I find it aggravating.
Speaking of GW, I am progressing through its content, although the irritation level really hasn’t decreased. I hopped back over to my old main (a Prophecies Warrior,) tried to run him through the mission he’d been stuck on, promptly got stuck again, and instead of pissing around with it anymore took the Eye of the North starter quest from Lion’s Arch and headed up there. It’s still frustrating — I feel like I’m playing the whole game at the -60% max death debuff. Getting rid of it entails going back to an outpost, and you never know whether doing that will reset already-completed objectives — sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. I get rezzed in the middle of mobs and die again instantly and no combination of tactics or NPCs seems to improve survivability all that much, and my Warrior build is kind of gimped because up in the North you fight a lot of stuff that doesn’t bleed. I have changed that build, but doing so involved going back to the Prophecies area because of the special buff you get in EotN while you’re below 20.
On the upside, EotN content is less linear than that of the older campaigns, because the zones are considerably more open and there are multiple paths through at least parts of the main storyline, and because everything is intended for level 20s so there are a profusion of side quests. My Warrior is now level 18 and I intend to at least complete the Ebon Vanguard arc, which is the one I’ve been following. It would be nice to at least reach the level cap before I throw the goddamn things across the room in frustration. And at least I have gotten to see some of the EotN content.
GW2’s races are (expect for the Charr,) introduced in Eye of the North. I have not seen Sylvari yet (I’m told they actually come into existence during the storyline,) but there are Norns right away, and I’m being pleasantly surprised by what I have seen of the Asura, a race I saw as something out of Final Fantasy and which I was prepared to despise. They’re actually kind of cool from what I’m seeing so far, although I’m not yet following their storyline.
The main EotN story is kind of flat in its conception — you’re up against “Destroyers” that are pretty vaguely defined up to the point I’m at — but excellent in its detail-to-detail execution. The intro quest that takes you from whatever old zone to the North is very simple but has a nice tense atmosphere going on. Do you race the clock to the means of escape (and there’s not a lot of time to fart around,) or do you risk a look back at the pursuing Destroyers? It’s like Halls of Reflection but better.
Right now I’m still playing. It’s a lot farther that I’ve gotten in Guild Wars in the past.