Guild Wars 2, as of just a bit ago, is officially launched. I’m not sure I’ll do a “review,” but here are some thoughts with quite a bit of time invested in the headstart plus more in beta.
- The game overall is very strong. Barring the occasional bug or borked event, all of the essential progression elements (tasks, events and other means of gaining XP) work great. The leveling curve is steady but long, which is fine with me.
- Scaling works reasonably well in most circumstances, and this opens up a lot of content that would become trivial or not worthwhile in a more conventional design. It’s not just that you can downlevel and play with your friends, it’s that all the game’s content scales up to you, so there is effectively more doable content than it might at first appear, and the loot and XP scale to your actual level. It’s one element that gives this 100% themepark game something of a sandbox feel — more of the world is open to you at any given level, and a lot of it is interactable.
- Combat is fun while not being too fussy. As in the original GW, most of complexity is loaded into the building aspect of characters but there is a lot more to do with regard to positioning and mobility. The pacing is fast but not so fast as to make it unplayable for those of us with old man reflexes.
- The game world is beautifully designed, and the flow of gameplay encourages you to explore it. Is is the best themepark MMO I have seen for exploration.
- The overall level of nimrodism seems low compared to the original Guild Wars. Part of that is surely that there is much less reason for players to interact until they’re of a level to run dungeons, which happens around level 30. Part of it is also probably that headstart players are a bit more serious, and we may start to see things trend downhill with the influx of people from the actual launch. Find a good guild, is my advice, but that applies in any MMO.
- I have not yet explored WvW as much as I would like, but it looks like it has the potential to be a real wonder. The interesting thing is that the WvW area isn’t just a big zone with PvP objectives and PvP enabled, it’s four huge zones — a whole continent, really — with both PvE and PvP stuff to do. You can fight other players and go for PvP objectives, but the size of the place means there’s plenty of open space as well, and you can wander, as I did, for some time without necessarily encountering hostile players. There’s also harvesting to be done, PvE events and other stuff. It’s a very complete experience, and the closest thing I’ve seen to the old school DAoC scheme where the distinction between PvP and PvE starts to blur. In this sense having one character level that you happen to be able to advance via PvE, PvP or crafting, makes a lot of sense.
- There are a number of annoying but relatively minor issues. At this point lag is one of them except in WvW.
- The still-out-of-commission Trading Post is a major but not critical issue. It’s certainly hampering my ability to level crafting.
- The Overflow system isn’t all it could be. It is, on the one hand, a very clever method for avoiding login queues, but on the other it doesn’t support groups at all. Because the Overflow is by zone instead of by server, you can get constantly kicked into it when you zone, potentially cutting you off from your group, and there is at yet no way to port to the instance your group is in. This last would be an effective workaround, but there’s no word on it that I’ve heard. Even so, playing while you wait is clearly better than tapping your foot trying to get into the game in the first place, so all in all I call this feature a net positive, even though it could be improved from where it is now.
- The instanced PvP battlegrounds are much less interesting than WvW; compared to the amount of craft that went into the rest of the game they seem like an afterthought. I sincerely hope that this is so, and that people don’t start to overwhelmingly gravitate toward them as the fastest way to level, as they did in WAR much to its detriment.
- You now learn weapon skills so fast that the whole mechanic is kind of meaningless. I have a feeling that this whole thing is going to be iterated away at some point.
- Crafting is tough to level up. In principle I am fine with this, but in practice it means that my crafting ability is way behind my actual level due to a shortage of mats for insignias and such, which are vital for discovery and thus good crafting advancement. This sets up a problem similar to WoW crafting in which I cannot craft any item remotely worthwhile for myself. It might be possible to work around this if the Trading Post were up and running, but using alts to gather won’t help, since all tradeskills save cooking use the same mats for these kinds of components, as far as I can tell.
- My RP-heavy server will likely not be a WvW force to be reckoned with, but that’s where I have chosen to roll.