Guild Wars 2 Final Beta weekend impressions

Well I finally did it; I finally got a chance to pre-purchased Guild Wars 2. Just a day before the Final Beta weekend too. Client was about 19gb, and with just a day to download all of that before servers go live, I made sure my PC was only doing one thing - downloading. When it finished downloading, I get word that servers are up (Perfect timing). So there I go spending my whole weekend to get as much first-hand info about the game before it’s Aug 28 release(Aug 25 for pre-purchased players). It was a lot to take in, three days was definitely not enough, but I got enough game time to say that Guild Wars 2 is definitely raising the bar for future MMORPGs.

When I placed my login info and found myself getting in ArenaNet servers, the nerd in me was all pumped. I finally get a chance to try out Guild Wars 2. But I had no idea how I’d react to the game. Even if you like a game based on videos and released info, if the game doesn’t feel right for you, it just won’t work. I’ve had over-hyped games turning out disappointing this year, so I was hoping this wouldn't happen to Guild Wars 2.

Player vs Environment

After going through a series and question during character creation, and completing the introduction part of your character’s main story(With an epic battle against a dragon at level 1) I was left in the first town to do whatever I want. Right off the bat all the main features of the game are instantly accessible. I can see the option in my character menu to port in the PVP Island, or port to the World vs World map, but I chose to wander around the PVE content for now.

One thing I noticed right away is how the game feels completely different from other MMO’s. Usually you would get an idea on how everything works by a couple of hours, but the game brings so much new mechanics to the table that it felt like playing an MMORPG for the first time. The Weapon skills, dodging, the game stats, and the fact that you can use spells/skills while moving made the game feel completely different. Even when you did a bit of research about the game, actually playing it takes time to get used to. How I used to play past MMO’s felt wrong, so I even had to throw certain habits out the window. It felt good, but it was a bit overwhelming. There was so much to take in.

Dynamic Events replaces the traditional questing in most MMO’s, and shows up the minute you hit your first town. The game informs you that a certain event is going on when you character is nearby. At the top right corner, there is a description on what you need to do during the event. Once the players do enough tasks, everybody is awarded experience and gold based on how much you’ve contributed during the event. It felt good playing side by side with players to complete one event. Having more players is not even a burden at all in this game. I usually prefer questing alone since I get it done faster, but it’s the other way around for Guild Wars 2. The more players joining each event, the faster and easier it gets. So working together is highly encouraged, and this is felt right at the start of leveling. The max level is level 80 and the map shows a total of 300+ dynamic events in the world. It could be even more of that because I've found events that weren't on the map.

Dynamic Events don’t really have a story to follow, just tasks that need to be done. All the story elements of Guild Wars 2 are reserved for the main story of your character. If you want to continue your story, go ahead. If you want to skip it and keep leveling, it’s possible to do that too. I did not find any restrictions to progression because you haven’t progressed through the main story. I won’t spoil the story of course but the quality of the  voice acting and characters you meet are worth mentioning. No cheap dialogue or horrible voice here. All scenes are well constructed to make you not press that skip button. Your character also interacts which is hardly present in games like these. I didn’t go deep into the story (Played Sylvari story) that much since this is just the beta after all. I only had three days anyways and thought of investing my limited time with the game somewhere else for now. But it does look like they dumped a large amount of content to each race’s main story which is based on how you answered the questions during character creation(Possibly three different story branches based on player choice during the story).

Lion's Arch

The game even encourages you to leave town which is a good touch to promote all those Dynamic Events. NPC’s literally walked up to you asking for help and lead you to an event happening outside the town. I played the PVE content of the Sylvari all the way up to level 16 and noticed I was getting hooked, playing as if the game was already released. So I jumped into PVP to get a better understanding of my class.

Player vs Player

Hit your characters menu screen and just clicking the PVP icon will instantly teleport you to where all the PVP happens. Just like the first Guild Wars, you hit the max level, have a standard set of level 80 gear, all your skills unlocked, and the option to reset your traits as much as you want. It was time to get my ass whooped.

I didn’t do much research about the Engineer class. I was only familiar with a couple of skills that I unlocked when I hit level 16. Having all the skills unlocked got me a bit confused, and the fact that I also don’t know how other classes work yet made it worse. So one day was purely spent on PVP, and eventually got the hang of it in the end.

PVP is not at all gear dependent from what I see. The game revolves more on the build of your character and the set of skills you bring to a match. There are a lot of possibilities in character builds and I was able to come up with a couple giving different styles of play. I even created a support build to help fellow guildies during matches, which is actually my worst creation (Never won).

The objective in PVP is a domination type of gameplay called conquest. Each map has three key points that two teams fight for control. The more areas a team controls, the fast the points rack up. First team to reach 500 wins. Each map has that game type but with different twists. For example - One map allows each team to have a trebuchet that when controlled and fired by a player, it can cover the main control point of the map making it a key element to win the match.

PVP will be a grind in Guild Wars 2. Capturing points, winning matches, and even killing players earn you Glory points which is another form of currency to buy PVP items. Glory also raises your PVP ranks and each time you increase in ranks you earn PVP chest rewards. They say every 10 ranks also unlocks Glory vendors for more gear but I wasn’t able to reach rank 10 to test out those vendors. There are 30 ranks in the game and it looks like it will take a while to reach the last rank. I spent the whole day on PVP and I was only at rank 7. There will be a lot of grinding for sure.

There are also different types of tournament formats in PVP. There are single elimination tournaments or monthly tournaments that have a point system. Then a yearly tournament format to show the world the best PVP players in the game. Competition is going to be fierce because winning tournaments earn you some loot and of course, bragging rights. They have solid gameplay and it has the potential to be played for months. Just as long as they keep the game balanced.

There’s a lot to unlock in PVP, but sadly there will be only three available maps with one game mode when the game gets released. More will be added in the future.

World vs World vs World

Trying World vs World vs World was next on my list. When I entered, I was again on confused on what was going on. NPC at where you start give a good explanation on what needs to be done in order to succeed but I had no idea where to start. The map is huge. So huge that they divided it into four maps.

To put it simple, three game servers fight for control over these very large maps. Taking control of towers, supply camps, keeps, and castle earn you points which gets added to your overall war score every 5 minutes. For example – If your server controls 3 supply camps (5 points each), 2 keeps (25 points each), and 2 towers (10 points each), after 5 minutes the game will add 85 points to your total score for your server. At the end of the match the server with the highest points wins specific rewards for your server to enjoy. On release, each match is about two weeks long.

It’s definitely complicated. We are talking about hundreds of players from three different servers duking it out for control. When I participated in the World vs World, I simply just joined the biggest bulk in the map. It again took awhile to get an idea on how to help but it was definitely a lot of fun. Especially when you group with fellow guild members and friends.

Storming keeps requires the whole server to cooperate. That's really the only way to do well. I saw multiple players doing different things in order to breach the keep which was an amazing sight. A group were constructing siege weapons on one side like catapults and arrow launchers, some are running back to the nearest supply camp to gather supplies which is required to construct siege weapons, others were sniping enemies using defensive siege weapons such as boiling pots of oil being dropped on the gates, and cannons. It was crazy.

I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in World vs World, compared to PVP and PVE. I just wanted to try it out and save it for when the game releases. If you want to level while doing PVP, World vs World will work for you. You get scaled to level 80 in terms of damage and life but does not bump your character to level 80, so you can actually level up here. Playing World vs World at low levels will be tought since you won't have all your skills unlocked. But don't thin you're completely useless in the batteflield, you can do a decent amount of damage if done right. When participating in keep captures, doing player kills, you earn experience and money, which is neat alternative if  PVE isn’t working for you.

After getting a taste of almost every game feature, I felt like stopping already. Not because I wasn’t satisfied, but because I’ve done what I went in to do - Experience all aspects of the game. I was satisfied with what I saw during the final beta weekend and urged for more. But I decided to save the rest for the full game.

The game looks amazing for a Buy to Play MMORPG, and the gameplay feels solid and unique for both PVE and PVP. There are still a parts of the game I'm curious about - Like character itemization, the game’s dungeons, class balance, how level scaling actually works, and if the game will feel repetitive from level 1 – 80 on PVE. These can only be answered on the full game of course so I'll have to wait. But Guild Wars 2 is definitely a game that could break the standard MMO formula we all know. It will be hard to get used to but that's the beauty of it. It removed so many of what we are used to and provides us with something completely foreign, making it fresh for even veteran players. Keep an open mind when you play Guild Wars 2. There’s a lot of great idea in this game which could shape future MMO’s.

In release, I will be playing a Charr Engineer on the server Isle of Janthir with the guild Myrmidons.