Community Beta Review – Page 1

Introduction

Written by Raymond [DarkWasp] and the contributors listed on page 5

With all of the betas behind us, only one major event remains: Release! While we can hardly wait for that day, those of us who played in the beta events will not forget the memories we made while testing the game. Now we can take those memories and how we witnessed the game grow, and evaluate our experience. The best part is: A review of a beta can work as a preview of a release. So if you skipped or missed the betas but want to see what the community has to say about them, this article is for you. If you attended the betas but want to compare your experiences or just need something to do to kill the time until release, you can keep reading too.

This article describes our personal experiences with the game and how it applies to the readers, so you will find many “I”s, “we”s and “you”s. In addition, I did not start writing this review without the backup of other people who played in the betas. I posted a series of questions to several community forums and to my guild and received 14 excellent responses.

I am bestowing upon these players the title of Community Reviewer, so when you read that title in this review it is referring to the 14 who contributed. You may also find them referred to as respondents. I would like to extend my thanks to them for helping by adding diversity to this review in some areas and reinforcement in others. You may find the list of contributors at the end of the article along with a few direct quotes from them.

Table of contents…

PAGE 1 – INTRODUCTION
Favorite beta event
Content density
Cash shop and trading post

PAGE 2 – THE MAP OF TYRIA
Lions Arch
Cities and tutorial areas of each race
Other areas

PAGE 3 – COMBAT
Leveling milestones and builds
Review of the eight professions
Review of PvP

PAGE 4 – ISSUES, DIFFICULTY AND WISHES
Issues

Difficulty vs crowds
What we want to see at release

PAGE 5 – CONCLUSION
Summary
Credits (List of community reviewers)

Quotes from community reviewers
Bonus for beta participants

Favorite beta event

The game changed a lot over the course of three beta weekends. The first weekend had its rough moments, but in the end, we could not wait to come back for more. As the first chance for most of us dedicated fans to play, Beta Weekend Event One had to stand up against our high expectations and the mixed emotions we felt after waiting more than five years for the chance to try the game. The beta also had to compete with the heavy Guild Wars experience many of us had.

Personally, I was a little thrown off course by how much the skill system differed in the sequel. At first the skills and many other features of the game seemed very lacking, but they got better as I learned more about them. I feel I would have had more patience with the learning process had I not gotten so accustomed to modern gaming. 

It seems like most games these days offer instant gratification and heavily front-load the content, however Guild Wars 2 does not save all of the best for first. I consider this a very good thing, I like knowing that the game changes and gets better as I spend more time with it.  However, it did leave me having to seek fun rather than having the game throw it at me on an autopilot course. So for me the first day of a beta weekend usually consisted of a subconscious, “What am I supposed to do to make this game as fun as I expected?” or “How do I have as much fun as I did in the last beta weekend?”

I asked the community reviewers which of the beta events they liked the most, and they responded with a fairly even spread across the three events. However, a small majority recognized the first weekend as their favorite becaue it was their first chance to play the game. One even got to play in the press beta a month before the first beta and favored it for the same reason. Some liked the second beta the best as it allowed them to continue their characters from the first beta and pick up where they left off. Finally, Beta Weekend Event Three was the most polished of them all and included the much awaited asura and sylvari races, so it is no surprise that some of the respondents enjoyed it the most.

One mentioned that he played his favorite profession during the second beta weekend, which made it the most fun. Some only joined in for the last beta so they could not comment on the previous two. One got to kill an ArenaNet staff member’s character in world vs world PvP and enjoyed that. Also, some noted the finale events that ended off each beta weekend.

The first beta ended with a horde of  large and dangerous black birds scattered all over the norn starting area and a score counter for killing them that unfortunately did nothing. However, it ended up fun hanging out with the community anyway. The second weekend’s finale involved players becoming corrupted and turning against the remaining uncorrupted players. The event failed to trigger for many of the servers, but that didn’t stop the server I played on from having an awesome slumber party while we waited for a the developers to fix it. The finale to the last beta was sort of like a playable version of The Hunger Games, players had to collect and eat rations to stay alive while either eliminating the enemy teams or surviving until all of their foes starved to death.

We can be sure that ArenaNet has some pretty epic tricks up its sleeve for holiday events later this year.

Content density

None of the betas allowed us to play the full game, the content was locked down to roughly level 35. However, we could level our characters all the way up to 80 if we wanted to, and the cities had NPCs offering dungeon and karma rewards that helped us preview what the higher level content had in store. However, several features including dance emotes and most of the mini-games were locked out as well. So at this point it is impossible to see exactly how much more “full” the game will become on release, but we probably have a pretty good idea.

Every response I have gotten from the community reviewers on the subject of content density has been exceedingly positive. There is always something to find or do while out exploring in Tyria. Guild Wars 2 rewards you for playing whether you have an objective or not. As of now there is no set strategy to maximizing your PvE experience. Just get out there and check every corner and mess with everything you find. Several responses mentioned how the world design really complements the density of the game’s content. Almost every gap that is missing a dynamic event, treasure chest, puzzle or map objective has at least something interesting to look at, whether it be gorgeous cliff side views, intriguing architecture or strange relics.

Dungeons are packed with content as one run is not enough to see it all. Each time you go through a dungeon you could run across a different path than you previously experienced, and the end rewards each time can be traded to an NPC for special armors and weapons. From what we have seen, we have plenty of awesome armors to look forward to. Unfortunately, the armors dropped in the betas were not the best representatives of that. I and a number of others from the community felt it was difficult to find much variation in armor appearance during the beta. However, we had only experienced low level content and very few completed the one dungeon we had access to. With enough effort I was able to obtain a pretty sweet level 40 greatsword from dynamic event rewards.

Overall the game’s content is very dense. If you try to brush through 100% of the low level content with a fine comb before moving up to a higher level area, you will definitely hit level 80 before you even enter a level 40 zone. However, I advise not taking the such a ground-up approach as lower level zones become an absolute delight if you take a break from them and return to them later.

Cash shop and trading post

Very few of the respondents even looked into the cash shop, but there is still concern that it does not go overboard. One mentioned how cool it is that the cash shop currency could be obtained with ingame currency. I too find this very exciting because one of my biggest gripes about micro-transactions is that instantly buying cosmetics can feel really lame compared to earning them. I have already put some real money into gems to support ArenaNet, but I am looking forward to earning the rest of my gems in the game.

Now I have to admit, so far there is nothing in the cash shop that I want to buy. If anything, there are items in the cash shop that I would prefer if others could not buy. One of the community reviewers mentioned, and I am so glad because I agree completely, that the modern sunglasses and boxing gloves need to disappear before release. Replace them with some sort of asuran shades and unique norn boxing gloves and everything becomes alright.

During the betas the cash shop options were pretty slim. Though I expect to see more after release, because I doubt ArenaNet added a whole town clothes feature for just a few options. Normally I am opposed to even cosmetics being closely tied to micro-transactions, but the addition of gem trade has me excited for them. My biggest hope is to see a character makeover feature added to the shop, because I always find flaws on my characters during play that I miss in the character creator screen.

Overall the gem store is fairly exciting, it isn’t quite worry free yet, but it could get there. A lot of people are still concerned about the slippery slope into selling advantages. While “slippery slope” is know as a common fallacy, it is also pretty accurate description of almost every cash shop in video gaming history. ArenaNet means well though. It’s a good start.

The community reviewers were much more talkative about the trading post however, though still many chose to save it for release.

The trading post is bound to the same UI as the cash shop, but it has a full section to itself. Of course during the beta events the economy suffered from neglect, but many will utilize the trading post after the game releases. Guild Wars 2’s trade system is very simple. When buying you can either meet the lowest seller and buy the item instantly, or enter your preferred buying price and wait for a seller to sell it to you. The same can be done the other way around. If you have played EVE, then you should know this system. It is much less of a hassle than managing auctions and shifts in the market can be felt more quickly.

A few of the respondents pointed out how the game has so many more convenience features tied to item management than most games. There is no need to hold on to items to sell later, you can post them right to the trading post from your inventory. You still need to visit a trading post NPC to pick up your gains, but at least you have cleared that inventory slot up.

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