Knights of Eminence impression compilation

This was my facial expression throughout the whole weekend.

by Raymond – also including impressions from Kysin and Tsskies

Overall experience:

After five years of waiting and following the game very closely I thought I knew what to expect. I did not, however, expect to start the game at 5-10 frames-per-second. I also did not expect to be able to log in 45 minutes early. I was caught off guard and it wasn’t the grand opening I was expecting but things started to get very good very fast.

If I had to rate my beta experience I would give it a 98 out of 100. It was that good. There were a few bugs and I had a few concerns and even mood swings, but I never found myself wanting to take a break (except when I was hungry or tired). PvE was an absolute delight, WvW was amazing and the character creator was just plain fun.

Despite having one of the best weekends of my life, I owe it to ArenaNet to give the proper feedback and criticism the game deserves so the developers can benefit from my 40+ hours of beta experience. So here are the subjects I wanted to touch on, good or bad:

1. Combat

Before even fighting I bound my 5 weapon skills to my mouse’s extra mouse buttons (Logitech G500 so I had seven skills bound to my mouse). Controlling the game just felt natural from that point on. I did not find myself running past my enemies before swinging as much as I do in other MMOs and I had no trouble rotating the camera while moving and using skills. Learning the skills was, strangely, not nearly as easy as it was in Guild Wars 1, yet it wasn’t too overwhelming (as a warrior) and it felt like there was a lot of good depth behind the skills as well.

In my experience large group combat wasn’t actually very strategic UNTIL the beta closing event. I tell you what, a couple of the overflow shards on Maguuma were more coordinated taking out Black Moas than the teams were in WvW. This is a beta issue though and I know I can’t expect too much from new players running at 1-5 frames-per-second in chaotic crowded action. There were a few dynamic events where Tsskies and I actually needed help from strangers, so that was good.

Here are some bullet points on the subject of combat, but I just want to say that the game was pretty difficult and that’s a good thing so I left a lot of my own lack of skill out of this list.

Suggestions:

  • Leave the skill effects exactly how they are for at least the player and his/her party. They look and sound really good and got in the way WAY LESS than other player’s bodies.
  • Better mark players who are downed but not defeated, it’s often a VERY good idea to res them but they can get a little hard to notice.
  • Balance the Hounds of Balthazar so they can START with a lunge attack instantly when the player id already attacking a target. I kept casting the skill and finding it kind of a kill joy that they either stood around for a second or just ran to the target. I felt like when I pressed the skill button they should pretty much already be in the air about to pounce the target offering a satisfying feel and instant burst damage.

Bugs and concerns:

  • The dodge can feel a little sticky, not sure if it wasn’t just lag though. NOTE: I was not using double tap. I like to use a dodge button instead.
  • “Kill the warrior first” seemed to be the running theme between NPCs and WvW invaders. It was very hard to melee and not die. I know it is supposed to be challenging, but I did not feel useful to my team when all I could do was hit and run.
  • Often found myself accidentally luring a distant target just by shooting a rifle or using greatsword skill number 5 on the warrior (it charges an enemy.) Perhaps program in a grace period for cases where you activate a skill a second or less after your target dies, you do not auto acquire a new one if it is not already aggroed.

Engineer impressions from Tsskies: “I loved playing as an engineer, but I found kits a little difficult to pick out. I used up many of my skillpoints on kits that did not fit my playstyle because the skill descriptions were vague and it was very difficult to predict what skills the kit would actually put on my skill bar. I really did enjoy playing with a rifle and turrets though.”

2. Crafting

The best gift a charr can give.

My time with crafting was rather short lived because I ended up selling most of my materials to afford a trait book, but Tsskies got a good amount of experience with it. He writes:

“I found the crafting system enjoyable and will definitely be crafting on my main. This time around I choose to do leather working and huntsman due to the fact my character was an engineer. I found much more rewarding than other MMOs which seem to punish you for choosing to craft until you reach the highest crafting level. While I enjoyed crafting a lot I ran into some problems:

  • The balance of leather and jute seemed to be off. You mine copper you buy tin, you cut down trees and you have wood, but with leather working I found it to be another story where I always had a 4 to 1 ratio of jute to leather. I was always looking for leather. It just felt a little rarer than it needed to be.
  • Inventory space. It was difficult to sort through and store all of the relevant crafting materials so it still is much easier for those who choose to ignore crafting and just sell everything.”

3. PvE – The open world

I spent the most time with this aspect of the game and got to level 32. I thought there was a cap at 30 so I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to keep going, especially in zones that capped out at 25 so that proves leveling in at least slightly lower level zones is totally viable. It was addicting to say the least, but I hope the higher level zones offer a greatly different experience compared to the starter and second zones because I could see it possibly getting old.

I needed to near do almost all of the hearts in all six zones to get to level 30 by rushing static content and doing a few dynamic events in between. A lot of baddies were just standing out there doing nothing but they didn’t bother me that much. The frequency of running into dynamic events exploring seemed appropriate to me, leveling would feel a little grindy without them.

However my biggest complaint about the entire beta is the respawn rate of static enemies. After all of the things that Guild Wars 2 fixes about MMOs I did not stop to think of some of the things it might not have fixed (yet) and this is one of them. It’s the feeling of fighting all the way into a ghost fort and not being able to roll backward or turn around because all of the ghosts behind me had already respawned. Instead of feeling accomplishment for clearing a hall, I feel like I’m trying to draw a deep line in dry sand. So here’s my suggestion on how to fix it along with a few others and bugs/concerns:

Suggestions:

  • Dynamically scale NPC respawn rates in caves and forts up and down based on the number of players inside it, not outside and not by the number of players on the server.
  • I got items for 100%ing a zone but I did not notice any EXP. It could have just been me, but ff there actually is no EXP for 100%ing a zone I think that should be changed. EXP is what I was expecting and hoping for, though the items were awesome.
  • Put some patrol routes or something on the NPC enemies who are standing around.
  • Put a circle range around hearts on the map when players are inside the appropriate area. Can be hard to tell where the true boundaries are.

Bugs and concerns:

  •  I’m concerned that it may be a little too easy to 100% a zone and there may be an overall lack of desire to revisit many of the zones after reaching level 80.
  •  I did not find any interesting armor at all (aside from the disturbing-to-swim-in/no-underwear-male-chainmail-skirt) in my beta experience. It all looked very much the same. I was hoping even level 1-25 would have some nice variable armor and weapon art.

Exploring impressions from Kysin: “It was great, no quest running is best defined by the word, liberating. I was free to roam and help where I pleased, while the heart quests are usually to “kill a certain amount of this” or “pick up that”. There is a good chance you will be killing those creatures anyway, since they are in the directly surrounding area. It must be said that there are some really interesting “quests” as well. For example, I had to use a special gun to net and capture some drakes for a training camp. So its not always typical run and gun quests.”

4. PvE – Dynamic Events

There’s an unspoken rule that rangers do not rez their own bears.

Dynamic events were the best part about the game and I’m starting to feel a lot more at ease about them being pretty much the primary feature for PvE content. While many of them were similar in objectives, there was plenty of variety as well. I did not expect to start an event when I attacked a wounded moa bird (What? Yes I know I’m heartless, but you should have seen what I did to the line of innocent crows on top of a rock in a skillpoint cave). Overall I give the DE system two thumbs up.

I really enjoyed the desire to chain events, they were really rewarding if I could do several in succession then defeat a big boss. I think I made half a level’s worth of EXP off of the last three parts of a chain where we assaulted a Svanir post and I was even like level 26 in a zone that maxed at level 15. There was a bug in it that I forgot to report though, so here are the suggestions, bugs and concerns:

Suggestions:

  • The sylvari area in the SW corner of the human 15-25 zone got overrun by undead just a little too often, perhaps slow that one down a bit unless it actually becomes a place where you commonly find players (I only saw one other player there throughout the entire beta).
  • Maintain the current frequency of running into DEs, they are the most fun way to level up a character.

Bugs and concerns:

  • In one of the Svanir events we had to defend an NPC while he tried to take a tower or something and the goal was to kill the Svanir rushing him. However, the 20+ players who were participating were shooting the baddies as they spawned and most did not count on the event status bar because they were too far from the NPC we were protecting when they died. It took much longer than it needed to because of this.
  • Make the participation credit for event where the warband invades the Flame Legion HQ in the NE corner of Diessa based on how long players stand in the circles, not how many kills they get. I always got silver on that event even though I helped capture both circles for their full duration. There just weren’t enough enemies to go around.

5. PvE Ascalon Catacombs

I got in a pick up group for the dungeon on the last hour before the beta finale and then it took me thirty minutes just to be able to get the catacombs to work right. So I’ll just jump right into the suggestions and bugs here:

Suggestions:

  • Add the ability to cancel a currently running story mode dungeon straight from the UI. This is what took me a half-hour to figure out. How to cancel my own dungeon so I could join my party leader’s.
  • Make those Ascalon Captains less impossible for melee characters. The first one we ran into (in the room full of ground traps) I was unable to hit with my sword as she had constant knockbacks/knockdowns going.

Bugs:

  • Key to the first door did not spawn from the coffins on the first attempt.
  • If you run out the gate portal back to the open world, Rytlock follows you and hangs at the gate next time you enter. Make him return to the dungeon waypoint so we don’t have to go back up there and fetch him.

6. Game User Interface

The only part of the UI I could count on.

The UI has a lot of potential but it was the least functional part of the beta. I like the layout, the minimap features are cool and it looks nice, but there are a lot of bugs to fix and so much potential for more features. Again, straight to the suggestions and bugs on this subject:

Suggestions:

  • Really would be great to have an ingame /help feature. Much like GW1, but this time I would like to see the Wiki open in an ingame browser.
  • Have a little tutorial bubble pop up the first time I move my cursor over the “deposit collectable” option on items, I really have no clue what it did except remove the item from my inventory.
  • Make all of the skillpoint books collectables that can be deposited or something because they crowd the inventory and I wasn’t sure if I should trash them or not.
  • Add an option to remove the thin black paintbrush strokes around the edges of the screen. It just feels so much more clear without them to me.
  • Add a channel for proximity chat so people in events or caves can communicate even in times where local chat is disabled to avoid seeing miles of debate text flying up the screen on whether mounts should be added to the game or not.
  • Leave the text bubbles over party member’s heads in the game, even if just optional. I found them helpful.
  • SCREENSHOTS, seriously we need actual real support for them. Using /sleep is not a sufficient substitute and there is no way to hide your pet out of combat. Here is what needs to be done: 1. Some way to hide your character when standing still, does not have to be zoom, could be just a button. 2. After that is added, make the camera center on our /sleeping and /sitting characters so we can take centered screenshots of them doing these emotes. 3. Provide out-of-combat rangers a means to hide their pets, even if just in cities.
  • A way for a party to transfer to an overflow shard to play with their members would be super nice.
  • I would love to know how many people are ahead of me in a queue so I know if I have time to go do something else or if I should just wait it out.

Bugs and concerns:

  • Party and guild chat would often not work when first logging in. Type in the channel and nothing comes out.
  • Parties and guilds did not accurately track player’s levels, names and professions, especially if they left the area at some point.
  • No way to easily determine where out of area party members are.
  • No UI designed for dungeons at all except a few options when touching the portal in.
  • Splash/droplet effect on the “camera lens” when exiting the water destroyed framerates for its duration and even changed the color saturation until it finished.
  • Canceling a votekick can get the votekick extension next to the player’s icon stuck on the screen.
  • Moving my cursor to the edge of my minimap often showed the name of a party member who wasn’t in the area.
  • Can not rotate your character in the creator when the UI is hidden.
  • High res screenshots cause the shaders in the sky and water to get all boxy and segmented.
  • Daily achievements reset at the weirdest times and even twice on Sunday. Since I was on almost every hour of the beta I know something wasn’t right. Perhaps they were reset to help people make the last minute level rush?
  • Achievements that grant titles showed a crown at the end no matter how many steps I have left. So I was deceived into thinking that in just 100 resurrects I would have a title, but when the bar reached full it just increased the standard to 500.

7. The character creator

Is it creepy if I thought my classmate had cool eyebrows?

Pretty much every other game that has a character creator has an almost decent feature tied to a slider and as you move it left or right it changes to various levels of “eh” and “EUGH!” but this was not the case with Guild Wars 2. I was never afraid to touch the sliders and that in itself is just plain amazing. At one point I was making a ranger and decided “hey, I’m going to steal the idea for her eyebrows off one of my past classmates,” and I was able to do that. Its pretty much the first time I left a character creation screen feeling successful.

It is a little bit tough to make a hardcore looking male human though due to the almost absolute lack of wrinkles on all of the faces. I would like to make my character look like hes maybe 30 or 40, but it is a bit difficult to get past 20 with the options available. Still, youth may be a integral part of the personal story (which I did not touch in this beta), so if that’s the case then good job ArenaNet. However, that does not explain why there is an older looking female face.

Most of her skills break her own bones!

Suggestions:

  • Make the character creator remember your face even if you change a profession, what if I change my mind about what profession I want to play after I’ve spent time perfecting a face?

8. PvP – World versus World

I was blown away by this, it was so much fun. Kysin, Tsskies and I were just adventuring in the borderlands and we all fell off a cliff and lost half of our health, and we just then noticed that we landed nearly right on top of four invaders. I thought we were equally as surprised as they were, but I guess not because even with our severe health disadvantage we managed to dispatch of all four of them and lived to gloat about it.

I did not play more than an hour or two of WvW, but Kysin did so here is what he wrote about it:

“Even with all its issues at the moment, it is by far the best MMORPG PvP experience I have ever had. So when it is optimized and perfect, it will be legendary. At the moment, Melee classes are pretty much fodder when attacking in hordes (each horde tends to keep a distance from the other instead of mixing), but more deadly in small scale combat. While ranged characters can still do damage from safety in a horde, they can get overwhelmed in small groups or a 1v1 fight. This problem is counteracted by the fact that every class has the use of some sort of ranged weapon. It is really important that people understand, WvW and PvE are intertwined. As you gain traits and level up in PvE, your character will become more effective in WvW.”

“I can honestly say, I had the most excitement in WvW, it was really incredible. Whether it is taking a castle/keep/outpost with a group of 30 teammates, or winning a small skirmish out in the wilderness. You feel great (unless you lose of course). I personally scored around 90 kills over the weekend. each kill was exciting as the last.”

9. Graphics and sound

Even the fish here are friendly.

There is no doubt about it, Guild Wars 2 looks so good it gives me goosebumps. It brings a tear to my eye. It’s… It’s AMAZING. Take all of the events and NPCs out of every map, remove leveling and achievements and exploring would STILL be extremely rewarding. This is art at the highest level.

The sound is top notch as well, most of it at least. It had a few bugs, but it held up extremely well in the most chaotic and crowded areas without popping or stacking. The voice-overs however, weren’t quite as polished. There were several cases where NPCs were missing voices and even a few where females sounded male.

Either way, we’re looking at a game with the potential to flatten every other game in existence in the artistic sense.

Suggestions:

  • Add some sort of filtering on the female Quaggan voices, they don’t sound very underwatery in their current clear form. I found myself immersed in the underwater culture when I heard the booming low voices of the male Quaggan, but the females kind of broke that immersion. Not that the males couldn’t benefit from the same filter too.

Bugs and concerns:

  • There seemed to be a 50/50 chance when I entered into combat that all of my sound would go a bit faded and muffled.
  • Sometimes my sound would go choppy. Usually corresponding with bad framerates, but not always.

10. Conclusion

Guild Wars 2 truly does have the potential to be the best game ever made. It looks like there were a ton of bugs when they are listed like this, but they never seemed to concentrate to the point where they ruined much enjoyment. It was a pretty smooth beta for those of without login or account troubles and I can not wait to see how many bugs are squashed in the next beta. You better watch out, developers, if you squash too many of them you’ll have to release the game and stop hoarding it all to yourselves. 😀

Beta screenshots:

TsskiesRaymond

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