Because I have a bit of malaise regarding SWTOR at the moment, I decided to take advantage of ArenaNet's GW2 promotion for a 'free weekend.' I've heard a lot of things about Guild Wars 2, some good, some bad. I decided to find out for myself.
First off, GW2 is gorgeous. Not like, 'Oh hey, that's a good looking MMO'-gorgeous; the real, true gorgeous of a well-crafted videogame. GW2 is stunning, even on medium settings (I played on high ... it was remarkable). Draw distance is impressive, character design is amazing, environments are bewildering. This is, quite simply, one of the best looking games around. And that it's an MMO is mind-blowing.
|Near the Black Citadel|
Character creation is fun and different. I instantly became attached to my Charr Warrior; almost everything was customizable (even tooth size!). You answer a little questionnaire at the end that helps round out your backstory and some of the NPCs you can interact with give you one of three conversation options. based on how you made your character. It's a pretty neat way to handle creation and I think other MMOs should take heed.
Combat is fast and ... frankly, infuriating. It plays like an action game with MMO trappings. Some may think this is a good thing, and I'll agree that it's very different, but not for my tastes. The action-oriented fights reward those with highly-developed twitch based skillsets. Dodging blows is a clunky affair, requiring to you either dodge back with 'V' or double-hitting whatever movement key associated with the way you want to dodge (w, a, s, d). It never works as well as it should and it rarely works as intended. Several times I dodged straight into oncoming fire.
|I found two-handed hammers my favorite, by far.|
And let's talk about combat, fire, and the general feeling of it. Muddy. That's what I would call it. The movement and attacks aren't crisp and responsive. Sometimes, I felt my character was running in quicksand and the ability delay between button press and ability activation was occasionally intolerable. Several times I died due to ability delay or poor movement response.
And oh boy, let's talk about dying. I consider myself a pretty veteran MMO player. I've had characters in LoTRO, WoW, RIFT, SWTOR, DC Online, Star Trek, Forsaken World ... I pretty much know what I'm doing while leveling, and died very, very minimally. But in GW2? Yeah, I was dying left and right. Combat is super fast and the spell effects block a lot of what's going on. The game is also very brutal, using a level-down component that lowers your effective level to match what you're facing. This is designed to keep things 'challenging.' What I find is that it keeps this frustrating. I'm level 10, so why is this level 6 imp kicking my ass? Why am I getting ram-rodded by this low level pack of beasts? Oh, because I'm functioning as if I'm level 4. Gotcha. That sounds like fun, right?
|I fought this level 3 worm as a level 11 Charr Warrior. Oh, I mean a level 4. Silly me.|
The story of GW2 is pretty good; I only got to level 10 with the Charr Warrior, but I also made an Asura Engineer, a Silvari Elementalist, and a Norn Ranger. Got a level or two with each, just to see what it was like. They were competently done (the Asura was especially awesome), but none of them really grabbed me like the Charr. Those beast-men are like the Klingon/Mandalorian/Tauren combo that I've always wanted. To be frank, the Charr are better Tauren than the Tauren of WoW. There's a bestial savagery there that's pretty awesome to behold.
|The Charr does the haka. The awesomeness of this cannot be denied.|
Overall, I find GW2 to be a competent, beautiful, but occasionally frustrating game. The combat really needed to nail the action component, and I feel it came up short, critically in some areas. Other than that, it's a wonderful game full of atmosphere and art. I always told myself that if GW2 went on sale one day, I'd pick it up and give it a shot. Now that I have, I'm glad I didn't try it at full price. In fact, the free weekend has pretty much cemented my assertion that GW2 just isn't for me. And you know what? That's ok. I can definitely see why many people play, and love, Guild Wars 2. I hope Guild Wars 2 stays strong and healthy; we need these type of games to push the envelope of MMOs. I may not like everything they did, but I definitely respect what they have accomplished.