What better way to spend a sunny weekend than playing games indoors. If I had a portable generator I would have likely taken my desk outside, but then I’d have only had sun glare on my monitor. Instead, I packed off my family for three days and decided to stay indoors away from the sun’s rays, playing Guild Wars 2 for more than 42 hours (curse the need to sleep!)…
If you haven’t already read my last Beta Impressions of Guild Wars 2, you should head on over and take a read. I won’t be repeating myself here or covering old ground and instead will be picking out the main concerns raised by other players I encountered on my travels.
First and foremost, there really were some strange complaints; baffling complaints. One particular favourite saw an Engineer bemoaning to me the fact he didn’t know which profession had a flamethrower or turrets, while another saw a thief or two asking where the permanent stealth button was. What this really said to me was that as good as ArenaNet’s marketing is, there is a long way to go in informing the masses of the most basic of details. It’s easy to forget that those outside of the Guild Wars 2 bubble don’t follow it as religiously as someone like me.
Let’s begin, shall we?
My Thief is useless in World versus World!
I wasn’t particularly surprised when I heard people saying this in the Mists. Where large open spaces are concerned, there is the expectation that ranged professiones will always dominate. This, in many ways, is true. However, what the individuals I encountered were failing to understand or appreciate was the necessity to change weapon sets where appropriate and adapt to the situation. Like a ranged profession in Battle of Khylo, a map that has narrow streets and few open spaces, ranged professions are forced to adopt a skirmish approach with shortbow or melee weapons. Similarly, a thief has the ability to use dual pistols or shortbow in WvW (the thief’s shortbow has some wonderful area of effect skills) if they want to remain at range. What was also clear was that many thieves were failing to think of clever ways to utilise their skills. Instead they were rigidly sticking to a melee playstyle and wondering why they were being eaten alive from a distance.
Infiltrator’s Arrow, coupled with Steal and Shadowstep, are three methods of quickly closing distance if you wish to maintain a melee playstyle. Using Shadow Refuge, Roll for Initiative, Withdraw or Blinding Powder are also wonderful escape tools after your initial assault. Combing these skills will easily see you enter and exit quickly and is a combination of skills I used them regularly for that purpose with great effect.
It appeared to me that many look upon the thief’s shortbow or pistol/pistol setup with displeasure as they perhaps assume their damage is significantly reduced or it doesn’t fit their preconceived image of the ‘stealth’ profession. All I could say to that is if a thief still insists on only using melee skills without the supporting skills to dip in and out of combat quickly, there is always the option to undertake additional WvW objectives, such as recruiting an ogre camp.
My pet is so dumb, it just doesn’t do anything!
I’ll hold my hands up, pets are frighteningly inconsistent. Tell your pet to attack and it’ll often stay frozen in place; tell it to use its special skill and it will likely ignore you. Some pets work great and some are downright broken. The Bears (Black, Brown and Polar) it seems have all had their batteries removed and are more akin to a plush toy than a fierce fighting machine. In contrast, the Fern Mastiff and Wolf/Artic Wolf work really well, though there are still some issues with them responding to commands, often resulting in you having to press the attack [F1] or special attack button [F2] multiple times to get them to move.
ArenaNet have assured me and beta testers that they are continuing to work on pet AI to ensure it is up to scratch and I have noticed a vast improvement since the last phase. What is strange though is that there was a massive difference in pet responsiveness from Friday and Saturday to the Sunday. On Sunday my pet was behaving just as it should, where as only days before it was relatively useless. Perhaps ArenaNet dropped a sneaky patch on us. Let’s hope they manage to fix it.
Guardians are so overpowered!
It’s quite the statement and I heard it regularly during the beta. I would be lying to suggest that guardians aren’t difficult to kill, because they are. They can take huge amounts of damage and do reasonable damage. Having primarily played the engineer, thief and ranger during this phase I never struggled against any guardians, though some certainly caused more difficulty than others. I found that when fighting them they were, in many ways, the opposite of a warrior (in a good way); the guardian having more survivability and less damage and the warrior providing more damage but less survivability.
They are certainly a formidable opponent, and I recorded one guardian that survived for quite some time with more than 3 people attacking him. But to suggest they are overpowered simply because they have survivability is very subjective. Inevitably, there are many factors that determine a professions balance:
- Your personal skill with X profession
- Your opponent’s skill with X profession
- Your profession composition (traits/weapon sets/skills)
- Your opponent’s composition (traits/weapon sets/skills)
- Your use of your skill cooldowns
- Your opponent’s use of their skill cooldowns
- The map and layout
I’m not suggesting that Guild Wars 2 balance is perfect (its not far from!) but I’ve never once died to a guardian and thought “They are so overpowered!” or “That skill is ridiculous!” as in hindsight I know I could have done X, Y or Z differently and succeeded.
Engineers are too complex!
I found this really surprising and I honestly never thought I would see the day when people publically complain about a profession being too complicated. I’m also really unsure where this stems from, as Guild Wars 2 gently provides you with an introduction to all skills and tools for your chosen profession, as you level. I suspect it is based on people choosing the profession and teleporting instantly to the Mists. At which point their head melts at the abundance of weapons, skills, utility skills, kits, armour and elites.
On the face of it, I would probably agree that the engineer appears quite complex. In reality, it really is rather simple.
- You have one primary weapon set (Rifle, Pistol/Pistol, Pistol/Shield)
- You can equip “kits” that replace your primary weapon set.
- You can equip multiple “kits” and thus achieve multiple weapon sets.
- Equipping any skill or “kit” in slot 7 to 9 provides you with an additional utility skill bound to F keys.
I believe the “it’s too complex” stems from the fact that the game doesn’t explicitly tell you any of this; it simply assumes you as the player will figure it out. Perhaps it might be of value for ArenaNet to add a greater profession description during the profession selection process, to avoid any confusion. Alternatively they could always add a warning message before joining the Mists; “Visiting the Mists will level your character to level 80 and will provide you with all skills, traits and maximum armour. This may blow your mind if you are new to Guild Wars 2.”
Combat is whack-a-mole!
I was literally lost for words when a small handful of people were discussing this. The Reddit post by Mr. I’ll-Break-The-NDA is now relatively famous, but what I find frustrating is the sheer ignorance of what is a remark without foundation. To be blunt, if you whack-a-mole your skills during later stages of PvE (anything after level 11), and during any stage of PvP you are, by default, going to die. Not only will you will be punished time and time again for failing to manage your heals, your stuns, your parries or knockbacks but you will soon realise that blasting through your cooldowns is nothing short of suicidal.
Guild Wars 2 combat, like many MMOGs, comes to life as you begin to level and acquire more skills. In early PvE encounters you can get away with using all your skills without fear of dying, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from starter zones. They are designed to ease players into the game, to allow them to learn mechanics and the basic functioning of their profession.
Having now invested over 80 hours into Guild Wars 2 I have gone from being inconsistent in 1 on 1 encounter > to competent > to winning most > to capable of taking on 2 or 3 players at once. This wasn’t achieved by me whack-a-moleing my skills, but by making effective use of all my cooldowns.
Dodge is pointless!
This couldn’t be further from the truth. In PvE during the early stages it is likely you will rarely need to dodge. However even during the first boss encounter for each race there is the necessity, at times, to use it. During the Duke Barradin boss in the Charr starting zone, to not dodge in certain instances will see your character knocked back regularly and take heavy damage. The necessity to dodge effectively is even more apparent in PvP. Avoiding AOE, heavy strikes, explosives, mines, standard attacks and ranged fire are all possible with effective use of dodge. If you don’t use it, timely and wisely, you will die quickly and will be easy pickings for those that do.
A recent encounter on my ranger, this phase, saw me survive and kill a warrior and elementalist at the same time thanks to using dodging properly. I was able to keep distance, avoid damage and secure those precious few seconds needed while waiting for my heal to recharge. If I had simply strafed around my opponents I would have died, just on the unfair odds. Instead, I went on to kill them both and another ranger who was nearby.
It’s nothing like Guild Wars!
It really isn’t. This might be stating the obvious , but it’s absolutely nothing like Guild Wars. It was interesting to hear a great deal of people wondering where AI companions were or why it wasn’t instanced. What was also interesting was how strange people find it to have their weapon skills restricted to a weapon; this minor change is clearly something many will have to get used to. Combined with the differences in movement, these are going to be two hurdles for the Guild Wars die hards. Guild Wars 2 does move like a traditional MMOG (It is akin to WoW, Aion or Rift when you hold down the right mouse button) however it must be said that it is massively improved over all of those and I don’t see how anyone can look upon this negatively. Movement is fast, responsive and snappy; exactly what is needed for a game that offers such fun combat. I’m unsure where feelings of the movement being “floaty” come from (I don’t think it could feel any weightier) and I’m also unsure how anyone from Guild Wars can see it as a step backwards. As much as I love the original, the movement did feel clunky and rigid in comparison to newer attempts at the genre.
Besides the above, some complaints ranged from cringe-worthy (“I’ll go healer!”) to the bizarre (“What class do I become as a warrior, if I use rifle?”). The greatest task ArenaNet now have isn’t bringing their product to market; it is probably weeding through the bug reports and forum feedback to find some of the truly excellent suggestions people have made.
It must be said though, that 99% of the people I chatted to during the weekend absolutely adored the game and yet again I can’t wait to see what the next phase brings. Hopefully I’ll see many of you in it.
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