It was the final Guild Wars 2 closed beta last weekend before its highly anticipated release on the 28th. My brother, Lewis B, who left Tap a couple of months ago to write for MMOG site Ten Ton Hammer, invited me and fellow MMOG noob Steerpike to join him to see what all the fuss was about. Between the two of us, our combined MMOG experience before the beta weekend amounted to making a character in Ultima Online, killing a carrion spider in Dark Age of Camelot and spending eight minutes in Rift. We were surely destined for doom.
My expectations were high for Guild Wars 2 after all I’d read (and heard) from Lewis and on the whole they were met or surpassed with only a few things not quite hitting the mark. I didn’t get a chance to play Guild Wars 2 when it was showcased at the Eurogamer Expo last year but it was great to finally be able to sit down and get stuck in and take things at my own pace without worrying about my time running out. Steerpike and I didn’t meet up until Sunday so I had a fair few hours to bumble about on my own and get a feel for the game before we united like noobs in arms.
First up was the character creator which is just a lovely, lovely thing. I didn’t have a clue what race to choose as they all looked amazing: the Charr, the Norn, the Asura, the Sylvari, even the humans — male or female, and some painfully impractical armour aside — were beautifully realised. I didn’t have a clue what ‘profession’ to choose either as they too looked and sounded amazing. Eventually I settled on a Sylvari, a sort of plant-like humanoid, and decided to give the Necromancer a whirl as its abilities to cripple, weaken and drain foes would probably work well with my inexperience, buying me time where possible while I fumbled about. The character creator is accompanied by a series of questions that, in addition to your choice of race, determine the nature of your character’s personal story. This personal story acts as an overarching quest to give you some sense of direction and forward momentum, supplementing the usual sense of progress you gain leveling up, acquiring better gearing and visiting far flung corners of the world. From what I gather, it’s entirely optional too. Over the weekend however, I didn’t get a chance to pursue my personal story due to the countless other distractions that Guild Wars 2 has to offer.
After creating my character I was greeted by a cutscene made up of the loose painterly art that’s become synonymous with Guild Wars 2’s identity. The cutscene set the stage for my personal story and the conflict I was about to take part in. Well, I’d like to have taken part in it but I spent most of my time incapacitated on the floor.
The whole experience would have made great slapstick comedy for anyone experienced in MMOs. I must say a hearty “thank you for not teasing us (too much)” to Lewis, because the dude was more patient than anyone ought to be with us.
Due to a troublesome connection I didn’t get to take advantage of the GW2 beta the way I’d have liked – I got maybe four hours with the B Brothers in the Charr region. These are the kitty people, and we were the Three Kittyteers. With a pet kitty.
Overwhelming? Yeah. Confusing and disorienting? Assuredly. Intimidating? Without question. But like Gregg I had a hell of a lot of fun.
In a couple of lines, I can sum it up: the game is unfairly gorgeous, looking almost as good as anything I’ve ever seen on the PC. The combat and play are – to use Gregg’s word – “thumpy,” versus the sort of click-wait-click-wait of many other MMOs. I was in the US but connected to a European server (so as to hang with my United Kitty brethren) and had zero lag. Zero. My connection problems were my own, not the game’s. I don’t know enough about MMOs to say whether GW2 will be a revolutionary thing, but I can say that ArenaNet really seems to have delivered what they intended to deliver. I wish I’d had the chance to play more.
Thanks for the great write-up Gregg!
Also: look at me there at the bottom of page 3! LOOK WHAT A BIG KITTY I AM!
Not that size matters. Just saying. I was a pretty big kitty.
I was in love with the first Guild Wars and this one definitely seems worth my while to check out…as much as I enjoy The Secret World and think it’s pretty great, I just still don’t care for monthly subscriptions.
Great write up Gregg, absolutely brilliant. I’m going to be linking to it over at Ten Ton Hammer tomorrow 🙂
I really enjoyed playing with you both, it doesn’t matter to me how much of a beginner either of you are: I’ve always played with worse! 😉
I did have a lot of fun though, especially showing Gregg round at the end of the weekend only to think he’d got disconnected when in actual fact he was just busy drooling.
In relation to the fact it’s so intimidating, it really is and the genre itself is quite insular in that respect. I do think however Guild Wars 2 is incredibly easy to pick up compared to any on the market and seeing Gregg demolish the Elementalist in the Mists (an AI controlled training dummy) was really impressive.
I hope you’ll all join me in it when it launches, it’s going to be a wild ride 🙂
Oh and I’ve linked you on GW2’s Reddit 😉
Nice article man, though I would say that as any kind of journalist writing ‘me and Steerpike’ rather than ‘Steerpike and I’ is a pretty basic thing to get right 🙂 Sounds pedantic I know but journalists should be the keepers of correct language and grammar I reckon. Or at least I feel journalists should aspire to be. Great article otherwise.
Thanks for the feedback Jib. Edit: Eek, I see what you mean. Corrected.
@Steerpike: I forgot to say that size doesn’t matter when I referred to Lew’s pint-sized Asura! Watching his Mesmer in action was quite the sight though: size clearly didn’t matter one bit.
@Dix: Yeah, the one-off payment for Guild Wars 2 is a real boon and I reckon a lot more copies will shift because of it. I know I wouldn’t be anywhere near as interested if I felt financially obliged to play each month. I don’t know what I’m playing from day to day, never mind month to month so a monthly subscription could be a waste of money.
@Lew: Cheers Lew!
Just a few quick notes (after finding this from the GW2 subReddit) in case you’re curious. Or something.
The heart tasks you refer to, like helping fight off the termites at the tree, and escorting the Sylvari with the lizard into the cave of undead, are Dynamic Events. The renown hearts aren’t really associated with those, but in many cases, completing an event will simultaneously work on the goals for a nearby renown NPC.
After speaking to a number of people on varying forums, I’m pretty sure that the downed state for the first tutorial boss is hard to avoid, and intentional — simply to show you what the downed stated is like. I’d change it if I could to make it more obvious that it’s a tutorial-esque thing, because personally I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I was doing wrong.
I just wanted to note that the little starting tutorial area is there to put a sense of grandness to the game, you don’t start off like in most games killing wolves or *shudder* “Moss snakes” but rather it starts you off with an epic fight. It’s hard to avoid getting downed on the fight, but it is possible if you are experienced, if you are inexperienced you should get downed and that’s okay! it’s intentionally there to introduce players to the downed state. You cannot actually get defeated in the tutorial from the downed state so there is no worry there there is no real urgency, though that is poorly relayed to the player. It’s just to give you a chance to see how it works, reading the tooltips is a good idea, ignoring them leads to confusion if you don’t already understand it. Basically if something dies nearby you rally and get back on your feet. It’s a good idea to read through the abilities but number 1 is always an attack and number 4 is always a channeled bandage that is interrupted when struck, so if things are ignoring you you can bandage yourself to get back on your feet, also others can revive you which you noticed later.
Also as to the heart quests, well they were a late addition to the game and a necessary one, originally they didn’t exist and it was all about finding dynamic events, however players quickly got bored because they didn’t know what to do, there was no direction for them, so hearts were added, to draw people to areas where they could run into dynamic events. DE’s are the meat and potatoes of guild wars pve leveling content, they have excellent rewards and it’s best to do them whenever you find them. The scout after the tutorial explains this very well though he was bugged for the Sylvari, no sound and all, and many people don’t want to take the time to listen, then get confused. Dynamic events are very dynamic and though you didn’t see it because of all of the players in the area, they can be failed. It looked repetitive because you didn’t get to see the different pathways that can be taken. For example in a standard MMO you might have a quest NPC that says his daughters were kidnapped by centaurs and he needs you to go save her. In GW2 that won’t happen, instead there will be a DE, and you will see the town get attacked by the centaurs, if you hold them of, great! but if you fail they kidnap the girl and take her back to their lair, this will trigger a new event where you get to take the fight to the centaurs bust into their lair fight your way through them and rescue the daughter! Much more interesting than static quest systems imo. In the live game there will be a live support team that’s sole job is to basically fly around the world and change DE’s here and there, so they can be even more different and dynamic because the chain could change to something else entirely.
Anyways those are my two cents for you, hope you find them helpful/illuminating.
@Nkuvu & Jon, that’s my mistake in relation to the wording for the termites and escort based on it being near a renown region 🙂 I’d completely forgotten they were the start of a DE.
Thanks Nkuvu and Jon. My brother Lew oversaw the article before it went up and said the activities that I was calling ‘events’ were actually renown hearts (the last time he was in the Sylvari area they apparently were renown hearts) but it transpires they were indeed events, which explains why they were happening independently of me.
Followed the link from Ten Ton Hammer.
I enjoyed the article, as I always like getting a fresh perspective on games from somsone who has never tried the genre before.
Well done Gregg 😉
I’ve played through all 5 of the racial starting areas in GW2 and would have to agree that none of them give a clear, direct tutorial lesson to new players. Even though I’ve played way too much Guild Wars over the years, I did find the mechanics of the starting areas lacking. With the game’s shift from a “Magic the Gathering” based strategic game to a more action oriented MMO, it would really benefit from a succinct tutorial like that found in Team Fortress 2 or, at the very least, a context sensitive system like that in the God of War demo. There is a lot of blather in the Guild Wars community about the unlocking of weapon skills acting as a teaching tool; but, giving a child a pack of flash cards is not the same as taking the time to teach a child through the use of flash cards.
There definitely is a lot to do in the game, and plenty to see. The combat is responsive and graphically flashy too. Although GW2 has much in common with “invisible dice” rpgs like WoW, I found that I played it more like a third person shooter than like a role playing game. I wonder, being that you aren’t a big MMO player:
How did the action feel for you? Was it viscerally exciting or more aesthetically interesting?
Though I’m sure to play Guild Wars 2, I find it disappointing in the action category when compared to God of War or Ratchet and Clank. I don’t get the sheer joy of the ranged combat that I do from Team Fortress or even Fallout. Still, I like the feel of the game a lot more than I did Vindictus or Dark Age of Conan.
If you’re interested, I clicked through to this article from Lewis’ post on Ten Ton Hammer. I thought it was really cool that Tap got a shout out through there.
@Steerpike Yes you were such a big kitty. It’s so comforting knowing that in the future, as the game says, “The Big Kitties [or — um, charr] shall rule!”
I’m also glad to know that the European servers gave you no lag. I play Guild Wars on the International servers to avoid the inane comments of the American children on my home servers. It’s comforting to know that I might still have a refuge if I get fed up with the warm and fuzzy kids on the home team.
Enjoyed this write up and I agree with all of it. It was interesting to start a 2nd toon in the 3rd bwe. When I got into the first beta, I played through flawlessly because I just had read so much about the game. So the whole lack of a tutorial didn’t hit me.
Well, I played The Secret World beta and I was beyond lost and felt the beginning was a mess. It is too, but I also hadn’t read up on the game like I had with GW2. That got me to thinking, was GW2 beginning just easy because I knew about it? I watched a Jesse Cox video on the beta of GW2 and couldn’t understand why he was so lost until I played TSW. So, come the 3rd beta I went in with a bit more open mind as to being bright eyed and bushy tailed (also, it was the Asura area, so not as much known). What I came away with was a mix of being overwhelmed and underwhelmed all at the same time.
Where was the tutorial? Why did nothing show me how to dodge? Why was the downed state just thrown on me rather than built up? How did I get from stopping a few haywire robots to a massive cubix monster? (Who looked great, btw) I had missed part of the three part quest chain because someone had already started it and when I went through the portal, the boss fight was in progress. I got knocked down, the fight was over and I was a hero. But why? I do hope to see some changes to the start, even if it’s a few months after release, hopefully before. Not so much for me, I know what I am doing but I would think these improvements would really help encourage new players to look more into the game than it does now.
@Fang, I think it differs from GOW or Ratchet and Clank in the sense it isn’t either an action RPG or an MMOG. It straddles the two and finds its own space within the confines of an MMOG genre: skills, cooldowns and mobility wrapped up in invisible dice rolls (of sorts). GOW can often feel punchier based on the fact that they aren’t limited by any of the above though recent combat changes such as a shakey camera when you’re smashed to the ground, or a brief blood spatter when you critically hit make it feel incredibly punchy.
In many respects, I consider Guild Wars 2 offers the finest sense of combat in any MMOG on the market the nearest rival is Age of Conan- boy that was satisfying. As for Ranged combat, it’s the first MMOG I’ve played where I’m actually using melee weapons based on how satisfying they are, although the Ranger in World versus World raining arrows down on foes from a keep wall is incredibly satisfying.
Lastly, I think World of Warcraft only got a tutorial a couple of years ago which is absolutely staggering. It really should have been one of the first things ArenaNet did rather than the cold bucket of water to the face approach it has now.
Thanks for the comments everyone and it’s (kind of) reassuring to know that I’m not alone with regards to the confusing introduction(s).
@Brown Fang: In the past when I’ve watched my brother playing WoW or even the original GW, combat’s always looked a bit disconnected and ‘floaty’ to me but with GW2 everything seems a lot more connected and snappy; enemies flinch and animations and effects ‘pop’, so to speak. I only ever played the first God of War (not much mind) and my memory tells me GW2 feels similar (only with cooldowns and many more possibilities abilities-wise). Given how much the game revolves around combat and how much I’ve enjoyed the weighty and responsive combat in games like Dark Messiah, Mount & Blade, the Souls games and Bioshock 2, these are all very welcome steps towards that. I don’t think GW2 will quite scratch my ‘visceral combat’ itch in the same way as those games do, but when you consider how open it is to experimentation with gear sets and ability combos I’m hoping it will more than make up for that. We shall see!
@Ian: Good to hear you went in with new eyes and noticed some of these things yourself. I’d like to see a tutorial similar to that of the PvP area where each mechanic is isolated, explained and then handed over to you to try out. I’m not saying everything should be explained but certain UI elements could be tied in with specific actions that in turn could follow on from other actions so you’d get movement > looking around > targetting > attacking (UI abilities) > dodging (stamina bar) > taking hits and hitpoints > incapacitation and downed abilities > reviving and anything else. That would pretty much prime a newcomer, everything else could happily be discovered from there I think.
@Gregg & Lewis Thanks for the swift replies.
The real testament to the quality of Guild Wars 2 is that despite the many gripes I have about the game, I still want to play it. Little things like swimming next to a whale near Lion’s Arch or performing a swirling axe attack in the middle of a chaotic mob keep me interested. The game fits nicely between twitch-fests and skill bar database games for those of us who enjoy shooters and have fond memories of pen and paper rpgs.
We will soon see if all the promise and potential of the game remains worthy of mass attention.
Lewis, please tell me you did bring Greg for a skinny dip in Lion Arch! It’s truly a must!
@ Gregg B. I didn’t do pvp because I just got so caught up in the pve. I think I visited the mist once but I believe that resulted in a massive frame rate drop for me, so I didn’t stick around. I can’t wait to visit come launch, though. So, it sounds like they know how to show people the tools needed to learn the game, but they need to somehow put those into that starting area. Hopefully that is a good sign that they have an idea of how to show it to players and will do so in the near future. 😉
[…] Tap-Repeatedly — Guild Wars 2 (Noob) Beta Impressions. “It was the final closed Guild Wars 2 beta last weekend before its highly anticipated release on the 28th, and my brother Lewis B, who left Tap a couple of months ago to write for MMOG site Ten Ton Hammer, invited Steerpike and I to join him to see what all the fuss was about. Between us (me and Steerpike that is) our combined MMOG experience before the beta weekend amounted to making a character in Ultima Online, killing a carrion spider in Dark Age of Camelot and spending eight minutes in Rift. We were surely destined for doom.” […]
@ Corey, I sadly didn’t 🙁 There was so much to show him I completely forgot. He’s got to find some things by himself 😀
@Ian: I agree there should be at least something taught about dodging. With how important dodging is in GW2, so much more than the downed state, I was surprised at how so much of the initial boss scene was spent on teaching the downed state without anything about “let’s help you learn to dodge”. An initial reflex tutorial & test just before going into battle would be sweet.
Gregg, this was really interesting once I got round to reading it (I’m a slow reader, you see) – particularly the cosmic confusion that erupted as soon as you started the game.
As you know, I’m not a MMORPGer but I’d love to just wander around and gawp at everything.
@HM: To quote your Bloodline Champions reaction: “I was out of my depth. This was not my beautiful house. This was not my beautiful wife. My God, what have I done?” That’s kind of how I was during the intro, a bewildered talking head.
The wandering around and gawping is something I’m looking forward to more than anything else at the moment. Well, almost anything else, it’s up there. I sometimes wish I could do the same in Dark Souls but… yeah, hard stuff in the way.
I didn’t mention ‘vistas’ which are these points that trigger pretty videos of the area. They remind me of those vista points in Fuel which I wasn’t really a fan of but here they feel more rewarding because of the sweeping cinematics. I’m led to believe that most of them are tricky to reach and require a certain degree of platforming skill. If that’s the case then I suspect they’ll be fun little diversions.