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Updated Guild Wars 2 Hands-On Impressions

Updated Mon, Jun 06, 2011 by Sardu

Last week we gave our readers a detailed look at ten things we learned about Guild Wars 2 at PAX East, and we even provided a unique perspective on the overall fan experience at the event. But the burning question we have yet to address is: what was it like to play the latest demo build?

For my updated hands-on impressions of Guild Wars 2, I’ll be taking a slightly different approach than the usual fare of “I saw a moa, I traversed a portion of the map, and then I spoke to some NPCs” that has no doubt clogged up your GW2 RSS feeds for most of the past week.

Instead, I’ve attempted to turn a critical eye towards the most standout elements of the game based on my brief demo session. So if you’re looking for some detailed analysis of combat, character creation, and more, strap yourself in and be ready for a whirlwind tour of the good, the bad, and the charmingly ugly in the latest Guild Wars 2 demo build.

Guild Wars 2 Separator

The GW2 PAX East Demo: Who, When, What and Where

As orginally discussed last week, I managed to snag the last available demo station during the early VIP access at the NCSoft community event...

Kormir Says: It was a blessing because there were no dedicated demo stations for members of the press this time around. Also in the blessing category, due to my original demo PC having an unrecoverable graphical error due to heat issues, I ended up being joined by Global Brand Manager Brian Porter who discussed the game with me as I played.

Grenth Says: It was also a curse as my demo time was nearly halved due to needing to wait for a new demo PC to get hooked up. Likewise, since I spent my demo time talking to Brian that meant I didn’t hear any of the in-game audio which can have a pretty direct impact on the overall experience.


Sardu Says: Unlike my previous demo experiences, I got to play Guild Wars 2 sitting down this time, and without a few hundred fans leaning over my shoulder. This helped me feel like I wasn’t quite so far removed from the natural habitat of my office and made it far easier to turn a critical, analytical eye on the game as I played than these events typically afford you.

What I Experienced During the Demo

  • Norn character creation and starting area (Guardian Profession)
  • Thief combat (level 30ish areas surrounding Nebo Terrace)

It’s no secret that I have a primal instinct as strong as the need to eat, sleep, and drink coffee to play as a necromancer in any game awesome enough to make them an option. But having done so for my previous two GW2 demo outings I opted to resist the urge this time around, and instead decided to focus wholly on the newest reveals in the demo build.

Now that we’ve all shook hands and gotten the formal introductions out of the way, let’s dive right in, shall we?

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Guild Wars 2 In-Game Necromancer Description

Thoughts on Character Creation

Hopefully ArenaNet will do Queen Jennah proud by announcing the Mesmer as one of the two remaining professions. Then again, wouldn't it be crazy if they threw us all a giant curve ball and announced that the 'final two' were actually cylons? If they do I call dibs on the name Gaius Balthazar.

As with previous demos, certain options during character creation have been switched off, such as the ability to tweak your human male’s facial appearance to resemble a 250 year old Prince Rurik. But given the robust and highly unique (at least in the MMO space) character biography options, character creation in Guild Wars 2 still leads you down certain paths that I keep wishing MMOG developers would realized don’t cut it anymore.

The most important decision you will ever make in any MMOG is also one of the first you’ll be asked to make in Guild Wars 2: your profession. And, just like every other game on the market, you’re expected to make that paramount decision based on a single paragraph. What's up with that?

While it may be a given that hardcore fans will have read up on the various professions in the game long before launch, I still consider it a poor judgment call for developers to assume this will be the case for everyone who installs and launches the game. All it would take is a very simple “Advanced Profession Description” button with some examples of core abilities, combat style, or even broad look at what gameplay is like for a mid- to high-level character from that profession.

This would go a long way towards helping players make a more informed decision from the start rather than playing through 10 levels only to decide that they should reroll because the first profession they chose wasn’t what they thought it would be based on that single paragraph approach.

This is something that ArenaNet has plenty of time to expand upon prior to launch, but for now I found it to be a more blatantly obvious omission than the ability to tweak my eyebrow depth in the demo. I’ve seen countless MMOGs lose early adopters due to the onset of altitis because they had to make such a critical yet uninformed decision within the first two minutes of launching the game, so hopefully ArenaNet can plan accordingly to avoid the same fate.

Guild Wars 2 Separator

Continue reading for a closer look at combat and more!

Call me crazy, but your idea for initiative sounds to me much more like WoW's combo point system than the way I understand initiative to currently function. The more small things you do, the more powerful the large move is at the end. The way initiative works now, you can unload the big moves right from the start more easily because initiative exists. I do not see that way it is now to be anything like combo points.

Perhaps I am misunderstanding your point?

yes you're right. In guild wars 2 we don't have to do the A > B > C described in this article at all, in fact we can do A > A > A, B > B > B, or C > C > C. Whatever we want

While playing the thief, as I was learning the various weapon skills, unless I had the 5 Initiative built up to use the skill in slot 3 I got repeated on-screen and chat box messages alerting me, "Not Enough Profession Specific Resources". I do have video of this but the audio quality isn't that great so I opted to not embed it in the article.

At any rate, unless I completely misunderstood where the on-screen / chat spam was coming from, it was because I had to use my small attacks (slots 1,2,4,5) to build enough initiative to use the big attack (slot 3) which is where the A>B thing comes from. This is also consistent across different weapon sets I tried.

You freaking assmaggot, Initiative works like energy not like combo points, you have full initiative at the start of the battle and then you can unload whatever spell you want which consumes initiative. Initiative fills up on its own, there are no skills that provide it, they only consume it. Therefore, there is no set rotation, it's like playing a normal rogue but with NO combo points, what you say just makes no sense rly.

@Paterah: You are a dirty little nerd. Getting all worked up about a random article about a video game? Your mother would be ashamed...since you probably live with her you should probably go say you're sorry. Or, I'll just tell on you next time I'm inside her.

You were trying to play it like a WoW Rogue, which has to build up combo points for the stronger attacks. In fact, you were DEPLETING your initiative by using the smaller attacks, not building it up, so you kept running out. It's called initiative for a reason: you start with it. It recharges automatically over time, at one point per second.

No idea what this fool is talking about really, I played thief at PAX and it plays nothing like an WoW rogue, mainly because they kept the somewhat similar energy mechanic (albeit as initiative) but got rid of the combo mechanic, in other words you are not forced to do the same rotation on each enemy over and over, you simply do what ability you want to do from the get go, therefore not limiting your gameplay at all.

Great Read thank you

For what it's worth I was basing my "impressions" here on what I experienced in a very small window of time with the thief. I obviously mistook the constant stream of "Not Enough Profession Specific Resources" popping up on screen to mean I needed to build resources, not wait for them to replenish on their own.

It's unfortunate that people on GW2-guru chose to call me out for "bad journalism" when I'd even gone on those forums to express that I had clearly made a mistake here. But rather than anyone bothering to accept that I was left with the wrong "impression" of the profession, I'm called an assmaggot here, and claimed to be hurting the game even though I've been a very, very vocally positive supporter of Anet and everything I've seen for GW2 so far.

Oh well.

I'm cutting the "offending" portion out of the article completely so it will no longer get everyone's panties all bunched up.

I've updated the article to chop out the offending mention of the initiative system. Even though I have clearly stated in the comments here and on the Guru forums that I based my impressions on a very brief hands-on session with the thief and misunderstood the way the resource system for the profession works, that's clearly not enough.

Since I don't appreciate being called an assmaggot or being cited for "bad journalism" all mention of my hands-on with the thief profession has been removed from the article.

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