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.
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.
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?
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.
Continue reading for a closer look at combat and more!