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Guild Wars 2 Press Beta Impressions - Part 1

Updated Wed, Feb 22, 2012 by Sardu

Following the press beta event for Guild Wars 2, it occurred to me that there is absolutely no way that I would be able to encapsulate the entirety of my experiences in a single article. The game is just too different from anything you think you know about what an MMO can be, and far more awesome than any other title currently on the market or in development.

While I realize that’s a pretty bold statement, I have absolutely no doubts that once you get the chance to play GW2 you’ll be nodding your head in agreement and exclaiming, “You know, Sardu was spot on in his assessments about Guild Wars 2 being the MMO equivalent of the creation of sliced bread.” True story.

Realizing full well that it would be a challenge to properly convey just how monumental an impact GW2 is going to have on the online gaming industry, I created the handy reference below chart below. I thoroughly encourage you to take full advantage of your right mouse button, select “Save Image As…” and post this chart anywhere and everywhere you can think of as you traverse the web in the coming weeks.

GW2 Chart of MMO Awesome

Graphical representations of how awesome Guild Wars 2 is can be a handy means of spreading the word about why people need to drop what they’re doing and pay attention to this game, but I know that people are eager to learn why that's the case.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the handy chart to Everything You Need to Know About MMOs is easily worth ten times that amount. When it comes to GW2 I could write that much and more, but for now I'll kick things off by giving you some of my initial impressions from the beta event.


The Ever-Changing Landscape of Tyria

One of the first things you need to know about Guild Wars 2 is that no matter what level your character is, all content in the game is meaningful. While there is still an XP bar that helps mark your progress towards accessing more challenging content, you never have to worry about running out of things to do even at the level cap.

On the first day of the beta event I was fortunate enough to spend the day grouped with Colin Johanson, and joined at various points by Bobby Stein, Jon Peters and other members of the AreanNet development team. In the span of 6 or 7 hours we managed to advance our charr characters to around level 15 or 16 before opting to dive into the Eternal Battlegrounds to check out some world PvP.

As we ran around the low level charr areas it was readily apparent that we could pick any direction or objective to complete and there was always something incredibly cool and interesting at every turn along the way. Each time we’d pick an area of the map to check out, before we were half way there an event would kick off and keep us occupied and entertained for the next 20 minutes. And there are a LOT of events to check out, each one having the potential to branch in different directions every time you’re in the area.

One of my favorite parts of the game is that you will automatically be sidekicked down to a level appropriate for the area you’re in, so you can always go back to check out events you may have missed the first time through. For example, as our group made our way through the charr starting area we would double back and hit some of the events we hadn’t yet completed. Even though we were level 15, the content in level 5 areas was still just as fun and rewarding as if we were playing it for the first time at level 5.

It’s a brilliant system and one that means you’ll never have to worry about out leveling content, or being able to group up with your friends regardless of any level differences between you. The net result is that you will never get the feeling that you’re playing GW2 “on rails” or being forced through annoyingly linear gamplay just to hit the level cap like you do in basically ever other MMO currently on the market.

So even though GW2 does have a leveling system, you'll never feel like you're logging in to grind XP. In GW2 you log in to do one thing: have fun no matter what level you are, no matter which direction you choose to explore that day. Speaking of exploration...

Rewarding Exploration

The dynamic events system in Guild Wars 2 isn’t the only reason for players to go out and explore. Opening up your map you will see various skill challenges that offer the chance to earn additional skill points. Players unlock 1 skill point per level, but you’ll really want to go out and complete some of the available challenges so that you can unlock more healing, utility, or elite skills to use in your PvE and world PvP builds.

Some of the challenges we completed on the first day of the event were as simple as engaging an NPC in combat, but others were placed in hard to reach locations that required a fairly coordinated group to obtain. A number of these challenges will also give you collectable books that can be placed in your bank vault, and provide some additional lore based on the particular skill challenge you completed to obtain it. There are currently a total of 45 of these that can be placed in your vault, along with numerous other collectables you’ll earn through different aspects of gameplay.

Another incredibly cool thing that Colin showed me was one of the exploration challenges that can be found all over the game. In the recent Beta Development Update on the AnreaNet blog, these are described as:

“Our amazing environment artists have carved out a variety of caves, cliffs, and structures in the world. We’ve been stretching our imaginations to fill these spaces with content that should provide an exciting change of pace. Some areas will test your platforming abilities, requiring you to make a series of difficult jumps before you find your treasure at the end, while others contain dangerous foes that will stop at nothing to see you dead.”

Rather than attempt to explain just how challenging but utterly cool these areas can be, I’ve put together a short teaser video of one such area found in the Ascalon Basin area of the charr starting zones. To avoid too many major spoilers, the following video only shows the first part of the area up to the point where you start running into various traps.

The traps in this particular puzzle ranged from the spike traps you can see represented by red circles on the ground closer to the end of the video, to a corridor filled with flame traps that you have to dodge roll through, and a seemingly straight forward run up some stairs that can end in a quick dirt nap if you don’t dodge falling boulders fast enough.

Here’s a tip for anyone who seeks out this particular challenge: bring some friends along. That way, if you get zapped by the traps you’ll have an easier time keeping one another alive as you ascend this particular jumping puzzle.

Personal Stories are Pure Win

While we were only able to progress our personal stories up to level 20 during the beta event, it was still more than enough to make an extremely positive impression. As early as level 3 or 4 you’ll get to experience the direct results of the biography choices you make during character creation, and the choices you make at each step along the way continue to branch out in interesting new directions.

In the interest of avoiding any major spoilers I won’t detail the exact story progressions I was able to experience. However, it’s worth noting that on two different human characters I created over the course of the weekend, both had 100% unique personal stories based purely on the choices I had made. The storylines are extremely well written and thoroughly engaging, and were easily one of the highlights of my beta experiences.

Hats Off to Kristen Perry’s Excellent Dye System

Before I wrap things up on my initial impressions from the beta event, I have to draw some attention to the excellent armor dye system in GW2. Players will start out with an assortment of different dyes that can be applied to each piece of armor, and while that aspect of the system is pretty awesome in and of itself, one thing I was really impressed with is how new dyes are obtained.

As you’re out adventuring, defeated enemies have a chance to drop seeds that you can take back to an NPC in your character’s personal instance. The seeds take a little time to grow, so you’re given a ticket that you can take back and exchange for a random dye on the following day. Once you do, the new dye will be placed in your inventory so that you can either double-click it to add to your personal collection, mail it to your friends, or even place it on the market to sell to other players.

The available color combos I was able to mess around with during the event could radically alter my character’s appearance, letting me create the exact overall look I was after, especially when used in conjunction with the transmutation stones available for karma points on the event vendors.

For example, I really enjoyed the design of the crafted armor set I made for my necro, but I also didn’t want to be just a carbon copy of anyone else wearing light armor who took some time to experiment with the crafting discovery system. Not only that, but as I was out saving the locals from bandits, centaurs and krait I kept finding more masterwork quality armors. With enough karma points I was able to transfer the stats of the dropped armor to the look of my crafted gear, and then using the dye system I was able to radically alter the base look of the armor set to fit my personal preferences.

While something like the dye system in GW2 could easily be overlooked in favor of some of the flashier gameplay systems, I felt it was absolutely worth mentioning as one of the highlights of my beta experiences.

Stay Tuned for More Beta Event Coverage

In my initial impressions I’ve really only scratched the surface on a few of the highlights from the event. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be taking a closer look at some of the major aspects of gamplay I experienced, including structured and world PvP, crafting, combat mechanics, and a whole lot more.

For the necromancer fans out there, don’t forget to keep an eye on my GW2 necro fan site, NecroBator.com where I’ll be posting more info specific to that profession, such as the detailed look at the trait system published earlier this week.



well, i must admit one thing...

i was up to the whole guild wars 2 hype day one they announced it, and i check gw2 fanpages every single day since than, never used TTH for that - and now you guys proved i was blind to miss out such a fine source of information.

Thats a great article, very nice video footage and i cant wait to see more of your work on this topic.

Thanks!

So are those traps an instant death? Also what was that squeaking noise in your video, the chat?

A couple of the traps in that one were instant death. The spikes and boulders were for sure, but you can get hit with the flames and still survive provided you don't get hit too many times.

I'll have to go over the footage and listen for the squeaking noise you mentioned. There *are* some audio queues linked to chat, but you can adjust most of that stuff in the options menu. Otherwise, it was probably one of my minions -- didn't really need to keep them summoned during the platforming, but I also wanted to see if they would help trigger any of the traps since they sometimes run ahead of you when you stop moving. They didn't trigger them though, but at least now I know! :)

"Guild Wars 2 was so deadly in fact, that its competitors would go blind from overexposure to pure awesomeness.

SWTOR: My eyes!
WoW: He's too awesome!

Rift: And attractive.
Gamers: How can we repay you?

Guild Wars 2: There is no charge for awesomeness. Or attractiveness."

Great write up... I hate you for getting to play before me! Everything about this looks incredible! I will lose many hours to this game... Guess Im going to be neglecting my children for awhile when this comes out.

isn't GW2 still under NDA?

there was a press beta this past weekend and their NDA was lifted Monday.

Glad to hear they have dyes. I really enjoyed that in LotRO. "Little" things like that make a big difference.

Hopefully there will be a way to turn off the grunting/squeaking noise every time you jump over something. That got really annoying just in the five minute video...

I tried to fight it, but I have now officially drank the kool-aid of GW2. I can't wait to play this game and I think that this might be the game-changer that we've been waiting for. Plus, I can't stop drooling over the many cool gameplay aspects of the game.

Absolutely! Jumping puzzles! How refreshing!

It all sounds too good to be true. I really have to play it to form an opinion worthy of noting. However, this is the one and only game that may restore my faith in a genre considerably dead to me and others I know...

Kool-aid for everybody!

I don't think this is Kool-Aid.

I was a huge huge Vanguard fan back in the day. HUGE. Like, all over the VG official forums, knew everything about the game, could answer any question, etc. I suspect the author is the same way about GW2--clearly knows his sh*t, right? So, what happens when you take a hardcore fan and stick them in a game they've been anticipating forever?

I'll tell you what happened with me in VG. When I got into beta, I instantly noticed all of the things about the game that didn't measure up. And I was incredibly disappointed. And I was the first one to write reviews on the forums saying, "This is not what Sigil promised us, and I'm sorry I drank the Kool-aid." I was still hopeful, because I was really thinking that maybe Sigil would hear all of us and start fixing all of the broken things, or maybe even delay launch for a while, but I was still vocal about the problems the game had. We all were. So...

If you stick a fan into a game they think is going to be, like, the second coming of MMO Jesus...you're very unlikely to get a 100% positive response UNLESS the site either totally lacks integrity and is kissing dev ass (I'm looking at you, IGN), or the author really and truly had his expectations met on many levels. I really do think TTH has shown a lot of integrity. Their writers are fans of the games they play, but they're not fanboys. So that leaves only option #2--unmitigated awesome.

This preview makes me want to play GW2, and I was still thinking, "Meh, I'll try it because there's no monthly fee" before. Now I'm totally, "Give me GW2...NOW!" lol

Level up to 15 in an hour or two, sounds like a kool aide smitten fan boy to me. That's the way almost every MMO works. The first few levels are super easy and fast, its always a geometric progression, such that the last quarter of levels is a grind fest.

You folks that work for game related sites are all the same. Your so desperate to stay in the game publishers OK list, you don't dare say anything negative. All so you can get a free review copy, or some crappy plush toys, or free event passes.

I hope its worth it. Your article told me nothing that the ArenaNet hyper machine has not previously spouted.

You GW fan boys are just preaching to the choir. Your breathless adulation does nothing to convince someone who has never played GW to give it a try. Quite the opposite, it is creepy and puts me off the game.

What people want to know is, does the No Trinity scheme work, which classes are the most desirable, which classes to avoid, etc.

And please, nobody buys games for quality cut scenes and voice acting. Those of the signs of hubris on the part of the developers. Hey we are big shots, we can hire and boss around actors, etc.

Just look how popular (not) cut scenes are on Youtube or Game trailers.

So, let me get this straight. You blast the guy for getting to level 15 in a couple of hours, but yet you expect these questions answered in a short beta event:

What people want to know is, does the No Trinity scheme work, which classes are the most desirable, which classes to avoid, etc.

Right.

I find it cute that you chastise the article entirely, just because he leveled quickly. What does being a fanboy have to do with that? Also, just because "that's the same as every other MMO", hardly correlates to the other systems. What other systems have optional, hidden platform events to break up monotony? What other MMO's have automatic level scaling (that isn't a ridiculous mentor system) to keep content fresh and challenging at all levels? Or siege weapons, like golems and dragons that look ridiculously awesome? Oh, that's right, none.

Maybe he is optimistic about the game, but you're just a bitter pessimist.

Great article. But guys have you got any news about racial skills?

I'm as optimistic as everyone else that have been playing recent MMOs. As much as I liked SWTOR I don't want to pay a subscription fee for a game that has the same mechanics as WOW but with story and a different IP. It felt like 'Been there done that' The Stories are great and the AC differentiation was quite good but that's about it. I expected it and I was hoping for something different. In the end it was the same thing I've done for years but with a new skin.

I've been following the recent Beta weekend vids and spotlight from other sites etc and must say I am so looking forward to GW2. The WvW looks like something that WAR wanted but much better. The Dynamic events system looks intriguing but I am curious if it will get boring and repetitive if you are 1 to stick to the same race. the customization of classes are tremendous IMO. A champion that can use sword and board, or Mace/scepter great-sword, hammer etc. All leading to different abilities for each weapon. along with traits and varying utility skills leads to tons of different play-styles. Me likee!

All in all I am hoping like everyone else to experience the beta. but I'm not that lucky.

This game will destroy WoW. Next MMO king is on its way. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a [MOD NERF]

It's up to your own judgment to believe into the hype or not. There's copious amounts of actual gameplay videos by 3rd parties, numerous in-depth articles and interviews on every major mechanic and system, numerous sites and wikis filled with information and data for every class and race. GW2 is probably the most candid MMO when it comes to exhibiting what the game entails, how the mechanics function, what kind of gameplay to expect, etc.

I don't get the crazy enthusiasm for this game. I'm not saying that it won't be a really good game. I just haven't seen anything to make me think this will be the greatest game ever. This is not a bad article but it did not provide information that wows me. I watched the video. Most of that is in SWTOR and as for the traps and puzzles DDO provides the same. It is not a bad looking game, I just don't get the hype.

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