Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Guild Wars 2: Final Thoughts

I'm going to admit something before we start today. I've yet to even hit 80 in Guild Wars 2. My highest character is a Guardian sitting at around 47 or 48. As of late I've been playing an entirely different class, the Engineer, and it's sitting around 40-ish. So, that's said, and out there. Perhaps I will someday hit 80. Who knows? Moving on.

The Good

I've complained a lot the past few times I've talked about Guild Wars 2, and that's partially to offset the praise it's been given thus far. That's a bit cruel, you might be thinking, but I always stood by the fact that it was a good game.

First off, it can be a very pretty game. The world feels large, and open, and there are many awesome looking views. The cities you'll be traversing feel huge, and varied, though honestly that can't be said too much about the areas outside their walls. Many of these places do feel interchangeable, at least to me. If you've seen one snow covered mountain, you've pretty much seen the entire zone. There're also a few small things tucked away, such as a playable piano in Ebonhawk. The best looking of these, in my opinion, are the "Branded" areas, where the game's world ending dragons have left their mark. These areas are simply stunning, and the enemies in them are very cool looking. Sadly these are used much, at least the 1-50 zones I played.

The combat also has some nice flow to it. You're skills are based on two things, the weapon or weapons you're using, and your class, which will make up your 1-5 slot. Your 6-0 are made up of skills you can swap in and out, that you unlock with skill points, earned throughout the game.

The game's Dynamic Events, a sort of quest that will pop up at random throughout the world, to be completed by many or few players, can also be fun, especially when they flow into each other. These for the most part are nice little distractions.

One thing I did like the idea of is traits, and skill points. Traits are sort of like putting points into a talent tree as you normally would in other games, except that these boost certain stats, such as your health, or your damage resitance. I think this is great, as it allows people to craft their character better. Skill points too feel this way. You'll accumulate these from leveling up and doing skill point challenges, of which there are about 3-7 per zone. With these you unlock new skills which will make up your 6-0 keys. There are generally a few fun sounding ones, such as the Mesmer's Blink, which lets them teleport somewhere else not too far away, or the Engineer's turrets, but after you've unlocked these, the others aren't really that interesting. They are broken up into tiers, sort of, once you unlock so many on one tier, the next opens up and so on. Once you've unlocked all these skills, as I'm told you use skill points as a currency at 80.

PvP can also be exciting. It tends to be a tad more skill based than other games, as everyone is decked out in full PvP gear before hand, and boosted to the same level. World vs World vs World is an interesting idea too, though I'm not sure it's used to its fullest.

The community is also a big plus to me on the game's record. There are still a few trolls here and there, but for the most part, many of the people you see in game are friendly and willing to help. The map discussions can't always be said the same of, but they're generally pretty good too.

The Bad

Yes we're getting back to this, though honestly some of this will be dwelling on the darker side of some of the things listed in the Good portion.

Guild War 2's world is very pretty, it's environments a decently varied, though on occasion it felt repetitive. This isn't much of a problem, in all honesty. The problem I have is that while the world is very pretty, it's not very interesting. The races you an play as fall into your usual RPG niches. Humans are humans. Norns are oversized heavy drinkers, similar to how dwarves are portrayed in Tolkein-esque universes. Sylvari seem to take the place of elves, literally being one with nature you know, being plants and all. The Asura are your genius inventors *cough*gnomes*cough*. Ahem. Sorry. Kidding of course, sort of. And Charr fall into the race of war-loving beings, that are pretty much as hostile while still being allies as you can find.

Also, the world ending threat that the game describes on the back of its box the "Elder Dragons" really aren't that important until later in the game. As an up and coming hero, I really don't start hearing about this until I've helped a few dozen farmers or soldiers with their bandit problems? The Branded areas discussed above were the most I ever saw of these Elder Dragons, and while they sounded fairly generic as far as threats come, these areas were stunning, I was sad they seemed to be rare.

As for the combat, I don't like how it doesn't have much evolution. You'll likely find a weapon you like, and stick with it, and by doing so you'll be stuck with the same five skills for your entire leveling experience. The same can be said with your other skills, you'll find what you like, and you'll use it. It was fairly rare that I found something new on my higher level characters that I thought was interesting enough to strive for.

On the dark side of Dynamic Events, even a few months after release, I still continue to see a few of these bugged, and uncompletable. There was one in a fairly early zone(if you consider 30-ish out of 80 early), that would've had you protecting a courier as they headed down a Seperatist(Humans fighting to prevent a treaty with the Charr from being signed) infested road, except for one small problem. The NPC literally did not move, had no speech option to make her move, etc. She just stood there, for my entire few hours in the zone. As far as I know, she's still standing there.

There's honestly not much I can complain about with traits. I really do like that idea, and I think it gives your character a more unique feel, as you assign points to help with your playstyle. What I can complain about is the price of doing so. Upon reaching level 11, you'll unlock your first trait. To actually assign said trait? You'll need to purchase a skill book, for about ten silver. This is about half the money I'd earned up to this point, as I've said earlier, and this just felt horrible. And don't think that's the last time you'll be buying a skill book. You'll only be able to put 10 points into each of your six categories for now, until you hit 40, in which you can pay a gold, again a bit less than I'd earned, and you'll be able to put another ten in each category, with it eventually maxing out at 30 points possible in a given category.

PvP for the most part seems alright for now, though there are times that it comes down to who has the most people on their side. My main problem with it is the fact that every area you'll fight over comes down to holding more points than your opponents, with a few twists thrown in here or there, like having a catapult, or each team having a strong "guild leader" that if killed boosts the other team's score. There's just not much variety here gameplay wise. Visual wise the maps are all nicely varied.

Lastly, the game's, as I would call it, premium options. For the most part it tends to be a boosts that will give you more experience points, or more currency pay out, etc., but there are a few things that just boggle my mind. For one, when you buy the game you'll get access to all four races, and all eight professions. You're only given five character slots. Want to be able to have a character of all eight classes? Dish out another $30. Yes, yes you can buy the premium currency with ingame money, but why should I have to? Yes, I do hear you, saying I don't have to. Say that to my bank. You'll probably be alright with the idea, on your first character. You're given a 27 slot bank, with which to keep your loose items. It's also shared by your characters. I do not have a problem with that. Not at all. What I have a problem with, is that if you want more room, which trust me you likely will, you'll need to dish out what comes out to be about $7.50 for more slots. Oh, but you can't buy just that much. You'll need to pay $10 and have a few extras hanging around. Forgive me, getting into a slight rant.

The Conclusion

Really, what matters of the end of the day isn't how much I can nitpick on Guild Wars 2. What matters is how fun it is. And 95% of the time, it's fun. It's fun when I'm just roaming an area and stumble upon a dynamic event, or group up with a few folks to get to a skill point. It's fun when I'm not restricted by what I can do. The other 5% is when I realise that something is far out of my price range, or that a zone has left me underleveled which does tend to happen more than I'd like. It stops being fun when the game pretty much puts up a sign saying "Want this? Give us a few more dollars. That or grind your eyes away for money." Money you'll want, mind you, so that you can afford the game's professions, which tend to be expensive.

But yes, at the end of the day, Guild Wars 2 is fun. I've played it nearly everyday for a few weeks now, and even if I get tired of it, I don't have to worry about paying or anything. I can just come back when I want. If you've never been into the whole MMO thing, this won't change your mind. There's a few solid ideas here, but it's honestly just a bit more of the same with some great polish to it. If you've been looking for a new MMO, this might be your game.

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