GW2 impressions after 2 beta weekends and 1 stress test

Like all access for Guild Wars 2, it was a blast!
Last weekend was GW2's 2nd scheduled bwe and while it was meant to be basically the same content as the previous one(with fixes from the stress test), there is still alot that can be said for the roughly 48 hours period that the game servers were up.

Servers and connectivity

Game performance and stability was impressive compared to the 1st bwe, taking into consideration that the last week before the beta Anet had started giving out tons of keys through selected sites in simple contests and plain giveaways. This means that for this bwe at least, the amount of participating players increased both from additional pre-purchasers and others who were lucky enough to grab a weekend-only key---and the servers behaved well against the influx of both recurrent and new players.
    This isn't to say that it was perfect, sometime in the middle of the weekend there were moments when I was in WvW and would get disconnected repeatedly with no special pattern to it, both from the WvW map shutting down or random disconnects. On the pve side the game proved to be more stable save the uncommonly rare slower loading screen. Overall, while from the looks of it there is still quite a long while before the game will be ready, the progresses made in-between the beta weekends and stress tests, the game is steadily heading into a good direction.

Small changes

Utility Skill system

Traditional mmo leveling system - get what you want, get what you don't want so you can move on
While there wasn't much in the "new" department, there were noticeable tweaks done to the game in general, such as the utility skill system that is now grouped by their respective tier and the player needs to spend enough skill points in one tier before being able to unlock and advance to the next, this was somewhat a expected change for me as I remember commenting with fellow players back during the 1st beta that the leveling/skill up system was missing the "keep you interested" factor, the current game cap is 80 but even before level 30 players could already have all the skills they wanted as they could simply accumulate the unspent skill points to get only the skills they were interested in, but with the new change players are delayed in reaching that stage and possibly will need to be a higher level then before to be able to reach the last tier of utility skills and more so to get enough points to unlock them.
New dodge gauge position

Another one of these was the dodge gauge being moved to the middle of the player's skill window, not a big change by itself but personally I think it is easier to see that all important gauge now rather then it being on the far end to the right and during the confusion in battle possibly not the easiest thing to keep a eye out for, also not forgetting it looks slicker where it is now!

Mystic Forge
Fun feature to mix and mash items to get something new

The Mystic Forge uses a combination of random and non-random recipes. For example, throw four rare swords into the forge, it will return a random sword with a chance for that sword to be substantially better. There are also specific items that can be created by throwing four very specific items into the forge with no randomness involved at all
Eric Flannum Talks Guild Wars 2 Beta Change

This was a welcome addition that I didn't expect, save for console games I haven't seen similar mechanisms in the multiplayer scene---for the players it's a fun way to try and combine various items they might not even want anymore for a chance at something new and possibly useful, and as Eric Flannum has said, for the developers it's a easy way to introduce new and better content/items from time to time...even for consoles this sort of feature was something I always had fun with and spent much time(and materials)on and I'm looking forward to when we can try this out more in future betas--currently the forge will take 4 items(no more, no less) of the same rarity to create one single item with a RNG type and stats/bonuses, there might be a base rule for what type of item will come out but I don't think anyone had much resources and time to try this out in this last beta, what I have noticed is that the item was always slightly higher in level compared to the average of the 4 items I used to make it and the bonuses it can come up with aren't necessarily "inherited" from the old items as I have seen in some games as I had occasions where a brand new bonus such as healing would come out despite the items used to forge with didn't have that.

Black Lion Trading Company

Gem shop under new employment!

The Black Lion Trading Company out of Lion’s Arch has officially taken over operation of the Gem Store, Currency Exchange, and Trading Post. Its new owner’s first action was to completely overhaul the Gem Store.
As a result, the all-new Gem Store is easier to use and has a greater variety of items, from the decorative—like dye packs and costumes—to the whimsical—like the Box o’ Fun, which spawns a chest that applies random crazy effects to everyone who touches it. Each beta player will receive 500 free gems on their account, so do a little shopping on us!

With the provided free gems I had the opportunity to try out the nem items from the gem store, the one item that caused the greatest impression for me during the beta event was the "Box o' Fun", currently it costs 250 gems and has 10 accounted for transformations plus skill effects, it was "fun" when I first tried it out as we placed it in the field and curious passerbys would all gather up and try out the different effects the box could provide, aside from being able to get the skin of a sylvari while they aren't available for play at the moment, the other skill effect I liked alot was one who name I don't remember but the player had 3 seconds to strike a "pose" before being petrified into that state and I'm sure the readers can imagine the possibilities, it's definitely a fun item to bring to parties although I do hope there will be more things to do later on save the currently accounted skills because as much fun as this is, it's still a one time use item(couldn't confirm the time the box stays as the map went down later on but it did last over 15 min+). Other new items were unremarkable such as a couple of sunglasses as cosmetic and it's with sadness that I report that the dyes are still bound by character and not account...along with the costumes, if by release this isn't addressed or if this is meant to be so, I don't think I will be one of the fans that will buy much in that department as I am used to games with vanity shops yes, but I'm a firm believer that things like this once bought should be account wide and not just one character.


If your side learned that you don't bring down a door with only sticks and stones!
The best improvement in WvW for this beta weekend was the Squad system, players can now see the leader icon on the world map which gives everyone a much easier time in knowing where to be and what to do, this allowed for people to remain organized despite the times where multiple fortresses were attacked or under attack and also the communication has been enabled for both ways so squad members can now chat back with the commander, this last feature wasn't of much use to our Squad as we were mainly just a group of people sticking together and testing it out but I have no doubts that later on in actual WvW this change would come to be very useful as the default channel is usable for all three sides and everyone in the map can chat in it. Lastly on the topic of WvW, the siege constructs are still under changes as they have already modified range and damage on some over this beta but I'm sure that until release there will still be alot of changes underway.

The disappointment

Forever sad at the lack of real competitive pvp games

I'm not sure this was working back in the 1st bwe, or it might just have passed by me as I was immersed and distracted by everything else that was great about the game...but this beta weekend I came across a feature that is a absolute sinker for me in the world of competitive pvp: auto-facing. Personally, I don't believe that any self-respecting pvp oriented game can call themselves as such with a automated feature that has your character auto-facing your opponent with a simple click of a button, this was my biggest and at the moment *only* disappointment with guild wars 2---a anet staff actually responded to my thread about this in the guild wars 2 forum stating that this feature exists solely to help newbies and only works when our character remains stationary, while this isn't as bad as it could've's still a horrible feature to put in a game.
   The first instance that called my attention to this, that something was *odd* was during my skirmishes in structured pvp as a thief, no matter how I dodged/strafed or moved around my enemy *they were always immediately facing towards me*, in the beginning I had just thought that this was simply because I was fighting against players who knew what they were doing, but the sad reality is that was the devil at work: while I was losing my time trying to reamin out of line of sight from the enemy and hopefully landing a backstab, all my opponent needed to do was stay in one spot and spam their skill buttons while reducing my chances of timing a hit in their back for additional damage to zero.
   While the realist in me knows better, I still hope that anet will reconsider this feature, even if they try to downplay this matter the truth is that this feature alone is enough to cripple everything else they have made so far in trying to promote active gameplay from players, other games have signed their own death sentence by striving to please everyone and that simply doesn't work: a good game either caters to one audience or the other, staying in the middle between competitive and skill based play while enabling automated features such as auto-facing doesn't work for most, people who are used to them will want more(such as click to move etc...) and others like me who want a bona-fide pvp and skill competitive environment don't want anything to do with said features.

Lastly, for those who have come to realize by now(or not) anet has already confirmed that there will be a 3rd beta weekend and it's clear also that it won't be the last, between the 1st and 2nd beta weekend nothing was changed except for the fixes and there are still alot of work to be done, balancing issues and professions like the ranger class still missing three elite skills and I expect that there will be a bwe or two for the 2 missing races of sylvari and asura, all in all I'd say a release date in September can be called "soon" for the state of things as they are now.


Magnum said...

A lot of interesting facts here, I guess what we see is full of novelties, but it's more of an evolution than revolution in MMO gaming. To me, Guild Wars 2 still has one single huge benefit over its main competitior - World of Warcraft - you only have to pay once. Nuff said.

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