I played the beta for about three hours so far, and here are my first impressions!
First and foremost, on the surface, it doesn't look or feel as different from standard MMOs as I expected. You still have NPCs with markers over their heads, you still have damage numbers and colour-coded loot, whatever.
|Rifle training with the Seraph|
That said, if you pay attention, the differences really stand out. Most noticeably, when I dropped in combat, I usually had three (or more!) players come to revive me, which is really nice. You gain experience when you revive a downed ally, and since they can't steal kills or loot, it only benefits you to stop and revive people. It does take a while, so you have to be careful about being attacked, but if you stop reviving you can resume where you left off, which is cool.
|Got stuck in some geometry and it took three players a few minutes of command spamming to revive me.|
The downed state was less fun than I anticipated: monsters frequently continued to attack me until I was actually defeated, usually not even giving me time to use my elementalist's Mist Form to escape.
The dynamic events seem to have been turned to overdrive so that beta players can see the whole chain. Almost as soon as one event in a chain is completed, the next one starts. For example, I defended a small fortification from centaurs, and they immediately sent out builders to repair a trading post down the road. When the post was repaired, a caravan was sent from the fortification to restock the trading post.
|Slightly overpopulated defense event.|
Unlocking weapon skills is kind of annoying and feels like a handicap. I unlocked all my staff fire magic skills and realized I had access to the other three attunements... which only have one unlocked skill each. Fighting creatures of my level was very dangerous with only one skill, so I either had to group up and hardly contribute, or grind against weak enemies. I don't like the weapon skill unlock system at all.
|First stop in LA: the asura gate hub|
But there was a pleasant surprise hiding in the harbour: the ruins of old Lion's Arch! In particular, I recognized a staircase with the statues as the place for the LA skill trainer, with the Xunlai chests on the right. Here's a screenshot!
So that's what I got today. I'm attaching a few more shots of Lion's Arch below, so take a look at those too.