Monday, 30 April 2012

Guild Wars 2 Beta: what I liked

In the interest of not coming across as a heartless hater, here's a list of the things I really loved about Guild Wars 2, in no particular order.
  • Anyone can revive anyone. This is huge. I can't even... it's awesome. You actually gain experience points for reviving fellow players (or even NPCs), and since other players can only help you (no such thing as kill or loot stealing), it's in everyone's best interests to keep everyone on their feet. In practice, this means that if other players are around, you're going to get revived.

  • Everyone working together. Since I was just talking about other players, let's go into that a bit more. When a dynamic event starts, nearby players pop over to see what's going on. With the combo system and the ways classes can interact with each other, plus the revivals, it really feels like everyone's working together even when no one's talking. It's like these wordless cooperatives suddenly come together to overcome a challenge, celebrate a bit, and then disperse back to whatever they were working on. It's really pleasant. 

In an entirely unrelated screenshot, observe me playing with the snow leopard cub.
  • Scaling up. Dynamic events scale with the number of contributing players, so an event that's initially a minor skirmish can suddenly turn into a massive, intense, action-packed brawl. I was working on clearing out a bandit mining camp with another player, hoping to get rid of them before they finished an ore shipment for the centaurs. Suddenly a dozen other players showed up, and we quickly dispatched the bandit cannons. But more miners and bandits crawled out of the woodwork, and we were fighting dozens of bandits on all sides in the mine pit. And then the mine foreman came out in a golem powersuit to get rid of us, and then it was really on. With such a big group present, the foreman was so powerful that it took about fifteen minutes for us to finally defeat him - and when we did, after such a long battle, it felt great. 

  • Random surprises. Some dynamic events are small-scale stuff, like escorting a merchant caravan. Some are larger in scale and scope - defending a Seraph guard fort. These events can alter the dynamics of the map as key points change hands over time, increasing or reducing the presence of enemies or allies. And then there are a few absolutely massive events that aren't tied to any plot points - they're just there to discover. The epic swamp battle against the shadow behemoth is one such example.

  • Game size. Holy crap these maps are huge! In two dozen hours I managed to clear the first two human maps 100%. Twenty-four hours, and I've only completed 10% of the overall map exploration. And that doesn't even include the story missions! Also, there's a nice level of diversity within each map. It's not like some games where you have the swamp zone and the lake zone and the plains zone - you have many different environment types within the same map. For example, in the first human area (Queensdale), you have a village under the walls of Divinity's Reach and another by the river, a couple of sizeable lakes, a huge dam, a lumber mill, a couple of forts, some guard and merchant outposts, a swamp, some hills and caves, plains, and woods. And that's all without even mentioning the epic scale of the capital cities like Divinity's Reach.

Just one of six districts in Divinity's Reach, not including the palace gardens.
  • Big fights. Battles against lone monsters are okay, but big group battles are where the game's combat really shines. Since movement and evasion are key to survival, big fights are delightfully hectic with no real front or back lines. Everyone's slinging spells and building turrets and bashing enemies all over the place, and it results in an extremely frantic and colourful array of effects.
And there you have it. From my twenty-plus levels of experience in the human zone, these are the main things that caught my eye. Despite some bugs and concerns, the game is shaping up excellently.

1 comment:

  1. It may sound like a silly thing to worry about/express concern over, but do you think there will be an adverse effect associated with scaling up? It sounds silly, I mean, who doesn't like epic? But, what if you were just casually trying to complete a little side-quest, get some money, but you weren't prepared for anything more, when other players decide to join in and the whole event scales? Sure, they'll be there to help you, but it's like other games. Like in L4D, if you have 4 human players, sure it's more fun, but it gets really hard. What do you think? Could this be an issue?