Saturday, August 25, 2012

First Impressions of Guild Wars 2

I picked up Guild Wars 2 late last night, and gave it a whirl. Why exactly was this game hyped up? Admittedly, I've only played for a day or so, but I've seen nothing yet that would warrant the fervor of the GW2 partisans. There are lots of nice, small touches, but nothing amazing.

Character Creation

There are five races and eight or so classes. Character creation has lots of sliders and buttons. I would have really liked a "reset to default" button, though.

The human females generally "need a sammich", as the saying goes. There didn't really seem to be any equivalent of SWTOR's body type 2 or WoW's human female. Either too much on one side or the other.

I did like the Sylvari art, the use of leaves and plant forms for hair and ears. That was very clever.

I also liked the use of additional choices to flesh out the character, like what god the character followed, or what spirit animal, or even greatest regret. I do wonder if those choices were orthogonal enough though. Sometimes it seemed like there were obvious choices for the magic users, and obvious ones for fighter types.

I also like the history for the races, especially humans being a race in retreat. Very different from the standard "humanity waxing" storylines.

I ended up creating a Human Guardian.

Oh, I should mention something about names. I think names have to be unique across the entire GW2 universe. So your regular name is probably taken. I know 'Coriel' was. But GW2 allows you to put spaces in the name, so you make a last name, and the combination is very likely to still be available. I named my Guardian "Coriel De Rohan". I really like this solution. It's a solid mix between uniqueness and availability.

Main Quest Line

The main quest line seems decent enough. The writing and voice acting is okay. Better than TERA, but not up to SWTOR or TSW. There was an investigation-style quest where you had to question different parties and accumulate evidence against a powerful noble that I thought was rather neat.

Hearts

A main conceit in GW2 is that there are no "side" quests. Instead of quest hubs, you have a "heart" on the map.

In a quest hub, you would have four or so NPCs. One would give a quest to kill 10 boars. Another would give a quest to collect 15 trinkets. Another would give a quest to search through poop. And the last would tell you to kill 20 bandits and their leader.

In a GW2 heart, these are not discrete elements. Instead of you have to (all numbers made up) accumulate 100 points, where you get 5 points per boar, 2 points per trinket, 10 points per poop, and 6 points per bandit. And you can do any combination of things that add up to 100 points.

So if you really hate killing boars, you can avoid that entirely. Or you can just do stuff until you hit the required total.

What I find is that this lacks context, lacks those small stories that weave together. For example, in Elwynn Forest in WoW, I really enjoy the Young Lovers questline. It's nothing amazing, you take a note from Maybell Maclure to Tommy Joe Stonefield, get Grandma Stonefield to direct you to her old suitor, the alchemist William Pestle, kill some mulocs for ingredients for an invisibility potion, and give the potion to Maybell so she can elope. Nothing amazing, just a short little story. But I guess I'm a romantic at heart, so I always enjoy doing that questline.

The thing is that, so far, the hearts in GW2 really lack that. They're just a bar on the screen to be filled with repetitive tasks. And the tasks don't really build on each other to form a story, except in the vaguest, most general sense. (There are bandits attacking the farm. You kill the bandits. The farm is saved.) It's also very UI-driven. At least normal questing has a semblance of interacting with the people in the world.

Now, in the end, maybe normal questing is just the same. That the stories of side quests are just an illusion, a fig leaf over reality, and it's all about filling up many smaller bars instead of one bigger bar. But it turns out that I like--and maybe even need--that illusion.

GW2 Hearts are quests for people who think that skipping through instant quest text is too much work.

Events

Events are basically a cross between public quests from Warhammer Online, and rifts from Rift. They're a public quest which is not always available. Instead, they sometimes "activate" like a rift and appear on your map. Then you do the event, and get some rewards. They differ from rifts by being more varied and not just monsters spilling out from another plane.

Sometimes it's an escort quest, sometimes it's a quest to kill a special monster, sometimes waves of monsters are attacking a certain point, etc.

Because the starting point is unknown, events are something that you don't really plan for. Instead you do them when you come across them.

They do make the world seem a bit more dynamic, and break up the questing a bit. But they do repeat, and if you stick around in the same area, you'll see the same event pop over and over.

I like events. But they're not revolutionary, they're evolutionary. A better Warhammer Online public quest.

Combat, Crafting, Skills

See this post.

Initial Conclusions

GW2 is an okay game. But not one that deserves anywhere near the hype it is getting. To be honest, so far it really feels like a better Warhammer Online.

Heh, it occurs to me that GW2 is the game where the "bears, bears, bears" promise from Warhammer Online was finally fulfilled.

Again though, this is early impressions. I haven't gotten very far, and I haven't been able to try out this WvWvW, as I've been on overflow servers most of the time.

11 comments:

Redbeard said...

That's interesting, because I'm hearing noises that the majority of my guild is going to GW2. Not sure what they saw in it, but it looks like our guild is going to be on a longer hiatus than I expected.

B.J. Baye said...

My guild's the same, Redbeard. But they were with Rift, too, and SWTOR, and Warhammer Online, and... on it goes. About a month or two after each of those launched, everybody but a handful was back in WoW.

I can see people sticking with GW2 longer since it's free-to-play (after you buy the box), but that also means they can play it and WoW at the same time.

Siha said...

Now, in the end, maybe normal questing is just the same. That the stories of side quests are just an illusion, a fig leaf over reality, and it's all about filling up many smaller bars instead of one bigger bar. But it turns out that I like--and maybe even need--that illusion.

I totally agree. Ultimately, the whole point of an MMO is to put a skin of interesting story and setting over a bunch of repetitive mechanics. The more you thin out that skin, the less interested I am in mashing my 1-5 keys repeatedly.

Azuriel said...

The Renown Quest (aka Heart) thing is what gets me the most about GW2 discussions. How many times have we heard people complain about "boring quests" in WoW? All the damn time. But I cannot possibly imagine people suggesting that the solution is to remove all context to the quest itself. And yet here we are, killing the mole-people in this mine for... what reason? I guess it doesn't matter. /autoattack^100

Of course, none of this matters because Dynamic Events(TM)! Nevermind that they don't have context either.

I am hoping this situation improves in the later levels, but I'm not sure how it could.

ariantes said...

No context on heart quests or events? Let me guess, you just run from one area to another without talking to anybody. Every heart and every event got it's own story if you want to read it. You need to talk to the npc for that obviously.
Seems complaining is easier than actually clicking on an npc.

Leah said...

I pretty much agree with you. but to be perfectly honest, what got me into guild wars 2 is the art style and general size of the world. I have spent most of my early access... just exploring. figuring out how to get to those vistas marked on a map, etc. it honestly almost feels like Bethesda game in some way. go forth into an open world and just... go nuts! do whatever you feel like doing, whenever. join a public quest. or dont. gather and craft. or don't. I'm actualy surprised that I'm enjoying it as much as I do, I'm not normally a fan of open world games like that.

but you are, again correct. the game didn't deserve the hype it got and you are probably looking at it with a more critical eye BECAUSE of the hype and fervor. its getting really tiresome, all these people jumping on bandwagons, looking for the next WoW killer.

P.S. ariantes is correct, - you should try interacting with npc's. a lot of them have something to say, including many and varied bystanders that are only there for you to interact with. you just don't need to click on them to get the quest. but they are still there to chat to.

Ashen said...

Wait, you're referring to the couple of throwaway oneliners each of the heart dispensers has? That's a story?

I think I've seen more involved dialogue come out of the procedurally generated dialogue system in Daggerfall.

João Carlos said...

The GW2 main meat are the dynamic events, not the hearts. The hearts are there just for show a direction for players. However, the DE are simpler at starter zones, they start to chain and be more complex at higher level.

Higher the zone level, less hearts that zone have and the DE chain more.

Redbeard said...

@B.J.-- Well, our guild went into hiatus shortly after the dual hit of TOR and WoW's 4.3 patch meant all raiders got to see end content, and it's been pretty empty since.

There are a few of us who regularly log in, but especially since April you'd see maybe 3-4 people logged in an evening at most.

This has mirrored Ysera's Stormwind activity over the past several months, where the number of people hovers around 45-50, a far cry from busier days.

Boghar said...

I completely agree with the premise of the original post. I've been playing MMO type games since UO. The hype for GW2 has been very strong and now I find my sitting here $80 lighter in the wallet wonderring just exactly what the hype is about.

I find the essentially dead community that is Rift to be a far more enjoyable experience and that's saying a lot. I logged onto SWTOR late last night after a full day worth of GW2 and ran some warzones on a pre-50 toon and had a blast immediately. I also had a friend recently send me a scroll of resurection for good ole WoW and all 3 of those 'other' games seem to be to be much, much more enjoyable than what I have experienced with GW2. The only positives I see are some of the more dynamic and flexible approaches to PvP where skill overrides gear level as well as allowing high level players to scale down their level to enjoy the game with lower leveled friends/guildes/etc.

Having spent my money, I'll certainly invest some time exploring the game further and feeling out some of the different class types. But, overall, I am severely underhwelmed by this game thus far.

Joseph Ragusa said...

Some of those dynamic events will continue on and create a whole story as to why you are actually doing those events. ex. part 1 enter the stronghold,
follow npc's to...
part 2 goo deeper into stronghold.
follow npcs some more to...
part 3 kill mastermind etc.etc.
The npcs have conversations as to whats going on between events. I find it to be very emersive, if you pay attention to whats going on, and don't just treat it as "kill some of these and those" quests.
There is a lot of detail in GW2, people just need to look and listen.