Guild Wars Beta Impressions
Well I am admittedly hooked on ArenaNet’s yet to be released MMO-crack. At least I am familiar enough with this dealer to have some confidence they will not drive me into the poor house. Oh wait, I am in the poor house. Still, that cash shop doesn’t allure me. Except for the pirate costume. Did anyone check that out? I’m building canons and firing canons; a pirate’s life for me.
The beta itself actually opened up an hour early. I woke up to check to see if there were any new updates to download before the beta went live and suddenly found myself at the server selection screen. As I had planned to do, I created a Human Mesmer and cycled through the appearance options until I had created the bearded man that I am. I would have liked a couple more beard options, maybe one a little less Oregonian hiker looking, for later my beard choice and my class choice would turn me into a bit of a scary clown.
I went with a commoner background and the regret of not recovering my sister’s body for my character background choices, along with Lyssa as my patron god. My girlfriend went with the street rat option and the missing parents, and our third adventurer friend went with being a noble. This allowed me to see what variation exists from your choices in the story quests later on. After finalizing my choices and choosing my name, the game breaks into a painted storyboard cinematic. Images swoop across the screen, providing dramatic movement to what are essentially art stills. Your character voices the introductory narrative of their story and finally appears at the end against a dramatic backdrop. This intro is a well done and gets you pumped to play, which is why it is disappointing that the later story segments lose the dramatic movements for a static art still behind two characters making simple gestures as they chatter. Having played SWTOR, I am familiar with Bioware’s approach to story presentation and I actually did not feel it fit the MMO genre. People do not want to wade through multiple dialogue segments to accept a kill-ten-rats quest. The storytelling in that case became intrusive to the flow of the game, but Guild Wars 2’s story segments don’t fully convey the emotions of the situation due to the lack of dramatics in the talking head moments. While not a huge concern for me, the story segments are marked as works in progress and I would suggest that ANet tries to use some more dramatic angles and art piece movements in their personal story exchanges. For example, if my story conversation begins after I just ended a bar fight in my friend’s bar, it would be interesting to see my character sitting in front of an art piece depicting the injured bartender or a disarray of broken bottles, then swooping up to show the character with whom I am about to exchange words.
A swordsman and his beard
But let’s get to the real good stuff: the events system.
Story segments play out against an artistic backdrop.
After the instanced introduction fight, you arrive to the Human starter area named Queensdale. Here, the game opens up and a scout marks out people in the area who need help. Most, like myself, go straight to the cow and corn farm. Here I began feeding cows and watering plants, letting the rest fight the worms sprouting up in the cow pen. Suddenly, a giant queen worm appears and I drop my bucket of water for my sword and focus. By this time I had learned two sword skills and working on the worms had brought out the third skill that creates a clone. The sword and the staff were two Mesmer weapon options that didn’t interest me before the beta, but became my favorites after the beta. I feel each served their purpose well, with the sword allowing good melee damage and control. The staff provided great group support and defense, which worked very well in the giant zerg that was the opening moments of beta.
Speaking of that zerg, the one at the farm finished off the queen worm pretty easily. It was at this point that most of us had filled our renown bar for the farmer and were ready to move on. I chose to take the path down the road to a Moa ranch. Other players split off towards the river or up the hill. At the Moa ranch, one of the farmers himself ran up to me and asked for help with some bandits. I began checking bushes for his Moa birds, but most were hiding bandits. Twice, I was doubled by hidden bandits and on the second encounter, the two bandits eventually took me down. It was at this point that a helpful ranger player showed up and helped me finish off the bandits from downed state. When I got back up, I saw a couple of players heading into a cave and followed them in.
Inside the cave, I discover the bandit hideout and a pen where those bad dudes and ladies have been rustling up some moa birds. With the few accompanying me, I take down some bandits and begin destroying their supplies. I attempt to jump into the moa bird pen, but get jumped by five bandits. They make short work of me and I have to respawn back at the first farm. By the time I get back to cavern, there’s a larger group and they’ve set the moa birds free. I get credit for this due to being the sacrificial lamb. Guild Wars 2 is a game that is punishing in that it will knock you to the floor, but rewarding in that it gives you credit for trying your hand at a challenge.
Meanwhile, I’ve found myself in the middle of another small zerg heading through the bandit cavern. We exit through the initial area and find ourselves in another section of the cave filled with bats. After the bats, we find a path up the rocks that leads to a spiraling bridge. As we ascend the bridge, bandits attack us and fire some explosives. Eventually we make it to the top where a bandit lieutenant awaits us. Again, I die at first until I find my sweet spot behind the boss. I may be a Mesmer, which is a magical trickster, but with just a sword in hand, I play more like a street magician thief.
After some time and teamwork, we take the big man down and one of his bodyguards cowers in fear, offering up some goods for sale in exchange for putting the beat-down on his commander. We all get some nice loot off the boss and I exchange a bow to someone for a staff. As you may be able to tell, the Guild Wars 2 experience is friendly and cooperative. I never found myself getting in the way of others or found other players as an obstacle towards my goal.
At this point, I’ve grouped up with this crew and joined their guild. We make our way back out of the bandit cave and towards a nearby orchard. The orchard owner is asking folks to get rid of the spiders and bats pestering her apple trees. We begin on this task, but our mighty size spawns a second event and spiders begin swarming in around us. I have switched to staff and begun learning my staff skills which prove helpful when positioned in the middle of the technicolor furnace of Guild Wars 2 combat. Yet, in the middle of this fight, that Moa rancher comes running for me again because those bandits we whooped got pissed and are attacking his home in waves. Our group splits for a few, with myself and some others taking out the bandit waves.
Time for a caster to act like a caster.
Arachnapwnia and other mind wracking puns
With my return to the apple orchard, the event scales up again and soon a giant spider queen spawns. Did I just mention the technicolor furnace? Well now that color show is on full blast. I’ve also learned all five of my staff skills by now and unleash a giant chaos storm on top of our good friend Fat Charlotte the angry apple munching spider.
The spider goes down and I’ve just completed three events in a short span of time. I’ve jumped from level 2 once I got to Queensdale to level 5. Again, the group begins to splinter towards different destinations and I go exploring. I find a river dam under attack by harpies. I try plugging holes and fighting off the earth elementals and harpies, but harpies don’t roam around without friends. They are also a couple levels higher than I am, so I wander back down to the river to take care of some crab cages for a fisherman. I decide that this whole crabbing thing isn’t the life for a Mesmer and wander off towards a downed player on my map. Once I arrive to the downed player and help him back up, I realize I’m at the first farm again and bandits have begun attacking and setting the hay on fire. Yes, we’ve really pissed these guys off. All we do is keep killing them, so I guess they have a right to be angry. Everyone has a right to be angry or at least that’s why my crazy ex-roommate told me. Of course, if you keep attacking farms then I’m going to keep having to beat your behind. It’s nothing but a vicious cycle.
Erstwhile at Old McDonalds!
Players are grabbing buckets of water to douse the flames and I’m fighting the bandit waves, feeling confident with my new found levels and weapons. Unfortunately, fire still burns you and I get dropped hard by five bandits and their ring of fire. Burn, burn, burn and event scaled higher.
We still defending the farm, so I had yet to see an event fail. I wander back down to the river and realize a giant drake has appeared to defend its eggs. I am not sure if this drake was overscaled or if the mob fighting him just wasn’t as good, but the drake boss took longer to take down than any other boss. I then proceeded back towards the dam and used the drake zerg group to finish off those harpies. After this, I returned to the farm to spend some of the karma I’ve earned for doing all these helpful slaughterings. I notice that the sprinklers in the background have begun shooting out poison. When I was last here, the sprinklers were water a farm and a few worms were strolling about. Now the farm was being poisoned. This was my first time encountering the consequences of a failed event and didn’t feel like dealing with the consequences. It was about time to head back to the city and start the next segment of my personal story. I only mention this to mention that the little township outside the city had a well and it was a poisoned well. A couple villagers tried drinking the water and got sick, and the NPC by them advises me to talk to someone about fixing the situation. So even though I was trying to avoid the issue, the ramifications of the failed event had spread across the bridge and to the foot of the city.
And the city? Daunting.
Yet, city talk is another entry to be had. I would call this my first run with the game for it was around this point I took a little break. Was it fun? Yes. Was it different? Yes. Did it all make sense at first? No, but yes. People began rezzing each other right off the bat. Groups of zergs formed naturally and the map truly became player versus environment. You couldn’t just ignore the quests in the area because the “quests” came at you. The combat worked and was an active element. Everyone moved and learned to dodge or die. Putting up a Chaos Storm, people leaped into it and gave themselves a Chaos shield by the combo interaction. My Winds of Chaos bounced off of enemies and on to other players whether they were in my group or not, buffing them with random boons. The general interaction with the world lead you places and the world itself was vast.
And in the end? The Molerariat shall prevail.