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Guild Wars 2: Getting My Feet Wet August 30, 2012

Posted by Stormy in Other Games.
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Yes, this is a blog about World of Warcraft…mostly. Yes, WoW dropped a huge patch this week, and there are lots of things to say about it. But I also putter around in various other games and MMOs (not that I’ve found any that rival my emotional and time investment in WoW), so I thought I’d take a few minutes and talk about Guild Wars 2.

I wasn’t going to play GW2. The big Mists patch dropped this week, and Mists itself is less than a month away. I talked it over with one of my gamer friends/coworkers and decided it just wasn’t worth it to spend the money for something that was likely to give me just a few weeks of game play, if that. Then the lovely and talented Arolaide of Dragonsworn posted this. I saw the green Necromancer outfit she posted, and that sealed the deal. I got the game up and running this morning–after a lengthy download–and here are the random, discursive brain droppings currently rolling around in my head. Fair warning, though: this is GW2 through the lens of a WoW player, and there’s a lot of WoW talk here.

  • The game is visually stunning. The characters are realistic, the countryside depicted in the Human starting zone is magnificent. Divinity’s Reach, the main Human city, is absolutely gorgeous–there’s a sprawling garden in the middle of the wheel-shaped city that one could get lost in for days. More than that, it’s alive. There are people and guards everywhere, and the people talk to you. It’s a living, breathing city any time, day or night. There’s been some discussion this week about the cartoonish nature of the graphics of WoW, and this is a complete departure from the graphics I’m used to.
  • The character creation screen is heads and shoulders above anything I’ve seen in any other game. In GW2 it’s actually possible to create a dark-skinned Human, something I have yet to see in other games. I played around with the sliders and options for a bit, and here’s what I came up with:

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Meet Sterrin, the human Mesmer. Yes, I’m embarrassingly shallow, but behind that silly Mesmer mask he’s really pretty to look at, trust me. I’m still baffled, though, by game designers’ consistent inability to make human hands that aren’t oversized, clunky, angular, and just…odd. In any event, I also enjoyed being able to pick various personality traits for him, and I think it would be interesting to play through the same story twice with different personality traits to see how it all changes.

  • The world feels large and overwhelming. When I first started playing WoW many moons ago, the friend that dragged me (kicking and screaming) into the game wanted to show me the new mount he had just gotten (this was back when mounts were a big deal, and he was super proud of himself). I stood in Dun Morogh for what felt like hours until he came riding up on his nightsaber, and I felt small and insignificant in a giant game universe. Over time Azeroth has a tendency to shrink, especially with portals, flight paths, epic flight and the like, and in Tyria I was able to recapture that feeling of being a speck on a giant marble flying through space.
  • I absolutely *love love love* the fill-the-heart questing mechanic. In WoW you’re sent to a quest hub where four NPCs will give you four quests to kill ten rats, kill the Alpha Rat, gather ten shiny rocks and feed ten cows. In GW2 you go to a quest hub where one NPC asks for help, and you can help them by killing ten rats, killing two rats, the Alpha Rat, and gathering seven shiny rocks…or any combination thereof. The world is your oyster. Hate rat-killing quests? Skip ’em. Hate use-the-item quests (which I normally do)? Skip it. The world is your oyster.
  • And when you’re done killing rats and helping the NPC, the NPC sends you mail full of prizes and money! And to collect your mail, you don’t have to visit a physical mailbox. Perhaps that’s less realistic than the WoW mailbox mechanic, but it’s a lot easier to deal with.

Now (to steal a rhetorical device from Arolaide) if you’re the kind of person who’s only here to have me blow sunshine and roses up your butt about this Guild Wars thing, you can stop reading right about here.

  • Although I appreciate the racial diversity offered by GW2, they still fall into the old trope of “All the wimmens must be hot and have giant boobs, and all their outfits must be halter tops and plate bikinis.” I saw a whole lot of cleavage in the last few hours.
  • I still cannot, for the life of me, figure out why game designers–save Blizzard–make all your ability icons look so similar. On my shadow priest I can tell Shadow Word: Pain and Shadow Word: Death apart just at a glance even though they’re both yellow skulls, and I can tell Devouring Plague apart from them both since it’s a different color. My GW2 ability bar, on the other hand, looks like this. It’s an improvement over the gray abomination that passes for an ability bar in RIFT, but it’s still…purple.

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  • I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but travel is just…overwhelming. Navigating Divinity’s Reach with the giant, overly convoluted map is a bit of a chore–although I rather enjoyed the waterfall elevators.
  • The game feels overtuned. Maybe it’s just because I’m a noob, but killing mobs seems to take forever, and I seem to die an awful lot. Perhaps I’m used to the WoW method, where it’s virtually impossible to die in the first ten levels unless you’re *really* dense, but combat just seems so tedious. All the same, it’s fun to be able to create little clones of myself, and some day I hope to be in a lengthy boss fight and create dozens of little mini-mes, cackling maniacally all the way.
  • Also, for the record, the next time some insolent, impatient little brat whines about an extra two hours of maintenance ahead of a WoW patch I’m going to slap them upside the head and remind them of the GW2 launch. I give credit to Arenanet for realizing their limitations and shutting down online sales of the game this afternoon when they realized they simply couldn’t handle the load they were getting, and I give them credit for constantly communicating about what’s going on, but this launch has made a seemingly rocky WoW patch look like a peaceful Sunday drive.

Anyway, there’s a three-day weekend coming up here in the States, and since my partners-in-WoW-crimes will be away in a magickal faerie land called “Nebraska,” if anyone needs me, I’ll be in Tyria.

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