As some of you know, the last beta weekend was my first hands-on introduction, not just to GW2, but to the MMORPG genre. After months of absorbing lore, figuring out what obtuse terms like afk and zerg stand for, and reading about the potential of elimination of “tired” mechanics I had never experienced (i.e. the “holy trinity”), I finally got to log in and find out what it was really all about.
So, first impressions…ok, my very first impression was of a confusing lag-fest slideshow. Besides running the game on our older PC, there was a monster crush of people Friday night, all trying to get through the starting instance. I could hear Mozu and other [TDM] people on mumble struggling with trying to meet up through the overflow server confusion.
I kept hitting the wrong keys, and forgetting how to move. I failed to dodge out of the red circles (I blame the lag?), and so… I died. Several times. In the starting instance where you are supposedly nearly bulletproof.
The beginning of my time in the starting area that Friday was similarly frustrating – the number of players made it hard to get a handle on combat, and lag was a major factor. It’s hard to dodge attacks when you can’t see them coming! Not an auspicious start to my MMO experience, but it was beta, so I declare that it does not count. So there!
Things improved as I played through the evening. We managed to get a few folks on the same server and the same map and hopped into the first part of my personal story. Killing minotaurs with people I know, chatting on mumble, resurrecting each other. I’d call that my first real MMO intro! It was so fun! I stopped looking for the ‘pause’ button, and started to enjoy this whole social gaming thing.
By Sunday, I’d leveled a Norn warrior up to 18. I unlocked most of my weapons, and I started to get the hang of dodging, weapon swapping, and generally moving during combat. Suddenly, I wasn’t getting killed by moas and dolyaks anymore. Woo!
Thoughts on the Warrior
I have absolutely no urge to check out any other professions anytime soon. Is that sad? I love the versatility, and I felt just as viable with a sword and shield as I did with a rifle. My favorite set up by Sunday was mainhand sword/ offhand axe with the rifle as my 2nd weapon set. I used Savage Leap to get in the middle of things, then Whirling Axe, which involved whirling about smashing everyone around, to do massive damage. Dodging back out and swapping to the rifle kept me on my feet a lot of the time. I’m pretty psyched to look for other sweet combinations. I’m sure I’ll make an alt or two sometime into the game, but right now, the warrior is perfect is for me. (Mozu: Warrior/rifle was hands-down the best weapon/class combo that I played in the beta.)
What I still need to learn
Buffs and Debuffs – I haven’t got the hang of strategically using skills that inflict vulnerability, or bleeds early in a fight, or using knockbacks and stuns at the right time. Also not sure how to use support-type weapons like the warhorn effectively in groups.
Group Synergy – this is something I think none of us quite sorted out this weekend (except maybe Drew and Beth – hardcore players that they are). Certainly in giant zergs of strangers, it is pretty hard to figure out weapon combos, or when to stun the boss mob so the melee guys don’t get flattened. I bet this stuff’ll come together as we all play together a bit longer.
Utility Skills – I bought a few things with my skill points, and remembered to use them maybe 10 times over the entire weekend. Yeah. I think I need to hold onto points for a bit and think carefully about my preferred play style before I commit. And get better at juggling keys. Rebinding them to Z, A, Q, and E may be one solution.
Things that worked beautifully
The mechanics that encourage cooperation. Everyone had a moment or two where they formed an ad-hoc group (without actually grouping, per se). These moments were some of my favorites in the game. There was one particularly hard skill challenge where I grouped up with a nameless guardian. We both went down and started over a couple times, but we finished it eventually. It felt pretty great. The only thing I may have missed out on was watching local chat for more specific opportunities to do stuff with folks.
The art. Ok, it didn’t so much “work” as “blow me away”. I knew the game was pretty based on videos, but nothing beats having control of the camera and looking around for yourself. The cities, the open landscapes, and the tiny details were all just stellar.
World and city design. The world felt real, complete and deep. There are graveyards where you can read every single stone, many houses in the major cities can be entered, mobs and NPCs interact and fight when you aren’t there. There is a real feeling of being part of a living, breathing world
- Please, oh please, fix the group splitting in the overflow servers!
- There’s some serious tweaking that needs to be done in the scaling and frequency of dynamic events.
- Bosses currently hit melee way too hard, and dodging strategically is impossible in the midst of giant zergs – partly due to framerate/lag issues, but mainly due to the clusterfuck of particle effects obscuring everything.
- Mozu: Pet AI is broken as fuck for rangers – stopping halfway towards their target, or not attacking at all, or simply getting stuck on a 10-degree slope for no reason. I know they keep saying they’re going to fix it, but it’s been broken for well over a year now. Also, non tank-type pets are good for going into a melee and promptly dying and fuck-all else.
- Mozu: The Engineer, while fun, needs some tweaking and love.
Along with some general bugs, all these things seem fixable, though balancing the scaling of events will probably be an ongoing challenge, and I suppose we should all get used to the idea that sometimes we’ll just fail, especially when you have a big group of people, none of whom can play well yet. :P
(Mozu: Uh, hey now…)
Lessons for next Beta
Spend your fucking karma! Now, I knew in theory that karma is meant to replace item-based rewards from quests and boss fights, and I love the system, because random drops sound frustrating, as I imagine you’ve all experienced in other games.This way, I can just go find a new axe/trinket/rifle at a karma vendor and buy it with the points that I’ve earned.
But… but… I forgot! Constantly! I had well over a thousand karma left at the end. Next beta, I’ll definitely check in with karma vendors as they unlock, and as I explore the world. Some have weapons, some have armor upgrades, some just have buffs and crafting mats, but karma is there to be spent on such things! Save your gold for fast travel, unlocking traits, and playing the market!
Check all the vendor tabs! Related to number one, apparently some vendors have cash as well as karma tabs. For instance, apparently the master craftsmen in the major cities will sell you crafting materials using gold or karma, but they are on different tabs. I bought stuff with gold, when I had plenty of karma. D’oh.
Send crafting mats directly to the bank. Apparently you can right click and send salvaged or looted crafting mats straight to the crafting tab in your bank from anywhere in the world. That’ll save some trips to and from town!
Buy gathering tools ASAP (and make sure you can equip them). Tools have levels, and I inadvertently bought one that was level 10 when I was level 5. And I waited way too long to start gathering. It doesn’t take much effort (at least for what we’d be crafting at these levels), and yielded a nice bit of XP. Also, watch for these tools at karma vendors.
Wow, this is long! Well, that’s all for now anyway. I’ll be updating everyone on the Sylvari pretty soon, and we’ll be getting guild forums up and running ASAP so we call all talk to each other!