I pre-purchased the game like so many other GW2 enthusiasts and waited (not so) patiently for the public beta to come on 27th of April.
Being in Australia the time difference means we're 16 hours ahead so I woke up at 4am on Saturday morning in anticipation of a 5am start and a half a day of GW2 (damn real life stole the other half!). The servers opened a little early, I think I hit the login button about 4:45am and got in, hands shaking in anticipation. I was presented with a server selection screen showing 3 High population servers and all the rest were low, I immediately wondered if far fewer people than I thought were going to log in. Those high population servers were Sea of Sorrows, Anvil Rock and Darkhaven which happened to be the main three servers the Oceanic community had chosen for their homes. I did wonder if maybe all the hype was here in Australia only, and that we were all silly enough to be up at 5am like me. I chose Sea of Sorrows and moved onto character creation.
Two things really jumped out at me when making my character, one was the details that you could go into on your character. i really loved that.
The thing that stood out most for me though was the sheer beauty of the character models themselves. Girls so beautiful they could break your heart with a look, I selected a Human Female Ranger with dark hair and forest green eyes, chose what I thought would make some interesting personal story choices and pressed the Play button.
Now I'd seen enough videos on YouTube to show me what the game looked like, I've been following the game for years, but none of those really did it any justice. The game was simply gorgeous. In the very first starting point, my computer hummed along at about 60 frames a second with well over 50 people in the immediate area on the highest settings. Pretty impressive for an unoptimised client and a not-so-new computer I reckon.
My deepest fear for GW2, was that it would suck like so many other game betas and launches have done in the recent past. So many times games looked promising and just failed dismally to deliver and I'd immediately lose interest. Not so with GW2. Yes, there was lag, yes there were bugs, yes there were balance issues in both PVE and PVP, but for the first time in many many years…I lost myself in the game, everything else could be forgiven.
I felt the starting areas were very intense on new players but my 8 year old son was able to jump into the game and play it quickly with no interaction from me so that can't be a bad thing. What I did feel was lacking was information on key concepts such as where to use Karma and how the overflow worked. The lag made things difficult at times but that didn't matter, I expected it.
I actually spent the first 20 minutes trying to hook up with Pinkus (a guildmate). We were in the same group, standing in the same spot but we had no idea why we couldn't see each other. Figured it just a bug and moved on, a little cranky though we couldn't hang out.
As my first character I rolled was a Ranger, i was very disappointed to find that I didn't even have a bow! I started with a single axe, not at all how I pictured a Ranger would start the game. The axe abilities were cool though so I soldiered on. My second weapon choice was a warhorn, which gave me a lot of laughs every time I used Hunters Call. I would merrily sing out "CHEW HIS FACE OFF BIRDIES!" which I'm sure my son sitting next to me and Pinkus on Skype got sick of pretty quickly, but I found it really amusing…even after a few of hours (small things…?).
The pet was weird, pathing was off and it died a lot. The most infuriating pet thing was although dead and requiring resurrection, it still ran around following me. This felt wrong to its core, dunno why i was so pedantic about this but really didn't like it.
I love the concept of a Ranger, I've always played a Bow wielding nature character in every game but the utility skills for Ranger just put me off the entire class. The Sun Spirit thing to me was kinda embarrassing, this flowery yellow pet/turret thing that does nothing tangible gave me a real bad taste on the class. The spike trap was kinda cool, but the rest… so boring compared to other classes utility skills. The whole class was feeling like a mobile shaman from WoW with a bow and a pet.
I never got to ultimate level but from my prior research apart from Entangle which looks ok (but hardly ultimate worthy), the other 2 seem like just a big letdown. Elementalist has such sweet ultimates, the awesome Tornado, Greater Elemental which gives you 1 of 4 pets depending on attunement when its cast, a pair of hell hounds (which wasn't working in game), a whopping big fiery greatsword (which can also be shared) and a couple of other cool abilities. Engineers have a mortar!!! Ranger has a pet that heals and revives, a single target root in Entangle and…umm…a buff? Cmon Anet, sort this out! Even the Thief utility skills were better than the Ranger ultis.
Had to keep saying to myself when I looked at those skills, "Must remember…beta….must remember….beta…." because surely they won't survive until release. It was enough for me to pack the class in though, so after giving up on Ranger due to really nothing to look forward to, I rolled a Thief. This time she was the stunning white haired twin of my Ranger.
I actually ended up spending more time on the Thief than I did any other character. Started out with a dagger which was cool, especially when I got the second ability which teleported me to my target and hit them. That's actually as far as I went with the main hand dagger as I picked up a shiny new sword and wielded it straight away. Popped the dagger into the offhand and that's how my melee weapon set stayed. I picked up a Shortbow shortly after and used that for a bit too, it was really fun especially coupled with Caltrops (AE spikes that snared enemies). I could drop that on the ground and watch them limp through the caltrops while I shot them with Trick Arrow, Poison and exploding arrows. Being able to stealth while healing really helped drop agro in those "oh shit" situations too. Just wish I'd gotten enough skill points for Needle Trap too, the kiting possibilities were insane.
I was really enjoying the PVE journey with her, especially the level 10'ish dynamic event where Centaur would attack the village. The first time I went to the village it was owned by the centaurs, but we managed to free it from their grasp and return it to the humans. After that I spent about an hour defeating wave after wave of centaurs and loving every minute of it. It was chaotic, I was downed a few times but was usually revived or rallied, it was challenging and time flew by without it feeling like a grind at all. SOOOoooo much fun.
Dying was kinda frustrating as youwere penalised twice, once for the waypoint back and again for equipment repairs. This was especially bad at lower levels when you had almost no cash.
No idea whatsoever about crafting, didn't even touch it.
Melee felt difficult, in events with melee weapons I'd often get 1 or 2 shot down which wasn't fun so I stuck to ranged weapons for those mostly.
The game was too easy at times, too hard at others, but 90% of the time it was challenging which made it awesome. Tuning should hopefully fix up the too easy and too hard moments.
Nothing felt like a grind in PVE once I figured out that Hearts, Skill Challenges and Personal Story weren't enough to level up. You have to actively seek out Dynamic Events or you fall behind on the level curve. You could look at it a another way and just explore, it will provide the same thing (usually with a few deaths). I also hope they give us an option on starting weapons too and more information when you first pick up the game but overall, best PVE experience I've ever had.
I didn't do a lot of Structured PVP, I just simply ran out of time. After playing a couple of games in the 8 v 8 (?) map early Saturday morning though my very first impressions were…not that favourable. There were too many people zerging around and I met death swiftly quite a few times. The chaos was quite intimidating.
Judgment will be reserved though because at that point I had no idea how to play my class nor really how to do anything at all.
My biggest criticism is that initially I had no idea how to get into PVP. The positioning of the "Enter the Mists" and PVP buttons were buried. A mate of mine still didn't know PVP was available until someone told him a day into the beta. The position of the PVP tab under Hero needs some tuning. Perhaps the join PVP and the Mists buttons should be on the PVP window too?
Later Sunday afternoon, knowing my class a bit better and how many others roughly worked I decided to try PVP again. This time was a bit different. I enjoyed it much more, it seemed I had more time to make decisions and this game included much more than just zergfest. I could see tactics starting to form and some strategy. The most fun was jumping onto the trebuchet and killing 5 people in a team fight against our team below the clock tower in just a few seconds, that was really funny. I could just picture their faces as a smoking hot ball streaked in and killed half their already weakened team.
I wouldn't mind seeing the queuing system cleaned up a bit though, it was kinda archaic and messy, showing server names I didn't care about (Server 021), empty servers and full ones alike. Just find me a server and throw me in, preferably with my mates on the same team.
Necros were infuriating, they had so many pets it was almost impossible to target them properly, as were Rangers that chose all the spirit pets. Something needs to be done about that. Maybe tab targetting ignores pets or something?
I'd like to try some 5 v 5 next time so I have time to make some more decisions while fighting.
I rolled up an Elementalist for this, levelled my scepter and focus weapons and sought some glory. Again I simply ran out of time, but what I did do was great fun even with the lag.
My first encounter was a 20 vs 20 standoff at a bridge near our borderlands, this sold me on WvW even without the tactics, keeps and sieges. The battle was to'ing and fro'ing for about 20 minutes (Tarren Mill in Vanilla WoW anyone?) until the other team decides to charge us. A good tactic it was, we were a bit shocked, they quickly gained advantage. That was until 10 people from our team that just happened to come around the corner at that exact moment. The newcomers quickly turned the tide back in our favour and we dispatched the heathens and sent them back to whence they came! So much fun, sucked for them though I'm guessing.
After our victory we were all overconfident ready for some more action, so we headed down the road looking for larger game.
We found a nice blue keep they'd stolen from us and decided we'd knock the gates down and take it. This is where things got difficult…what do we do to siege a keep? Noone had the first clue and there was noone there to help us learn. WvW needs some . Should be optional of course, but needs to be clearly presented as an option. I did the Structured PVP tutorial when I first joined the Mists even though it didn't seem clear what it was for at the time.
In conclusion, I'd like to see more emphasis on guilds in WvW, its hard to know which guild owns a keep and from what I'm told there is no notification if its getting sieged which makes it all rather pointless. I know there are a lot of people from GW1 complaining how there aren't actual guild wars the way they know it, but perhaps the guild wars could be in taking keeps instead. Make a big deal out of conquering and owning a WvW keep in another persons Borderland and make it reallllllly compelling to upgrade and defend it. While the WvW is fun, I didn't feel compelled to be out there like I did in Dark Age of Camelot.
Lots more investigation of this required.
I loved it and I can't wait for the next beta test. It was productive in that I've cancelled out Necro, Guardian and probably Warrior as possible class choices. The other 5 are still possibilities.
I've heard some disturbing rumours that the beta tests will be monthly for a the next few months. I really hope this isn't the case as it puts release a long way down the track.
The anxious feeling is gone though, replaced with a confidence that I could play and enjoy this game for a long time to come. I just hope it comes before something else gets my attention.