Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I know when to eat crow...I guess. Guild Wars 2 taught me

Eating crow: Eating crow is a U.S. colloquial idiom, meaning humiliation by admitting wrongness or having been proved wrong after taking a strong position.

So a few posts ago I ripped on the giddy Guild Wars 2 fanboys and their ilk. I told them to take it easy and just please be quiet about yet ANOTHER fantasy MMO that was being launched. I am jaded. Until Secret World, which was a half hearted attempt to like on my end, I was convinced that nothing new could be done. 

Seen it all. Been there done that. I didn't have faith in Arena Net. I didn't really like Guild Wars. I mean it was ok but I had moved on to other games to really get into it. I didn't like the solo type instancing and the level cap and the PVP and I had just written off Guild Wars 2. In fact I paid it no attention. Yes for the most part I was not informed on GW2. So my fault on that end.

Now mind you I had logged about 12 hours in WoW, 8 hours in Secret World and over 31 hours in Minecraft this month. That is the trend we were seeing. I was just burned out. Minecraft was giving me more bang for the buck at 25 dollars than any recent AAA MMO title (it still does for the most part. It is my second most played game..ever).

After the burn I had taken on Star Wars the Old TORTANIC I was really done with MMO's. The Secret World was a breath of fresh air but GenCon, boardgaming and other TV shows really pulled me out of it. This was a bad sign that I didn't take the game's endgame or leveling seriously because well....there are no levels. I didn't feel a sense of progress. I am old school, I need levels. 

So on a whim I decided to pick up Guild Wars 2. Partly because we had about 15 people on our Gaming Geeks Facebook page forming a guild and partly because well...pre launch hysteria got the best of me and I started watching this series of videos on YouTube devoted to the game:

From there I did more research. And that is where I decided to plunk down my 50 dollars. The reasons were easy:

- No monthly fee, ever
- scaled leveling
- auto zone level scaling for easy back grouping with friends
- dynamic events
- small action bars not littered with tons of stupid ass skill buttons
- no more holy trinity in grouping
- crafting that actually helped
- gathering, event and exploring XP
- personal stories that are soloable
- A 2 week event in PVP like the old Alterac Valley back in the good old days. Sign me up!
- Separate mechanics for underwater combat, no drowning. Yay!
- There is a Guild Head site! http://www.guildhead.com/
- Training bots in the PVP training zone. Yes actual bots (one for each profession) that you can fight against and practice on in the PVP area. Not target dummies...actual BOTS that fight back.

The list goes on, but these are the things that as I play I find I like. Other little things also rock like having bank access AT THE CRAFTING STATION, easy waypoints to move around the map and travel, group buffs for people not in your group, no racing for gathering nodes, 3 ways to do each dungeon instance and more.

So it was to my surprise that when the game's head start went live last weekend I loved what I was playing. 

28 HOURS LATER I was still hooked and playing every chance I could. That is 28 hours in 3 days and while that is nothing for hard core levelers, that is more than Secret World and World of Warcraft combined for me in the past month. I had not bought Mists of Pandaria yet. I was holding off. I don't think I will buy it. Guild Wars 2 is NOTHING like Guild Wars 1 and has taken me totally by surprise. It also is very clever and has several sweet little hidden secrets about it.

In past few days I have gotten free skill points by battling a bear Shaman master, defeating people in brawls, and have even taken part in the Guild Wars 2 built in game of Keg Brawl. In Keg Brawl, located in the Norn capital of Hoelbrak, you attempt to take a keg and run it to your team's collector and score a point. The first team to 11 wins. During the run you can stomp, kick and punch the keg holder to get him to drop it so you can pick it up and attempt to score.

I could spend hours in game doing that alone. In fact it is better than the 500 million dollar Star Wars fail that was Old Republic's Huttball.

The best thing about Guild Wars 2 is that it REWARDS you for doing everyday things like no other MMO I have played. Daily achievements give you actual decent XP. EVERYTHING you do gives you achievements and the game rewards you well for exploring and finding those waypoints all over Tyria. You also get achievements each day for killing 10 different mobs or gathering. These are daily so you can log in and work them at your leisure.

And crafting...oh my. It gives decent XP and is fun. You need to make many small components again and can get salvage kits like in Guild Wars 1 to break down things you dont need. Gathering nodes are unique to you. So even if someone runs to a ore mine and grabs it you can still take whacks on it. You can also chop down trees and gather food for the Chefs in your guild to make buffing items. 

Are there some downsides? Of course. The game's combat is heavily oriented toward Area of Effect damage. This is all fine and good when you are in a small group but when you are a melee and doing events or rushing in all hell breaks loose. I cannot for the life of me figure out where I am in the middle of explosions, disease clouds or ground slams going off. At that point it just becomes me spamming buttons and hoping I am facing the right way. In the future they will need to add some sort of spell effect graphical turn off. It is just too much right now. 

There are several guild roster, party and in game auction house bugs as well that I do not figure to be straightened out anytime soon. Especially with the FULL launch coming the 28th. 

There are a myriad of skills for each class (sorry PROFESSION). Each class has different skills depending on what weapon they are holding. While this is pretty sweet it is also very in depth and confusing. All I can say is that ALT time for me will be limited. I have narrowed my two favorites to a hammer weilding warrior and a dagger wielding thief for now. But I also want to experiment with a Necromancer and a Guardian.

The item store. Don't get me started. Baseball caps and aviator glasses for a fantasy game? Really? Dumb dumb dumb. I choose to ignore it but you know it will start cropping up around cities with people dancing on street corners. WHY ARE THESE ITEMS IN THERE?

There are no tanks per se in this game either. You have Guardians but they work on defensive buffs and keeping people alive by preventing damage. There are no taunts that I know of. This may take some getting used to. 

I would say that ranged characters have an advantage right now but it is early for me and I suck at PVP so I am not one to judge. I only know that in World vs World PVP you can fire cannons, use battering rams and other siege weapons for the full on experience. 

The level cap is level 80 and while this may look daunting it is a scaling cap in that the experience you need to get from 20-21 will be the same for 79-80. 

If you are high level and go back to meet a level 5 friend, you are reduced to that level while in that zone automatically. No mentoring needed. All of this was thought out ahead of time. 

These are the little features that so many other new MMO's do not even ship with. Arena Net did their homework and as far as I can tell are the first designers to do so by launch date.

Don't forget to explore also. I spent my entire night last night getting half a level just finding waypoints and vistas. One vista led to a high platform overlooking a cliff with a diving board. If you approached the diving board the game actually let you put on swim trunks, get a speed boost and launch off the board into the open air and then a free fall to the water below. Simply awesome.

I may not be the fastest leveler but at least in this game exploring and finding things pays off. To say I have been taken by surprise is understating the obvious. I will eat crow...this time...and admit that Guild Wars 2 is a solid hit.

Also I highly suggest if you have a mobile device to download this application and use it constantly:


I have found it to be indispensable.