Guild Wars 2 Final Beta Weekend
The final beta weekend for Guild Wars 2 is over. I dipped into it again to check out the new races, and found they had added a few other bits and bobs as well. I even spent a couple of hours following Reginald Cuftbert and crew around, just for the giggles, and got to try out the gem purchasing in the process. I have a feeling it might be seen as tad expensive in other, less rich countries, at least when it comes to server transfer. (I’ve paid more for less though.) Also, having to log into the game to buy gems and then logging back out to be able to swap servers seems needlessly convoluted.
I started out this time by checking out the Asura, and making myself a warrior. Warrior was actually quite fun, and though the idea was to try out a proper melee class, I found the bow to be my favourite weapon (I mean, it set things on fire and caused explosions!), though greatsword was my second favourite. Turned out to be a very good kiting weapon, allowing me to pull off a skill challenge that by all rights should have smeared me across the walls.
The Asura themselves are fairly equivalent to the gnomes and goblins of World of Warcraft. In fact, they feel like a bit of a mix, full of clever smartarses with crazy inventions and a penchant for explosions. They suffer from quite a bit of egolomania, and seem to determined to take over the world in ways that would make Brain approve heartily. So they are by far the least serious of the races I’ve tried so far (I only have the Norn left, and I can’t imagine them acting like cartoons), but in spite of their silliness they do seem quite capable, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they pulled off their plans someday. Their design feels like a mix of gnome and goblin, with a clear hint of something subterranean (their skin colours range from pale, through grey and brown, to black), perhaps even reptilian. And the sharp teeth are kinda scary. They’re not exactly beautiful, but they look kinda cool.
The Asura environments are quite simply beautiful, and wonderfully elegant. Their buildings are very distinct, there is lots of weird technology around, wonderous inventions and impressive golems, and somehow it all seems to merge quite seamlessly with the nature around them, looking like they belong rather than standing out. Certainly a lot cleaner than the Charr’s early industrial look, and a lot more fantastical than the Human’s countryside look.
Next up was having a look at the Sylvari. Due to work I didn’t have time to look as much into them as I did the Asura, but I definitely got a few impressions. I made a thief this time, on the grounds that stealth is cool, and even in just the few levels I played I felt like it was a very fast class. It seemed like every weapon had at least one way of shadow-stepping into or out of combat, to quickly lay down your strikes then remove yourself from harm’s way at your own convenience. And even the class heal lets you go invisible for a short while.
The Sylvari themselves are kinda interesting. While they’ve been billed (mostly by fans) as the elves of the game, they feel more like creatures of the Fae (though to be fair, before Tolkien elves were typically Fae creatures, and usually quite cruel). Specifically dryads. From what I gathered they “live” in what they call the Dream until they “awaken” fully-grown in the material world under the Pale Tree, and what part of the day they awaken tends to dictate their personality and the role they’ll pursue. They are a very noble race, determined to protect the world and face down evil. I think it was said they are the youngest of the races (though who knows how long they existed in the Dream first), and it kinda shows. They haven’t been around long enough to become jaded. Appearance-wise they look like someone merged an elf with a tree. There is a beauty to them, almost a bit alien, but they seem to have wanted to avoid the traditional sexy elf look.
The environments look quite beautiful much like the Asura ones, and like the human environments there are a lot of farms and such closeby, although it’s all fruit and vegetables. Does a plant eating other plants make it a predator? But yeah. It’s got some of the countryside vibe of the Human area and the beauty of the Asura area, but with a more fairytale-esque spin to it.
The final thing I noticed that I felt was worth mentioning is the inclusion of vista points. Certain points on the map are now marked with a red double-triangle thing, and you see a huge map hovering above the location in the world itself. These places often take a bit of searching and platforming to reach, and once you trigger it you get a scenic view of the area, with the camera panning around to show you what it feels is worth showing, then awards you a bit of experience for being clever enough to find it.
The game is still fun, but I also still have the issue of hitting “can I be arsed to go on?” fatigue at a certain level. I think I’ll have to make sure to end up on a server with friends. From what I’ve heard it should still be possible to guest-visit other servers to group with friends, but I still feel like I should pick my server carefully. The content is good, the PvP is actually fun, the events are interesting, the voice-acting is decent, and the races seem intriguing with nice personal storylines. And yet… the game has trouble sucking me in. I’m sure it will be more fun with friends, but let’s just contrast this with what I did on The Secret World last night.
Together with Jarenth, Desgardes, a friend of theirs and a PUGer we went into a dream vision where we were fighting Mayans a thousand years ago together with Native Americans and Vikings on our side, because the Mayans had invaded North America, and we ended up fighting a giant Lovecraftian horror-dragon alongside a huge Viking wielding Excalibur. I know the games are aiming slightly differently, and personal taste figures into things, but I personally feel The Secret World is much better at getting me immersed. Guild Wars 2 feels more like something I’d play in spurts here and there, so the lack of monthly subscription is definitely a boon there.
We’ll see though. Maybe once the game launches and I start my Norn elementalist I’ll lose myself in the world and get up from my desk later to find I’ve been declared legally dead.