June 8 to 10 marked the highly anticipated second beta weekend for people who have pre-purchased Guild Wars 2. I know that just a few days prior to the event, a bunch of people I follow on G+ hopped onto the Guild Wars 2 train, because MMO players often follow the hive mind trend. It’s hip to drool over Guild Wars 2.
I didn’t have a lot of time to play this weekend, but I got some time in on Saturday and Sunday, getting my mesmer from the previous event from level 8 to level 13. I know, that’s piddly. The Queensdale map chat was full of people who played nonstop since the beta event started, and thus they were in their 30s. I don’t know, I don’t have that vigor for MMOs anymore, if I ever had it, and besides I find it pointless, because it just means that you will be bored that much earlier after release. Inevitably, zone chat was full of people mocking the folks in their 30s who were loud to proclaim that content isn’t spoiled for them at all, as most of them basically did nothing but PvP.
I’ll be honest with you guys, but this beta weekend I just didn’t have that much fun. I feel like a terrible pessimist but this consistent hype just makes me dislike aspects of the game more than it should. But seriously, people, it’s not that revolutionary a game. In fact, I found some things downright concerning. My biggest beef this weekend was the leveling curve. I understand that Guild Wars 2 is not your average MMO, and that I need to break the tropes of moving from quest hub to quest hub (or heart quest to heart quest in GW2) in order to level. Instead, I should fill my time with lots of exploration, crafting and lots of events, and live and breathe this world. I tried, I really did. I participated in any event I ran into, and that was a lot. I had moved to Whiteside Ridge to be able to hang out with Pewter, and this server was alive and kicking. Full, in fact, because Scary’s theory about which servers are popular seems to be very true. Events were spawning everywhere, and there were a lot of people participating in them. I found an event at a very unlikely spot in the southwestern corner of the Queensdale map, protecting beehives from angry bears, for example. Using the level recommendation of the personal storyline as guidance, I had to hit level 14 for the next step of joining the circus in Beetletun. Yet I was stuck at level 13, and that experience bar just wouldn’t move. I completed 16 out of 17 heart quests of the zone. The last one was level 15, and mobs two levels above me? Too much of a pain to even try. I had 95% map exploration, missing only one point of interest, and 2 skill challenges. I chopped every tree and mined every bit of ore I was able to find. I killed every random mob I could find, but at 6 experience points per mob, that did nothing for me. I randomly moved from waypoint to waypoint, to find events. I did a lot of events up to three times. In the end, I gave up at level 13.5 because it felt like a boring grind.
I know I could have gone to Divinity’s Reach and hopped into the Asura Gate to either the norn or charr starting zone, but that’s really beside the point. If a player is eager to enjoy all the sights of a zone, and participate in every quest and event you run into, you should not have to resort to traveling into other zones to advance. As PvE player, you should not have to fill experience gaps with PvP. I am sure they have time to tweak the numbers, but this time round, it just left me utterly frustrated.
On top of that it didn’t help that I am not really feeling the mesmer. I don’t have to, I only chose this class because a) I wanted to see the armor style first-hand after the horrors of the character creation screen and b) the profession did originally sound intriguing. Ultimately, I picked staff as weapon of choice, making her a ranged nuker. I did my level 10 personal quest with a greatsword and failed so many times that I actually proclaimed on Twitter that I’d rather mop the floors than continue playing. Which I did. My floors were grateful, I am sure. One of those things that annoys me about the mesmer is that the illusions are so…lame, I suppose. You can summon a maximum of three illusions or clones of yourself, and then your F1 to F4 abilities let you shatter your illusions to either damage, confuse, stun the mob or have you evade the next attacks. Sounds so great in theory. In practice, not so much. As ranged mesmer, all my illusions are ranged as well. Now, imagine the mob has like 25% health left, and I decide to shatter my illusions. It’s kinda pathetic to watch my illusions run towards the mob from their maximum range, taking their sweet time. More often than not, by the time they reach it, the mob’s already dead. It felt less than overwhelming. I participated in an event to kill a champion troll twice. Took about 10 minutes both times. I nuked my heart out, kept on the move, shattered my illusions every time I had the maximum number up, and buffed my allies with Chaos Storm every time it was available. Both times there were huge groups of people around, and both times my contribution to the event was labeled as bronze. A resounding meh, that’s what the mesmer gets from me. I did not unlock all weapon combinations, so maybe I am just doing it all wrong.
On the plus side, the servers seemed very stable to me, they added zone chat which was fun to read, and did a bunch of UI tweaks, compared to the previous beta. The best one is certainly the ability to deposit crafting materials in the bank from where ever you are. I’ll tell you more about that in my next post about GW2 crafting. I am on the fence about the changes to the skill system. I don’t mind the new tier system, but I have to agree that it made me take a lot of filler skills that I will likely never ever use. It’s definitely not the promised freedom, and now is closer to talent tree systems in WoW, Rift and SWTOR. Unlock a tier with five abilities that cost one skill point each, so you can get to the tier with the three point skills, etc.
Money was easier to get, I found, I had no problem affording my trait book at level 11. Costs ten silver, and without it you cannot start spending trait points. One of various moneysinks in the game. I wish you didn’t need to unlock it first, but that’s how things are at the moment.
It was good to see people being helpful about resurrecting folks. Besides, there are achievements for it, and you get experience for doing that. I surely went out of my way whenever I saw the symbol on my minimap that a dead player was in the area. I think when we did the champion wasp event at the sawmill, I got two combat rezzes.
All in all, people seemed friendly and very excited about the game. A lot of oldschool Guild Wars fans actually complained how different mesmers are now from what they used to be in Guild Wars 1. I have no idea, I never played it. All that excitement also led to me rolling my eyes a lot because the number one thing I kept reading in Queensdale chat was that people want the game released already, and their perception it’s ready. I am very sure that ArenaNet have the intention of delivering a game that will appeal to a majority of people. I think they’d be silly if they didn’t aim to sweep up some content-starved WoW players. In order to do that, the game needs to be in an extremely polished state and be truly accessible. They’re on a good road, but they’re clearly not there yet. I don’t mind that people are eager to play the game, and people in the beta did already shelf out the money for it, but seriously, it’s better to wait than to rush it.
Amongst all of my negativity, one thing truly pleased me: the more I leveled, the more I moved past the cheap lingerie model you start out as. It’s not the most flattering outfit in the world that I got, if you look at those hips, but it’s a good example that ArenaNet know how to make armor that looks good and yet isn’t a flesh show. If only the character creation screen would reflect this ability.