Bless the Alienware Mobile LAN Tour. I don’t know how it managed to escape publicity, but the benefit was all mine, as I was able to demo Guild Wars 2 a bit more than I’d expected. I even left to see about getting some SW:TOR playtime in, saw the line stretching around the block, and pivot-turned back to give the GW2 demo another go.
Although I still want to play an Engineer, the things I’d been hearing about its complexity as a profession had me wary of jumping right in with one. I’m a slow burner; I expect to become just about competent with my Engineer by the time I face Zhaitan. I could only embarrass myself given 40 minutes with the class, so for my first moments in GW2 I went with a Norn Warrior. This turned out to be a mistake.
I thought a warrior would give me a nice, survivable character to ease into the game with, but I found melee really difficult without the auto-run to target that I was used to from GW1. It’s just me, and a case of old habits dying hard, but GW1′s auto-run to target is precisely why I don’t play warriors in any other game. I suck at chasing down targets and determining proximity and all that fun stuff. And so I did what I do best in Norn territory, which is flail around ineffectually until stuff died. I did get better, though. By the time I was wrapping things up, I was surviving my run-in with the Broodmother… right up until I ran out of energy from dodging her attacks and she seared me with her fire breath. But, hey, I learned how to dodge!
I then tried a Charr ranger at level 28, but I didn’t do very well because the next computer I was on had terrible glare, either due to my height (very short) versus the screen or the position of the sun or something, and I could barely see anything. My pet died constantly, but I did complete a couple of dynamic events and fought some pirates who kept bombing me into oblivion. This was neat; there was always a huge tell – in this case, the pirate winds up and lobs a bomb – miss that tell and you’ll be standing in the fire. The pirate would often follow that up with a Net Shot so you can stand in the fire even longer and ponder your failure to heed the game’s warning. I’m going to go ahead and blame my impeded vision for this one. I can’t tell whether I’d still like to play a Ranger, since without the pet mechanic really intact, it’s hard to say how I expect it to be.
Finally, I gave a few of the other classes a go; Necromancer, Guardian, and very briefly an Elementalist. The Necromancer really shot up in my rankings after playing it today. Out of all the classes I tried, it felt the most sturdy when push comes to shove and you have dodging malfunctions. Then again, two pets to fire ranged attacks might be contributing heavily to that survivability, and unlike with the ranger pet, they are quick to re-summon instead of revive. I hadn’t been keen on the necro this time around because I found the graphics almost too good; that is to say, creepy and unnerving. I had much less of a problem with it in-game than I thought I would, so I am re-considering the necro’s place in my roster.
I expected to enjoy the guardian, and it didn’t let me down. I played using the scepter because I specifically wanted to try for a ranged, cleric-y feel. That Line of Warding skill is really all kinds of awesome. I don’t think I played it long enough to get a real “feel” for the class, its place in the lore of Tyria. It “felt” just like playing a warrior I sucked slightly less at. I’m not sure how to explain it. As for the Elementalist, I mainly ran one through the Norn starting area simply because I hadn’t seen any video of a female Norn elementalist. So, they exist! That is all. Oh, have this nifty video of her dancing:
Other thoughts and comments:
- I wondered how I’d take the glowing auras around characters and items. Others have said this, but allow me re-iterate – it’s very unobtrusive in the actual game. I didn’t even find myself actively “noticing” the glowing aura other than to note that red meant an enemy and green was a friendly, etc.
- “Glide-y” animations: when watching videos of gameplay it sometimes seems to me that characters sort of glide across the ground from time to time as though they’re not really connected to the ground. While I’d still hope this is being worked on and improved, in-game it was not an issue. I specifically went in hoping to note examples, and it never caught my attention in all my demo play.
- Mood-setting: something really nice that I noticed was a couple of events involving the pirates had a plot setup! That is, the pirates would run up and be invulnerable for a time, while they chatted about their plans and (probably) dropped hints as to what was going to happen and the various ways the event could go. This took place before your “new event nearby” notification popped up, so you could very well stumble upon an event in its preliminary stage and get a head start on thwarting it. I like that.
- Stuff: I could not stop running around randomly and exploring, completely ignoring the green arrows and stars on my UI. There seemed to be quite a variety of things to do, even barring the dynamic events. Random things pop up in the world, like seeing an egg and picking it up, then finding a broken tree root that is interact-able. A text dialog offers you the opportunity to fix the broken tree root, and then suggests you place the egg you picked up earlier into it. And lo, one of the hearts on the map is partially filled by your efforts.
Things like this were all over the place, and not marked by the map – even if you’re not paying attention to the hearts, just by interacting with everything you can, you’ll get stuff done and have plenty of things to do. I finally feel like I get it when ArenaNet says there are no quests. I understood it intellectually, but really feeling free to just do anything and not have to worry about whether it’s being logged or you didn’t talk to the right person first so it won’t count or whatever is so very nice. Heck, you can wander off in the middle of it and still get credit for what you did. I just cannot express how cool that is.
- Dodging was harder than I thought it would be. I was basing my expectations around Champions Online, which has casting-while-moving and a block feature, but blocking is far easier than dodging. As I said above, I did start to get the hang of dodging after a while, but it’s just not something I do much in other games and so required a real re-mapping of my expectations, and learning new things is going to take a while for me. I didn’t even begin to get into the weapon-swapping aspect of it.
That said, you definitely can choose your difficulty. Fight yellow mobs at your level for the kind of combat where you don’t really have to move a lot to stay alive. But boy howdy, if you want a challenge, take on some of the smarter social mobs a level or two above…. if you don’t dodge them, you’ll get to know your waypoints well (because downed state is not the easy-mode some people think/fear it will be).
- One last point, following up on what I said above. Playing the demo really drove home to me that Guild Wars 2 is the sum of its parts. It is not a series of gimmicks thrown together just to claim “innovation” or just to do things differently. These features work together and depend on one another.
Yes, you can heal yourself, but only every so often and not for as much as you might think.
Yes, you will have to dodge, but the game warns you when something is happening that you can avoid.
Yes, you can rally from downed state if you kill an enemy, but you have to be pretty close to killing it before you fall, and if it has friends you will likely be downed again or defeated immediately after rallying unless you retreat or change your tactics.
Yes, you can teleport to waypoints, but these waypoints aren’t terribly close to the action, and they will be disabled if your area has been taken over by a dynamic event full of hostiles.
In closing, I wish I could have stayed longer, but I was hungry, my car was parked ages away in a seedy area, and I wanted to get to it before sundown. Latest news is that Sylvari will be playable at Gamescom (and therefore, PAX) and that is the next thing I will be eagerly looking forward to getting my hands on. My anticipation for GW2 is officially through the roof instead of the roughly roof-like level it was at previously.