Well after talking to some of my friends on G+ who are just over-the-moon in love with GW2, I decided to take things a little farther today. Once again, my experience was a mixed bag. The good news is that most of the stuff that frustrated me was bug-related and so ought not be there when the game launches.
I wound up playing through the level 10 phase of my Story Quest (which I ended up completing at level 11). I found the story quests to get really challenging “at level.” My warrior just can’t stand up to the beating the swarms of mobs give him and lag makes rolling out of “hot spots” a challenge. I had to just grind out a couple of phases…run in, kill a mob or two and die. Respawn, kill a couple more and die, and so on. The last one I ended up totally cheesing out and equipping a bow and plinking away while the NPCs took the hits.
The story was pretty good, though!
Outside of my quests, I still died an awful lot. For a lot of the time I was playing I was somewhere too easy or too hard for me. The first zone is labeled level 1-15 so really it’s just a matter of learning where to go at each level. I re-did some of the “Heart” events that I’d done yesterday, only at the advice of friends I’d hang out after the event was completed and wait for further (and more challenging) phases to spawn. Ended up in some pretty tough boss battles with swarms of other people. Those are both fun and really demonstrate that ArenaNet still has lots of optimizing to do; things tended to turn into a slide show with all the spell effects and stuff on-screen and it gets really tough to see what’s happening.
It really takes until level 8 or 9 before you start seeing the cooler events, and level 10 before you start seeing the power struggles of the world. I tried to stave off an invasion of Ice Elementals that were attacking an outpost. This was pure combat…there wasn’t an Event with a capital E or anything. Nobody knew where they were coming from or why. Sadly we (myself and a few other random players) got wiped out and the nearest revive spot was a good distance away. I gave up and did something more level appropriate.
ArenaNet, btw, has managed to pull off a miracle: they’ve made escort quests that are actually FUN. Really! In one I was hired on as a caravan guard. We had to fight off robbers and even some belligerent drunks while clearing road blocks and running up to hill tops to destroy ballistas that were firing down on us.
I think the reason Escort Quests work is because anyone can join in at any point. No more standing around waiting for the NPC to respawn and then being on your own. People run up, escort for a bit and if they get bored they go elsewhere and do other stuff. Or they stick around for the whole route and get maximum rewards.
Another absolutely awesome design decision is this idea that anyone can revive a fallen character. You don’t have to be a special class or in that person’s party. And you don’t even have to do it alone…if a few people attempt to revive a down character the process just goes faster (it’s pretty slow in combat, pretty quick out of it). So why is this a big deal? Because it binds the community together. When you die and you’re quietly cursing to yourself and suddenly 2 strangers are there helping you to your feet, you can’t help but smile. And when you see someone has fallen in battle, unless you’re a total jackass you’re GOING to try to save them (bonus: you get experience for doing so).
The only real ‘downside’ today was the Overflow system and how hard it is to get with friends. Hopefully they’ll tweak that out. Combat isn’t as fun as it could be, mostly due to lag. When you have an active dodge system it needs to respond quickly and so far GW2′s sometimes does and sometimes doesn’t. That’s a beta problem though, as are the numerous glitches you’ll encounter. What probably isn’t a beta problem is that the game seems to favor ranged combat over melee, in terms of things being interesting. Even in heavy armor my poor warrior dies left and right while ranged characters hang back and avoid taking much damage.
I also think some of the events are a little too clever for their own good. There’s one where you have to throw snowballs at kids, and dodge the snowballs they through at you. Sounds funny right? It is for the first few minutes, but it goes on for far too long as you try to fill up an Event Gauge.
On the other hand I had an absolute blast in a quirky event that took place underground that was all about helping a dude build an ice sculpture of himself in order to convince the local beings that he was their god. There were a few phases to it, it was both funny and fun to do the fighting, and the rewards were good (not only the usual stuff but the local baddies became friendly once they thought a Norn was their god).
I guess that’s enough for tonight. It’s really late and my brain is going fuzzy. I didn’t remember to take many screenshots but here’s a section of one from a courtyard in Hoelbrak. Heroes from GW 1. The statue of the Norn lady in the middle is supposed to be Jora. Click on it for a 1080 pixel wide version.