Sunday, September 30, 2012

Guildwars 2


I got dragged into Guildwars 2 by some friends. My expectations were not high but I feel like the game did not deliver. My main character is approaching level 40 and I'm bored of the repetitive gameplay already. It seemed a good idea to tie the skills to the weapon types, but after little while you've tried all the different skills of the different weapons types your character can use and then you are going to use the same skills for the rest of the game ... You get to choose "utility" skills on the right side of the skill bar but most of your attacks are tied with your weapon. You also get to spend traits points in different trees to enable different passive skill. You can change the passive skills that are enabled in a tree but you can't reinvest these points in a different tree without spending an important amount of money, which is unfortunate because I would have like to try different trees at the beginning of the game but could not afford it. Since your attack skills are bound to your weapon, I think it would better if we could just change your passive for free, that way when you find a good weapon, you can pick the passive that match best this weapon and skills.

Like I said, I picked the game because me and my friend wanted to play together, thankfully we got the game in the first week while it was possible to change servers at will (but they were saying that there was going to be a fee for this in the future). Also there is nothing in the game that makes it easy and enjoyable to play with your friends in PvE: the game has many story lines and areas for the different levels in the game, as well as different starting area, and no way to teleport to your party. There are waypoints in the game but they need to be unlocked with each characters (and cost coppers to use!).The players of a party which are in the same zone as the party leader will get dragged into quests and events but a player who is far away has to run over there. I spent at least 30 minutes to join my friend once because they were questing in a cold area where every monsters on my way would chill/cripple me, so I had no choice but to kill everything on my way. Also when I run away from combat, I feel like my character is automatically slowing down... Each zone has a queue when its too full so you might end-up having to wait even after you reach the location where your friends are.

Many mechanics of the game don't feel polished. For example there are two ways to inflict damage in the game: normal damage and conditions (dots). Normal damage is boosted by power (raw damage stat), precision (chance to crit) and critical damage. Condition damage is boosted by the "condition damage" stat which is not displayed in your character sheet, except for a tooltip. Also some weapons have all normal damage skills, some have only dot skills, many have a mix of normal damage and dots, which is just bad in my opinion, because most of the the time, if you just spread your stats between condition damage and normal damage stats, you are just going to do half the damage you were supposed to do ( or maybe took the time to calculate everything and managed to find a good compromise?). Anyways, from my own experiments, many weapons skills felt suboptimal what ever choice were made with my class, leaving just a few working solutions where I would focus on just one damage type. It was very effective in the game but very boring.

In a way, it feels like completely different teams made Guildwars 1 and Guildwars 2. Some good feature of guildwars 1 were just not present in the game. I'm not talking about gameplay element which they might have decided to do differently in Guildwars 2. For example in Guildwars 1, you could start the game before it had downloaded completely, and it would download the zones closer to you in the background, if you went in a zone that was not yet downloaded you would get a longer loading where the zone is actually download by the server. And it did not take too much time to download a zone/map from the server. For guildwars 2 I had to wait until the entire 14 Go was downloaded before I could start the game. Why? Did they somehow lose the code of the first game? Also one of the selling points of guildwars 1 was that there were no shards, you could instantly switch instance (for a town) if you wanted. In guildwars 2, presumably because of "World vs World" PvP you can't even have different characters on two servers. Both games were launched with claims to attempt to change the MMO genre, and to bring innovative ideas, but its as if they got amnesia between the two iterations of the series and came up with different ideas each time.

The innovation that comes with Guildwars 2 that I like is the way that the events happen in the map. There are no large team raids in Guidwars 2, instead events pop-up regularly in zones and players are called by NPCs to come and help. This is a success, there is ususally more than one event happening at the same time in a zone and players will rally and help each other. Each zone has many different events and this adds a lot of replayability. It can be anything from escorting an NPC to a giant monster attacking a town. The giant boss fights and wars with the local mobs were a lot of fun (but I'm still bored of using the same skills sequence over and over).

It looks like they also put a lot of efforts in the story line system of the game: at the beginning of game and as the game progresses you make different choices witch dictates the story of your character. You'll get a completely different story, end up in completely different zones, by making different choices (maybe you even get different end bosses?). It looks like they put a lot efforts there and it could add a lot of replayability .. unfortunately I barely did half of my story line and am already bored by the repetitive game-play. On a side note, I remember that before the release of guildwars 1, developers claimed that the action would be more fast-paced and responsive than in most MMOs. This ended up being complete bullshit, as guildwars 1 felt quite laggy. I don't remember excatly how much, but I remember homing un-dogeable projectile and rubber-banding on the other side of a wall. Guildwars 2 is quite the same if not worse. It feels like a turned based rpg running on the server side with the client doing its best to compensate. Sometimes monsters hit me before I see them spawning, sometimes I open a combat with a stun and follow with an other skill, only to realize 2 seconds later that it did not happen, and that the server decided that the monster stunned me first.

I would say that the economy of the game is completely broken for anything that is not end game. I would blame the crafting leveling system for that. People craft with the intention of being able to get endgame gear, but to reach that level you have to craft soooooo much of the earlier levels crappy items. Almost anything that is craftable and that it not endgame you can get from the trading post for 1 more copper than the value you get from selling the item to an npc (which the minimum price, and so there is no reason to buy items from NPCs! just buy everything from the trading post!). For some items and equipment I'm pretty sure that if you count all those that have been crafted you would get a number that is far higher than the number of players in the world. Lets say that it takes 10 units of material "y" to create equipment "x", "y" is likely to be ten times more expansive that equipment "x", and the only reason why people still craft equipment "x" and pay for "y" is to level up their crafting profession.

A lot of things that happened in the first weeks after release gave me a very negative opinion of People have been permanently banned  for swearing or for finding bugs in the game. What ever your position is on free speech, at the end of the day someone paid 60$ for the product, and I think that if you don't want that person to play your game anymore, just a few days after he bough it, he is entitled to get a refund. After reading some of their press release on these subjects, I was disgusted by how they think of their customers.

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