Let me get this out of the way first; GW2 is worth the $60. If it had a sub I’d feel differently, but as it does not, what GW2 does is worth the $60. All of the below is based on getting a character to level 15 and ‘finishing’ the first zone, and playing a few more to 5-6.
Overall GW2 is good-enough, but where all of the jesus MMO talk started I’m not quite sure. It’s not that, at all, and if you go into it thinking it will be you will walk away very disappointed.
In a nutshell, GW2 PvE is what WAR must have been like before EA told Mythic to make WAR more like WoW. Your PvE options are public quests and area rep-grinds. The hype about GW2 PQs progressing and feeling ‘natural’ is just that, hype. You will see the same PQ repeat frequently, and none that I’ve experienced so far have an impact beyond perhaps turning off a warp point. The rep-grinds are exactly what you would expect; some basic tasks you can complete in an area to get some XP/items. Rounding out the options are ‘hidden’ mini-quests and the occasional rare spawn.
Not that the above makes GW2 PvE bad mind you. It can be pretty decent when things line up, but reinvent the PvE wheel ArenaNet did not. Still, getting WAR’s PvE right is a good thing, and something Mythic never actually pulled off. Bears bears bears does apply to GW2, so it has that going for it.
I won’t talk too much about PvP simply because in the first three days PvP looks nothing like it will three months in. What works or does not today is almost irrelevant.
GW2’s combat is what I want to talk at length about, because it’s here I’m most disappointed. It still feels like it did back when I played the game at PAX. It’s not as “stand and trade” as WoW, but it’s not the ‘action combat’ of Darkfall either. It’s this odd space in-between, where you can dodge sometimes, sometimes not, and hits require ‘real’ range but not really. It’s a tab-targeting system, but also one that will allow you to hit a skill and have it go on cooldown even if you are out of range. There is no friendly-fire, but you can hit an enemy you were not targeting it if happened to be along the path of your attack.
For example, you can circle-strafe to ‘bug out’ mob AI at range, like in DF, but not all the time. It depends on whether the mob has an “I’ll always hit you” attack, or a dodge-able ability. Same goes for using the terrain; you can bug the mobs out sometimes, but others they will just ‘cheat’ and climb up a cliff to get you. In WoW you can never do this because all mobs ‘cheat’, and in DF they never do. In GW2, it’s 50/50, which is very inconsistent and feels off.
I like that GW2 has a very limited number of abilities per weapon/class, and the swap weapon feature adds some nice depth, but why does the game still have auto-attack? Is it action combat, or Simon Says? Furthermore, auto-attack itself is very powerful, which reduces the player-skill cap and allows ‘bad’ players to still contribute a significant amount. This is somewhat of a non-factor in PvE, but in PvP it matters. In a high player-skill game like DF, one very good player could take out 20 ‘bads’, which is why elite groups worked. Even grossly outnumbered, they could still win, and taking down that elite player was very rewarding. With the power of auto-attack and tab-targeting in GW2, I’m having a hard time seeing that possibility. Elite players will still flock to each other, and they will still dominate WvW, but they will be forced to do so in large numbers, which is an all-around bad thing.
Some other random thoughts:
Graphically I think GW2 looks good, but not mind-blowing. The lack of DX11 is noticeable.
The personal story was solid in terms of single-player, one-off content. It’s not Skyrim, but it’s a step above the average MMO quest.
Having to use a weapon for X amount of time until you open up all the skills feels very much like WoW’s old weapon skill; a pointless penalty for finding a different weapon that long-term has zero impact. Same goes for unlocking weapon switching at level 9; its 8 levels you have to get through to play your ‘real’ character.
I’d caution anyone writing how great the ‘community’ felt. Its beta and everyone knows there is a wipe coming. People play very differently under those conditions compared to launch, especially in an MMO with a PvP end-game and 80 levels to ‘get through’ to fully reach it.
Level scaling felt horribly off to me. Fighting anything one level above you was a heroic effort, and anything two levels or more was going to roll you (unless you bug it out at range of course). This, combined with the down-leveling mechanic, meant that crossing a newbie field that happens to have one higher-level mob resulted in death, despite the fact that your character is really much stronger now than when he crossed that field 10 levels before. It’s immersion breaking in the worse way.
Getting item drops at your ‘real’ level off lower-level mobs is a smart design decision, assuming no-one figures out a great way to exploit it. Place your bets on that happening now.
My wife played the game for about 20 minutes, asked if she could stop, and commented that it would likely be a fun game in a group, but was the same boring stuff solo.
Over the weekend, I was playing GW2 when nothing was going on in EVE. When something was, it was not difficult to switch. Make what you will of that.
The login issues of Friday night happened again Saturday. Server switching did eventually work. I ran across a few bugs, but nothing horrible like a CTD.
Looking forward to another weekend and trying out a different class to 10+. The human warrior I played was interesting, while the human necro did little for me.