I hit level 41 last night on my Human Elementalist. In that time I’ve completed (all items checked) three zones, done all storyline quests up to my level, have two crafting skills to 130ish, ran the first instance in Story Mode, done a bit of WvW, and completed two cities. I also have an alt at lvl 12 that I’m playing along with my wife.
Let me just get this out of the way: GW2 is a fun game. It’s worth the $60. It’s a solid MMO and a good step towards what all themepark MMOs should play like. It has its flaws, but none of those flaws (save one, WvW queues) are crippling or have a seriously negative impact on your enjoyment overall. Anet has some work to do, but what is there now is very good.
Some of the highlights:
Classes play differently in a substantial way. Even my Elementalist (ranged magic) plays different from my Ranger (ranged physical), which is a huge credit to Anet. Double bonus for how classes play in group situations. A lot of people make a big deal of the holy trinity not being present, but the real major step here is that every combo of classes brings something different but still viable to the table (at least for PvE and WvW. I’m sure in 5v5 min-maxing is king). Playing your class well is also noticeable, which is great.
That you can still skill-smash 95% of the PvE and progress (at least to 40, blablabla it gets harder), and in large-scale WvW player skill falls to the all-mighty zerg. (Programing note: In Darkfall even in a zerg player skill matters, a lot, so the idea that in every MMO zerg>skill is wrong and should not be accepted as a simple truth.) At the end of the day, GW2 is still a mass-market themepark, and while it’s a very good one, it would be silly to assume niche-market design, which player-skill>zerg is most definitely a design decision. Not a huge detractor from the fun, but worth mentioning.
Zone design is mostly solid. While the areas within a zone are grouped by level ranges, they are not as hard and fast as in most themeparks, and you will find yourself going back and criss-crossing often. This gives the zones a fake-life feel. They are still zones that don’t have any impact on the world (there is no world), but the smoke and mirrors are high quality.
The big thing I’ve noticed is that certain zones have a LOT more content than others, especially in terms of events. Those zones really keep you busy, while the less-designed zones play more like a hub-to-hub themepark.
Gear is plentiful and easy to acquire, while at the same time feeling like it makes little impact. Upgrading to a Master-level weapon five levels better than my old one was not noticeable. I’d say this would be a negative, but with the way GW2 combat plays, it does not bother me all that much. I’m more focused on kiting while dropping skills than looking at the numbers that pop up, and mobs tend to die at a similar pace whether I’ve just upgraded or I’m due for one.
WvW is a lot of fun and is well designed. I’ll cover this in more detail in its own post, but from what I’ve experienced so far Anet got a lot of things right, including the all-important scoring system. That said, the one massive issue is the queues. The Eternal Battleground is well named, because that’s how long the queue for it is on our server, and the three side zones also feature lengthy (1hr+) waits. As more players hit 80, this will only get worse (unless the game itself fails and people drift away at a clip faster than new ones come in, but I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. GW2 is a good game). It’s also bad enough when trying to get in solo, but organizing a guild group is basically impossible unless everyone has a 2hr+ chunk of time.
The tricky part about the queues is how different servers feel about WvW. Our server was pre-planned to be a powerhouse, with both Darkfall and DAoC guilds/alliances joining. We all enjoy PvP, and we wanted to play with and against quality opponents. The derpfest that is going to happen at the bottom of the server rankings is not something we want to be a part of, but in return we get horribly long queues. Bad design, and something Anet hopefully fixes soon by increase the cap. The derp servers will derp amongst themselves anyway, while the top-end servers will have plenty of people to fill out WvW even at 150 or 200 caps. The zones are big enough to handle that, and people can always transfer off non-WvW servers if that’s something they really care about.
I’ve talked about ‘dynamic’ ‘events’ before, and at level 40 I’ll just repeat myself: they are, at times, interesting quest chains that you forget as soon as the UI fades away, while still being flawed thanks to current player zerging of zones. Missing the ‘world’ ‘event’ stuff is not game-breaking, but for that much design effort to be spent for so little reward right now is less-than-optimal. They are overall slightly better than WAR’s PQs, but not by much. That said some of the dialog or fluff around them is cute and solid attention to details. 99% of the player base will totally miss all of that though.
GW2 crafting is themepark crafting. It’s a gold sink and a grind, and the rewards are meh. Discovery is completely forgettable other than being an XP boost. I’ve always said MMO crafting is more about the ‘what’ than the ‘how’, and the ‘what’ in GW2 is as flawed or pointless as it was in WoW and all other themeparks.
The UI is overall great and very responsive. That said, why do crafting mats go into your bags? You can already one-click send them to your bank, so why not just have them automatically go there? Must I really open my bag every few minutes to click the little gear icon? Also wtf is the point of crafting-specific bags that are the same size but require more mats as a regular bag under this system? Other games have those for a reason, but GW2 lacks it.
The one dungeon I ran was interesting, and played very different from a traditional themepark instance. More on that in another post as well.
So again, GW2 is solid and worth your money. It’s the direction I’d like to see themeparks go if themeparks must exist. But MMO Jesus it is not, and cancer has yet to be cured. Anet has some work to do, and they have already had some missteps like getting ban-happy over nothing or over-fixing karma gear pricing (lvl 40 gear for 9600 karma is silly).