GW2: The game Mythic tried to make

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.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in beta, Combat Systems, Darkfall Online, Guild Wars, MMO design, PvP, RvR, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to GW2: The game Mythic tried to make

  1. Randomessa says:

    where all of the jesus MMO talk started I’m not quite sure.

    It started among people eager to assure everyone it wouldn’t be the jesus MMO.

    • saucelah says:

      Indeed, it seems common among those who want to make sure people know it is not a jesus mmo, completely uncommon to hear from the actual fanbois. But then, it also seems common to dismiss even mildly positive opinions as gospels of the jesus mmo.

      People are weird. For most, any given game or book or movie or what have you is either the greatest of all time or the worst ever. So early in the hype process, I could say something non-committal such as: “Areanet appears to be asking the right questions, appears to be asking what is wrong with the theme park and changing some basic assumptions” and somehow that sentence would then be interpreted to mean I think GW2 can cure cancer.

      I do think Areanet was asking themselves the right questions. I don’t think that means they will automatically get the right answers. But they’ve certainly put more thought into their design than SW:TOR, and hopefully the next major theme park looks at GW2 and asks themselves which Areanet’s assumptions can be changed and updated.

    • Professer says:

      Some of it may be that,

      but there’s always those people who are ultra-hyped for the game and think the game they’ve been following for years will be the jesus MMO

    • As long as WoW continues to lose subscribers, there will be an appetite for the next ‘big’ game which people can believe they can dedicate several years of their life to and revive the feelings they got from their first MMO.

      I have no doubt that when the hype around GW2 has died down, there will be something else (The Secret World maybe?).

  2. bhagpuss says:

    That’s a pretty fair overview, although i don’t agree with all o it by any means. I don’t believe the WvW represents any kind of end game, for a start. I’d bet most players never do more than dabble in it because most MMO players aren’t very interested in PvP to begin with and of those that are, not many are interested in learning how to be any good at it. The WvW matching system will end up pitching all the slacker and casual worlds together anyway and I bet that turns out to be more than three-quarter of them.

    On the difficulty of killing stuff above your level, I can only speak as I found. I played a Charr ranger all weekend. I moved to the 15 – 25 zone at level 13 and other than when I was farming leather from drakes I pretty much only fought things 2 – 3 levels above me while I was soloing. I didn’t have to “bug” anything out at range, either. I just buffed the pet and sent it in to tank and loosed all my bow attacks as fast as they recycled. I could kill two mobs at a time, even con to +2 levels doing that, tanking one with the pet on the other and raining AEs on both. I think the biggest level gap I managed was killing level 21s at 17th but that was chancy and probably not worth the trouble.

    I was hoping to get over 20 to see if things changed then as some say they do, but I ran out of time.

    • Slow Dave says:

      I’m sorry I couldn’t read your post past this gem of wisdom:

      “I don’t believe the WvW represents any kind of end game, for a start. I’d bet most players never do more than dabble in it because most MMO players aren’t very interested in PvP to begin with and of those that are, not many are interested in learning how to be any good at it.”
      O rly? Why are you reading this blog which, for some time at least, has been primarily focused on two games which by your assumptions would be of no interest to ‘most’ MMO players.

      The guild I joined over the weekend (just a ‘accept everyone it’s only beta’ affair) probably 80% of the players online all weekend were in the WvWvW area.

      My question would be why would any MMO players choose to PvE in this game at all after the first run through?

      In a MMO like EQ1 say where reaching max level could take a year then perhaps you don’t need any PvP to sustain a game. But a game where getting to max level is likely to be easily achievable in a couple of months (depending on how much you play) then what is there to do to hold interest after that. What is there to challenge you?

      A few months down the line when everyones finished the ‘story’ an maxed out lvl then virtually the only ones playing will be PvPers (excluding people levelling alts). Why? Because that is the only dynamic content available to them at that point until the next expansion.

      • roqoco says:

        In Guild Wars 1, there is plenty to do in PvE at max level without the attraction of better gear and some of it has been quite challenging. In fact most of the game is at that level; probably at launch there won’t be so much content at level 80 in PvE, but there are dungeons which are designed to be hard and no doubt Arenanet will be adding high level content as they did in the first game.

        Maybe there will be a gap after release for a bit, but I’m sure Arenanet will want to add more content. So there should be stuff to do in both PvP and PvE for level 80 characters.

      • bhagpuss says:

        Well, we will see. If you’re talking about committed players who play a lot I’m sure you’re right, but this isn’t a sub game and commitment isn’t required. I’m imagining people will dip in and out as the whim takes them, not play it non-stop. Isn’t it the accepted wisdom that in most MMOs the majority of players never even reach the level-cap?

        • saucelah says:

          I think bhagpuss is right. And we rarely agree, so there’s that. But I don’t think it’s an opinion — PvP is just not the main draw to the average MMO player. Even Eve has large numbers of players that avoid PvP, and the server populations in most theme parks are much heavier in PvE areas than PvP.

          But even if that’s not the case, I think Slow Dave is a bit over focused on what interests him. I haven’t actually played, but I’ve read plenty to know that he’s ignoring a lot of approaches besides endgame PvP. For one, the story lines actually branch based on your biographical choices and possibly based on choices made while playing through the story—on the former I’ve found confirmation I trust though on the latter I have not. But even if there is no further branching, there’s plenty of differences provided by the bio choice to make not just creating characters of every race an option for completionists, but making creating characters of every race with every possible bio, for completionists and altaholics at least, an entertaining option as well.

          And then there’s the downscaling. Sure, it won’t take long to get to end level, but players are not stuck with PvP and a few raids or instances leaving all other content a waste of time. PvE only players can go back to starting areas of other races, to sections of their own race’s zones they skipped or quickly leveled past — not only can they go back, but they receive max level rewards for killing level 1s as long as they are downscaled.

          Nah, Slow Dave is indeed slow. GW2 might not have cured cancer or turned water into wine, but it did come up with some good solutions for old MMO problems — providing endgame content by not making the endgame the, well, end of the game as it has been up to that moment, is one of the game’s better solutions.

        • Randomessa says:

          For one, the story lines actually branch based on your biographical choices and possibly based on choices made while playing through the story—on the former I’ve found confirmation I trust though on the latter I have not.

          I can confirm. You have from 2-3 branching choices to make during the course of the storylines available in the current betas.

      • carson63000 says:

        I also believe that most MMO players aren’t very interested in PvP to begin with and of those that are, not many are interested in learning how to be any good at it. And I can’t for the life of me see what connection there is between holding that belief, and finding SynCaine’s blog interesting or uninteresting.

  3. roqoco says:

    Over the weekend most of us only got to do the starter areas up to about level 15 maximum and since Arenanet need to do 5 of those, one might expect the more detailed events to occur when the racial paths converge. Maybe we’ll get to see in the next beta.

    As to combat. With weapon switching – you can get some great synergies by switching between ranged and melee that make it possible to tackle mobs at a higher level. The ranger single handed sword, for instance, has two evade skills on it that are very damaging and allow you to get back to bow range. There are also some nice combos between the torch in offhand (bonfire) and bows. Combining some of these is very satisfying and much deeper than the combat mechanics in other MMOs. Also you can use most skills whilst moving, so you rarely need to get into a situation where you are trading hits, one to one, with a mob, unless you misuse your dodge/roll.

    It seems to me that like many other people, on the one hand you want the game to be challenging, but on the other if the mobs do actually kill you, you then complain that they are too high level for the area. I really hope that Arenanet don’t listen to this kind of thing and tries to keep the highest challenge level that doesn’t alienate new players. If you can’t hack it above your level and don’t like the occasional defeat – there’s the simple expedient of levelling up in an easier area, before tackling the harder content and learning to make the most of the different weapons – and none of us are going to be awesome in just two days of play.

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  5. Bonatius says:

    Jesus MMO? There is no such thing. The challage I feel after 3 days of GW2 beta is that a non sub MMO looks way much better in most areas than any sub MMO on the market (Eve excluded). I guess that should raise questions for those sub games….the future looks interesting!

  6. theJexster says:

    Sigh, the 20 minutes same old same is exactly what I was afraid of. Looks casual fun the way Diablo does. Doesn’t do enough new and inventive to impress the seasoned players. I guess once you’ve seen a barrel of pickles you’ve seen em all. I feel like my expectations have moved faster than the industry. Maybe I just need a few years off to give them time to evolve a bit to the point where they impress and surprise me once again, then again I haven’t touched a MMO in 3 years, I don’t think I’ve been blown away since Nintendo 64 lol.

  7. KH says:

    The long term GW2 players will actually be the e-sport crowd and WvWvW people aka pvp people. PvE loot whore types don’t play games long where most of the benefit of loot gained is the look of it. Anybody still looking for the perfect MMORPG is a moron because there will never be one..

  8. Hmm says:

    I get the feeling MMO’s over the years have really laid a brainwashing to people when they can’t even wrap their heads around new play styles as simple as this. It’s been stated pretty much everywhere gw2 has been mentioned that you have to learn your skills and not be a spamtastic waste with them to be effective. It’s all about being aware of your situation, and responding to the here and now. Not the “I’m a warrior, therefore I tank”.

    I wish people would stop trying to force a certain mindset on gw and play it for what it is. Learn how the skill system works, play it for what it is, not what you expect it to be from other games. Same issues plagued a lot of GW1 players. Majority of people just could not seem to wrap their heads around that type of skill based combat. There’s all sorts of “rock,paper,scissors” to it, mixed in nicely with with many other elements, such as placement,mobility, etc…

    I can respect what the article author has to say. But damn, why is everything so critical at such a low level of play? GW1 had a level cap of 20, and that’s really where the game started. I feel people begging for higher levels for gw2 has only confused the shit out of most new people to the franchise. GW is not a level/gear based game…. it’s all about your skills, the customization of those skills, tactics, and your own creativity with all of that, solo and in groups.
    If you go into gw2 with expectations of some other game you’ve played before because of a similar feature…. you’re gonna be let down, hard.
    Do yourselves a favor, clear your mind as if it’s a new genre before the next beta event ;) Skill > All in the GW universe.

    • roqoco says:

      +1. It’s sort of amusing to see how players new to GW want everything served up on a plate.

      Arenanet, have a tried to make the learning curve shallow, but perhaps the starter areas need longer tutorial sections. Saw one “review” for a major publication where the reviewer didn’t even realise there was anything else to do, but follow your personal story :(.

  9. thade says:

    My lack of interest in GW2 is purely rooted in lack of draw to the classes or the setting. If a few months from now people are bragging about the combat and WvWvWvWhatever as if it’s a return to DAoC or something equally grandiose, I’ll give it a try.

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