Review: Guild Wars 2 – 4 stars (though I am a newb)

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Guild Wars 2

A little while ago I decided to try Guild Wars 2. I’ve never tried to play the first game, and generally not that much into the whole “massive” and “online” multiplay thing. Primarily because my schedule is rather hectic, and trying to re-arrange the day around some “raid” (or whatever other activities some players have) seemed rather silly, so I wanted something I could play alone. And, to my surprise, GW2 really is good enough for a single play.

Pluses:

– There is a story. It’s full of things you’d expect from a fantasy title, dragons, evil, attempts to fight it, that kind of thing. You progress from one area to the other and story is being told along the way. As character gains the level, new abilities appear, and new things keep happening in a story mode. Your choices change the story, though I haven’t tried to read up in terms of how much of a difference does it made. As a human elementalist I was given a choice between, say, “sneak around and do something” versus “brute force mode”.

– It’s all rather pretty. Wonderful landscapes, plenty of variety, all sorts of creatures. Some customization is possible (though somewhat limited, not sure why). Traveling from area to area gives enough of different kinds of environments to enjoy them. Mountains, farms, underwater areas…

– Special events. There was a whole series of fun and interesting things for Halloween — you get to kill skeletons, turn yourself into monster and have some mock costume fights.

– Mastering a trade (two, actually). I chose cooking and leather-working. Both follow the same idea — you gather some resources while you travel, and then can figure out recipes and make things. Food allows you to gain special advantages (faster healing, or inflicting longer damage). Other kinds of craftsmen can make items. So far cooking is my favorite, mostly because it’s easier to progress.

– Map is huge. Zooming out tells you that it’ll take a while to explore it all! Also most areas include scenic “vistas” that give you experience point and show something extra pretty (though sometimes you have to think hard to get to a particular one). Along the way you get to join a number of “events” where you alone or a bunch of players get to help some characters, hunt down something, fix some broken things, etc.

Minuses
– Controls. Oh! My! God! How annoying it is, I can’t tell you. No, you can’t do regular “point and click to move”. Noooo, you have to mash keyboard for that. Oh and walking backwards is very slow. Turning around is rather inconvenient. I played for a while and still sometimes I get killed because I mess up movements. I don’t understand the logic behind this dumbheaded move. If you think many people will prefer keyboard-only mode, just make it an option. For everyone else — do the mouse clicky thing.

– Limitations and “unfair” fights. It’s only you that seems to be limited to two bars of “energy” to roll over to evade an enemy attack. Elementalist doesn’t move very fast and for situation when you’re facing a number of thralls it’s pretty much a death sentence. They run five-six times faster, 90% chance that they will attack you, even if you have other members in your party. Because, ha-ha, it’s not as much fun in killing some story-based character as the player.

Which brings the other problem — secondary characters are very often useless. Maybe I’m missing something, but frequently you and the second character are given some sort of a task and you have to do 90% of it. For example, in one “dream” sequence your companion is given a sword with “test it on a guardian” instruction. Guess what? Guardian whacks you. Ignores the companion, which leisurely throws one or two globs of energy with a sword at that thing. The rest of the time you have to run around and try to kill it. It’s infuriating.

– Impossible areas. There are a number of areas that are simply impossible to get through if you are alone. Avalon fighters that re-spawn extremely quickly, thralls that also do so. If you are alone, there’s zero chance to pass that area. Population of servers seems to be uneven, so I frequently ran into situation where I need to travel through the place where enemies get respawn so quickly, I get killed again and again. I just give up.

– “WTF do I do now” moments also happen from time to time. Some dungeons are just unclear as to what to do with particular item. One of the major island episodes was like that too — 40 minutes of being killed by thralls that swarmed everything until it turns out that you don’t actually have to kill all of them. Or when you try to protect the queen — trying to kill off the main evil guy is actually also pointless, you only need to kill his companions. It’s not clear. And frustrating.

Another slightly annoying part is that once you reach a certain level (in my case it was 50) story takes you to the other areas which, I guess, are used for other classes of characters. If your level is too high, you get downgraded. So you can’t wipe everything with a single sneeze in beginner’s areas. But you get to go through them while your normal skills are severely downgraded, which is annoying. Novelty somewhat compensates for it, but still…

Some people were complaining about bots running around the world, and I’ve finally seen some in last few days — a group of similar characters running a tight loop, attacking everything in its way, gathering experience and some loot. It didn’t bother me that much, though it took me a minute to realize these are not real users 🙂

Overall it’s a nice game. You only pay once, and the amount of enjoyable time you get out of it certainly is worth the price of admission. Plus, there are even more events coming, so new content is coming up! I’m not sure what I will do if population of the server falls so much the “impossible” areas will have zero chance of being defeated though. But I’ll wait and see.

p.s. Different classes of characters also get different story branches, so even if you have completed all of the story using, say, Charr, there’s another “branch” available for you, though, of course, you might get through the same areas but with different “tasks” to complete

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