Another weekend, another beta event. Guild Wars 2 continues its path towards that still indefinite launch day, and from the current experience it just might launch smooth as butter. Let me give you a run down of what I experienced during these three days.
From the copious amount of articles, posts, and videos of every class I savored before I had any chance to play the game, I had picked the probable first three classes I will play for release. In order: Charr Elementalist, Norn Ranger and Human Mesmer. Playing the Elementalist until around level 20 last beta I confirmed my love for the class, and assumed everything would remain on this order. Now… I’m not as sure anymore.
The Ranger was actually the first profession I created last event, but only this time I gave a more detailed look into it, specially testing all weapons available to it. Just like with the Elementalist, all weapons feel very versatile and with very different functions. All but one: the greatsword. That weapon is amazing.
If you didn’t play with the greatsword, you haven’t seen the Ranger
Never I felt so agile as I did while playing with this weapon. The Swoop skill, a high-speed, high-damage and low-cooldown charge attack keeps you moving quickly between packs of mobs, and the first multi-skill Slash/Slice/Power Stab clears large groups with wide slashes, making this one of the best melee weapons/profession combinations on the game. Trust me: if you didn’t play with the greatsword, you haven’t seen the Ranger. I’m really considering changing it to be my main character once the game comes out.
But even if I have a new-found love for the ranger, the profession I played the most is surely the Elementalist. The flexibility of this class is unparalleled, so while I may not play it as my first class, it’s still one of my absolute favorites. I just might switch between both. Argh, choices!
Additionally, I also played until level 12 with the Guardian, and I quite enjoyed the class. I’m really into the heavier weapons on Guild Wars 2, and here it’s no exception: the hammer is a joy to wield, and have very satisfying animations that fully convey the weight and power of the weapon. It’s a resilient profession with enough DPS for very high survivability, and a great number of support skills to make him a powerful addition to any group.
Considering I also played with the Necromancer and the Mesmer last beta, I am now only missing the Warrior, Engineer and the Thief. Well, I should remove the thief from this list. I created it before my guardian, and… well, hated it. The initiative mechanic goes against the removal of energy from all other professions, and simply doesn’t feel right on a game where everyone else is just managing cooldowns.
This being the only “proper” dungeon available during this beta, the final boss King Adelbern was very high on my hit list. After leveling with the Elementalist as fast as I could on the first two days, I managed to find a group of random but friendly strangers so I could have my first run on Ascalonian Catacombs. Boy, I was not ready for that.
Right after opening the first door, the first group of mobs can be brutal when you come from the leveling experience and jump head-first to every enemy you see. It took us a few attempts until finding the right balance, but we kept pushing through. Wipes? Yes, we wiped. A lot. But just like everything else about the game, wiping was designed on Guild Wars 2 to be part of the experience, not a terrible punishment for failure. Rallying after kills, reviving other players, even the presence of waypoints inside the dungeon make failure a learning process, which I really enjoyed.
I also appreciated the (I think) new addition for this beta: an anvil at the entrance you can use to repair your equipment, making it so you never need to feel too frustrated for dying in a single hit for some of the strongest enemies.
World versus World Jump Puzzle
Not an instanced dungeon, but I think the denomination still stands. Can I just say one thing? I love jump puzzles done right, and I’m pleased with how Guild Wars 2 implements them. They are hard, frustrating, and sometimes not rewarding at the end, but it really is one of those cases of “the journey is more important than the destination”.
This dungeon has an interesting concept, where the traps present are (mostly) not triggered by your presence, but by other players. These can be used as a tool to stop your progress, which makes perfect sense considering this dungeon is inside the PvP environment. These traps are not really that hard, but getting hit just as you are about to make a hard jump will make you slightly slower, so it’s still an interesting tool to harass your opponents.
If you have any interest on giving this a try, I really recommend getting in there and trying to discover by yourself how to do it. But if you really like to spoil the pleasure of discovery, or just isn’t interested on going there at all but still want to know what the fuss is all about, I recommend this video by NomaD that shows a very well done, even if not flawless run through the entire thing in less than 15 minutes. It took me around one hour for my full run; some of the puzzles are really hard to discover for the first time, and even then can be tricky to execute.
Crafting / Gathering
I gave another chance to the crafting system as well, and it’s really growing on me. Once I started making my first items, the concept clicked and I noticed how the supposedly “random” system is not really random at all. A lot of experimentation will indeed be required, but the materials used for crafting make a lot of sense, so with practice you’ll be able to identify what type of result you can get out of the stuff you have in hands.
It all adds up nicely: crafting produces some pretty spiffy items you actually want to use; gathering is non-competitive and plentiful, and almost a necessity for everyone, even those that are not going to craft anything because it’s something to sell for gold, and gathering drops upgrades for your weapons and armor you can’t find anywhere else; gathered mats also take little bag space since you can right-click them and send to the bank from anywhere in the world. It’s a great combination that motivates me to delve deeper into this aspect of the game.
ArenaNet really ramped up things this time around. With some really epic bosses, the presence of important NPCs such as Rytlock and Eir, and cool new mechanics, the final event was many steps ahead of the previous BWE. Check it out.
There were some comments on chat about sights of The Shatterer, the dragon lieutenant of Kralkatorrik, but I didn’t get to see it. I also didn’t captured a lot of the cursed players, but you can see some at the end of the video. It’s a very cool mechanic and made the event much more special because of it.
More than anything, I was impressed with the game’s performance: I did lower my graphics one notch since I was recording the video above and I wanted better framerate, but with graphic settings above medium I still had solid 30 frames per second most of the time, even during the major combats with dozens of players and more particle effects than my semi-lousy GeForce GTS 250 should be able to handle. We threw everything we could at the game, and it handled like a champ.