The first Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend Event has come and gone, allowing those of us keen enough to pre-order the game to get our grubby mitts on it and give some feedback to ArenaNet in the process. The weekend has not been without it’s little hiccups, with a few moments of extreme lag, and some issues with logging in, but as the saying goes… it’s beta. The purpose of the beta is, after all, to find bugs, to test the general stability and to see how well the game holds up in general.
Of course it’s a happy coincidence that testing the beta also provided one of the most fun weekends I’ve had in gaming for a long time. For a beta, the overall experience of Guild Wars 2 is fantastically polished. It’s not all positive, obviously, but everything said here is said under the caveat that this was a beta.
We’ll start with the negatives, get those out of the way so we can swiftly move onto the good and the great. Firstly, there is a serious issue with optimisation. At times, the frame rate was abysmal in large groups of people. It fell to terrible levels where the game suddenly appeared to have been created in stop motion. It’s strangely inconsistent; despite having everything turned up all the way, the frame rate was smooth and good for most of the time, but in large groups, even when there wasn’t much in the way of spell effects going off, the rate would plummet. Hopefully this is something that will be fixed in time.
Two more issues I had personally are game play related. While the combat is satisfying and fun, I struggle to understand why abilities have to be unlocked. I can sort of see the logic in it, as part of a progression curve in the game. You’re not completely useless when you first equip a new weapon, but you are at a disadvantage. It takes such little time to get those abilities unlocked that I wonder why they need to be unlocked at all. One more issue I had is that there seems to be a bit of crossover in terms of class dynamics. Warriors can use guns and bows, which give them powerful long range attacks. Engineers can do the same, admittedly with the aid of turrets and other things. There just seems to be a bit too much of a crossover in some cases.
Now, onto the positives. The combat feels great. Some professions have more showy abilities than others, with the Elementalist taking the award for Most OMG Looking Abilities and Warrior taking home the This Looks Less Impressive Than I Though It Would cup, but by and large spells and abilities feel just right, with a satisfying amount of impact coming through when you use them. The combat is visceral, with everything you do feeling like it’s having an effect.
The questing is well paced and interesting, although the group nature of the quests means that it’s a bit too easy to simply cruise through the levels not really doing much. A few times that I’d managed to participate in group quests simply by killing a single mob. The quest would be completed and I’d end up with a fair chunk of XP for doing very little. It’s a system that works by and large, but it needs some refinement. It’s too easy to freeload at the moment.
Where the game shines for me personally is the World vs World side of things. WvW is well thought out, and never dull. As attackers, you flood into areas trying to take away land and points from the enemy. You storm keeps and fortresses, taking out other players and NPCs. Once you’ve taken a keep from the enemy, you are then given the task of defending it. It’s worth nothing that attacking is far easier than defending. I found that the pattern seemed to be that the those defending would be caught inside the keep, not really able to launch a full scale counter-offensive. Instead, it seems that the chosen tactic of the moment is to have members of the team assault the attackers from behind, trying to divert their attention away from the gate that you have to break through to get into the keep. It’s a sound idea, but all it really served to do was delay. Actually holding off an attack proved to be difficult.
Like so many other parts of the game, the WvW side of things needs some polish. There is a danger that it could simply a massive AOE war, with melee professions being zoned out of the combat. Then again, with effective team play, it should be possible to avoid that. There’s also the problem of the indestructible gates which can withstand quite literally an hours worth of pounding from 50 people. But these things pale in comparison to the biggest upside of them all; WvW actually feels like war.
So far Guild Wars 2 has been everything I hoped for, and more. It’s just that good. I suggest you do your best to get hold of it before the next beta weekend, and in the mean time, check out the upcoming report on the YouTube channel.