Reaching the month mark is a pretty good time (as good as any, really) to start throwing down real solid opinions. Opinions that at least had have some time to stew and cook properly in the crock pot of your head. Keen has given his, and I find myself in agreement with most of his points.
Thanks to Netflix I’ve been watching a lot of old episodes of Top Gear lately (as an aside, if you haven’t already do yourself a favor and watch their yearly specials where they go all over the world for shenanigans. It’s great TV). Jeremy Clarkson is a huge Ferrari fan and when you watch his road tests you can, right under the humor and his snark, hear the disappointment in his voice whenever the Ferrari he’s driving doesn’t feel up to par. You can see the letdown in his face. It’s personal for him; if the Ferrari doesn’t feel right, he just can’t connect to the car, and it has nothing to do with the car’s top speed, gadgetry or, Cthulhu forbid, fuel economy. It has everything to do with his feelings and expectations of what driving a Ferrari should be.
Which, naturally, somehow, brings us to Guild Wars 2. Somehow.
I strategically inserted that break just to make you think I was building things up and introducing the post like that in order to pan the game. Well, I’m not gonna do it. Not gonna do it because Guild Wars 2 is a fantastic game in its own right. It’s gorgeous, it flows, there’s plenty of stuff to do and, surprise, it works. You should play it. No sub, buy once and play for a lifetime (well, the lifetime of the game anyway), is a sweet proposition in this day and age.
There is a problem with it. A rather large one, and I leave it up to you to find out how much it bothers you: It’s just not the Ferrari you thought it was.
For years now (literally, we have the archives right here at KTR to prove it) the hype machine whirred its gears incessantly and the noise it was making, once you sat down and listened to it properly, sounded like we were well underway for a revolution. A radically different way of doing things. An “out with old, in with the new” state of affairs; from this point on, if the thing succeeds, things will be done this way. Not that other way. We are rewriting the book.
Now, did it work? Honestly? I don’t think so. I don’t see the sweeping changes. Or rather, to be more precise, I see some attempts to change things but in the end it’s like when you wake up one morning, with absolutely nothing to do and you say to yourself “I’m gonna rearrange the furniture today“. And so you do. And the end result may look better, may look worse… that particular corner now works much better now that you put in the bookcase and a comfy chair in it and removed the life-sized Han Solo in Carbonite. The couch now blocks part of the way to the kitchen, but it’s a matter of getting used to it, and so on. Yes, the whole thing looks and feels quite different. Congratulations. But at the end of day, you go to bed again and it creeps into your mind that this is the same old bed you woke in this morning (just feet East instead of feet North, I guess) and that you still live in the same house and you still own the exact same furniture you did this morning. Just… arranged differently. The radical changes are non existent, your attention misdirected by the appearance of what’s
new differently arranged.
And that’s the feeling I get from GW2. Case in point, the dynamic event system (or the event thingamajig mechanics, however you wanna call it). Whats the premise here? With less or more words this was sold over the years as what made the world dynamic. No more quest givers with silly question marks hovering over their heads! Your actions matter! Fail these events and the world changes, now the town is overrun with Centaurs and…
Now, hold on a minute. The quest givers still exist, even if they are not visually wondering something to themselves the whole time as indicated by a question mark. They might run around, you might not get a window popping up with some boilerplate KTR text, they might do other things but come on now… Events are Public Quests, and pretty much period right there. We’ve seen this before. Actions matter? The world changes? I think one would have to be really pedantic on the definition “world changes” to agree that the success or failure of these events (at least the ones I’ve come across so far up to level 55ish) have any meaningful sort of consequence. Take the farm with the bandit event north of Claypool. You succeed, the bandits are gone. You fail, there are bandits in the farm. That’s basically the extent of the “world changes” that I’ve seen. When it boils down to it, some NPCs were there, now they’re not. For Finagle’s sake, at least have them burn the crops or something.
Basically the same end product whenever the Horde/Alliance went up to Goldshire/Crossroads and massacred a few NPCs. We’ve had this in late 2004. There are earlier examples too. (Incidentally, that is a very dear date to me, 2004, because it marks the launch of the last game I’ve seen which offer proper seating on chairs without having to resort to jumping, lining up just right or optical illusions.
Eight year olds 2004, Dude.)
I don’t wanna digress, and I don’t wanna dwell on the negatives, just because there are so many positives. The world is beautiful, performance on my outdated rig is good, the character generator (while not nearly, nearly close to the industry standard CO or (RIP) CoX) is quite good, and there is a nice “just one more hour” feel to it that makes you wanna play it. WvWvW is good and I had fun in it despite me not being a PvP guy at all. But the biggest point to me is on the lines of what I described above. There is no revolution in the box. It does not feel like the Ferrari we were told were gonna get. Now I don’t wanna get into debating hype, we all know how it goes. Hype can say whatever it wants to say. That’s its job. And it’s our responsibility to bite on it or not. However, I do think that in exchange for that liberty to say whatever it wants to say, hype’s feet must be held to the fire every now and then when what we end up getting is the smaller engine, speed-limited, stiff suspension Ferrari instead of the one we were described.
I like that crafting gives XP, because at least there’s a reason to make those items which are naturally underpowered by the time you can use them, as usual. I like the trading post. I have no complaints with the cash shop. I like that there’s quite a few, not immediately evident QoL touches here and there which are very welcome. I love the environments, despite the world being just as fragmented by instancing as GW1 was. I love that there’s much more freedom overall.
Like Keen, if I had to qualify it, I’d give it a B. But that B also stands for Beauty, which it has tons of. It also stands for Base, from which it can build on to be even better, if Anet wishes it to be. And… I guess.. it also stands for… I don’t know. Balrog, of which there are none. *shrug*
Go play it.