[GW2] Closed Beta Bookends and Quick Impressions

One whole weekend of Guild Wars 2 was not enough. Last night I had dinner with my mom, and she asked me about my trip to Disney World. How could I explain to her all the fantastic memories from my 5-day trip? I emphatically said it was great. Then we talked about how we could all go down next time. This is how I feel about sharing my Guild Wars 2 weekend. Where do I even start? I didn’t take a terabyte of vids to let it speak for itself.

This is the beginning of a few posts on Guild Wars 2 weekend, and this is the one where I will answer any questions you, valiant reader, have. Ask away below in the comments section. If you want to overdose on information, head to GuildMag’s constantly updated news aggregation page linking to every bit of press impressions and video they can grab. I have many more posts to write, but these are some quick impressions.

Anyway, I can begin somewhere. I played a ton, and I feel I barely scratched the surface of the game. I mastered the human Queensdale map (level 1-15), cheated to level 30, then just ran around Diessa Plateau (charr, level 15-25) and Kessex Hills (human, level 15-25) soaking in as much as I could. I played random arena PvP and finished the weekend trying to come back as world underdogs in World v. World (WvW) along with Elisabeth at Massively and Totalbiscuit. I hope we pulled ahead of that infernal blue team.

The PvE areas were great. Queensdale is thoroughly the human starting area filled with farms, towns, and monasteries, which breaks down as the frontierlands of Kessex Hills hint at all the dangers of the world. The charr Black Citadel city is a masterpiece to the eye, and the two charr zones we had available feel filled with hard-edged strife.

I was in the developer and press guild, which ensured that the press always had someone available to help them out. As I was spending tons of time in Queensdale, I saw that many press simply refused to leave WvW. They were absolutely addicted. I have quite a few stories on WvW later this week. PvP was also fun, but I quickly saw how high the skill ceiling was. I could have easily spent the whole weekend just playing the two available PvP maps.

Sadly there were two places I simply did not have time to visit. The dungeon, which I had run in the past, and crafting. I feel really bad for missing out on crafting. When we were chatting in the guild about how many of us could simply live in WvW, one developer (one of the writers), said he could live at the crafting table. I hope that someone took the time to give it some good impressions.

What I can say with finality is, if $60 is the price tag of Guild Wars 2 it is going to blow away the competition in terms of value.  It is incredibly polished, even in beta. There are tons of content. In my 6-8 hours of Queensdale, I went way too fast. I can easily see spending double the time while enjoying the sights, making sure to trade, gather, and craft, and soak in the magnificent, artistic beauty imbued everywhere in the game world. If I had spent a whole day in WvW, I would not have been surprised. I feel like I want to check on green and blue just to see what they are doing. I could always help shore up defenses. Guild Wars 2 feels like it would be like paying a flat fee for lifetime cable television with HBO.

Guild Wars 2 was a serious blast, and I am still digesting the feeling that the closed beta weekend is gone. I don’t know what my methadone is going to be after this. Guild Wars 2 cannot come quickly enough!

More later,


51 thoughts on “[GW2] Closed Beta Bookends and Quick Impressions”

  1. This is kind of a boring question, but how was the lag and what kind of machine were you running on? Some people have complained, others seem to not mention it or their vids look great.

    Anyway, I eagerly await your future articles, glad you had such a great time.

    1. i7 930, 6 gb RAM, and only a GeForce GT 240 (1 gb), and it ran like a charm at pretty high everything. Even in WvW it was running fairly smooth. I know they have a bit of optimization left cus some systems were not running as well, but if you can run Rift or SWTOR well… GW2 should run and look great.

      1. Thanks man, that’s a perfect answer. I’m *probably* getting a new PC before release (unrelated reasons), but if not then it sounds as if I should be ok.

    1. That’s a really tough question to comment on. If by gameplay you mean combat, then much less. There are small skill rotations, but combat is so much more active. If you stand and deliver, you will get much more hurt than being mobile and watching the battlefield.

      If by gameplay you mean that general MMO/RPG feel. I think it still has it. There is much more advancement/progression than GW1. It feels as deep as WoW/LOTRO on that end rather than the lighter notes of GW1.

      I am writing a “systems” post for later this week, and I will try and be more in depth and comparative. If you can be more specific though, I’d be happy to answer more!

  2. How are traits ? Are there a lot to choose from, do some feel useless/cheated ? What about the dodging mechanic ?

    And What does the Mesmer feel like ?

    1. Traits I will go into with the system post. They feel good, and deep. 2 of the 5 lines aren’t useless, but they are definitely support, which you won’t use right away anyway. Yet, the game leads you to them. It is quite good and I will go into traits in more detail in the Systems post.

      Dodging is… I need to master it better. A good dodger is amazing. Once you hit the level 20-ish mobs they begin to use advanced tactics on you, and I feel if I had spent more time on them, I would’ve learned it a lot better. I am guessing a level 80 character having gone through the game will be a great dodger or have high repair costs.

      From what I saw of the mesmer, it is a tricksy, highly mobile wizard. The thief needs to get in your face, while still being mobile, but the mesmer is much more a harasser. The mesmer using the warp tunnels in WvW was freaking invaluable with the siege golems.

  3. What’s the pacing like? I’ve read several accounts and watched a couple of videos and it looks frenetic, even in what looks like the newbie areas, what with all the shooting animals repeatedly in the face with giant blunderbusses and striking heroic poses going on.

    Does gameplay dictate such a hectic pace or can you just wander about and do things in your own time and still progress?

    Looks bloody fantastic, though. I can’t wait! Well, except that I have to.

    1. Yes, this is one of the problems I had with CBT weekend. The time pressure felt incredible because THERE WAS SO MUCH GAME.

      This is a point I will definitely expound on in the PvE post, but once you got out of the burning part of the heatmap, it got a lot smoother. It felt really nice in the 15-25 zones where there was only 2-5 players in the area with you instead of 50.

  4. What classes did you play in which formats? Do you have a favorite class/play style from this beta weekend?

    1. I really tried to understand and master the necro. I really am having issues with it because I don’t understand how/when to use it’s death shroud. It feels like it should be used more, but I don’t know how/when.

      I love the necro as a bleeder condition spreader (axe/horn and scepter/focus). I feel I need to learn more how to use the necro’s death shroud side of things, which are central to the staff weapon.

    1. Yes, very constant place to play. It got epic in moments, but when I played those moments broke as quickly as the losing side. I would guess in live where 100 v 100 might happen it will be moreso, and I would be battles could easily pendulate between sides.

    1. Yup, plenty of that. Very fluid stuff. It was not very confusing because the system points you in the right direction, but you definitely have to think in more directions. The Krait area in Kessex Hills is really a deep place with pretty constant threat. You can easily aggro above and below if you aren’t careful.

  5. How did ranged combat work? Do you have an aiming reticule and then see actual missiles fly? And do they have physics/gravity?

    1. Ranged combat is semi-targeted. You will shoot at the thing you target, but if something gets in the way, then that thing will be shot/hit. Missiles can also be dodged, but some ranged attacks like Necromancer Axe #1 is insta hit with direct line of sight. Insta-hit can be dodged, I believe, but the time to dodge is so low. There are also ground targeted skills.

      I am not sure if it is like GW1 where being above the target does more damage, ala arrows falling death from above.

      1. ok thanks! so no rubber banding arrows that magnetically follow a target around objects?

  6. You mentioned you bumped yourself up to level 30, and then ran around level 15-25 zones… does that mean you were side-kicked down? If so, can you share a little of how that felt? What level did it put you at, and did you feel overly strong for the areas? Were you killing mobs without concern, or was it still challenging, with a chance that you’d die?

    1. YES! I will go in to side-kicking more in depth, but it felt great. I was running around a level 24 area as a level 32, and I would never have known it. It was still challenging, I think I even died once or twice. It felt like I was a level 24-25 in a level 24 area.

  7. Hey. First gratz on getting to beta, I wasn’t sure you made it.

    I have question regarding dynamic events. I know they are not permanent, and they cycle. I wonder however, how much you feel your actions meaningful. Is there a chance that anyone loses interest in those events knowing they will anyway cycle back?

    Also, do you have any experience how much those cycling-backs feel natural or forced?

    1. You move on so quickly in a sense that I don’t feel most will care about them cycling back. With warping waypoints it’s not like you will be running past that “saved” area all the time. In fact, like with one event in Queensdale where we beat back the centaurs, I was like yeah centaurs bring it! Let’s do this some more!

      That being said once you take a centaur camp you will see instant effects, such as the Seraph running in and setting up shop. Stuff like that. I have more examples.

      tl;dr – short term effects are very noticeable and immediate, long term I don’t think many people will notice as much as they think. I will speak more on this.

      1. Being a pessimist, I’m betting players will end up with a lot of Groundhog Day feelings, especially for event chains with negative consequences for failure in areas that aren’t as popular.

        1. Perhaps. I mean the beta was filled with either press or people that wanted to be there… but I see that if an event was lost, people almost took offense in a role-playing manner as if “those motherf’in krait are on my motherf’in town”.

        2. Event chains scale so popularity of an area shouldn’t matter. And like Ravious pointed out, failure just adds incentive.

          Also, it makes sense that an area plagued by war will continue to be, well, plagued by war. Sadly there’s places in the real world where it’s an endless cycle with no end in sight. The enemy always needs to be fought off, vermin always needs to be exterminated, livestock always needs to be fed, etc. To me, that aspect will build immersion.

          Cycling is fine (and necessary) so long as it makes sense. Enemies instantly reappearing or towns instantly turning back to normal in an instant make no sense. Enemies coming back makes sense, as does towns becoming damaged or repaired over time.

          Now events that end in a big bad might feel a little weird to repeat, but you’re likely to be gone before that happens and if you stick around or come back with the intent of doing it again because you enjoy it, you obviously aren’t going to be bothered by it.

  8. Ravious, your comment replies suggest you were tired and over-worked when you got to them. I would tell you to take some time and recover, except I’m pretty sure that frantically discussing GW2 is something you’d want to do with your time anyway :P

    Looking forward to your further impressions, everything I’ve heard so far suggests the game lived up to its promise.

    1. Naw, not tired and over-worked. Just trying to keep it at becoming a five paragraph response. A lot of it I will go in to examples and details for later posts. :)

  9. With regards to skills. As I understand it each level you achieve get points to use to get skills, and they cost different amounts. When you reach level 80 will you have been given enough points to get all the skills for the profession, or will you keep being given points like in GW1?

    1. I don’t know honestly. Queensdale had 5-6 skill challenges, maybe 7? I forget. I’d say the average utility skill cost was 3-4. So with leveling and skill challenges you can get a utility skill every 2-3 levels?

      So yeah, I would say gut feeling is that it will be within reach to have all skills unlocked by 80.

  10. I really can’t wait for this one.. this closed beta has only got me more excited and I’ve been waiting for this since February 2011. Perhaps not as long as some but for my standards, yeah. I might even see what the PvP’s all about in this game, perhaps I won’t hate it so much. I do, however, need to do something with my HoM.. I haven’t really started with GW1 and that’s bad!

  11. Going to quote from Elizabeth’s post and cross-tie it to EVE (sorry to those who don’t play both games):
    “Using your heal while standing in the middle of enemy AoE isn’t going to cut it. … There’s no fun in trying to beat someone’s red bar down faster than he can bolster it.”

    THIS is the big design issue that those who don’t like EVE ECM have to deal with. There’s stuff you can do with switching targets or whatnot, but if you don’t have enough alpha, ECM-ing the Guardians is the big equaliser. Temporarily disabling an enemy unit’s output gives a side lacking DPS at least one tool to re-shape the terms of the contest.

    1. Yeah, in GW2 being unresponsive is the way to lose. Whether that’s dodging out of AoE’s, dazing an enemy about to cast a big skill, or ignoring downed foes…. it can hurt.

  12. I don’t believe I’ve seen anyone else ask this: How many character slots did you have open for you to make your characters?

  13. Did you ever get to a use any of the Human elite’s? I would think that summoning hounds of balthazar would be pretty sweet.

  14. Gz for having the chance to try out the open Beta.

    I would like to have some more comments on the open World PvP.
    1) How is the scale of the maps? From the videos I’ve seen it looks like there is not much room between objectives. How are the travel times? Can you fast travel to objectives?
    2) How much PvE is there? I noticed Guards on the objectives, but I also noticed roaming NPCs(?) labeled for example as “Green Invader”, are those NPCs actually attacking other strongholds (DotA style)?

    Thanks and keep up the good coverage of GW2!

  15. It sounds like you got really immersed in the competitive aspect of WvWvW. Did it give you that craving to keep coming back to see if your accomplishments had helped your team, and lasted? Do you think when the game goes public, people will get a real sense of: “We really have to work together for our server’s reputation?”
    From what I’ve read, it actually sounds like a memorable part of the game. That was what was lacking for me in WoW’s Wintergrasp/Tol Barad. As long as you got your loot, you just didn’t give a crap.

    1. Definitely. We were on a mission being in third place (last) in the final hours of the beta. I was there, and so were a lot of press and tired devs to win for our server.

      I think that when the game goes live it’s going to be like high school. At a pep rally you can get people really riled up and excited about the game against that enemy high school. Some people still won’t care. Does the homecoming game ultimately matter in your four years of high school education? Probably not, but it feels good to ride the wave of energy and be part of something. The minority are actually going to be on the football team (big time WvW players) and have actual stake in it.

  16. Glad to hear you’ve been enjoying it, Ravious. I trust you to be a savvy enough gamer to give us a fair impression – something I can’t say for many of the other press folks, bless their hearts. :)

    I guess my only question at this point, is: Does the game really feel like it has some meat and depth to it? My fear based on what I can see is that skills and mechanics are just too simple to be interesting in the long term. The fact that mobs wait until level 20 to start using interesting tactics is also a bad sign for me…

    To be honest, I’ve been bored or outright disappointed by much of what I’ve seen. Videos mostly feature dogpiling on enemies and random skill spam (obviously due to unfamiliarity with the game, but I’m disturbed how successful this tactic seems to be). The traits system strikes me as a huge step backward, and I’m afraid it’s going to wind up a degenerate mess of cookie cutter, min-maxed bullshit. WvW battles look like ranged clusterfucks with no dramatic abilities to stymie a superior force…

    Anyway, I’m really looking forward to more posts. Grats on getting in!

    1. Yes, it’s a tough line for ArenaNet. On one hand we want interesting, hardass enemies ASAP, but people also have to learn. Watch the hilarious Yogscast norn #4 youtube video to see how entrenched MMO players handle the new combat in an easy area!

      I would say that you will start seeing depth about level 11 (traits) and definitely by level 20. Consider then that there are still 60 levels of play left… and really no tutorial area.

      Traits… it’s not a min-maxing thing so much as how do you want to play? There will be builds, but it feels more like Magic the Gathering than the god build ™. Red has goblins, dragons, burn, chaos, land destruction, haste, first strike, elementals, Chandra… and if you put it all in one deck that deck is going to suck. Maybe you love haste and a little bit of elementals. Then do that more. You might still have a goblin or two in your deck. That’s how I feel traits are going to work, with what I saw on my necro.

      1. Thanks for the feedback! Really looking forward to your post on mechanics, I will probably have more questions at that time. :)

        I think my hangup with traits is that I was expecting options to tweak our skills, not… +5% damage using axes. I will never accept that’s the best ANet can come up with… Rggh.

        Anyway, off to read the PvP post!

        1. Hey Brise – just to note from what’s been said by testers and devs there will be traits to tweak our skills (some being quite dynamic changes).

          I’ll give some examples. One trait for the guardian makes the ward wall bounce back attacks (along with blocking as is the norm). There’s traits that add conditions to your attacks (like some of the ranged orbs have burning or blinding added to the hit). One of the traits for lightning causes it to chain and bounce to multiple targets. The most drastic one I’ve read about makes a melee attack hit at range.

          So there should be quite a bit of diversity available among the standard +5% stuff (I guess they put that in there to keep things more simple?? sort of meh but we will have some “cool” traits available). ;)

  17. In the videos of the dungeons and Pvp it seems like there is a lot going on and that it would be very easy to lose track of your character and the hazards surrounding him. Do you feel like the extravagant spell effects diminish your ability to effectively move out of harms way and detract from the game? It seems to me in the dungeon videos you can’t even see what you are hitting and trying to move away at the right time to avoid damage would be very difficult. Also, does playing a melee class feel like playing a hack-n-slash?


    1. Yes and no to you first question. I think that in the beginning it’s gong to be overwhelming no matter what. In a mini-dungeon (I’ll talk about tomorrow or Thursday), there was a near insta-death arrow trap. I didn’t see it because I was too busy concentrating on other things. Once I saw it and died to it, i learned it. It didn’t hit me again.

      I do still think that as effects cover the screen ArenaNet needs to work to diminish a lot of the unnecessary flash. So I want to say it’s a lot of us being new to the experience and a bit of overflash.

      Playing melee feels rather close to melee in GW2 with more mobility. Remember that there is no true auto-attack but skill #1 is automatic.

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