[GW2 Closed Beta] War Stories

What is Guild Wars 2 without wars. The Closed Beta had two ways to PvP, random arena PvP up to 10v10 with auto-balanced teams, and World v. World (WvW) where we were assigned to a server to fight for it against two other servers. There were two maps in arena PvP and WvW was fully available with the three identical Borderlands maps and the one central map. This is my story.

Arena-Type PvP

PvP is very accessible in Guild Wars 2. Click on the small icon, while in PvE, and players are instantly whisked away. Leaving the Mists, where PvP takes place, sends players back to the real world (PvE). It was a siren song all beta weekend long. It was so easy to just get in to a ten-minute random arena match, but then there was always activity in PvE too. The dilemma!

The arena maps are simple in one sense. There are three capture points to give points and secondary objectives. On the Battle of Khylo the secondary objective is a trebuchet, which can seriously own the battlefield. One the Forest of Niflhel the secondary objectives are tough mobs that give a nice boost to points. It’s fairly simple to understand, but the skill ceiling is very high.

One great thing is the UI that appears in the main screen. If I am looking for a capture point I can see a hazy icon through buildings. Khylo is a destructible town, and it easy to get lost. With the icons showing through builds I had a very easy time orienting myself instead of constantly checking the map or mini-map. This was a great and welcome feature that I feel benefited good PvP especially for beginners.

The trebuchets on the Battle of Khylo are a great example of a simple mechanic with many complexities. On one match about mid-game I saw that our trebuchet was unmanned, and throughout the early game the middle capture point was really contested. So, I took aim with the trebuchet and started raining righteous fire on the middle capture point. I was rewarded with a bunch of nice kills after about 2-3 trebuchet hits. Watching the players from my vantage point I could tell that they were slightly
confused as to why their life was being slashed in half. A good player will learn to start running from a kill site after one hit.

In the next battle, I felt pretty proud of myself for using the trebuchet in such a rockstar manner. At the beginning of the match I ran to my vantage point and started laying down fire to help my teammates capture points. A thief noticed me almost immediately, and I saw her in the middle capture point’s courtyard. She made a beeline right for me. As a noobish necromancer, I had no idea which weapons to use against a thief or whether I should just flee my post. She took me down pretty quickly for my hubris.

She also took down the trebuchet, which would then need to be repaired. In one sense the trebuchet was kind of like the queen in chess. Keep it behind the lines, but operating, and it instills a sense of constant danger. Overprotect it, and it wastes resources that could be used elsewhere. Overuse it, and it will get noticed by the enemy. The trick is to use it just enough and protect it just enough, which is a pretty hard subjectively fuzzy line.

I had less fun learning the Forest of Niflhel because my team never seemed to want to get the NPC mob. We were always gunning for the capture points. I knew that if I went off lone wolf to the NPC mob I would get eaten by Svanir or ganked by smart opponents. If a team manages to kill one of the NPC mobs it gets 50 points (1/10th of the 500 to win).

The teams I was on also really wanted to swarm together. This caused my first big problem with one design decision with the game. Skills are very visually descriptive. Necromancer axe rakes claws across the target while necromancer dagger has huge vampiric bite graphics that appear to chomp the target. Of course when more than, say 5-10 players are all collapsing on one enemy or area, the signal-to-noise ratio plummets. It just gets overwhelming and messy, and fire elementalists make the worst mess with all their AoEs and burning. Thankfully those moments are over quickly, but I feel that the skill graphics really need to tone down in some instances. The same thing happens in WvW when fighting a keep lord with 20-30 allies. I have to just ignore my teammates flashy spam and focus on my skills. The skill effects are all amazing. I’ve loved so many of them (ranger sword, especially), but too much of a good thing can definitely be bad.

I wish I had spent more time in arena PvP, but I really wanted to get a really strong PvE and WvW session in too. I am looking forward to it in live, and I absolutely can’t wait to watch elite PvP squads do battle. I am not sure if we will have a spectator feature, but I am crossing my fingers for it. I think it’s going to be a beautiful dance to the death.


When first learning to play WvW, just latch on. I was a warm body, and that was good enough. There is a lot more to learn. With a good leader it is easy to learn the maps, learn supply, and see how a skirmish handles.

Supply and siege weapons are critical to play. Tower and keep doors are insanely tough. There is no way a band of players could take a defended tower or keep without being able to siege the doors. Getting siege weapons is rather easy. Buy a plan from an NPC, which will tell the player the amount of supply needed to build the weapon. Then use the plan to drop a construction site, where allied players add supply until the weapon is completed. A ballista needed 30 supply, if I recall correctly, which means a team of three players can make one. We did take one tower with only a ballista or two, and it took forever with a dozen people waling on the door. I feel that door strengthen will have to get another good, hard look in terms of normal player’s ability to damage it and the ability to repair it. Right now it feels like we fight doors way too much.

At one point we were done marauding one of the Borderlands maps and wanted to head to the center map for better points. We came in cold, not even owning a supply camp. We headed past an enemy controlled tower to take down a supply camp, which is a pretty easy thing for over 10 players. then we had to grab supply to warp back to build our precious siege golem, which requires quite a few players’ worth of supply (maybe 100 or more). It was really fun starting out this way. It was a good tactic to prep our siege force on an unheld map even if it took a bit of time to do so. Then we went after the keep closest to our waypoint to gain a major foothold.

We just didn’t have enough players. This was a well defended keep and someone had taken the time to upgrade the NPC defenders. Every minute a swarm of hefty NPCs would appear near our siege, and we had to waste precious time taking them down, healing, and finally getting back to the door. There were also a few active defenders harassing us, but I believe they were really focused on bolstering the door by repairing our damage. Finally they got some siege weapons of their own up, and it was clear we were broken.

At this moment, Izzy (one of the developers) was trying to teach us how to dodge mortar fire. We were losing the battle, and I was trying to be a good soldier and leave no man behind. Siege weapons were creating a death trap to help downed comrades. Still we could harry the attackers who were immune to their siege weapons to slow them down by dodging. Dodging enemy attacks becomes critical to damage mitigation.

During a skirmish the battle lines become very interesting. Good players will envision a distinct line of action. It gets very interesting when battle lines are drawn because tactics and cooperation become huge. A team of 5 players acting on coordination could easily handle 10 uncoordinated players by pushing and harassing and eventually going in for kills. The skirmish part of WvW is the most fun. I feel I would love to have a thief or ranger harasser role where I try and flank the enemy. With the necromancer I was just trying to wear the opposing side down with a burden of conditions.

It felt like WvW was super popular, and I am hoping ArenaNet got some really good data to balance things. I really enjoyed most of my time there, except when we were fighting doors. It’s a tough balance because there has to be time for defenders to respond. It is not fun to camp out a tower in the hopes that it gets attacked. It is also not fun to rush to defend a tower only to see it fall
before there was a chance to respond. I felt that during closed beta the advantage was definitely in the defender’s court, and I am hoping it swings back to attacker’s advantage.

I was also unsure of how some profession could affect the siege golem. Warrior shouts and elementalist spells could speed the siege golem up, and I believe that nearly every profession should have one way to help the siege golem. It got really powerful with the mesmer portal ability because they could teleport a siege golem across lakes and large distances. The siege golem is necessary, and I hope that each profession gets a hard look at how it affects the siege golem.

Given the current state of PC gaming, I feel that arena PvP and WvW were two separate games worth of gameplay built into the already huge Guild Wars 2. There were people in chat saying that they practically lived in WvW all weekend. I can seriously see paying the flat fee for Guild Wars 2 just to PvP, and I haven’t even really hit the PvE content I played for the weekend.

More later,


19 thoughts on “[GW2 Closed Beta] War Stories”

  1. “The skirmish part of WvW is the most fun.”

    Great to hear! I’d go play AB now if it was alive. :(

  2. Small skirmish play does seem like it would be the most interesting and manageable aspect of WvW. The keep sieges… Eh, that mechanic is never as fun as we hope, somehow. I wish MMO devs would stop looking at other MMOs for ideas here, and look to games like Mount & Blade: Warband, which has the most entertaining and exciting keep sieges I’ve taken part in.

    One question about the keeps: Is it not in fact possible to knock down the walls? Anet implied it was, but maybe they mean those little wooden curtain walls? I’m not a fan if you’re only able to access a keep through the main gate…

    As to observer mode… I dunno. After playing a bit, is it actually interesting for you to watch video of other people play? I find it really dull, frankly. I have trouble imagining structured PvP ever having a significant spectator following, just due to how undifferentiated most of the action is. There are lots of flying flame particles, and folks waving weapons around, but nothing stands out in the way that a great collapse or skillshot does in a MOBA match, or like a clutch play in SC2.

    EDIT: All that said, PvP does look like a total blast to play, and it’s the part of the game I’m most psyched for. But I’m nervous, too…

    1. With 5 people I think it will be a much different spectating experience. The difference between watching a gradeschool soccer game and a professional one. ;)

  3. From watching the videos, I had the same type of thoughts you have mentioned. I was actually more excited for WvW before watching the video, contrary to almost everyone else, from the impressions I’ve read.

    It appeared to boil down to getting together a zerg mob just to attack doors… at range. Getting too close was a recipe for disaster. It seemed more like a battle of stalemates.

    Another concern I had was one you mentioned regarding certain professions having more affect on siege golems. This issue extends into another area as well. With WvW being such a huge play-space, and grouping together being extremely important, some professions with certain skills will trump other setups inherently. Any profession/setup that can AoE swiftness has an immediate upper hand. While professions like the Thief (which seems to be more of a ‘selfish’ profession) will have little to offer in comparison.

    1. The above soccer anology is perfect here.

      Gradeschool soccer (aka: “clusterball”) is a large mass of players just running around a large field.

      EPL soccer is a dance of complexity, small group tactics and movement, feints and skill.

      Don’t assume that because a group of players with less than 48 hours game time with their profession really know how to handle an encounter well enough to play coordinatedly.

      In a situation where you don’t know your skills and abilities well, your natural instinct is to go for “safety in numbers.” It’s instinctual. Once you see players learn their skills, know how to engage and retreat and survive, you’ll see smaller groups doing more at once.

      If a team sends 50 players to a task that only requires 10, they just wasted 40 players. Think about how that will play out.

  4. Can you share a little more on what the supply camps were like, and did you see any of those NPC Mercenary camps ANet mentioned? It sounded like you could do a short DE to gain the NPCs favor and then they would run off to attack one of your foe’s camps nearby.

    I have visions of being a theif, sneaking my way to the back of an enemy’s territory, and then maybe unleashing some NPC mercenaries, or trying to retake a supply camp. Would either of those things be possible alone, or do you need at least a group of 5 to get even the smallest, side objectives done?

    1. I think the mercenaries were much less focused than that. Mercenary camps are definitely a solo/small group objective, but I don’t think it opens up to letting you solo bigger objectives.

      What you would want to do as a thief is disrupt supply from dolyak supply lines or gather a small squad to hit supply camps. If you are careful and coordinated you could probably take a supply camp with less than 5… maybe even 3. I don’t know. I was always part of a group. The smallest group I was in was siege golem babysitting where 4 of us guarded a siege golem walking across an open plain.

  5. Nice write-ups, can’t wait to hear more.

    I’ll probably be sorry I asked, but… was the game run through EA’s Origin system?

      1. Oh? Not through the NCSoft Launcher (which has no redeeming features whatsoever)?

        Any idea if patching will be anywhere near as fast as GW1 or if it’s gone the traditional MMO route of taking forever to apply even the smallest patches? (not likely to know that yet, but figured I’d ask :P)

        IMHO, every MMO should take a lesson from GW1’s installer/patcher.

        1. I don’t recall if there was a small path during the beta weekend, but downloading was nearly identical to GW1. You just ran the client and it started downloading the .dat. So I would expect no regression from GW1’s way of patching/installing.

          1. Fingers crossed, then, ‘cos GW1’s patching is the absolute best I’ve seen in any client-based MMO to date.

  6. Very nice article. Thanks for sharing your impressions.
    About WvW: In my opinion it should easier to defend than to attack a tower. I think it would be really bad if WvW became a capture / recapture tower race.

    And i love the fact that ArenaNet is implementing some MOBA features in PVP.

  7. Nice write up, I enjoyed reading.

    Just my two cents, however, I think the siege design sounds awesome as it is. What I mean is, I’ve understood that the keep gates/walls are hard to take down because of the ability of the defending team to repair the damage and repel invaders with “siege” weapons of their own. But since all these depend on supply, it seems that the attackers can disrupt the supply lines and choke out the keep.

    I don’t know how directly the effects of cutting off supply lines are felt, but if they work well, it’s actually a great way to break up the zerging tactic. I mean, if walls could be brought down more readily, attackers would just zerg rush until they got through. But if the attackers must A) Cut off the supplies to the keep, B) Gather their own supplies to build siege weapons, and C) Maintain pressure on the keep until they run out of supply to rebuild and defend, all at the same time, well that sounds more interesting than a rush.

    Again, I haven’t played and I appreciate the points you’ve raised very much, but thought that perhaps the solution could be in the way things like supply are handled rather than simply weakening the gates.

  8. Siege design sounds right on. You need the right tools for a seige, like trebuchets and golems, and the right support, like cutting supply lines; it takes significant people and time, and for a two week battle this is a very good thing. That means one side can’t turn a large one or two hour population advantage into owning everything on the maps. You don’t want wild swings in territory control in short periods of time. So, when you capture a keep, it’s a real, and probably lasting accomplishment that takes significant effort from opponents to undo.

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