The Good, the Bad, and the Massive: Guild Wars 2 (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dual Pistols)

I’ve written about my first experiences with Guild Wars 2 way back in the second Beta Weekend Event. There, I played a fearsome Charr warrior that seemed to have an affinity for charging headlong into any battle, no matter the risk posed to himself. And if I may reiterate my previous thoughts on it, it was quite simply fun in a way I haven’t experienced in ages. But that being said, it was still “just a beta.” Surely I was getting only part of the package for better or worse. There was simply no way to know in the span of a weekend or two.

So, why not blow the lid off the full package? Or at least the package that I’ve experienced in a week. Hit the jump for my review of Guild Wars 2, from level 1 to level 40.

Well, the full package in a much smaller form

The first key difference is the distinct lack of greatswords and subsequently lack of death-pinball that I became as a hulking warrior. I decide to go with a thief, a profession I honestly wasn’t expecting much from. Fast and crafty, the thief is classified in the Adventurer subset of professions. What this means is that they get medium armor and seem to be much lighter on their feet. The thief specifically also gets access to a rather fun weapon set, and one that seems to have an impressive combination of said weapons depending on main and offhand configurations.

Mickey Mouse, dark-side version

Take the combo above, for example. My little Asuran thief is rocking a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other, pirate style. What this allows me to do is stun from a distance, teleport over and knock them silly, blind them, bleed them, or any combination of all of the above plus more depending on any non-weapon skills I equip myself with. That being said, my favorite combination lately has been dual pistols, because of a fantastic skill that lets me unload a lot of shots in a short amount of time. Couple these disorienting and damaging combos with speed and effective dodging, and I find I can get out of a surprising number of jams.

Moving away from skills for a while, though, I’d like to talk about leveling and zones. So far, I’ve gotten sucked into the world in every possible way. From adventuring with friends with a set goal in mind, to wandering about the different areas by myself, to even heading into town to spend an almost obscene amount of time making shiny trinkets and sharp things (almost 150 in Jeweling AND Weaponsmithing, woo!), I’ve been leveling easily and consistently without even trying. And it is fantastic. Often times, I’ll find myself overleveled for my own story, but it’s never a chore to go in my instanced areas. Because of the phenomenal scaling system, I’m never worried that I’ll one-shot anything and ruin anyone’s fun. Moreso than that, I myself am still amazed that I’ve never once felt like I was grinding any content. I’ve clocked just about 80 hours in-game since last weekend, and I never stay in an area if I’m not having fun there. If I get bored, all I need to do is tell some friends and we’re off and making our own stories as we wander the lush scenery. Sometimes we’ll contribute in World vs. World, sometimes just head off into a random race’s starting zone. One particularly memorable moment had us stumbling into an amazing pirate’s hideout under Lion’s Arch, the coastal hub city of Guild Wars 2. It’s simply astounding how immersive the entire game has been. Oh, and still no subscription fee.

The dynamic event system is still working brilliantly as ever, constantly showing me places I would have missed. This morning alone I stopped a minotaur stampede, killed a huge mother drake that was causing trouble, stopped some Norn poachers, and even went looking for a yeti. And that was just from exploring the Norn starting area. Heart quests, the only thing close to “traditional” questing in Guild Wars 2, serve as the perfect way to get acquainted and accustomed to areas in the world. Also in the Norn area, I had the pleasure of hunting as a snow leopard, feeding bear cubs, disarming traps, and saving wolf pups from the aforementioned poachers just by doing heart quests. After a few of these, I felt a sense of familiarity to this zone that I just came to. And I love every second of it.

The perk to being a thief isn't the running away, it's the looking good while doing it

However, with as much fun as I’m having, I simply cannot overlook some fairly glaring issues that reared their ugly heads. Login server downtime shortly after headstart access, the Trading Post still being a no-show for the majority of users, mail system being broken more often than not… It hasn’t been the smoothest launch in MMO history. That being said, aside from the login servers issues first/second day, I am happy to report that I have still been able to play this wonderful game even sans Trading Post and mail. The overflow servers ArenaNet have devised have been the most genius thing I’ve ever seen. I can PLAY my game while I wait to get to the main server! And while these in themselves are nowhere near ideal, they aren’t really meant to be. I can explore in an overflow and get a prompt when a spot opens on the main server. I am then immediately transported to the main server exactly where I was on the overflow. Aside from party issues, it’s all painless and as seamless as possible.

Of a lesser degree, there have also been many reports of exploits being attacked by less-than-scrupulous members of the community. I won’t go into details about how or why, but I will say ArenaNet has been quick to put a stop to that. But this does lead to another bit of glowing testimony. I have to say, without a doubt, that the Guild Wars 2 community so far has been the nicest, most helpful bunch of people I’ve ever been around in any MMO. Reviving fallen players with little regard to their own health, grouping up to take down a particularly nasty world boss, informing the people zoned with them where the most prevalent resources are at any given moment, everyone is quick to help and seem to need no incentive other than helping their fellow player. Needless to say, it’s a remarkable and truly magnanimous sight.

Something tells me 'swarm them' is not going to be a very pleasant greeting...

So, where does Guild Wars 2 stand on my radar? Let’s break it down:

PROS:

  • Leveling requires no grinding or farming
  • Heart quests and dynamic events immediately immerse you in the world and give you an attachment to it
  • Exploration is heavily rewarded, both with loot and amazing visuals and landmarks
  • There’s always something to do to level, or just mess around
  • Different profession weapon sets still feel dynamic and different from one another
  • STILL NO SUBSCRIPTION FEE

CONS:

  • Login server problems in the early headstart access
  • Trading Post is still down with very little in the way of updates on it
  • Mail, a fundamental part of trading with friends, is spotty and unreliable for now
  • Exploits have been, well, exploited already, and hackers are showing up

My final verdict on Guild Wars 2 is definitely get it if you can. The game is brilliant, and is filled to the brim with content. The issues that I’ve had so far are to be expected from a launch of this size, and will most certainly get fixed. It’s a fantastic game by yourself or with friends, and it will keep you busy for a while without relying on your wallet to vote whether you can play or not after purchase. Also, come join Borlis Pass to play with us! We’ll be waiting!

— Brandon (Taso)

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