Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Guild Wars 2 Launch Day

Last week, a good friend gifted me with a pre-purchase game code for Guild Wars 2. My friend was 100% confident that I would love it, and let's just say that my friends know me well. 

John and I played during the headstart this weekend, and had an absolute blast. Not only is the game great, but we're in a guild with a lot of our long-time City of Heroes friends. Pre-purchase folks got to log in at midnight eastern Friday night/Saturday morning to check it out. After securing our names, John went to bed, but I stayed up and began exploring with my Sylvari Mesmer. 
 My first impression of the world was "This place is HUGE!" followed closely by "And GORGEOUS!" Three of us in the guild made Sylvari and teamed up to explore, do zone events, and work on our personal stories. 
The party chat here cracks me up. It took us a while to get used to reading a new map. 
But the Sylvari aren't the only race with huge, gorgeous maps. I made at least one character of every race (except human), and I can assure you that every zone is full of rich, lush detail that boggles the mind and senses. The amount of interactivity in the world is also fun, and the zone events are a blast. I was also pleased to find that you get experience for nearly everything you do, rather than just through combat. 
This is in the Norn capital. The guild chat also makes me laugh. 
There are many things to enjoy about Guild Wars 2, and I'm really, really thankful I was so graciously gifted with the game code. These are the highlights for me:
  • No monthly subscription - GW2 is a buy to play game. You buy the game or digital download, and it's yours. Forever. With no restrictions. The entire game is open to you with no additional cash coming out of your pocket. However, they do have a cash store where optional items can be purchased with real money. But even some of those items can be earned in game! You won't be nickle and dimed here. Also, you won't feel pressured to play to "get your money's worth" out of your monthly sub. Play as hardcore or as casual as you like. 
  • Fluid combat - The combat flows smoothly and makes sense. Plus, you can swap weapons in combat for an even more dynamic experience. There are so many powers that you can have going at once, it's unbelievable. 
  • Racial equality - There are no class/profession limitations based on race, like in some other MMOs. Also, there are no "good guys/bad guys" among the players. No factions to create artificial tension. You can talk to, team with, and be in a guild with anyone you want. Additionally, traveling to the capital cities for each race is super easy and doesn't require you to go through high level zones you aren't ready for. 
  • Gender equality - Women in this game don't have ridiculous armor. It actually covers them, like combat armor should. I did a mission in my personal story with my Norn Warrior, and an NPC made a super sexist comment to her. She quickly put him in his place. It was great. So far, I have seen no sexist content, and that makes me happy. The Sylvari and the Asura both have women as their leaders (I think the humans do, too; I heard NPC chat about "the human queen.") And those leaders are strong, confident, smart, and able. Also, the Asura's leader is voiced by the fantastic Felicia Day and it makes me all kinds of giddy. 
  • Crafting - The crafting system is fun and highly detailed. I don't have much experience with it yet, but I baked 10 loaves of bread and got 3/4 of a level out of it! It generously rewards your efforts with XP. 
  • Leveling and Content - You will never, ever out level content. As soon as you enter a zone, you are automatically put at one level above the zone max. BUT! You don't lose your powers! You don't have to adjust your play style at all! It's really great. And leveling doesn't have a ramp up to it. You level at a flat pace from 1 to 80. That is very, very nice and takes the grind out of leveling. 
  • Quality of life additions - There are tons of tiny details in GW2 that just make the quality of life for players good - account based guild membership, account based storage, a global contact system, customizable armor through dyes and skins. The system remembers your chat tabs, remembers you preferred gender when making characters, and you can see which if your friends is online before you even log a character in. The map is fully interactive. You can set down beacons and markers that your party can see, and even trace routes for them John Madden style. 
It wasn't all a big love fest, though I think most of my complaints were due to launch bugs. On Saturday, when John and I were leveling our Norns, the game kept separating us into different instances of zones. He didn't always get a pop up asking if he wanted to join me on my instanced mission. The "join up" feature wasn't working. The Trading Post (auction house) was down. Some people were complaining about disconnects. Many of my guild mates played GW2 in beta, and said it was smooth as silk then and ran as though it were launch ready. They said these issues were not present then, so I have confidence they've been addressed (I haven't got to play in two days due to real life obligations). I did notice on Sunday that many of those problems had been addressed, though the auction house still wasn't up. 

All in all, Guild Wars 2 is a great game. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a new MMO experience. And when you start playing, make sure you look everywhere, as you never know what you'll find.