Thursday, October 25, 2012

Guild Wars 2: The Shiny and the Not So Shiny


I always have to start any thoughts that deal with a fantasy setting with a caveat. High fantasy is not my preferred setting. I have nothing at all against it. I enjoy fantasy books, games, and shows/movies, but I’m much more into urban fantasy, modern settings, cyberpunk, space drama, technophilia, etc. So, I tend to be much pickier when it comes to anything high fantasy related because I lose interest quickly if there’s nothing to anchor me there. End caveat.

I played Guild Wars and enjoyed it very much. My main character was a necromancer/hunter named Tara Xan (her name was supposed to be Xantara, but GW1 had that first name/last name rule then), and I had good times with her. When Guild Wars 2 was announced, it was almost a given that I’d be purchasing and playing the game. I’d been keeping up with the updates, and while I didn’t participate in the beta, I would look at the information other players posted as well as reading official news from the site. I was pretty excited for it.

And I was completely enamored at first, distracted by all the shiny, but after two months, I’m really starting to pay attention to what I do and don’t like about the game.

PvE is handled well. I like that in PvE, during events, you’re working with your fellow players rather than against them. You don’t have to be on a team to benefit from group events, and you don’t have to feel like you need to do more than the next person to get a payoff from an event. In fact, the whole PvE method of playing seems to foster more camaraderie than rivalry, which makes it one of the better PvE environments I’ve played in. Players often help each other when they see someone in need. Players are also not shy about asking for help when they find themselves in a tough situation, and everyone is rewarded equally.



This game is dynamic enough that you’re required to play your profession in (mostly) a smart manner. Having the best gear and specs doesn’t mean that you’re going to burn through everything in the game. You’re still faced with enough of a challenge that if you’re not really prepared for what’s going on around you, you could find yourself respawning at the nearest waypoint before you know it. I’m sure people have probably found ways to make any given profession seem near godly, but for the most part, the game tries and (mostly) succeeds in trying to put everyone on equal footing.

You’re always scaled to the relative level of the zone you’re in if you’re leveled much higher than the zone. If you’re in a zone that is level 1-15 and you’re L30, you’re scaled to the appropriate level. Even in the same zone, you make go through multiple level scales as you move to different areas that are higher or lower levels. This is not true of a low-level player going to a PvE zone that is much higher than they are, though. You’re just suicidal if you’re a L20 trying to fight in an L60 zone.  I know some people hate this aspect of the game, but I do enjoy it. It keeps me challenged in all zones.

Experiencing the vast world of Tyria through other races is a big plus as well, especially since in the last game we could only play as humans. And I think it’s particularly interesting that the charr were included as a playable race in this game. I do understand the disappointment surrounded around not being able to really acknowledge your Guild Wars character(s) contributions to this new era or connect them in some tangible way to a new human character, though, but a little creativity goes a long way in creating a shared history for your old character and your new one. I only have one real complaint here. Sometimes, I still feel there is a heavy human slant on the story as characters move away from their “home” areas and start to branch out since so many human characters like Queen Jennah play such an important role in the story right now. I haven’t completed any of the personal storylines to the end yet, so this opinion may change in the future.

Crafting is fun in this game… once you figure it out. I’m not the type of person who hates crafting, but in some games, it can be tedious, but often necessary. While the crafting is pretty straightforward, there was a brief moment when I had no idea what I was doing until I slowed down and paid attention. I enjoy seeing what new combinations I’ll come up with by combining various materials together. It also helps that the experience gained from it can be nice.

I can’t speak on sPvP or WvWvW because I haven’t really experienced those two areas, and I don’t know when I will. But overall, I’m a casual MMO player, and this allows you to be as casual or as hardcore as you want to be. I know I probably haven’t covered everything I liked, but let’s go on to the not-so-shiny parts.

All the utilities on my L61
I’m an alt-o-holic. I love making new characters, so what I’m about write pains me. I’ve gotten to a point in this game where I ask myself, “Why would I want to make another character in this game? What would be the point?” No matter what type of character I make in this game, I will always have the same weapon skills and the same utilities. There will be no variety, except for the little variety I add myself in how I decide to play my character. I’ll give you an example. I could make two engineers and play one as a demolitionist, which I am doing now, and I could play one as a turrets expert. However, it’s actually possible to do that with just one character since I discovered, with my L61 Guardian, that you can technically get just about every utility with one character.

Add that to the fact that there is little variance in the personal story. You have some control over your story and choices, but not that many or even choices that impact the story in profound ways. You’re always going to come to the same conclusion no matter what you do, and there’s nothing wrong with that per se since that can be said of just about all games. However, when you add lack of skill/utility change with lack of story change, your answer equals monotonous. If I had the chance to get excited about possible weapon skill choices as I leveled and utilities that I cared about, I wouldn’t care that the personal story is only so-so. Likewise, if the story was phenomenal but the skills/powers were handled as they are now, I would still be eager to see the rest of the story. 

Have to take 5 powers to get more crap
Utilities aren’t that great in this game, and you don’t know how much it grates my nerves that I have to take so many utilities I don’t want and/or are too crappy just to get to my next set of utilities just to find out I have even more crap that I don’t want. Yay! There are way too many repeat utilities with just one more condition or one more boon, and some of them are way too ineffective with ridiculously long cool downs to be of any real use. And some of them leave me scratching my head wondering when such a power would ever be useful except in very specific circumstances where they still might not be that useful.

The weapons are the biggest disappointment for me, though. I liked that they restricted what you can use based on class, but weapon skills are so ridiculously limited. You only get five attacks no matter what, and they will always be the same based on what weapon you use no matter what. You don’t get to select what you want with your weapons. No, the game essentially tells you, “This is what you’re going to get with your weapons. And that’s that. Love it or leave it.” You also can pretty much level all your weapons up the minute you get past the “tutorial” part, which means that you’ll know what you prefer before level 10, but you’ll also be playing those same weapon skills with no change for the next 70 or so levels.

And while I appreciate that this is done partly to make characters self-sufficient in or out of a group and not try to fit themselves into a mold of being a tank, healer, or whatever, it’s still dull. It seems like there would be more weapon skills to make gameplay interesting without the worry that someone may try to fit into a “defined role.” Everyone has the same skills. Everyone tends to use their skills in similar ways. There’s no real incentive to make another character of the same class because very little would change. You may find a few creative ways to use your skills, but not many.

All the skills my L61 has (and will ever have)
The personal stories in this game are okay. Some parts are more amusing or touching than others. I feel like there should’ve been more depth to, at least, the parts of the storyline that are personal to characters, but I guess giving it any substantial depth might’ve made it hard to make it unique to the players’ characters. But if they added more depth to other parts of the creation of the story or more substantial decisions/actions/responses in regards to the personal story, I think they could’ve come up with something more worthwhile. Not saying the whole thing should’ve been dictated to the point that there’s no leeway for players to craft their own tale, but so far, I haven’t been truly impressed with any personal story in any race.

You can only do your personal story up to a point, and then, you’re bound to get to a place where your next quest will be much higher than you can handle alone or even with a group. There’s nothing wrong with that, but then, you’re left to grind in the meantime by exploring and filling hearts (completing tasks in different areas for NPCs). I like that this encourages exploring, but why are there no real side quests rather than just area tasks, gathering, and vista hunting?

Red number means it's higher than my current level

Why aren’t there short side mission stories? Why can’t I do a short mission where I might personally help an NPC find out what happened to a friend/family member that joined the separatists and are now missing? That would break of the monotony of filling hearts where you fundamentally do much of the same things, anyway. And if you have a character of every class like I do, then, you’re pretty much doing the same things repeatedly in the same zones to level up.

Events do help break that up a little, but you do the same events with some variation at times in the same area so many times that it becomes part of the grind. Why should I keep helping Curtis defend his farm from bandits every 10 minutes? Curtis, it is time for you to consider a career change and a possible relocation from the area you reside. What do you expect to happen when there is a bandit camp 50 yards away, Curtis? Did you think they would bring you cookies because you’re neighbors? Did you not invite them to your slumber party and now they’re pissed?

Curtis, please...
And that brings me to another thing that irks me about the story. Relations between so many races are tense, especially charr and humans, and there’s this big deal about uniting the races and the different guilds to fight the dragons. However, when I’m doing hearts in charr dominated areas as a human, there’s no chance for a human to express grievances if they’re doing things that a human might not think is good taste (ex. pillaging human graves with the charr) or even express dissatisfaction if a charr says something that a human might find generally offensive when conversing with them. Why would the human that I’m playing, who is just now learning to work with and trust the other races in my canon for her, not speak up in the dungeon when Rytlock is baiting the human ghosts? And this works the other way around, as well, and with other races besides the humans and charr.

I have some other things that annoy me (like the bots keeping areas bone dry when I need to fill a heart), but I think I’ve written enough for right now. Working my way through storylines that I’m vaguely interested in and exploring/doing quests with my friends are the main reasons that I’m still playing, but I’m starting to break away a little to play other things like Borderlands.

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This blog is a mishmash of thoughts, pictures, and rantings among other things about games I've played, games I will play, and games I am currently playing. From time to time, I may post book reviews that I've written that are about different games and/or game worlds. Feel free to recommend games or add me on the platforms I've listed. I don't do competitive multiplayer much anymore, but I'm always down for some co-op these days. I'm usually DigitalTempest everywhere unless otherwise specified.

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2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Tiara has read 6 books toward her goal of 52 books.
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Tiara's bookshelf: currently-reading

The Elfstones Of Shannara
tagged: upcoming-reads, currently-reading, 2016-audiobook-challenge, classi...
Gardens of the Moon
tagged: currently-reading, fantasy, z-narrator-ralph-lister, 2016-audiobook...

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Tiara's bookshelf: read

Deceived
really liked it
Review to come.
tagged: 2016-star-wars-reading-challenge and 2016-audiobook-challenge
The Girl from the Well
liked it
More reviews @ The Bibliosanctum TL;DR Review 2.5 to 3 stars. Not badly written… I’m just disappointed by the squandered potential. I’m going to reread Anna Dressed in Blood to make myself feel better about this Longer Review: T...
tagged: 2016-women-of-genre-fiction-reading, horror, and young-adult
Thirteen Reasons Why
I don't think this quite captures the complexity of bullying and suicide, and some of the issues that Hannah started facing toward the end of the novel really seemed to detract even more from the feelings she was going through by having ...
tagged: young-adult, popsugar-2016-reading-challenge, 2016-audiobook-challe...
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
liked it
Spoiler free review to come.
tagged: 2016-star-wars-reading-challenge
The Phantom of the Opera
really liked it
tagged: classic-horror, classics, audiobook, 2016-audiobook-challenge, horr...

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