Guild Wars 2 Beta Impressions

Ron Whitaker’s take, Game Front editor

Loading up the Guild Wars 2 beta, I have to admit that I was a bit excited. After all, the buildup for NCSoft’s MMO sequel has been pretty intense. I first saw the game at E3 in 2007, so it was pretty cool to be sitting down to play it.

The beta was obviously popular, as it took a while to even find a server that would allow me to join. Once I had found a server to call home, it was off to character creation. Creating my first character was the highlight of my play experience. I spent a large amount of time trying out different looks, hairstyles, and races (I finally picked a human, although Charr was tempting). I was also pleasantly surprised to see that players aren’t forced to start out wearing rags, but are instead given the opportunity to customize the colors of their starting gear. It’s a big improvement over the ‘start out in rags’ look of most MMOs.

Once you make it through character creation, you’ll jump into the world where things become, well, a little strange. I’m not going to get deep into story here, but you start out helping defend an outpost against an attacking force. Combat is a bit hit and miss. I was playing a necromancer, so I had a few ranged spells that really looked like melee attacks. I also had a blood fiend pet that I could sacrifice to heal myself. In theory, I should have been good to go.

Unfortunately, the mechanics are still a bit clunky. This isn’t an action MMO like TERA, but instead uses the same ‘lock on target’ model of games like WoW and RIFT. Tab targeting works, but it’s unreliable, just as it is in many MMO games. The healing mechanic of the blood fiend is nearly useless, as it almost invariably dies before you can sacrifice it. At worst, you get nothing from it, and at best, you get a small heal that requires a timed cast that you’ll be lucky to survive. It’s possible that I may have found a better class to suit me, but having started one, I wanted to stick with it throughout the weekend.

Conversations with NPCs use a familiar system. After right clicking on a target, you’ll get a full screen window that places your character on one side, and the NPC on the other. The conversation is then carried out using voice acting. The entire thing was heavily reminiscent of Final Fantasy titles of years past. Not all the interactions are voiced, however. It seemed that only story quests had full voice acting.

Graphically, Guild Wars 2 runs fairly well, although the load times are a bit long and the graphics had some inexplicable frame rate drops in city areas. At this point, I’m writing that off to unoptimized beta code, but it’s something NCSoft will need to correct before the game launches. The art style is very much high fantasy, and it looks fine.

To be honest, Guild Wars 2 just didn’t grab me. I can’t really put my finger on a solid reason for it, but I just felt that it fell a bit flat. I’m not writing the game off yet, as it is still just a beta. Still, NCSoft has a much bigger hill to climb to sell me on Guild Wars 2 than I ever expected they would.

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