Well, another BWE has come and gone. I don’t really know if I can properly put into words just how much I love this game. From the gameplay (which admittedly still needs work but is already awesome) to the art style to how smooth the game feels to how alive they made it seem…
Biased? Yeah, it’s true. I find it hard not to be, to be honest.
I’ll readily admit it’s not perfect and various systems need work between now and launch (8/28/2012, BTW, revealed today), but to be honest it was hard to pull myself away from this game just from the beta (as my wife will attest). I haven’t felt this much joy at exploring and roaming around since the original EverQuest, if that means anything to those reading. That weekend was a really bad time for everyone around me, though. Almost everyone I personally know was unable to be in the beta, including one person who barely got any time in on the first BWE either (although he did get a little time during the stress test yesterday). Even ScottyD was only able to be on for a few hours at the very end.
Regardless, I had a good time and found a few bugs, so here is my general report from the BWE. I may not do one for the next one since the launch is so close, I’ll see how things go.
Again with the armor…
I’ll keep this short since pretty much everything I said in the first BWE report still stands. The current starting armor for human and norn female scholars is a really a bad armor to start in. I’m being serious here. It’s not a good sign when the default town clothes, the non-combat clothing available on creation, not only covers a little more but looks like it may protect better than your actual armor.
Now, there’s a little silver lining in that I have been seeing evidence that this armor is not intended to be the starting armor. For one, street rats started with “Frayed” armor (item description)…that doesn’t look frayed above, not even close. Second, this thread on Reddit hints that the current starting armor actually drops in the level 20 areas, making it very unlikely to be starter armor in the end. My hope is that’s the case, because the current armor is really irritating. The Country armor from that thread looks closer to what I would expect for starter armor, considering what medium and heavy armor professions start wearing.
Interestingly enough, I found a bug where if you switch back and forth between armor and town clothes fast enough you can end up with town clothes on while being able to use skills (at least in the Mists…not sure about the rest of the game). Whether you retain the armor levels from your armor is another question…I’m guessing not as I was almost one-shotted by a boss mob you can test yourself against in the Mists, although that may just be normal for scholars. Still, if my alternative is the current default armor, I’ll take the town clothes we start in any day.
One of the main things I told myself I was going to do this beta weekend was try out more of the jumping puzzles. I went back to the Shaman’s Rookery and not only beat it, but either I was better or they did some tuning because I had almost no trouble with the puzzle nor the mobs. I think they did do some tuning because I seem to recall being told there were a couple oozes at the chest which were absent this time. The whole thing was really easy, I was kind of disappointed it was over so quickly.
However, I did manage to get to a new (for me) jumping puzzle in Loreclaw Expanse. This is a vertical puzzle that took me an hour to get to the end due to deaths. However, once again I did not finish it because I was very quickly slaughtered by the end boss and didn’t want to go through it all again.
This was much more like you would expect from a jumping puzzle. Shaman’s Rookery had jumping, but this one has you climbing up the ruins of what looks to be a tower. Jumping between posts sticking out, the area shaking from collapsing debris, traps all over the place that nearly kill me in one hit, blind jumps…extremely fun, and made me very happy I chose a ranger due to the pet revive.
Come to think of it though, I’m not quite sure why this area even exists other than to provide a jumping puzzle. Maybe I need to go searching for some/any lore. It looks kind of like a derelict tower built inside a hollow mountain…why? Maybe no one knows…but it’s very fun and a nice little diversion.
Time for the Ranger
This BWE I created a ranger, which has become tied with the Guardian for “favorite profession”, at least for me. I had various levels of success with the ranger pet. My initial pet was a cat, and that one died all the time which made me feel like the pet was worthless. I also used a boar, which had much higher survivability and felt more like a pet should since I didn’t have to worry about the pet as much. I also used an eagle pet which also survived more…for some reason that I fail to understand but I’m just going with it.
Pet survivability is highly important, and I know ArenaNet is very aware. Honestly I think the survivability of the boar feels like a good estimate for base survivability for pets. The cat pet just dropped like a rock, and there’s not much you can do about it, but the boar actually lived for a little bit and I felt like I didn’t need to micromanage it to even have a chance of it surviving a complex fight. Even if the cat turns into a glass cannon at higher level, it needs to be tougher at lower level and just scale towards what they want at the higher levels.
Alternatively, I’d like to see a threshold for the ranger heal skills so they can be more readily used for pet heals. If it only heals the pet, or heals the player for a very low amount in comparison to the pet, then the recharge should be halved or otherwise lower than the standard recharge time. Right now you sacrifice your heal if your pet is low on health and you don’t want it to die, and this is extremely annoying for low levels as you may not have a second pet to swap to yet.
That reminds me, the built-in revive for your pet is way too slow considering the benefit received. Perhaps keep it that way for other players, but I think the actual pet owner should have a faster revive speed for their own pet.
Another thing I noticed was that there didn’t seem to be much impact or feeling to changing the pet mode from active to passive, which is the only way to call your pet back. It instantly changes modes and I found it difficult to tell (despite the color of the icon) which mode it was on, wondering why my pet was standing still when it normally was responsive. I kinda wish we had the option of a simple “call back” command, because I had a tendency to spam that button (due to little feedback when I did press it) which just ended up having the pet bounce back and forth and not be effective at all, but perhaps this will just take some learning.
Moving on to the ranger itself, the profession is extremely fun and stylish. The look of the ranger fits very well, with animals joining in with the fight (sometimes real, sometimes spiritual) on some weapons, although I wish the Call of the Wild skill was more of a 3D wolf like the rest of them instead of the 2D image. Only about half of the weapons seem to have these visuals though, which I don’t know if that’s intentional or not. I preferred the long coat look, so this will probably work out well with me.
The greatsword is a blast to use and does a lot of damage, and I love the axes as I thought I would. I also used the sword a ton, which is fun, except the lag I experienced kinda killed the benefits of the movement as I would use Hornet’s Sting and Serpent’s Strike but would be too late to avoid a specific attack. I also think the chain needs to be a lot easier to cancel so you can move, right now you’re pretty locked into the attack. The skills work okay to keep you near the enemy, but not being able to easily move around freely feels a little off.
I do have a concern that the warhorn feels so necessary for getting around due to the Swiftness boon that it’s hard to justify putting anything else in that slot for general use, which feels limiting for the other offhands. I wanted to use more of the dagger and torch to get a better feel for them, but the warhorn felt so mandatory that I didn’t have very many opportunities to use them. I also slotted Signet of the Hunt due to the speed boon there to get places faster, but the buff there feels so minor…
…which kinda leads me into my next point.
Go Go Go!!!!
One of the downsides to having only a weekend for the beta is that it leaves players feeling that they need to cram as much playtime and content in as possible since it will be a month or more before they can get back in. They only have a weekend, they’re generally not going to spend it standing around doing nothing…they want to experience it all before the servers shut down.
I think this does a disservice to the game, and may be a factor as to why people feel underleveled. You have a short amount of time, a set of tasks on the map showing what you need to be 100% (which doesn’t actually mean you’re done with the area), and a main source of content that (IMO) works best when you take your time going through an area instead of speeding towards the next objective like trained rodents.
I’d posit that this is temporary, though. The game feels to me as if it’s intended to be played much slower, to take your time and explore the world, not just run past everything and stop if something manages to catch your interest. It’s hard to do that, though, with only a weekend. Once the game is released (8/28/2012, BTW…earlier if you pre-purchased), then things will likely become more stable and we’ll see how things work out.
Now there was a lot of buzz about the new map. Not only because it was new, but because there’s a lot of history with this region from GW1. This was where the Ascalon Settlement was, as well as many towns and outposts. We spent a good amount of time fighting in this area, both during the main campaign as well as the War in Kryta content. Now it’s a bit changed, but we still have some of the towns, and they even reflect on how it changed. We also have the Vigil Keep, one of the three main later-game factions we join as part of the story.
I was vastly under-leveled for this area, and most things could kill me in one shot. I tried to explore as best I could, and even made a run for the Vigil Keep where I died right outside the ramp. Made it in the end though. If you like, here’s the video of my time there.
Honestly, it was almost impossible for me to properly check out the overflow changes. Since they didn’t do a character wipe, a large number of players were steadily leaving the starter maps. I think I only ended up in the overflow map once for Queensdale, and was moved to the main map within about 5 minutes. Players were more spread out and it was a much better representation of what the game would be like after the launch chaos had ended, but it didn’t help me figure out if the overflow issues had been resolved.
Basically they’d need to do a character wipe to get a good idea on how the overflow stuff works now…or release the sylvari or asura. I think that’d work.
The game remains as gorgeous as ever, perhaps even more than it was last time. I was able to run at max settings without issue, except when recording…which was often. I don’t know how many times I was looking at something and just stopped to take a look at it, whether it be the large Earthworks outpost in Kessex Hills, to the Frozen Maw in Wayfarer Foothills, even to the ice sculptures in Hoelbrak. I think I could get lost for hours just running around.
Unfortunately, the list of things I have yet to experience in GW2 is growing quickly. I didn’t take part in PvP or WvW at all, mainly due to the horrible lag I would randomly experience, nor did I try out things like the Mystic Forge. I wasn’t high enough level for the dungeons, and probably never will be unless they add a level booster like the press had on their beta, and I intentionally don’t want to spend much time in the post-starter area for each race as I don’t want to experience the low level areas so much that they’re boring at launch.
Unless they add at least one of the remaining races, I don’t see myself doing much PvE except with friends (who may or may not be able to play next BWE), due to the aforementioned risk of being boring. Likely I’ll jump into WvW or PvP next time, except if they add a level booster…then I’ll spend time in dungeons.
Well, that’s about all I have. I’ll continue to look through the videos I took now that I’ve somewhat centered on a method of rendering, even if the result is far worse quality than what I can watch on my machine. In the meantime, I leave you with one of the more interesting shots I took.