As the final beta weekend closes, staff writer Gareth Harmer asks if this upcoming MMO is ready for prime time.
Vistas Without Windows
As the pair of us ventured through the starting area of Metrica Province, a significant new addition to the world map became apparent. Alongside the Renown Heart questing areas, Skill Challenges and Points of Interest, Vistas were new challenges tucked away in hard-to-reach places. By exploring a warren-like cave system or clambering over the Aztec-inspired Asuran architecture, we’d be rewarded with a sweeping camera pan around a local landmark.
Mind you, Vistas aren’t to be confused with the infernal jumping puzzles thought up by ArenaNet’s most diabolical world builders. One such puzzle took me high above the cloud layer, jumping from island to floating island in a way that made me feel that my months of playing Sonic the Hedgehog as a kid weren’t entirely wasted.
Alongside a mix of raptors, lizards, oozes and insects, Metrica Province is also home to other sentient creatures. Used for unreliable labor and hazardous experimentation, the rat-like Skritt can also be a destructive nuisance. Their regular raids for anything reflective, refractive or remotely luminescent (ergo: “shiny”), regularly places their pilfering paws in immediate peril. (Note to self: finish “skrittbait” blueprints).
One dynamic event on the outskirts of Skrittsberg had me foolishly aiding them in collecting a number of golem parts, only for the vapid vermin to attempt to assemble the thing without the aid of an instruction manual. What started off as a simple escort mission quickly switched into a race to defeat the rampaging automaton before the Skritt were wiped out. By daisy-chaining dynamic events in this way, ArenaNet manages to tell an engaging story with a number of outcomes, while at the same time brining the world to life with flavor.
Tired of Trinity
Every time I’ve dived into a Guild Wars 2 beta weekend, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time in the world they’ve built. Everything, from the rich lore underpinning the stories, to the detailed geography and sprawling cities, is built on a scale I’ve not experienced in an MMO before. It’s a haven for explorers, questers, role players and achievement hunters. ArenaNet has done a great job persuading us that Tyria is an ideal place for gamers to spend their time.
Beyond the game world, the team has focused heavily on making Guild Wars 2 as accessible as possible. On the one hand, dynamic level adjustment means that endgame World vs World and arena PvP are available from a very early stage. Likewise, the ability to buy and sell gems (the real-money currency) for coin (the in-game currency) means that account enhancements and temporary boosts are available to a wide range of players. The social experience has also been taken care of, with the ability to join multiple guilds and guest on other servers making playing with friends much easier.
With all that said, the much harder challenge still remains: convincing players that have lived on a diet of World of Warcraft and similar MMOs for the past seven years that abandoning the Trinity model is a good idea.
There are arguments on both sides. As someone who favors ranged spellcaster DPS roles, I appreciate the increased self-reliance and improved fluidity that ArenaNet offers me, even though there’s a trade-off in increased responsibility for my own health bar. On the flipside, I’ve also seen combat rapidly degenerate into a chaotic brawl in the absence of a dedicated tank or a healer. From my own experience, it took a few attempts at Ascalonian Catacombs for this new style to finally click. While PvP veterans will probably take to it like a duck to water, old-school raiders might take longer than a beta weekend to adjust.
Even though the lack of trinity has been scrutinized in videos such as this one on Gamebreaker TV, counter-chatter still persists, asking which profession is most suitable for tanking, or optimized for healing, in a game where these subjects are misnomers. It serves to illustrate the mountain ArenaNet has to climb. With launch slated for August 28th, and early access a few days before, it’s going to be interesting to see if opinion changes once players have more than a weekend to get used to the concept.
ArenaNet’s saving throw in the debate is its subscription-less model. By charging for the initial game and leaving the gem store as an optional extra, there’s no rush for players to learn the game before their subscription runs out. By encouraging us to take our time, Guild Wars 2 is more likely to win us over and keep us playing.
Gareth "Gazimoff" Harmer, Staff Writer