Random Quote: "You aren't allowed an opinion, you're a ficus." - Norn player to a Sylvari player
Now officially released, GW2 might not be the second coming of MMO Jesus and it may not be the game to step on WoW's throat, but it certainly improves on the formula. While dozens of other bloggers and reviewers have focused on the traditional elements...gameplay, endgame, sound, story, combat...I want to turn over a bit of a new leaf and look at some of the unconventional elements that still contribute to the game being enjoyable. Sadly I have only had a brief period of time to play because this also happens to be the beginning of my law school semester...much to my chagrin.
Freedom of Movement
Your character runs and jumps (no climbing trees, ANet surely apologizes to Eddie Izzard). Personally I think this ability to move is vital to immersion; being stuck on individual walls and having what should be wide-open zones feel like corridors was one of my main complaints in FFXI. GW2 takes this a step further than WoW, which allowed jumping and such. In Guild Wars 2 you will never see the message "You have no target" when you click on an ability. Ever ability, when pressed, will be immediately used on your target if in range, or just in front of you if you have none or they are out of range. This is a mixed blessing....on one hand, it feels less "static" than WoW, I don't feel like I am constrained. On the other hand this makes lag, range and perception of location all that much more important. Vital resources can be wasted trying to hit a target that is actually out of range, and repeated clicks of an ability can further waste resources by using it in quick succession. Yet despite those flaws I find it might interesting...more "free" than other games, which leads to me feeling more in control of my character.
My Cup Overfloweth Over
A controversial feature, rather than a queue GW2 throws players onto and Overflow server if the zone on their home server is full. While this has created some barriers for people in trying to form parties, I think it is a step in the right direction. Remember, the alternative to an overflow server in other MMO's is a queue...that you sit in...sometimes for hours. WoW's history was marked with server queues thousands long...Team Fortress 2's Mann v. Machine mode had 45+ minute queues for its first week. While Overflow is not perfect, I would much rather be in game playing (even if it's killing time waiting for my friends) than watching a number.
Now I admitted they aren't perfect..how could ANet improve them? A few things...first, if a player is in a party and the party enters the zone, they are put onto the same overflow automatically and "share" a spot in the queue, meaning it won't ask either until both are eligible. Second, provide an estimation timer for how long until you get into the "real" zone so players can plan accordingly....even if in general and vague terms.
Some of this will level out with time; right now the majority of players are in low-level zones. As the level spread widens and people reach the higher level zones the overflow need will drop.
A minor concern but still a common one in the MMO department...with 1-2 exceptions all the faces for female characters involve makeup and are "pretty". While I am not trying to claim that "beautiful" women can't kill monsters or be adventurers, I would question the priorities of one who puts on lipstick for the act. Though they do have some faces that I suppose might be "plain" so I must give them credit there.
A living world...in deep trouble
I like the new method...something about going to a place and encountering a quest there; or hearing from a "Scout" that there is trouble over at farm X feels more alive than searching for yellow exclamation points. Not to say that it is infinitely better, but a step in the right direction away from feelings of artificiality.
The tutorials are very minimal and often I found that I had to learn things by searching online or my own exploration...and actually I kind of liked it. While to those new to MMO's it might be frustrating I found that not having "tips" and "help" pop up all the time as I was getting situated ingrained me
with a greater knowledge of what is going on...learn by doing. I find that when the "how-to" of the more simple tasks is spoon-fed to me I don't retain it as well as the things I go off and learn by myself. I essentially find I learn by experimentation.
XP for ALL the activities!
Just a point of irony but it seems like everything, including sneezing, grants you experience in GW2. Often I have seen my XP bar and wondered what it was I just did. On the other hand I like this; levels in this game are more meant as a guide for where you should adventure than as a measure of your character's power...and part of making levels feel less like "power levels" is untying them from combat.
Bring the Account, not the Character
One of my favorite things and something WoW is adopting as well; much of GW2's progression in terms of achievements, storage and such is all focused around the account and not the character. I prefer this...I understand the arguments for having alts, but I found that in WoW the addition of achievements, mounts, and PvP ranks all just added to things you had to do in order to roll an alt. The amount of time needed grew faster than the levels did...because now you had not only levels, but reputations and a dozen other things one "has" to do in order to level an alt. GW2 on the other hand reverses this and I prefer it...I want to be attached to my character because the character is fun, not because of artificial barriers to creating an alt.