While most of my gaming time is currently taken up by exploring Pandaria, I’m still finding time to play a few hours of Guild Wars 2 here or there. In some ways, the luster is wearing off, and I’m seeing more flaws, but in others, I love it more than ever.
In addition to leveling my Norn thief, I’ve started an alt, a human warrior. This is probably the first game in history where I’ve enjoyed playing a warrior archetype. It’s just not something that’s ever appealed to me.
I suspect my change of heart is due to how versatile GW2 classes are. I’m using a longbow and dual axes, and it feels a bit more like playing a ranger than a warrior. Also, it’s one of the few classes in the game with any kind of resource mechanic, which I prefer to being entirely cooldown-based.
I still prefer my thief. For one thing, the warrior seems rather over-powered. Both characters can solo veterans, and both can solo multiple enemies at once, but my thief has to work at it. She has to juggle weapon swaps, dodge frequently, and use every trick in the book. My warrior can just stand there and get beat on while I do my best DPS tunnel vision.
He’s fun for dynamic events, though. His AoE damage is so high I sometimes can’t see what I’m fighting behind all the numbers.
I’ve also had my first taste of dungeons in Guild Wars 2. Upon hitting the requisite level, I dutifully marched down to the Charr lands to find a group for the story mode of the game’s first dungeon, Ascalonian Catacombs. Spamming map chat gave me nasty memories of WoW pre-dungeon finder, but I found a group without too much trouble.
The experience was, in a word, brutal. In WoW terms, imagine doing heroic Deadmines in 346 gear without a tank or a healer. In layman’s terms… You know the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan? It was sort of like that.
Oddly enough, the bosses didn’t give us much trouble — aside from the Lovers encounter — but the trash felt like we were just trying to clog some great machine with our corpses.
The best thing I can say about the experience is that we did, eventually, finish. Mainly by corpse-zerging and constantly resurrecting each other. And the group managed to avoid turning on each other like most other MMO PUGs I’ve seen.
I eventually overcame my demoralization from that and attempted the second dungeon, Caudecus’s Manor. That was even worse. Not only were we massacred at every turn, the group broke up in frustration after the first boss.
I think I’m going to give up on dungeons in this game. It’s just not worth the aggravation.
I respect ArenaNet for trying to break the trinity, and it works wonderfully for dynamic events (and presumably PvP, which I still haven’t tried), but clearly, the dungeons need work. They removed the trinity, but it seems they didn’t remove the need for it. The dungeons felt almost exactly like a Warcraft dungeon after the tank has died.
Granted, neither of my groups were well-organized, but we were dying so fast that I don’t see how better cooperation could have helped. There wasn’t time to work together. Are we just supposed to all go ranged and kite everything?
The good news is that this isn’t World of Warcraft. Dungeons are not a crucial part of progression. All I’m missing out on are some specific armor skins and little bit of story, the latter of which I don’t much care about anyway.
I have found a few other annoyances with the game, though nothing major. Despite it being one of the most — if not the most — social-friendly games in history, it feels oddly lonely at times, even with many other players around. Expect an article on this by yours truly at WhatMMO soon.
I’m also finding getting transmutation stones — which are used to customize gear appearances — more frustrating than anticipated. They’re not a guaranteed reward for zone completion, so there can be dry spells where I don’t have any unless I use the gem store.
I could just buy some for gold, but the cost of gems is going up, and it would leave me little to spend on anything else. It’s hard to make money in this game.
Between that and those Black Lion Chests, it’s not so hard to ignore the cash shop as I’d hoped.
Still, it’s far from the nickel-and-dime or “pay to win” horror people paint free-to-play as. I still haven’t spent a cent beyond the game’s purchase price, and I still find this much less onerous than a monthly subscription. GW2 is at least as good a game as WoW, but it costs me a fraction of the money to play. It’s hard to argue the value of that.
This means war:
As time goes on, I’ve come to the conclusion dynamic events are the real soul of Guild Wars 2 — which is pretty much what ArenaNet intended. The game is enjoyable when there aren’t any events, but it’s not memorable. The real fun comes when the events are coming at you hard and fast.
A good example of this came the other day. While leveling my thief in the Harathi Hinterlands (Sound familiar, Wow fans?), I stumbled into a lengthy group event chain involving a war between the Seraph, the human military, and the local centaur clans.
At the time I joined in, the Seraph had captured two centaur camps, and the centaurs were counter-attacking. The players of the zone had to spread out to assist packs of NPC Seraph in defending both camps from wave after wave of centaur attackers.
Eventually, we broke the centaur assault, and now it was the Seraph’s turn to retaliate. I and at least two dozen other players, plus a large number of NPCs, marched on the zone’s main centaur camp and proceeded to massacre it wholesale. I would have felt bad for the centaurs if they weren’t fictional and evil.
Then the centaur again counter-attacked, pouring down from the hills to retake their camp. This part was more challenging, but like Leonidas at Thermopylae, we stood our ground as the bodies piled up.
The chain culminated with the centaur sorcerer-king coming down to deal with us personally. What followed was an extremely lengthy multi-stage boss fight in which we defeated various minions summoned by the king and then finally the centaur himself.
The whole thing took at least an hour and was easily the most fun I’ve had in Guild Wars 2 to date — not a small feat. For that matter, it was probably one of the most fun times I’ve had in any game in quite a long time. I’m smiling as I write this just thinking about it.
This is really what GW2 is capable of at its best. A truly epic gaming experience that hurls you into the world and its conflicts.
I wish to state for the record that I am love with my thief’s pimp hat.