Friday, August 31, 2012

[Review] GW2: First Impressions


This is a semi review of GW2 and some first impressions about the game.  I have played a Human Thief so far and am level 36 in the game so this doesn't reflect the entire game but I'll discuss a bit about the release and how the game feels so far.

Release Night:
  I decided to pre-purchase the game so I was able to play with the early crowd and it was quite the experience.  There were a lot of buggy things going on however.  The servers were locked out and for nearly a week the Trading Post was down (GW2's version of an Auction House).  In fact only today did the Trading Post come back up for players.  Taken in by this new world I played for as long as getting a proper amount of sleep for my job would allow.  Initially the game feels great.  But I'll break this down into a few categories and grade the game (up to this point) in each section.  Keep in mind that ArenaNet is working very hard to fix most of the issues, but this is a review about the lauch so I'll review it accordingly.

Graphics:  A-
  The graphics look amazing.  I would end it there, but there are a few issues.  Most of them are minor things but a big thing that gets me is the camera.  Some times the camera seems to either get stuck because of lag or just move about in awkward ways in tight spaces.  Especially on larger characters, as I have heard from guild mates, the camera tends to get a bit weird in caverns and underwater.  I'm not sure what an appropriate fix for this is, but it does make things hard to see some times.  Also there are other graphical bugs, like a pair of pants having a glove icon and other things like this.  Pant-Gloves are the new thing:
Overall though, the graphics look good even on lower settings and the details are very interesting as well.  I especially like the limping animation when your character is slowed.  I'll give this section an A- because it is good, but wasn't perfect.

Sound:  B+
   The sound is good, but nothing spectacular.  I wasn't wowed by any of the sound tracks or anything, but I will admit that is difficult to achieve.  There were some big issues with sound in a few of the areas especially with volume control.  Some areas would produce extremely loud sounds even when I had my sound turned down low to talk on Team Speak with my guild.  Overall, it was pretty good, but not over the top great (to me at least), so the sound category gets a B+.

User Interface and User Interaction:  C+
  What I mean by user interface and user interaction is the GUI in all its various components and the users interaction with the game GUI and the back end systems supporting it.  This is the probably area that has caused the most grief for players in a few categories.  First of all the guild interface and accessibility has been horrendous.  It is very difficult for players to join guilds and represent them accordingly and this has been a very bug heavy area.
  Another major area that has been buggy is the overflow system.  It has been near impossible to get groups together if there are enough people on that you have to try and get in an overflow group together.  If you are able to get in the main instance of an area, you are able to group up easily and do dungeons but I spent a few hours trying to do the first instance (Ascalonian Catacombs) to no success until earlier today when fewer people were online.
  Also for the first week the Trading Post was under maintenance meaning I salvaged many items I could have otherwise sold simply for bag space.  There are also minor issues with various UI elements that could be streamlined for better and smoother enjoyment of the game. 
  These things being said, the game is otherwise very enjoyable in regards to the UI.  It is simple, clean, and beautiful and easy to use.  If you have played any MMO before, the game is somewhat intuitive, but I recommend reading up on the controls as a few things are different and there are a lot of new (and very convenient) functions added to the game.  I know many players are very happy with the collectibles and compact functions in the bag area.  Also being able to access the bank from crafting tables is very nice.  There are many awesome features added to the game, but it just happened to start out a little buggy, which is expected, but I'll give it a C+ for now, which should easily bump up to an A score once the bugs are fixed.

Combat and Game Play:  A
  The combat is fun; very fun in fact.  Putting skill in the hands of the player to dodge and time their attacks is a great system for the game.  The only problems I have are the somewhat random lag spikes that cause issues for the thief as skilled and perfectly timed dodges are what keep you alive.  This is less a game play issue however and more of a hardware / server side issue.  The game play itself, however, is great.  Especially after playing through the first dungeon a few times, I really felt like I had to be on my toes to avoid dying.  And some times, i still died anyway.  The downed state is a very interesting mechanic, despite the annoyance in PvP.  A few complaints I have about game play that are very thief specific are that stealthing does not break channeled spells and that some mobs run way too fast after you stealth making it hard to combo.  The first point is displayed most astoundingly in PvP.  Many times I have popped stealth only to have 2-3 players channel a few spells on me at the same time to have them hit me through stealth and burn through 3/4 of my life bar whilst I am still in stealth.  That kind of sucks as it means I have to pop stealth moves very early for them0 to be effective.  Overall, the game play most certainly gets an A.  I could write an entire blog post about the various elements of the game play, but we'll leave it at that.

PvP:  B+
  The biggest gripe I have with PvP (especially with battlegrounds) is that there is no progression.  Yes, everyone is completely fair and even in PvP, but there is no reason to do it other than for fun.  You don't get experience, the armor is only aesthetic and there is no way to really 'progress' per say in the battleground PvP.  Since everyone starts with all the same stuff, while fun, there isn't much reason to PvP unless you plan on doing the tournaments (which I haven't got into yet since our guild is still mostly leveling).  The WvWvW is more interesting in my opinion, as it offers ways to get better and do better as you level up outside of it.  It also offers a bunch of good crafting materials for the mid level player as well.  World vs World is a ton of fun and is a great challenge for guilds and realms to face off against each other.  Eventually I would love to see an arena system based on current gear but with the current philosophy of GW2, that would probably be very similar to the current BG system with same stat gear.  Also, I miss not being able to duel people.  That is another feature I would like to see.  And GW2 gets a B+ for PvP because... mesmers are annoying.  That is all.

Arena Net:  A-
  ArenaNet has done a great job of replying to posts and updating and fixing bugs as fast as possible.  They have had great attitudes toward the player base and that has been refreshing to see.  A few gripes I have are not having any patch notes (call me spoiled but I like to know what is going on) and other small visibility issues like my latency in game without having to use a third party program to test why I am getting lag or disconnected.  Other than that ArenaNet has been great about getting quick fixes out for those nasty bugs that no one can predict and I look forward to the updates in the future to this game.

Release Success:   A+
  Why does the game get an A+ for release success when it didn't score that high in any individual category that I mentioned you say?  Well, that is because I have been judging fairly harshly pointing out the flaws and bugs it has had so far.  The game itself is one of the best I have played so far and has actually been enjoyable from day 1!  Not many games can say that they have been up for as much as GW2 has been during their launch week.  The game has been a great success and I have had a lot of fun playing this first week.  I look forward to future updates and expansions to GW2 and recommend the game to anyone who likes the MMORPG genre.  I didn't touch on a lot of issues in this post, but I wanted to note a few things that I have seen and give a decent first impression of the game.  Take my criticisms with a grain of salt, the game is great and most of the things that 'bug' me about the game will be fixed in the near future as well.

Thanks for reading my post, and I wish the best of luck to ArenaNet and the continued success of Guild Wars 2!