GW2: the real deal

Well, GW2 is live, finally — at least, for everybody who’s prepurchased, which I assume is everybody who cared about the game by now. And now that the beta’s over and we know that things are (generally) working the way they’re supposed to, obviously the way we assess the game is different — no more cutting the game a break because it’s still in beta, or waiting to see if things change before release.

A cave in the Norn lands.

Although I’ve definitely been having fun, and largely in the manner I expected, I have three major points of dissatisfaction today.

Number one: the money.

The “Digital Deluxe” edition of the game feels like a complete ripoff. For an extra twenty bucks over the standard edition, you get:

  • one elite skill that you can’t unlock until level 30 (I’m not sure yet whether it will prove to be actually worth using or not)
  • a non-combat banker NPC, as is common with collectors editions of other games, except the one in GW2 permanently expires after five days
  • one rare piece of gear
  • two one-off consumables, a Tome that boosts your guild influence, and a Chalice that boosts your PvP Glory (which is basically currency points a la WoW’s Honor Points)
  • a non-combat pet

In addition, the two consumables and the non-combat pet are only available to the first character that claims them; alts only get the elite skill and the temporary banker NPC.

Now, I realise that some of this was disclosed on the purchase page (the one-shot nature of the consumables, and the temporary nature of the banker pet), so there’s no sense complaining that one was cheated (although it was hidden in mouseovers). But it definitely feels pretty thin compared with the rewards one gets for other games’ special editions. (By comparison, buying RIFT’s deluxe edition scored you a non-combat pet, a giant backpack and a mount from level 1, for a very small extra cost.)

Number two: the interface.

The UI is frustratingly uncustomisable. Let me move my target frame somewhere useful, please? Let me up the opacity of the chat frame so I can actually read it? That’d be nice. And hey, while you’re at it, how about letting me change chat channel colours? That’d be lovely. And so on; you know the deal. This is the least customisable MMO UI I’ve ever played with, and one of the least pleasant in its vanilla state. That’s not a good combination.

(And hey, while we’re at it: why is there no first-person camera zoom level? I do not WANT the back of my head in all these screenshots, please.)

Number three: together alone.

This is the big one for me; the game is really not conducive to playing with friends.

When your server is crowded (and right now they’re all crowded), more often than not when you enter a new area you get shunted to an overflow zone. If you’re already in a party, you have a better chance (but no guarantee) to be put in the same overflow area — but if not, or if your partymates are in a non-overflow area, you just can’t join them and you’re stuck playing by yourself. That’s frustrating and unfun.

And even when you’re in the same phase, you simply can’t help your friends with the vast majority of what you’re all doing. There are no collaborative abilities (edit: more correctly, I should say that there are limited collaborative abilities, and most ally-helping effects are general rather than directed) — in ANet’s attempts to break the restrictions of the holy trinity, there are no tanks (no way to protect your squishy friends) and no healers (no way to help someone who’s fighting for you). You can’t help your friends’ progress towards finishing a renown heart the way you can help your friends get credit on a more traditional quest. You can’t help your friends get credit towards an event. You can’t put a friend on follow when you need to run for a bio or to answer the door. There isn’t even a /thank emote.

That said, I’ll give them kudos for one thing — on your “personal story” quest chain, other people can join your instance and they can get credit for their own quests, although they don’t get to do the story portion personally. Given how frustrated I’ve been with TSW’s excessive Solo Instance quests lately, at least ANet got that one right.

This is a particularly timely issue given that the blogosphere is currently talking about individualist vs collectivist games, thanks to Stubborn over at Sheep the Diamond. Speaking as somebody who prefers collaborative gameplay – I’m a collectivist at heart, and fortunate enough to have a good group of MMO buddies to play most games with – GW2’s incredibly individualist approach is frustrating and a lot less fun than more ‘traditional’ MMOs.

I’m hoping this changes at higher levels, but at this point in gameplay, it definitely feels like a watered down MMO experience. For a while now commentators have complained about MMOs losing the “massively” aspect to which they lay claim — it kind of feels like GW2’s trying to do away with the “multiplayer” part too.

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16 Responses to “GW2: the real deal”

  1. August 26, 2012 at 00:38 #

    A lot of my playing in GW2 has been very anti-social, for many of the reasons you listed. There is this idea that playing in the same space = cooperation. And as you point out, that isn’t really true.

    That said, the map chats have been wonderfully talkative on my server, very helpful and a lot of lore discussion. I’ve been in MMOs and with one main guild for a long time now – I can barely remember what it was like finding and establishing that network in the first place, and GW2 does not seem to encourage that.

    That said, I had similar ‘wordless’ experiences in Rift and SWTOR, which I also enjoyed for the 1/2 month period of initial interest

    • August 26, 2012 at 02:00 #

      Map chat on my server is currently delightfully homophobic and trolltacular, and the “Block” function doesn’t seem to be working, sadly. I’ve resorted to turning off Map chat already…

  2. August 26, 2012 at 15:16 #

    Lot’s I could say here, but I just wanted to make a quick note on the “There are no collaborative abilities” bit. You might want to check out the skill combos that are available. There are HEAPS. As an example, fire a projectile of some sort through a ring of fire that an elementalist budy has laid down…

    • August 26, 2012 at 15:22 #

      A couple of times it’s told me I’ve pulled off some combo, but there’s been absolutely no information as to what I’ve done or how to do it again. For the vast majority of players who aren’t going to go and research things on wikis, that’s effectively a random event.

      • August 26, 2012 at 15:29 #

        That’s true about the wikis. The the “joy of discovery” element to it was by design apparently. It isn’t a random event btw. If you are playing with a group and you know how to generate the combo you can pull it off everytime. Getting together with a bunch of mates and experimenting to work out the combos is pretty fun.

        • August 26, 2012 at 15:38 #

          The joy of discovery thing only works if there’s a way to actually discover it, though. As it is, there’s no information on what it did or hints on how you did it, so there’s not actually any incentive to do that experimentation in the first place. I can imagine the experimentation would be satisfying — I remember doing the same sorts of things in Magicka, for instance, and LotRO a bit with fellowship manoeuvres — but I don’t think there’s enough clues in game to tell players they should be doing that experimentation.

          • Imakulata
            August 28, 2012 at 01:54 #

            I find the combos happening by themselves during combat without a special investigation on my part. I do understand that might be a problem by itself too, because most people taking part of combat are busy doing it and often don’t stop to investigate something random that happened.

          • August 28, 2012 at 02:35 #

            Yeah, especially since (as far as I know) there’s no way to track it down later — no handy ability link in the chat log saying “You performed [Combo X]!” with a tooltip with more information, or anything like that. (Now I think about it, that would be an easy way to introduce players to the concept!)

  3. M.
    August 26, 2012 at 15:18 #

    I have a heap of abilities that heal, buff, cure people around me. I don’t have to be in a group to use them. I also have abilities that put down a “line” of energy of a particular type, like “light” and people attacking over that line have their attack changed to that enerygy type. Shooting arrows across has them change to light arrows, or fire etc.

    I fell off a ledge and died and 2 people came and revived me.

    To me, the game is very much a social affair, with people interacting with other people without having to be in “artificial” groups.

    Maybe you need to explore more weapon combos.

    • August 26, 2012 at 15:28 #

      There are certainly abilities that affect other players around you, or that interact with other player abilities. That’s not the kind of thing I’m talking about; I’m talking about collaborative gameplay where I can actively help my friends – eg by killing mobs for them to get quest credit, or what have you. That’s what I’m missing in GW2.

      This also isn’t helped by the overflows; I’m hoping they diminish in time as the initial rush dies off. But as it stands, it’s a crapshoot as to whether you can get into the same area as someone you’re playing with without one of you being shunted to an overflow and being stuck there for up to an hour or so at a time. That’s, I think, the biggest obstacle to social gameplay (on anything other than the most shallow level).

  4. Ettesiun
    August 28, 2012 at 19:53 #

    I am not sure about the collaborative gameplay you want : you can help people in event and heart by helping them killing the enemy, you can protect them for being killed, and you can help them do more damages or give them advantages :
    – kill enemy : just target the same enemy as them and you will kill them faster, and he will also have the credit
    – protect friend : there is a lot of possibility : shield that stop all attack, blind that make the enemy miss his next attack, interrupting enemy and puting them down stop them from attacking, slow them or root them to protect your friend from melee attack, etc…
    – help them do more damage : you can provide them some boons or enemy conditions that will help your friend do more damage : retaliation, vulnerability, etc…
    – give them advantages : you can protect them with aegis (it will prevent the next attack), give them regeneration, make them go faster, etc…

    There is a LOT of way to help you friends, but not by tanking or healing. You should look at all condition and boons in the attack and see how to help them.

    But this is true that condition and boons are not well explained : i know what they do from wiki and this is a problem.

  5. August 29, 2012 at 07:35 #

    Oh, something you might like to know and might make you feel a bit better about the value of the collectors edition. The Golem Banker does NOT expire after 5 days. It has a 5 day cooldown. I can confirm this, ’cause I just tested it. :)

    • August 31, 2012 at 12:51 #

      Hmm, really? Mine lasted 5 days, and I was able to summon it whenever I wanted during those 5 days (ie no cooldown); now that the 5 days are up, mine says “TIME EXPIRED” on the tooltip and is now unusable.

      • September 1, 2012 at 13:11 #

        You know what… you are dead right… testing fail on my part lol. :)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Individualism and Collectivism in MMOs: Roundup « Sheep The Diamond - August 26, 2012

    […] Siha continues the conversation about GW2, discussing some problems she’s encountered with the game.  While her post isn’t fully about our topic, she ends discussing problems with grouping.  Her post can be found here: http://sihagames.net/games/guild-wars-2/gw2-real-deal/ […]

  2. [GW2] Some quick thoughts from early access « Decoding Dragons - August 26, 2012

    […] I think the omission of a /thank emote is a glaring oversight (as pointed out by Siha) I have noticed that I am more willing to throw myself into a fight involving others. Early on it […]

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