Editorials & Opinion / PC Gaming

… but not everything in Guild Wars 2 works perfectly.

This is the follow-up article to a previous article.  You can find it here.

I really want to love Guild Wars 2 completely and faithfully.  I want to not waver from its beauty and majesty in exactly the same way that I did not waver from other greats like Everquest or Ultima Online.  I want to fall into its complexities and richness and get lost just as I did with MMOs like World of Warcraft or Everquest II.  But I can’t.

(Before proceeding, please read the article linked at the very beginning of this one. I broke them into two separate articles because they are two separate conversations, but I don’t want anyone to think that what I am about to write is just the desperate cries of an internet troll.)

I can’t for a variety of reasons.  While Guild Wars 2 is a blast to play (more so than almost any other MMO, in fact), I am already starting to question why I want to continue playing it beyond the initial exploration of the game’s mechanics and world.

I refuse to play it for the storylines. I am biased, I don’t play MMOs for single player modes.  And when you add on some of the worst writing I have ever seen in any game, I REALLY don’t play MMOs for their single player modes.

I can’t completely discount or dismiss them.  After all, the gameplay can be rather fun.  However, I find myself quickly skipping through dialogue as fast as possible, wishing instead that some of the same good solo designs had had the time and money obviously wasted on the voice acting and writing used to make them amazing dungeons and events.

I am not going to be invested in characters I haven’t met before.  I am not going to understand why these societies have such obviously evil, cruel, or malicious groups within their community (which are almost always your primary antagonist in the early goings) without some real backstory on why the Asura haven’t booted the Inquest out entirely. I am not going to like my time being wasted 80% of the time, with the 20% remaining being a mix of excellent rewards and some awesome mission setups.

Events were a nice idea, but I don’t think they live up to the hype.  More often than not, I would walk by and do an event.  Then when I walked back by, it would be happening again. It is only when the Events have rather long chains that I really find them to be compelling design.  Most of them though are throw away quests that play out like broken records.

This one is an admitted nitpick, so take it with a grain of salt: I am tired of the distant third person view in my MMOs.  I know you feel that you have to have it in order to do any sort of workable PvE encounter, but looking down on my character from behind does a serious number of shrinking down those huge mountains and rolling hills.  One of my first big criticisms of World of Warcraft was how poorly it conveyed a sense of scale, but a lot of that I realized later came from me still being used to a first person perspective from Everquest.  There, everything seemed so big because you were forced to look up at it in front of you.

Depth perception might be a nitpick, but the perception of a lack of real depth in the gameplay of GW2 is not.  Don’t get me wrong, the game is pretty deep.  I was never one of those fans who complained about the lack of dual classing, the limited skill bars, or the much smaller pool of skills when compared to Guild Wars 1.  But I think a lot of what Guild Wars 2 does right, along with what I feel it does wrong, really combine to work against the game feeling deep.

First, it is absolutely awesome that you can unlock almost any skill, especially weapon skills, fairly early in the game. It is also nice that every weapon your class can use is available to you starting at level one.  As with other MMOs, I always hated waiting for that one really cool ability.  However, by level 15, you usually have a handle on on most every weapon skills, or have at least unlocked them to play around with.  The other skills you can unlock are nice, but usually require other skills or traits to really be exciting to use (Elites not included, of course).

The traits are something I definitely have an issue with, especially since the way they are gated (by level and finances) means that the deeper synergies of each trait line are not available until much later.  I suppose this is an attempt to balance out the fact that unlocking skills isn’t really a carrot in this game, but I think it feels more like forcing your character to take sub par options that would never make up either a full build or the core of a build.

And when you combine these two issues, you have BOTH of my two highest characters, my Warrior and my Necromancer, becoming boring to level.  Already on my Warrior, I have purchased new weapons and respecced multiple times just to try different playstyles to bring more excitement into the leveling grind.  But since I unlocked all of my weapon skills on the few weapons the game has so early, the traits can only do so much to make those same skills more interesting.

My issues with the depth of the game also play into my issue with its approach to the classic Holy Trinity.  Perhaps I am more trinitarian than originally believed, but I was super excited for Guild Wars 2 to break the mold and open up stale MMO gameplay.  However, the more I play the game, the more I wish I could actually be a Healer or a Tank or a Support, and not some muddled mess of pseudo-this and pseudo-that.  After all, I am going to build toward a primary strength anyway.  I might as well get the ability to really go all out.

The lack of the trinity also makes the dungeons I have done feel really messy.  I do love the necessity of all party members to be on watch for themselves but also be willing to pick up a mate, or the real need once again to utilize crowd control, support, and interrupts.  However, I can’t help but imagine how much better this game would be if encounters could be designed around some more specific group make ups.  Instead, all I ever see is a ton of AOE or bosses that one-shot anyone that fails to move in time.

PvE aside, the big reason I wanted Guild Wars 2 was for the PvP side of the game.  There, I think a lot of the design simplicity really work to make a solid, fun experience.  However, I have nothing to really experience that wonderful PvP design.  WvW queues, along with WvW issues and typical open PvP zerging, mean that most of my WvW experiences have been lacking in fun. Though I will admit that when it goes right, it feels amazing.

SPvP on the other hand, while I did enjoy it in beta, does nothing to match World of Warcraft or Warhammer Online battlegrounds/scenarios, nor does it seem to work as an Arena or even as the kind of multiplayer more typical of FPS games.  Sure, GW2 has the gameplay, but more often than not I am queuing into near empty maps that are uninspired at best, or I fall victim to people dropping out of the game at the first sign of a possible defeat.

In a recent SPvP game, I started a game in progress with one other person.  We met near a node and started dueling it out.  Before I struck the mortal blow, he got a teammate who blindsided me and finished me off.  After another couple of minutes, I got a teammate of my own, and we proceeded to dominate and make a very strong comeback.  Of course, the enemy team got bored, they both quit, and I was autobalanced to the losing team within seconds of victory.  That is not acceptable.

You can argue with me and tell me that SPvP is about the Tournament system.  You can tell me that I should always queue with a group.   But the fact of the matter is that I very much enjoyed solo PvP instances in many recent MMOs and GW2’s SPvP does nothing to compare to those experiences.  And if you want to counter by saying that SPvP is not SUPPOSED to be an equivalent to Battlegrounds, I see your point.  However, the recent episode that I just described only paints SPvP as a substandard gameplay system deeply in need of some serious change so that it can be played to its fullest potential.

I still believe that Guild Wars 2 is the best MMO since World of Warcraft.  It is also a great game.  However, it isn’t perfect.  It isn’t even close to being perfect.  And it needs a lot of work if Arenanet intends to keep people like myself doing anything other than leveling alts and wandering their beautifully crafted world.

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