The much anticipated Guild Wars 2 launched last weekend for those eager enough to pre-purchase, giving those who invested in the game early on a chance to get a three day headstart on other players. It was the culmination of expectations raised by three beta events and several stress tests before launch – but would it survive the true test of headstart access?
Well, yes and no. The monolith task of launching such a huge game is hardly going to go smoothly despite the massive number of precautions taken, and whilst the game was certainly playable, it was plagued by a number of problems. The biggest of all being a colossal EU login server failure which rendered most people trying to access the game outside of the US stuck at the launcher. It took five hours for the support team to come up with a solution which might not be great by any scale but it’s certainly an improvement.
From day one the headstart felt like another beta test. There were a lot of features not active (and some of these are still not functional) that seemed pretty essential, like being able to tackle story instances in groups and in-game mail. Slowly, some of these features came back online, but others like the marketplace remain intermittently out of action. Yeah, it can be argued that no MMO launches smoothly, and we’re naive to expect otherwise, but the headstart was far from ready to go, and the massive EU login issue (which has recently somehow resurfaced) seems negligent at best.
As for the game itself, it has made leaps and bounds in terms of graphics and optimisation since the beta. During the beta period I could only run the game on medium settings if I wanted to be able to play at a decent frame rate, and it’s unclear whether this is an optimisation or server volume issue, but the game runs smoothly on high settings without needing particularly powerful hardware behind it. I counted 100fps in under populated areas and an average of 50-60 in the intensely populated hub cities. It looks great on low or high settings, which has the added benefit of not making your burly Norn warrior look like some textures wrapped around a pencil. The visuals are clearly a point of pride for ArenaNet, because a lot of the discovery elements woven into the map focus on giving you as nice a view of the game’s epic vistas as possible.
The questing system works fantastically from the off – the standard format of MMO questing (Go here, kill ten kittens, collect five of their fluffy belly hairs) simply does not work in big MMO launches. The obvious reason being that everyone ends up spamming the same mobs and pickups in a massive cluster of desperate progression, and no-one gets anywhere fast. Rather than having specific items to pick up or set numbers to reach, you fulfil a number of general requirements in a quest area to progress with activities ranging from teaming up to taking down a giant frost worm to feeding fish to hungry baby bears. Progression doesn’t feel like a grind because it can be expediently pursued in a number of ways – if you want to level by crafting or exploration, it’s just as viable as going out and slaying enemies. The emphasis is on teamwork, but each character is equipped with basic healing abilities to make solo play less daunting. You can revive downed players regardless of profession and this definitely encourages players to pick the class they want to play rather than the most efficient one.
PvP is incredibly balanced as levels are always averaged up or down to put everyone on an equal a playing field as possible. You can tackle it in non-combat situations too – during my first foray into the Norn city of Hoelbrak I discovered a PvP minigame called Keg Brawl, which was basically a Viking version of American football. Were it not for the game’s points of interest and discoverable map elements I might have completely missed one of the best early game moments I experienced. I spent most of my time in headstart access exploring the different professions and races – the character design is excellent and depth of customisation is on a perfect level, making your characters feel like your own rather than just abiding by a generic racial silhouette.
As far as MMO launches go, Guild Wars 2 could have fared much worse. Some clarification on whether things such as trading, instances and ingame mail were merely being activated later to avoid breaking would have benefited the community vastly as many were left confused when these vital game elements just didn’t function. Guild creation didn’t work, but there wasn’t even a notice or announcement when the problem had been discovered – the buttons just stayed there, completely inactive. So ArenaNet could be playing it safe until they know everything is stable enough to work all at once – or they could have their hands full with a ship that springs a new leak just as they plug the last one. Their around the clock dedication to keeping the game running is admirable, but it’s yet to be seen whether the monolith that is Guild Wars 2 can maintain the massive potential we all know it has.
In Part 2:
World vs World combat, instances, the Black Lion trading company, mid-level gameplay, community response, and we look into whether Guild Wars 2 should have launched a little bit later.
SteelSeries Guild Wars 2 Mouse and Headset:
If you are playing Guild Wars 2 you get get the awesome Guild Wars 2 Mouse,Headset and Mousemat from Steelseries, We hope to bring a review of them over the coming weeks.
Mouse Information – https://www.invisioncommunity.co.uk/2012/08/28/guild-wars-2-gaming-mouse/
Headset Information – https://www.invisioncommunity.co.uk/2012/08/28/guild-wars-2-gaming-headset/
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.