Saturday, 15 September 2012

GW2 first impressions

Loving it, so far! Like Nils often does, I may spend a lot of time covering the niggles that I don't like in Guild Wars 2, but overall, it's a great game!

 Here are two niggles.

1 They're really about lack of information. In the download screen, there's no obvious way to pause a download. On-screen you see the amount downloaded so far, the download speed and the number of files left to download, plus a progress bar at the bottom. Let's say that after a couple of hours of downloading, you get tired of waiting, and you decide you're going to play Rift for a bit. You want to pause the download. You can't see a pause button on the download screen. In frustration, you exit the download screen. Of course, you are curious, and want to check immediately if you've lost all your existing download or not, so you restart the download. Horror of horrors, the progress bar is back at 0%! The amount downloaded is also at 0. It is with relief that you notice that the number of files left to download still shows the same number you saw when you exited the download screen. So the upshot is, you pause by exiting, and you don't lose already-downloaded files.

 2 On registering, I had to supply a "Real Name" and a "Display Name", but it wasn't clear what each of those were going to be used for. I still don't know what "Real Name" is for, but I didn't give my actual real name in this field, I stuck in some junk. Display Name is seen quite a lot. It's kind of an account name. First, it is made unique by having some numbers appended to it. All the characters that you create are linked to that unique name, and if, for instance, you join a guild, guild members can see this account name beside your character name. Also, this display name is used on the forums.

 I chose the realm "Far Shiverpeaks" simply because it was the top English-speaking WvWvW European realm. Although it was labelled "High Population", I've not found too many other players around for comfort. Probably because I'm not with the first wave of players!

 Next, to character creation. I had a problem actually seeing the character models in the character creation screen. I could only see two of the professions, elementalist and warrior. For the others, I just saw the background, and the character was invisible or missing. I looked around on the internet for help, and I saw suggestions to re-install video drivers. I didn't need to do that, and if you're having the same problem, and can't see your characters, you should first try fiddling with the in-game video settings. To get to those from the character creation screen, press F11 to enter the options screen. Then I went into the graphics options (second tab down on the left) and changed the "Render Sampling" setting from "Native" to "Subsample" That fixed the problem for me. If it doesn't fix it for you, I suggest that you first record what your current settings are, and then change them one at a time until you get an improvement - that kind of trial and error was how I stumbled upon the fix for my particular setup, in the first place!

Anyway the character creation screen is fun and lets you personalize your character in many ways, but I won't bore you with the details, except to remind you that when you get to naming your character, you may use spaces.

I created two characters, a male Sylvari, and a female Norn.

I love the Sylvari race; what a great idea, to have a race of plants rather than animals. As well as a strong sylvan and elven theme, this race has strong Celtic overtones: Brittonic and Gaelic names are used for many placenames (for instance Caer Verdant, Ogham Wilds) and NPCs: the articifer trainer (for smithing magical items) is called Draiocht, the cooking trainer is Bhia). The voice acting is done by English actors.

The Norn are just like tall humans, with a Norse theme. I'd have loved if the Norn had been voiced by Scandinavian actors, but it was not to be - these characters all have American accents. I'm not sure why anyone would choose human as a race.

Adventuring in this world is fun - the starting zones are fun to explore, the storylines are interesting and the artwork is - well, painterly. It isn't trying for the sort of realism you get in Skyrim, if you know what I mean, but it has a style of its own that stays on the right side of cartoony, and never looks grimdark. Adventuring is fun in and of itself. It's more varied than the usual "kill 10 rats" questing, and it seems the developers have really tried to think of ways to engage us as adventurers. Gear and gold don't shower upon us, and I think I'm still (at level 7) wearing the gear I started with (with the addition of a pair of gloves and a wooden focus). I'm not adventuring for the rewards!

The dungeon instances I've been in so far I have soloed. I like the fact that even when I visited an instance that I'd outlevelled, I was automatically down-levelled so that it was a real challenge. Syncaine doesn't like this. But he's just grouching because he's been conditioned by other games to expect a reward for every activity he takes part in, rather than the activity itself being rewarding. Now, like Pavlov's dogs, he salivates in expectation of external reward, and is grumpy because he isn't given it.

The death penalty is unusual. When you are downed, you don't die immediately. Instead, you are left on the ground with a few minimal abilities and a small amount of health. At this point, you are almost dead, but if you manage to kill your opponent before you actually die, you rally, and are brought back from this downed state. However each time you are downed, you get a stacking debuff that leaves you with less health when you are next downed. Each point of debuff only lasts a minute, so it isn't a permanent loss. In addition, one piece of your armour is damaged and needs to be repaired. Together, these two penalties make you less blasé about getting killed than you would be in Azeroth.

Other niggles:
Zoning: In 2012, you would think you needn't sit through a loading screen when walking from one zone into the next.

Portals: Portals are used to teleport the adventurer from one location to another. What's interesting about the portals in Guild Wars 2 is that you don't teleport from one portal to another. You teleport instead from anywhere to a portal.That's a nice idea, but it comes at a cost: you can't interact with a portal directly. You can't touch a portal, you have no magical or technological item that your character uses to reach the portal. Instead, you must temporarily break out of character, and click on the portal on your map. Each time I do this, I'm reminded that I'm just playing a game, clicking buttons, rather than living in a fantasy world.

Instances: there's a lot of instancing while following storylines, and I wonder how much of it is really necessary. For instance, while following one storyline, I am called upon to go to the city and meet a certain character in the city's keep. I talk to her and she tells me to go somewhere else. Normal quest behaviour, you would think, but for some reason, my meeting with her in the keep is inside its own instance! What's that all about?

TL;DR: Loving it!

1 comment:

  1. The instancing of the storyline is there to prevent you from knowing whether there will be a battle in the current quest. Preventing spoilers, so to speak.