Three weeks later: my thoughts and a special giveaway!

The gates are open!

It should come as no surprise that I’ve been quiet on the blogging front lately–as I’m sure you have, I’ve been playing Guild Wars 2! On a kneejerk I decided to roll not four but seven alts in order to represent all 8 classes and park all of the names that I want into the future; more on my characters in a future post though.

Having really sunk my teeth into the game for a long while–I have reached level 80, have over 50% map completion, unlocked all my slot skills, played with a few different trait distributions, and reached level 400 in Artificer–I have a range of things I want to talk about. Let’s start by talking about my previous criticisms from during the beta and see how we’re doing.

Event scaling and Zerg swarms in PvE: I haven’t tried doing the Centaur bridge event again, but I’ve done the Bear shrine event a couple more times and it’s the same. When there are enough people doing the same event I have trouble doing enough damage to a target to get credit–XP and loot–for killing it. Sometimes during a champion fight I have trouble getting gold participation because the foe is maxed out at 25 stacks of bleeding. I will only get silver or bronze for the event even if I was actively participating the whole time. Rather than focusing on playing effectively, I’ve noticed it’s better for me in terms of drops and experience to spam my AoE abilities to make sure I tag all the enemies on the field. But maybe I’m a special case–bleed spam is very popular. Last night I decided to retrait and focus more on power and condition duration than squarely on condition damage and bleeding and that seems to be working better.

Having seen more of the game though, I don’t think dynamic event scaling is as big a deal as I did during the beta. If you want challenging content perfectly scaled for your group, play a dungeon. Dungeons are challenging and very gratifying to complete. As of this writing I’ve done Story Mode in Ascalonian Catacombs, Caudecus’ Manor, and Twilight Arbor. There was one boss in TA–for those who’ve played, all I need to say is “spiders”–where I said to the group “I don’t know if we can do this!” but through adjusting our tactics we were able to take him down.

My first few party wipes in AC had me concerned that dungeons were just going to be a graveyard rush–the practice of throwing yourself against at a group of foes repeatedly to whittle it down, sidestepping the full challenge–but the latter two dungeons were not so forgiving of wipes. Especially when there’s just one very powerful Champion who takes everyone down or can resurrect its allies, foes will return to full health before you can run back to them. Furthermore, in order to profitably complete dungeons, it’s important not to repeatedly break your armor (more on that later.) In Explorable Mode there is no repair station, so broken armor can be the difference between finishing the dungeon and having to give up.

Moving on, ArenaNet implemented equipment previews for all manners of equippable items–including dyes! This is one of the ways I thought the “unlocked dyes are character-bound” issue could be addressed, and it got added, so I’m very happy about that! One minor annoyance is that you can’t ping or preview items listed in the trading post, but I’ll more than survive until that gets added.

The equipment preview lets you do funny things like preview medium armor on a light armor profession. I actually kinda like how this one armor looks with my colors!

I’ve lamented the lack of guesting already, but with several weeks of context I can say that the broader picture–the current server model as a whole–has some serious drawbacks. I was saddened to learn that while guild exist across servers, guild perks are still isolated on a per-server basis. Representing your guild off of its main server doesn’t help the entire group, as any influence you own goes to your server’s “chapter” of the guild. If there are no leaders or officers on your home server, that influence is a complete waste. By virtue of being a guild perk, the guild bank is also tied to the server it’s unlocked on.

The consequence of this is that people simply don’t represent guilds that aren’t on their home server. [TWIT] may have dozens of members, but many of them never represent because they don’t have enough of a reason to. Maybe ArenaNet was hoping shared guild chat would be enough of an incentive, but it hasn’t turned out that way; guild perks being tied to servers defeats the purpose of multi-guild membership for many people. I definitely imagined that one’s home server would be a mere convenience in PvE and really only matter in WvW; unfortunately, home server has a large impact on who you can play and interact with. None of this is what I was expecting and it leaves me a bit let down with the game’s social features.

Still, maybe none of that will be a problem once guesting is added. We know what guesting is, but we don’t know how it works or how it will impact things like the guild system. Ultimately, we need to wait and see.

I’m a sucker for digital night skies, and this one gets an A+.

Let’s talk about the economy–GW2 has a lot of money sinks. Waypoint and armor repair costs that scale with level, expensive trait manuals, crafting materials that must be purchased from a vendor, trait respec fees, and perhaps more that I can’t think of. One of GW2’s greatest strengths is that it rewards you handsomely for what I call “just playing the game“–events, hearts, dungeons, personal story, map completion–so getting money isn’t hard, it’s keeping it that becomes a challenge. Coming from Guild Wars 1, where map travel and attribute redistribution are completely free and armor doesn’t break, the considerable money sinks in GW2 came as quite a culture shock.

It’s hard to say how I’ll feel about it once I’m fully involved in explorable mode dungeons, level 80 events in Orr, and producing exotic crafter items, but right now the sinks feel prohibitively expensive. It’s making me not want to pay over 2 silver to fast travel to the Shiverpeaks to play with my friends when I’m down in Maguuma because that’s more than half of the heart reward I just got. It’s making people less sympathetic to GW2’s design decisions ask for mounts. Maybe some of those people would ask for mounts anyway, but I dislike that waypoint costs are giving them a good reason to ask.

I feel like a cheater whenever I jump through the Mists to get to Lion’s Arch for free and use the gate network to be on my way from there, but it really does help me group up for a more reasonable price. Since I imagine everyone who learns this trick uses it to save some coin, waypoints should simply cost the lesser of:

  • The direct distance from your location to the destination; or
  • The distance between your destination and the nearest racial city.

This would save everyone several minutes of walking and 3+ loading screens as well as money. It would also reduce concurrency on Lion’s Arch and the racial cities, which are usually slow to load and kicking people to overflow only to give the “map is ready” prompt seconds later. Similarly, since it costs 0 to waypoint inside your current city, all waypoints into a given city should cost the same. (Waypointing out of a home instance back into the city shouldn’t cost anything either, but that’s just a pet peeve of mine.)

The last economic thing I want to touch on is fine crafting materials. They’re highly in-demand as people level up their weapon and armor crafting professions, but are in very short supply. I may have reached 400 in Artificer, but I’m stuck below level 125 in Tailor because I just can’t get the right tier of fine mats to drop for me and the prices on the trading post are staggering. I wish these mats were available more consistently and without grinding a certain type of enemy of a certain level.

Do you want a GW2 Dragon t-shirt like this one? Read on!

Being negative makes me feel bad so let’s end the post on a high note–I had an awesome time a couple weeks ago at one of ArenaNet’s launch events in New York City, and I have some codes to give away! I have three codes for the t-shirt (town clothes) you see in the screenshot above. It’s an account-bound item when you acquire it, so any of your characters will be able to wear it. If you want a chance at one of the codes, follow these instructions:

  1. Follow me (@OptMaleficus) on Twitter.
  2. Find my tweet that links to this story and retweet it. It should be easy to spot because it references the giveaway and has the hashtag #contest. (Update: Here is the tweet.)
  3. Do both of those things by Friday, September 21st, 5:30PM Eastern time. Late entries may be able to sneak into the drawing, but the soonest I will pick winners is the deadline.

That’s all there is to it–good luck! (Update: Contest is long over! :p)

I believe this is the Ash Legion Tribune’s office.

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6 Responses to Three weeks later: my thoughts and a special giveaway!

  1. Verene says:

    Man, screw that spider boss. Even though we took it down pretty easily the second time we did TA…screw that boss :P

    And yeah, as more time goes on, the more and more unhappy I get with the fact that guild perks are tied to the server you’re one. One of my coworkers and his friend have been trying to transfer to JQ with no luck for days now, and he was complaining earlier he had a bunch of cooking ingredients he was going to donate to the bank (he’s not doing cooking) but couldn’t. What’s the point of cross-server guilds if members on other servers get shafted?

    And I think you’ve heard plenty of my thoughts about waypoint costs and crafting mat drops. Just…yeah, both of those are things I think should be looked at and tweaked.

  2. Kring says:

    The fix would be even easier. Charge 1s for porting to the mists…

    • They could do that, but then waypoints remain too expensive and PvP-only players must earn money before they can travel to Mists. One of the game’s design promises is explicitly not to do the latter–PvE and PvP are independent and you don’t need to do any of one to enjoy the other.

      • Kring says:

        Then make it the reverse. Remove the portal from the mists. Now everyone who would like to leave the mists has to use and pay for a waypoint (waypoints are free if you don’t have any money on your account).

        Who ever leaves the mist enters PvE content, therefore it’s acceptable to charge some PvE currency for the travel. Or is there a reason why pure PvP player must go to LA?

      • Kring says:

        (sorry for double post, pressed post to fast)

        I don’t think waypoints are to expensive. They are quite expensive but that means that travel is a real decision. Decisions matter! That’s good. The more convenient it gets to travel, the smaller the world gets.

        I hope they remove the free mists port trick because I’m using it because I’m cheap but the 3 loading screens are terrible and it reduces my fun… Unfortunately I’m not disciplined enough to just not do it. :-(

      • What ArenaNet is thinking is probably along the lines of what you’re saying–traveling should matter and such. But to me it’s just a hurdle to playing with my friends. I just want to get to the right zone so we can meet up and get to killing stuff.

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