My breath was held for this BWE; the end result, however, is quite pleasant. I finally joined the realease-the-game-now-dammit side of the fan base after seeing the nice and smooth progress the developers made after BWE #1. BWE #1 wasn’t “readly”, but BWE #2, and the subsequent builds of the game, is.
Changes from BWE 1
As a beta tester, I am more than happy to see some of our most requested features made into this build. Proximity /say chat channel, chat bubble, resizable and zoomable minimaps, etc. Some balancing was done, some bugs were fixed, and some new stuff were available for testing. The biggest change of game mechanism would be the tiered skills and traits.
Under the new system, skills now are tiered into three levels based on their SP cost. Each character has to learn at least five skills within a tier to unlock the next tier of skills. This is much better than the previous approach, which lacks any categorization of the skill pool. It may be convenient for a veteran to grab skills they know work for them without wasting points on any prerequisite skills, but such design also creates a wall of confusion for newbies first time playing a profession, as they will have no idea which skills to choose from.
The trait change is more controversial. Dissimilar to easily acquired skill points, trait lines are the real specialization of characters. Trait points are basically GW2’s version of “stat points” that has a permanent effect on characters. Players choice of “major traits”–a special ability to enhance a particular style of playing their character–are now tiered like the skill system. Most complaints come from this change. Player previously can reap the benefit of major traits from multiple trait lines are now forced to invest more points into one line to unlock the major trait that they want.
My personal feeling is mixed: changes to the skills is definitely a step forward, but not much I can say the same about traits… I think ArenaNet is in the right direction, but the current implementation may not be the be the answer.
The previous BWE was notorious with its ghastly underutilized CPU and GPU. Luckily, the situation was improved quite well during BWE 2. According to the developers, the game client executable now uses more threads and offloads more works to the GPU. I was able to raise my graphics settings and still get better frame rates than BWE 1. With the exception of Stonemist Castle in WvW’s Eternal Battleground map, my entire beta weekend was smooth.
ArenaNet recognized that there are still much room for improvement. I would be happy to see them work on gameplay control a bit more. The camera and movement still feel somewhat sluggish and unfinished… though seeing how much was fixed between BWE 1 and BWE 2, my bet is on ANet will have these issues fixed in a timely manner.
Dungeons in GW2 is like elite areas (such as Underworld, Fissure of Woe) in GW1. They are meant to be difficult… although the term is an understatement as of now. Ascalonian Catacomb, a lv30 dungeon, was made available to BWE 2 testers. The place has a rich history in terms of the game’s lore. Since most beta testers (aka those who pre-purchased the game) are more or less played Guild Wars 1 before… thumbs up for the developers’ good choice.
The most reported problem with the dungeon is the difficulty. Yes the dungeons are meant to be among the hardest PvE content, but non-boss foes that can 2-hit kill a medium armor user and wipe the entire party more than once is certainly too much. The sheer amount of feedback is not ignored: ArenaNet promised to look into dungeon difficulty. Hopefully in the next BWE, the dungeon will more about having fun, and less about masochistically zombieing the overpowered mobs.
The heart of the dungeon difficulty is the lack of proper telegraphing. The consensus has recently been heard by ArenaNet, who promises better telegraphing of the NPC in dungeons. Good thing for them to notice the inherited unbalance between melee and ranged combat in pve is also caused by lack of telegraph.
World vs World
This is the shit.
So I finally tried out WvW in this BWE… and just as I expected, this pvp format is exactly what I want in an MMORPG. I still remember the days when sieges in Lineage 2, as it was a forbidden fruit for my low spec PC… Guild Wars 2’s WvW is everything good about L2’s sieges, plus much more. I am a big fan of emergent gameplay in PvP, where player teams of various sizes strive to find the best possible strategy in an uncontrolled engagement environment. It is the reason I went into wormholes in Eve Online, and it will be the reason I immerse myself in WvW once the game is out.
A little side story: I started doing WvW on Saturday. Unfortunately the server match up was a bit bugged; we had an enemy team that vastly outnumbered the combined force of two opposite servers, which resulted into a lot of (enemy) zerging and general unplayability. The server pairing on Sunday, however, was very balanced. All three servers had about equal number of participants, skills, and organization, which resulted in similar scores and territory. According to the developers, the phenomenon is caused by introduction of new servers where the ranking of servers are too new to reflect their strength in PvP, hence the inequality. Needless to say, it shouldn’t be a big issue after a week or two of the game goes live.
One incentive to go into WvW is that unlike general PvE, WvW content that is accessible in BWE is pretty much the whole thing: Four zones, three teams, two giant maps with varying terrains and wildlife… Only so much can each player achieve in terms of power and skills, but the ceiling for organizational discipline for such terrestrial warfare is limitless. I know for sure that I will be looking to for a large guild with considerable interest organized participation in WvW.
The ubiquitous question revolving this game since its announcement, and will remain so until the day when ArenaNet tells us when exactly they’ll release the damn thing. The newest G2Guru poll shows the majority of fans believe the date is around August. A more conservative (and arguably, more authoritative) guess is that: before Thanksgiving, while the “announce” date of the release date is “imminent”. Many had an idea how “imminent” it will be when after seeing this photo.
June 28, 2012.
That is one day after the upcoming stress test. Soon we will find out for sure.