Guild Wars 2: It’s the Pinball Machine of MMOs

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Guild Wars 2 is one of those rare games that knocks your life off-kilter like a meteoroid banging into a satellite. That’s how it’s been for me, anyway. I knew it was coming, but, fool that I am, wasn’t paying attention. I’d planned on noodling with the pre-launch a little, just to get the character name I wanted and make sure it’d run on my computer, then come back after the game launched wide on Tuesday (today).

Fat chance. It devoured my weekend whole, kicking my The Last Story play-through to the curb. What can I say? Something just grooved a few hours in, though I partly blame the game servers for not crashing like a proper just-launched MMO should. I mean come on, ArenaNet, the least you could have done was go dark for half a day or two.

(MORE: Guild Wars 2 Producer: We’d Turn Off Sales to Preserve the Game Experience)

That said, Guild Wars 2 isn’t something that grabs you off the block, like, say, the series premiere of Breaking Bad. It takes awhile to get rolling. The Shiverpeak Mountains starting area (I’m playing a Norn Ranger) looked like a chaotic, cliched muddle when I first spawned, something you’d describe with words like “bosky” and “dale” crowded with hustling players often indistinguishable from NPCs. Finding stuff using the map — granular to the point of looking over-busy — can be a trick, with icons sometimes obscured by other icons and shopkeepers categorized generically as “merchants” instead of with helpful mnemonics like “Gunthar’s House of Harvesting Sickles.” Even the dialogue interface, trying hard to blend into the game’s “painted” vibe, feels a little jarring with its coarse-grained, rust-brown panels and initially confusing icon-based path selection.

But then you wander into your first dynamic world event, and it’s like what they say about cans of Pringles. Mine was something to do with the Norn’s preliminary bad guys, the swarthy, beard-braided Sons of Svanir. I was exploring a bit, minding my own business, then wham, a quest message pops into my screen queue and dozens of howling guys in headbands and dresses start charging the local Bear Shrine (the Norns wear animal skins and bellow stuff like “Halt traveler!” or “Hail, slayer of such-and-such”).

It was just me and a few others in the vicinity, so we started pummeling wave after wave. Then a few more players joined and the attacks grew more intense. Before you knew it: dozens of players, battling dozens of bad guys, in a melee scrum of arrows, lightning, arms, blades, flames, axes and bodies.

Now multiply that by “anywhere you go” times “pretty much all the time,” and you’ve got a sense for the manic compulsiveness of Guild Wars 2, which plays like the pinball machine of MMOs. There’s just never a dull moment. I’ve been in snowball fights with kids, timed hunts for worm eggs in icy caverns, barrel-gathering (and later catching) events, timed runs to gather scraps to help someone build a silly snowman and staggered events that built to epic boss smackdowns. I’ve helped defend homesteads from throngs of burrowing ice worms, protect towns from sweeping assaults by bear hordes and knock out enemy portals that spawned creatures like the Chitauri in The Avengers.

And that all plays in real-time — with, as Bono would say, or without you. Sure, those events repeat periodically, but they’re so multifaceted and there’s so much else to do that by the time you’ve seen it all, you’re well on your way to the next location or story event.

Speaking of: There’s an instance-based story mode that’s tailored to your character, and I’ll talk about that later (it’s great, too, and in some ways even more challenging), but each time I pick up that thread, I’m usually wishing I was back in the world itself, wondering what’s happening over there, just across the river, waiting to drop down from the ceiling in some underground cave-maze or surprise me outside some “secure” area I’ve foolishly pronounced “safe.”

That’s my experience of Guild Wars 2 17 levels in: unpredictable, relentless, exhilarating, unexpectedly stable and — except for a few head-scratchers like the still-nonexistent trading post, some reports of server unavailability (hasn’t happened to me) and guild tab malfunctioning (also hasn’t happened to me) — essentially bug-free.

MORE: How Long Does It Take to Hit Level 160 in Diablo III?

34 comments
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Luke
Luke

"I mean come on, ArenaNet, the least you could have done was go dark for half a day or two."

You must of been on the American servers, sadly for the europeans the servers were down for more than half a day over the prelaunch...

 

ruairionline
ruairionline

I've had a great experience so far, been playing since the head start and had no issues. Also, I'm playing from Australia on American servers and noticing very little latency.

The things that draw me to GW2 are the beautiful art style and the depth of gameplay. I too threw snowballs at kids, I also helped save food supplies from an onslaught of hungry rabbits. I helped seige a keep and heal allies with my turrets as they built a battering ram to breach the gate. I flanked an enemy group huddling around a healing turret, planted a keg of explosives with my bomb kit, spun my camera around and walked casually away as bodies flew into the air; because cool people walk away from explosions.

 

Bernard Green
Bernard Green

"(I'm playing a Norn Hunter)" O_O Norn.... what?!

Jim Bergevin Jr
Jim Bergevin Jr

Need to get some facts straight there Matt - EU is still having issues that started over the weekend, and the game did in fact crash for a few hours on Saturday morning (EDT), and crashed so bad it took down GW1 with it.

MikeG
MikeG

I loved the head start weekend and I'm officially addicted to GW2 already.  I do have to the comment that there was extended downtime on Saturday from approximately 7am - 11am EST.  The last hour of that was downtime for everyone, but I completely agree that compared to other MMO launches, (and a certain dungeon crawler that will remain nameless) that's pretty smooth sailing.

HadleyS
HadleyS

This is a great article. I love Guild Wars 2. It's the first game in a long time that I have felt the need to play. I've picked up many MMO's in hope of recreating that feeling I had in Pre-BC WoW but could never quite get it. AoC, Warhammer, Tabula Rasa, SW:ToR, Rift, Tera, and so many more I've tried. But GW  is impressive and leaves you with those withdrawals when you aren't playing. Yeah, I'm kind of addicted already.

That being said, you spoke of dynamic events occurring. My favorite as a Norn Warrior is the one in the small village where you help the kids who are trying to impress their parents. One child states "What could possibly go wrong with 3 kids, a honey pot, and a hungry bear locked inside of a tavern?"

I love that these events occur and that you can physically follow the NPC's and interact with them but then sit back and watch the story. It doesn't just end after you have fulfilled your quest.

Good article.

Jennafer Childress
Jennafer Childress

Almost any game that has probably over 1 million people trying to log on nearly at once is going to have issues for a while. I don't think they could have gotten enough volunteers to stress test it so closely to the actual amount of players on launch day. Considering there isn't a sub fee, it's not really something to be upset about unless you took time off from work. Even then, people should have expected problems. It always happens, as much as it sucks.

I also don't blame them for not giving ETA, since most of the time companies do give them, and then it's wrong and people get even more upset.

The only thing I'm disliking about the game is that swearing can get you banned from the game. I think swearing is perfectly okay, if you're not directing it at someone. I understand some people don't want to see it, but there is a filter and a block option. All it takes is a few people to report you for saying something that has nothing to do with another person, and you can be banned. I can survive without typing out fuck just fine, but that restriction makes me wonder what other small things I might accidentally do to get in trouble.

HadleyS
HadleyS

This is a great article. I love Guild Wars 2. It's the first game in a long time that I have felt the need to play. I've picked up many MMO's in hope of recreating that feeling I had in Pre-BC WoW but could never quite get it. AoC, Warhammer, Tabula Rasa, SW:ToR, Rift, Tera, and so many more I've tried. But GW  is impressive and leaves you with those withdrawals when you aren't playing. Yeah, I'm kind of addicted already.

That being said, you spoke of dynamic events occurring. My favorite as a Norn Warrior is the one in the small village where you help the kids who are trying to impress their parents. One child states "What could possibly go wrong with 3 kids, a honey pot, and a hungry bear locked inside of a tavern?"

I love that these events occur and that you can physically follow the NPC's and interact with them but then sit back and watch the story. It doesn't just end after you have fulfilled your quest.

 

Good article.

HadleyS
HadleyS

This is a great article. I love Guild Wars 2. It's the first game in a long time that I have felt the need to play. I've picked up many MMO's in hope of recreating that feeling I had in Pre-BC WoW but could never quite get it. AoC, Warhammer, Tabula Rasa, SW:ToR, Rift, Tera, and so many more I've tried. But GW  is impressive and leaves you with those withdrawals when you aren't playing. Yeah, I'm kind of addicted already.

That being said, you spoke of dynamic events occurring. My favorite as a Norn Warrior is the one in the small village where you help the kids who are trying to impress their parents. One child states "What could possibly go wrong with 3 kids, a honey pot, and a hungry bear locked inside of a tavern?"

I love that these events occur and that you can physically follow the NPC's and interact with them but then sit back and watch the story. It doesn't just end after you have fulfilled your quest.

Good article.

Max McFarland
Max McFarland

Not to troll the article here but I think you meant Norn Ranger, not Norn Hunter.. 

Great article though I've had a great experience myself as well. I have heard about other servers having issues and yea the Trading Post was down for a bit. Still not nearly as many issues as a lot of others.... I'm still waiting to play Darksiders 2, though that's a whole different story.

Matt Peckham
Matt Peckham

Ha, not trolling at all Max -- thanks for noticing, and where was my brain when I typed that? (Oh right, sleep-deprived from playing GW2.) Fixed!

Shaunie Owens
Shaunie Owens

oh wow the art is breathtaking. reminds me of my early wow vanilla days when i got hooked on that. looks like this one will be another hooker. getting the game this weekend hopefully

ookhana
ookhana

 Servers have crashed repeatedly since launch - with no ETA's on solving

the issues. The in-game trading system has been down since the

headstart. The server itself went down for just over 6 hours on Saturday

and the servers have crashed again today for the official launch. If I

knew this game was going to be so glitchy I would have waited for a

couple of months before purchasing (after all issues are fixed).

ookhana
ookhana

 Servers have crashed repeatedly since launch - with no ETA's on solving

the issues. The in-game trading system has been down since the

headstart. The server itself went down for just over 6 hours on Saturday

and the servers have crashed again today for the official launch. If I

knew this game was going to be so glitchy I would have waited for a

couple of months before purchasing (after all issues are fixed).

Brainstrain
Brainstrain

The login server is down at the moment, I know, but I haven't heard of any actual servers crashing. The Trading system problems are absurd, I agree. The mail system was down the first day of head start as well - and there's no other way to trade. As far as MMO launches go, though, it's still a bit above average.

Max McFarland
Max McFarland

What's the difference, it's not a sub so you're not wasting anything by not playing for a while.

ookhana
ookhana

 Servers have crashed repeatedly since launch - with no ETA's on solving the issues. The in-game trading system has been down since the headstart. The server itself went down for just over 6 hours on Saturday and the servers have crashed again today for the official launch. If I knew this game was going to be so glitchy I would have waited for a couple of months before purchasing (after all issues are fixed).

Holydragoon
Holydragoon

 Seems like you are having your own issues with lag :P a triple post is impressive. But  like the writer I've had absolutely no issues with the game apparently the EU servers are having issues. And since this game has no sub fee... and you were still going to grab after 2 months as you say, you have no real reason to complain haha, it'll still be the same price in 2 months most likely.

Christina Allison
Christina Allison

This is how I've been feeling all weekend.. with the additional glee of experiencing a no-grief MMO while leveling.  No node-stealing for gathering skills and no mob-tagging!!  It makes for one of the nicest communities at launch, so far.  

Every bwe all I did was sPvP so the PVE in gw2 is new.  How great that you can hop in the game and instantly be viable for competitive PVP tournaments or casual pvp maps, too?  #mesmer #matchlessgaming

Michele Faccoli
Michele Faccoli

I partly blame the game servers for not crashing like a proper just-launched MMO should.I guess u were playing on gw ONE then.

ookhana
ookhana

Servers have crashed repeatedly since launch...not good at all!

Supremely Weary
Supremely Weary

You described it perfectly! I couldn't have said it better! Its most definitely addicting! (And I haven't used that word for a video game since FFXI.)  The jumping puzzle quests (for sad amounts of loot haha) and the vista puzzles are the shiny things to my birdy Asuran eyes!

John Albano
John Albano

Jason, Marykate was making a reference to a song, not an actual target audience. :)

John Albano
John Albano

" timed runs to gather scraps to help someone build a silly snowman" - If you get a chance to head back there, stick around... that kid knows what he's doing... somewhat. ;) 

Pudsley
Pudsley

"though I partly blame the game servers for not crashing like a proper just-launched MMO should. I mean come on, ArenaNet, the least you could have done was go dark for half a day or two"

Come play on the EU servers, it went down for 6 hours on Saturday (first day of headstart) with login issues and it's been down for nearly three hours this afternoon (first day of Launch).

It's a great game but the EU data centre is unreliable.

Nautius
Nautius

No mention of the PvP.... hmmm.

Marykate Clark
Marykate Clark

You mean...  it's best played by "deaf, dumb and blind" kids?   #gw2wizard

Jason King
Jason King

It's just sad that nobody gets the "deaf, dumb, and blind kid" reference. Bad, Bad people! Kneel down and bow your heads in shame or open thine hands and receive the gift that is The Who's "Tommy".

Jason
Jason

 You're thinking of that game that used the Warcraft 3 engine from 2002 to create an MMO... but they are both MMO's so congrats on having the correct genre.

Ryanide12
Ryanide12

Jason, Jason, Jason... They did not use the WC3 engine.  What a foolish notion.  Please do your research before making sarcastic remarks on the Internet.   Also, WHOOSH.

the_desert_nz
the_desert_nz

A quick google search shows that its using a modified W3C engine

Ryanide12
Ryanide12

On graphics I will agree with you -- it's Blizzard.  Blizzard games have their own art style, and they all look similar because of that.  But mechanics?  C'mon now.  There's reasonable hate for something and then there's just coming up with BS to hate something.

Danaceb
Danaceb

might as well have given the graphics and mechanics.