To say I was enjoying the first pre-purchase beta weekend for Guild Wars 2 would be an understatement. The game is amazing, even in pre-release condition. We’re in the middle of an “unscheduled break” at the moment on this fine Saturday evening, so I thought I’d post my initial impressions of the combat.
Simple word associations would be: Fast, Dynamic, Responsive, Challenging, Fun and Powerful!
If you’re coming from WoW and have raiding or PvP experience, you may have had to interrupt boss/player abilities which required good timing and reflexes. To an extent, that is how every fight in Guild Wars 2 feels like. You have to pay attention and you have to react. The main difference is rather than stare at an enemy cast bar, you look for visual cues that tell you an attack is about to come your way. This can be tricky in a crowded dynamic event when 1000 particle effects are assaulting your screen and there are nameplates everywhere, but if you can get away from the other players for some solo encounters you can really get a feel for it. As someone who always suffered from moving too much in games like WoW and even SW:TOR, this kind of combat really appeals to me. The skill and the fun comes in NOT getting hit in the first place.
You can kill a lot of enemies by spamming your first ability for each weapon while circle strafing. In a one on one fight with a normal mook, you’ll be fine. Against multiple enemies or veterans or mixed groups which feature a mix of melee, caster and ranged enemies, that kind of play will get you killed. You need to know your weapon abilities, and you need to know the optimal time to use them. There aren’t any static rotations to memorize. Using your conditions to put a damage over time condition on the enemy and cripple them will allow you to kite them a bit while you regen health after a hit. Blinding them at the right time will make their next ability miss. A knockdown or knockback may turn the tide. There are no tanks in the game, but there is some fashion of proximity based aggro. Learning when to close with enemies and when to fall back is part of the learning curve. I’ve had a lot of fun on my Guardian using the pull ability with my greatsword to yank enemies off my girlfriend’s Elementalist and then using my whirlwind to carve them up. If I start taking too much punishment, I roll out and pop my heal. Taken as a whole it really keeps me engaged and actively playing instead of becoming passive and complacent.
Dodging and movement feels very fluid, without feeling “floaty”. Even with numerous people playing around me, I never experienced any ability lag. Everything just works. It takes a server crash or a pop up feedback questionnaire to remind me I’m playing in a beta.
This combat will punish you. Some of the dynamic event scaling works almost too well. A Flame Shaman in the Charr zone took about 40 players to bring down and was probably a thirty minute fight. He had adds, a bubble that blocked and reflected damage and his AoE abilities could two shot even the toughest of players. A lot of the fight entailed hanging back and getting downed/dead players up and back in the fight. You have a limited dodge resource that allows you to roll out a couple of times back to back before it is exhausted and will need to recharge, so using it at the right time is key. You are immune to all damage for the duration of the dodge animation, so using it correctly along with intelligent positioning will mean the difference between victory and defeat. If you’re like me and fall in love with your AoE melee abilities, you’ll get into trouble. I died A LOT more than I should have by charging in and hitting my Guardian’s Whirling Wrath without maybe first making sure the mobs were stunned or blinded. If you’re a button mashing berserker, you aren’t going to get very far. It is very rewarding to have a challenge in open world PvE. I can only imagine it ramps up even more in PvP and in dungeons.
I catch myself laughing and shouting at the screen. Our neighbors probably think I’m watching a MMA fight or a hockey game. The sheer amount of joy I am getting from playing isn’t easy to quantify. GW2 gives you a sense of freedom, a sense of challenge and a sense of accomplishment and that is just in what is normally the boring leveling phase of most other MMOs. I can’t wait for it to release!
I get a real sense of power even at the early levels. My characters feel like heroes instead of mooks who just learned how to pick up a sword. Each of my abilities has a feel of weight with it – especially if I’m using a two handed hammer. That thing is a MONSTER on both the Warrior and Guardian. When you hit someone with it, it just looks and sounds like it should hurt. Other abilities, like the Guardian’s Cleansing Flame (where I breathe fire in a frontal cone) look, sound and feel amazing!
I’ll be sure to post more of my impressions later, but the server is back up now, and there are worlds to conquer!