Sep 05 2012

The Guild Wars 2 Journal: Day 10 – The Hunt for Fun

Published by at 12:00 pm under Journals,Reviews,Video Games

Read the first journal here.

It’s been a little over a week to let the glow of Guild Wars 2 fade. My initial impressions from both the beta and first few days of playing were largely positive. The game seemed to improve in many ways upon a genre I really didn’t like. But is that enough to make me like the genre?

The answer would seem to be no.

No matter how much Guild Wars 2 tries to dress itself up, it’s a more traditional MMO than it lets on, and for me at least, that’s a net negative. To sum it up in a word would be “repetition.” Another word would be “repetition.” Care to try for a third?

There’s just something about this game, and subsequently this genre I suppose, that seems so shallow to me. Story is exceptionally light, which is supposed to be forgiven as “that’s not what these games are about.” In turn, you would think you’d have to make up for the lack of a real plot by having gameplay be incredibly dynamic and engaging.

It is, for a little while. But once you spend a few hours picking up every weapon your class can use, and taking thirty seconds to unlock all five skills with each of them, there’s not much more to it. Once you find a weapon you like, you are stuck with the same set of five primary moves until kingdom come. Sure, you have a few more on the other side of your number bar, but most of them are largely passive effects, or when activated rarely feel like a major contributor to combat. That likely changes at higher levels, but for now it’s all just so…dull.

My Ranger, for instance, simply walks up to any enemy, presses “1″ and starts auto-firing her shortbow as her pet bear tanks. If I want to, I can mash on numbers 2 through 8, producing a few effects that hinder the enemy with super arrows or make my bear better, but I’d be just as well off if I stood there auto-firing “1.” But that’s just basic enemies, you say, MMOs are all about the big world events and hugely powerful bosses!

But this is what I don’t get. While defeating a boss in a single player game is usually an exercise and skill and power, here it’s just a jumble where you don’t feel like you’re contributing at all. Sure, it’s great that there are thirty of us trying to take down this Svanir Warlord Chief with fifty billion HP, but when the screen is exploding with a constant parade of weapon and spell effects from 30 different players, you don’t feel like you, yourself, are doing anything useful. I can sit firing my bow and mash all my number keys, but really, is a three second bleed effect or a five second poisons doing anything that actually matters? Rather, with bosses, the game becomes “don’t accidentally die before he does,” as killing him requires no actual strategy. I’ve even just pressed 1, alt-tabbed into Google Chrome, and come back five minutes later when he was dead. How is this engaging gameplay?

The “world events” that the game tauts as being unique require little more strategy either. “It’s not grinding!” they say, just because they’re not asking you to kill X of specific enemy. Even if they are.  There are a few types of these events, sure. There are the aforementioned bosses, escort/protect quests, defeating waves of something invading somewhere, or gathering some random resource inside a given area. There are variants of each kind, but they all start to blur together. The “heart” missions are all variants of these spliced together, and are necessary in order to properly level and progress. I’ve done about 40 of them, but to learn there’s more than 300 in the world is mentally exhausting knowing they’ll all be the same. It’s like in Just Cause 2 where it was fun to 100% towns by blowing stuff up, until you realize there are 437 other similar places on the map. After a few dozen, there’s no motivation to keep going forward even if they were originally fun.

Fun is something I’ve been looking for these past few hours and levels, but I haven’t been able to find it for a while now. The game plays like some sort of OCD completionist checkpoint paradise, where you run to different waypoints, vistas and points of interest. Points of interest are particularly hilarious because very often they serve no actual purpose other than showing off a bit of scenery and giving you another tickbox to fill. “YOU WILL EXPLORE” the game demands.

I do think combat is much smoother than past MMOs I’ve played, and  the landscape is definitely better looking. But there are plenty of things that other games have done better that are maddening here. Picking up loot is a tedious task, as the “F” button covers a wide array of actions, including reviving and talking, both of which you will often do by mistake instead of picking something up, or vice versa. You have to go through each individual corpse with “F” which might be OK in a game like Skyrim, but if you’ve just done a world event where 40 dead centaurs lay at your fight, it’s impossible to tell which you’ve already checked, and which you haven’t. Diablo/Borderland’s “shit on the floor anywhere” style of loot dropping full of lots of obvious bright colors of where good loot has landed is sorely missed here. Good loot, in general, is missed as evidenced by my Ranger’s one outfit change and weapon upgrade in the last twenty hours of play or so.

This feels like a very big world with very little to do. Yes, there are world events and heart quests and vistas every five feet, but when you’ve done a dozen, you’ve done them all, and I can’t imagine doing 300 more when combat is this repetitive. Further exacerbating the “sameness” experience is the fact that every zone you enter will knock you down to the “correct” level for it if you’re too high. It makes sense in theory, but in practice it makes every combat encounter feel identical as enemies are always the exact same level of difficulty, taking practically the same amount of hits to kill. I’ve felt weak many times stumbling into higher level areas I wasn’t supposed to be in yet, but I have yet to feel powerful anywhere.

The main story quests are the only ones that seem in any way interesting at the moment, but the problem is that to get to the next one you have to grind your little heart out to reach the appropriate level to continue to story. It’s like if in Mass Effect the main storyline stopped until you landed on a planet and killed 100 Husks before you were strong enough to progress. And you had to do this in between every mission.

This is a well-made MMO. The problem is that I seem to hate MMOs, and Guild Wars 2, so far, has not done anything spectacular to change my mind about them. I’m not giving up yet, and I’m waiting to hit level 30 so I can start dungeon-ing which is the supposed “point” of MMOs, but I can’t imagine it being much more than a string of world events all jammed in a cave somewhere, and that wouldn’t be much of a revolution.

MMO fans, explain what I’m missing here? Why this genre? Why is all this endless repetition and clunky combat enjoyable?





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16 responses so far

  • Paynus

    I had alot of the same initial feeling as you about MMOs and the game and general, but when I found sPvP (structured PvP) it changed everything. Go to the bottom tab of your “H”ero page and click Join Heart of the Mists. From there you can join 8v8 Domination style games on a variety of maps containing underwater sections, siege weapons and base defense. Additionally you can join tournaments to win better gear and honor. All gear is unlocked as are all utilities and elite level skills.
    This opens up the flexibility of the games tons, and different types of builds (I play thief and have experimented with a glass cannon build, stealth bleed build and condition/trap gun build. They’re all wildly different despite being the same profession).

    Anyway, seeing as I had a lot of the same feelings you had, I figure this may help you.

    Also, I dont know from experience because I completely gave up leveling for sPvP once I discovered it (it does have its own unique PVP leveling system), the IGN.com review of the instances paints them in a very positive light, claiming to have discovered more about his profession and the game in the 2 hours in the instance than all the time to took to level from 1 to 30.

    Hope this helps turn things around.

  • Chronos

    “can’t imagine it [dungeons] being much more than a string of world events all jammed in a cave somewhere”

    Of course, I can’t know that for sure, but I think you’ll be surprised. I understand you get no sense of achievement from killing some world event boss in a pug with no strategy.

    But wait till you kill the last boss in the dungeon on the fifth try, after a combat in which everyone knew his or her role and execution of strategy was perfect: your healer stopped HOTs when the wraiths appeared, your tank used [relevant_skill] when the red thingie started flashing and after the second shockwave you maxed out your dps by perfect execution of your skill rotation and letting your pet die in exactly right moment.

    High fives all around!

    IF they did it right in gw2, you’ll be pleasently surprised how much fun it can be.

  • Feydanon

    I love it when some faceless person on the internet spends a few hours playing an RPG of MMORPG and then feels qualified to make a “review”… It’s quite clear to me that is the case here, as it is with most game reviewers on the internet. I understand you have to get your content out to drive viewers while your subject is hot and relevant, but this is not a genre that you can just spend a couple hours on and come away with an actual opinion.

    Note; I would have the same reaction, and HAVE had the same reaction if your “review” was mostly positive. At best this is first impressions and opinion, at worst it’s nerd-baiting. There are several opinions paraded forth as facts here and clearly cases of either not spending enough time in a feature to really see it or straight up not understanding things or not knowing what is there… I really hope that more people stop reading “reviews” like this so that people just stop making them, they are pointless filler nonsense.

    No, I didn’t give you ad revenue regardless because I block ads, and no I won’t be recommending this story to anyone I know, so no joy for you. I hope that more people follow suit so that we can have less of this kind of “game journalism”.

  • http://www.unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

    @Feydanon

    So what the hell is your advice then? 20 hours with a game isn’t enough to comment on it? I need to throw in a few hundred before I’m allowed to talk about my impressions? This is not a review, this is a journal installment, one of many. I know games this big can’t be reviewed two days after release, so I do installments on Day 1, 10, 30, or 100, depending on how long I’m still playing.

    You offered no constructive solutions for the problems I highlight, and instead just rant uselessly making blanket statements about “game journalism” that don’t actually apply to me, a “faceless person” (writing under my real name).

    Thanks to everyone else who is actually giving useful advice.

  • RBourn

    Hey Paul,

    I just wanted to say thank you for your journals, I find them very useful in guaging whether I will try a game or not, and I enjoy reading your impression from a gamer’s pov instead of technical descriptions of graphics output and system req etc.

    Idiots like Feydanon are clearly too immature to allow someone an opinion, nor are capable of understanding that when someone makes a serial journal about their experience of playing a game they don’t necessarily need to talk just facts as it is… opinion.

    Who in the hell takes everything they read on the internet as fact anyway? I wouldn’t use your journals as fact but they are very useful (and entertaining) in other ways.

    Keep up the good work. You buy them so I don’t have to.

  • Faceless Person

    I love it when people have an actual opinion on whether people can have actual opinions paraded as facts.

    My dad took me to a fact parade when I was 10, now I think about it, I’m sure some of the majorettes may have been opinions.

  • Diablo

    I don’t know how you do it Paul. I used to write for my university’s paper. For $10 an article, I would cover science and technology stories, ongoing research, and events involving the Engineering department. As a mechanical engineer student, my lack of polished writing was made up for the simple fact that I would discuss and breakdown technical discussions or interviews without someone having to hold my hand through the whole process.

    For this, I would regularly get complaint emails for not covering some poetry jam session or campus play in the technology/engineering section of the paper. Or even better, some random pothead would complain that their letter to the editor claiming that 9-11 was an inside job was wrongfully not printed. And god help me if I got a 14 letter name wrong for some undergrad researcher who was too lazy to give me their full name and I had to guess…

    I did all of this for $10 an hour because for some f-ing reason, I was a moron who thought “well I at least get paid”. Then Huffington Post popularized the concept of journalists working for free so my school went with that idea. Not only would future articles not warrant a check, all past outstanding dues were null and void.

    I don’t know what you get paid to do this Paul, and frankly it doesn’t really matter cause it ain’t worth the shit you got to put up with. Every little shit with access to a computer thinks they know how to write or have valid opinions that trump your work. I am so freaking glad I got my engineering degree and left journalism behind.

  • MattChi

    @Feydanon

    Wow, did you just copy and paste that comment on 10 different reviews? None of your review addressed the content of his post and most of it didn’t make sense. Not sure how you can call a blog owner using his own name “faceless”. He’s definitely mad bro.

  • Justin

    Thanks for the review Paul, even though your impressions seem to point the game in a negative light, your wonderful comments section brought some great insight into additional avenues for the growth of the game. I hope to see some of that reflected in your next post.

    My wife and I are currently in the “To purchase or not to purchase” debate. We are expecting a child (due in Dec) and so we don’t want to be wasting money on a game we won’t play in a few months (We have all ready decided to get Borderlands 2), in addition to needed TWO copies of the game for PC. At least with Xbox we are limited to only need to purchase 1 copy for the two of us.

    Thank you for your journal sessions. I wish more bloggers/reviewers would do them. They really take you through the natural progression a lot (I won’t say most) people have regarding games and game play.

  • Aether McLoud

    Guy who hates MMOs reviews MMOs all the time. Why do you even do that? GW2 is very different from every other MMO out there, especially because it is extremely PVP focused and you don’t even need to level up to be able to jump into PVP and have fun.

  • Aether McLoud

    Also if you wanted engaging gameplay you shouldn’t have taken the faceroll hunter with a pet class. They always can autoattack their way to levelcap.

    Play an engineer, elementalist or even a mesmer. Those are really fun and engaging to play.

  • RBourn

    @ Aether McLoud

    I think Paul already made it clear this is a journal and not a review.

    Additionally, he seems to genuinely want to like MMO games but keeps being disappointed. Also, he runs a gaming website, people would complain far harder if he didn’t review games like this.

  • BuddyLee

    @ RBourn

    I agree with Aether, Paul should try different class. Even in WoW i wanted to hang myself when trying hunter. different classes play differently. Try Necro Paul, i kept pulling too much agro and getting rolled. that might give you more interaction, hell anything would if you choose something other than ranger/hunter/guy who shoots from the back mode.

  • Kuishen

    A lot of this journal can be summarized with “You’re doing it wrong.”

    I’m not going to fanboy out here but a lot of your complaints are obviously founded on an improper way of doing certain things.

    For instance, saying your mashing your skills and that things like 3 second bleeds and 5 second poisons don’t seem to contribute anything. For low-level general PvE, yes that might be correct but if you were to take that attitude into a Dungeon, PvP or high level PvE then I’d have to call you functionally retarded. Mashing your skills will not get you anywhere in those scenarios. You need to time your moves to combo with other people, or remove conditions on yourself or others and in general know when to use certain skills.

    I don’t quite understand your complaint about Points of Interest… They made a game that rewards exploration, which is something many games lack these days… and you’re complaining it’s useless…? They want you to explore the game and enjoy the scenery and you will get rewarded in the process. Be it from the bits of exp from discovering them or 100%ing a map. The zones are varied enough to where you aren’t looking at the same scenery.

    I will give you that a lot of the mid-level content seems to repeat itself. I.E. Go kill Centaurs or defend this place from Centaurs. However they can expand on that without limit because of the way new content can be added to the game. So in a few months that may not be the case.

    Your comment about loot doesn’t seem to make sense… Pick everything up and sort it later? Why would you go through loot on the ground when 99% of things can be sold for money and inventory isn’t an issue because merchants are literally EVERYWHERE. I will however agree that interacting with npcs/reviving needs to be able to be bound to another key because many times I find myself trying to pick up loot in the heat of combat and get dialogue plastered across my screen.

    There are a TON of things to do to level up, so if you are grinding in any way you only have yourself to blame. If things are getting too samey, then go to another area and experience different enemies and different scenery. Crafting gives you a metric ton of exp if done correctly and then there is also WvW which I assume you haven’t done yet because you didn’t comment on it.

    Feydanon, while misguided, had it right at the heart of it. You’re not experiencing all the content or the game has to offer and you certainly don’t need to be at a certain level to experience the majority of it.

    In summation, is the game perfect? Absolutely not. It does however blow all of the competition out of the water. If you don’t like MMOs then 50/50 chance you’re not gonna like this game. While this may not be a review, a lot of people might take it that way and use this type of article as a tool to judge whether or not to buy the game and the way you’ve presented the content is incredibly biased and often times incorrect. Just something to think about.

    P.S. The story and lore is not in any way shape light, all it takes is a little digging. Just because a game doesn’t hand you everything on a silver platter doesn’t mean it’s not there.

  • Sams

    Personally I get a kick out of reaching that vista and having a beautiful view of the world the designers have spent months building but I understand that’s not for everyone. I now have a screenshot folder bigger than any other game I’ve played and I’m still waiting for my friends to join me in game.

    I agree with Kuishens comment above. There’s a lot more to understand and experiment with and many different ways to level in GW2.

    Also playing with a load of friends in these games is great fun, more so than running around on your own or with random groups.

    Essentially though it’s not going to be everyones cup of tea and that’s fair enough. Have you tried the WorldVsWorld PVP Paul?

  • Roman

    fyi there’s a “loot area” setting aka picking up everything within a certain range. Surprised you haven’t seen it yet. Other than that I pretty much agree with your article. People need to get off this game’s dick…..it is nothing special (and I’ve been playing MMO’s since UO – not saying I know everything and am elitist but I have XP – zing!)

    Lastly

    @Kuishen – you say you’re not a fanboy but yet this game “blows every other MMO out of the water” If you took your fanboy goggles off you would realize how ridiculous that statement is (it has a few new things but it’s still more of the same formula)……yes it’s your opinion but don’t preface your comment with “I’m not a fanboy” when you are so clearly a fanboy.

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