Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Guild Wars 2 - The Thrill Is Gone

I really want to love this game, but these days it's getting harder and harder. When the game launched at the end of August, I was very excited by the prospect of dynamic events. Instead of dealing with the typical quest-giver model, dynamic events pop up across the map as you travel about, providing opportunities for interaction and combat. What's more, as events succeed or fail based on player action, the world shifts and changes as a result (within certain limits of course).

Therein lies the problem.

You see, as cool as dynamic events are, they're completely no fun at all when they don't actually work. Dynamic events, particularly in Orr, the main level-cap zones, link together. Lesser events trigger greater events, and some events allow access to additional game features. Sadly events in Orr are regularly broken for days at a time, meaning there's not much to do other than farm random mobs or harvest crafting materials.

This problem isn't limited to Orr and dynamic events either. I've been trying to finish a certain Hylek skill challenge for over a week now, and it's been bugged every time I've paid the site a visit. Similarly, an escort event I run past every time I head to the Vigil Keep in Gendarran Fields has been stuck for several weeks. And yes, before you ask, I *have* reported these issues, multiple times.

Arena Net has time to mess with profession balance but they have no time to fix fundamental gameplay that affects every single player. That's poor judgement at best.

But broken events are not the only problem here. There's also the matter of underwater content. Now kudos to Arena Net for doing something really good with underwater environments. The elimination of the holding your breath model is really great, and the alternate weapons plus underwater events and environments are all great.

Except for one thing. Monsters underwater are fundamentally broken.

You see, if you get into a fight underwater, and the monster gets confused about where it is or who it's fighting, it goes invulnerable, and resets itself. Mostly. Sometimes. Sometimes it just keeps attacking while it's invulnerable. Sometimes it swims away but you can keep attacking it. Sometimes it really resets and you have to start the fight over. Frustrating at best, deadly and rage-inducing at worst.

Frostgorge is pretty epic
The effects of this problem can be seen in many places (poor Risen Champion Megaladon, no one wants to fight you), but one of the worst is Frostgorge Sound, yeah the other level-cap zone. Frostgorge is beautiful. Icy mountains, rocky shores, glacier crevasses, frozen lakes, the whole great white north thing. Oh frozen lakes, that means underwater events. Broken or ignored underwater events. Pretty much any time you're in Frostgorge there are two or three events hanging around in the northern lake, rescue Kodan survivors, protect the Quaggan village, and kill the (random giant fish).

No one does these because they're just, well, broken. If the event isn't broken, then the monsters are.

And since I'm on a roll here let's keep going. Orr contains three of the four main level-cap zones. You could argue that the Straits aren't level-cap, but you have to travel through it to get to the other two, so I'll include it. Here's the problem all three zones are UGLY. Yeah I get the fact that it's all Ruins of Orr, and the Risen are everywhere, and dragons are bad, m'kay, but from a pure game perspective no one wants to spend all their time in fuzzy-brown or fuzzy-blue land fighting one type of monster. To my mind, this is one of the largest flaws in Guild Wars 2's overall design.
Orr -- so pretty. Not.
And speaking of monotonous monsters, the overall creature design is pretty boring. If you're fighting a drake at level 10, guess what? You'll be fighting a drake at level 80, and it'll pretty much be the same fight. There will be some minor differences, poison breath instead of fire breath for example, but overall. Same thing. A breath weapon and a tail swipe that knocks you down.

Then there's the loot. Arena Net has a pretty fair system for allocating loot. Do some damage to the monster and you have a chance at a loot drop. Except there's a catch. Kill too many monsters and diminishing returns kicks in. Less loot for you! Now in fairness this is at least partially driven by the bot problem. Bots are automated programs that play the game, killing monsters and collecting loot. They're part of the real-money trading world and generally screw up the game. I get they're a problem. Unfortunately the solution Arena Net has chosen is preventing me from enjoying the game while doing what I like to do. You see, I like killing monsters. I crack up when I see people running through zones avoiding fights and training monsters. In the words of the Risen "Kill everything!" is my motto. The implementation of diminishing returns pretty much eliminates the reward portion of the game for me, because I kill a lot of monsters.

As I bring this to a close, I'll make passing mention of two lesser problems with the game, chat and waypoints. Chat is functional, but lacking features, no color settings for channels, and no private / password protected channels being the two big ones for me. Chat is the primary communication channel for players in the game. It should have a rich feature set. Waypoints are a great idea, but again, Arena Net dropped the ball. Waypointing at level 80 is far too expensive and most people I know only use waypoints for emergency transport. Charging for waypoints isn't bad per se, it's a gold sink and provides some incentive for players actually running through zones, but bringing the cost down would increase their usefulness greatly, and probably serve as a bigger gold sink, as more people would use them.

Now you'll probably notice that I've devoted this entire article to PvE content. Yep, that's a fair observation. I am a PvE guy, though I regularly do some WvWvW. I don't feel like I have enough background to assess the PvP aspect of the game. But to my defense, while the scope here is limited, I don't think my observations within that scope are too far off.

Well, with that off my chest, I guess I'll go play some Torchlight 2. If this post seems negative, well, it is. I really want Guild Wars 2 to work. The idea of dynamic events is awesome, and despite my limited PvP experience, it's a pretty fun game in that regard. The frustration here is that most, but not all, of the problems, are simply bugs, and so far, reports and feedback on these issues are generally ignored on the boards. A fix was mentioned two weeks ago for broken skill challenges/events, but so far my perception is, still broken.

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