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Guild Wars 2: So it's been a week

Or just about, for some of you. It's Friday, at the very least. Guild Wars 2 has temporarily sold out on the official site as ArenaNet addresses the concerns of the current and already-massive pool of players. I've been playing it for the past three days, working my way up to an immortally powerful level 7. SEV-UHN.

Guild Wars 2 has been a bit of an odd experience for me. Launch day on August 28 went by unnaturally smoothly, with the game whisking me off to character creation without a hitch and plunking me right down into the game with no mysterious error messages or sudden prompts to register for something I've forgotten about. Simply put, best launch experience ever.

The following day, I set out to create a second character and ended up going through character creation at least five times, because at the end of the first four attempts, the game simply kicked me back out to the character select menu without saving my new creation. On the fifth attempt, the game finally started, and one hour had come and gone, along with my good mood.

The game itself is incredibly detailed, and the amount of content available looks staggeringly huge -- more so if you decide to delve into the game's extensive wiki. Every so often while playing, however, I found myself thinking: "That's it?"

"I spent fifteen minutes waggling my dagger in the air and I've already unlocked all the skills?"

"The quest instances are just slices of the same regular maps?"

"Crafting is just the World of Warcraft system with a discovery pane bolted on top?"

"I have to deal with a herd of stampeding minotaurs again?"

Hey, it's an MMO -- one without a subscription fee, sure, but I guess some part of me was just anticipating something intense and personal that hits the ground running like the original Guild Wars did. Remember the first story mission in Guild Wars, where you and your group had to venture out into the wasteland, killing stray Charr left and right, only to find yourselves in a mad scramble back to the safety of the city after encountering a huge Charr invasion force? Okay, we exploited that quest shamelessly once we knew what to expect, but it was epic and unique and it really set the tone for the rest of the game. On our first attempt, we really ran for our lives, and it was exhilirating in a way that people just don't expect from an MMO.

In Guild Wars 2, my first task on my road to legend was to pick a flower in a monster-infested cave. That's not just unexciting. That's cookie-cutter. The second quest followed suit, with some overwritten dialogue, excessive running (or fast-travelling) around, a brief defend-the-area-from-baddies task, and more talking.

Don't get me wrong -- the combat is fantastic. The multi-character combo system just about blew my mind on concept alone. The environments are some of the best in the industry, too. I just expected more. Maybe I was expecting something original. People might argue that playing in a group of like-minded people makes it more fun -- and it does -- but playing anything decent with a group of friends will certainly be fun. The banter and the interaction enhance and elevate the game in immeasurable ways.

Guild Wars 2 then turns around yet again and asserts itself as a completionist's paradise complete with point-of-interest icons on the amazingly manipulable and flexible map, and area collection progress indicators on every loading screen. In that respect, it's like a modern platformer or action-adventure game, and that I do appreciate. The game also considerably cuts down on PvE party planning and scheduling by adjusting overleveled characters appropriately for an area, which is a novel and welcome feature.

Ultimately, more often than not, Guild Wars 2 has been a fun game so far. It hooks you like a cartoon aroma tickling your nose with its incorporeal hand, leading you along with your ass high up in the air and a big smile on your face as you happily run through the beautiful vistas, getting caught up in randomly-occurring events that make you do all sorts of things from herding little birds into a pen, to solving a series of riddles, to the traditional stabbing monsters in the face.

The bottom line is that I'm nowhere close to getting sick of the game and I'll definitely be playing it more during the weeks to come, so I'll have lots of time to decide whether my initial impressions are right or wrong. What about you? What do you guys think of the game so far?

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