You know damn well that the only reason I'm sitting here writing anything at all is because I can't log into the damned game. But I'm not here to talk about that. At least not completely. Depending on where you read or where you watch, the Internet has either been very, very busy in talking about this game (as with reviewers), or very, very quiet (because everyone else is probably playing the damned game). I suppose the most important question is, "Will this furor last?" But first, let's take a step back and have a nice look at the game.
Already from playing in the beta weekends, I knew this was a game that did a lot of things correctly. For example, I knew they did the combat correctly, albeit it is not without it's problems. It's the kind of combat that I tend to enjoy. It's fun. It's diverse. And there's some skill necessary to do it correctly. More importantly, though, I knew that I liked the overall style of the game. As sad as it is to say, if I don't like the way your game looks, I'm probably not going to play it for very long. Just look at Dark Souls. I really can't stand the look of that depressing murder-fest. And after 79 minutes I was done with it.
As far as MMOs go, it does something else right for me: the races. This is one of the main reasons why Rift irritates me. What can you play? Basically human, dwarf, or elf. Or basically, human, short human, tall human. And that bores the fucking shit out of me. If I'm going to spend hundreds of hours starting at an avatar within a game world, work towards making him more powerful and work towards getting him impressive looking gear, then why the hell would I want to play something that looks like a human? I see those every day. I don't want to see them in my game, too. WoW did that correctly for me. And now, GW2 has done it correctly.
You'll probably start to see a trend here. Guild Wars 2 presses a lot of the correct buttons with me.
Here's another thing that always bothered me about MMO games: You get dropped into this HUGE world, and in front of you is a questgiver. They send you here, then you come back, then they send you somewhere else where there's another questgiver who will then send you somewhere else. So basically, you've got this HUGE world that begs you to explore it, but the game keeps trying to keep you from doing that and puts you on rails that guides you from point to point as you level. You might get a little bit of experience for exploring. Maybe an achievement or two. But that's about it. The reward for exploration in GW2 is better than anything I've ever seen before. Not only do you get a rather considerable chunk of experience for exploring, but the designers put hundreds of nodes in the game that intended to make exploration all the more interesting. These include but are not limited to "Vistas", which a lot of the times involve doing a jumping puzzle of some kind to get to them. So now exploration is not only interesting and rewarding, but also something a bit challenging.
The perks given to exploration along with the leveling system leads to a gameworld that feels very much alive. No matter where you go, there always seems to be something happening. There's a skill point to earn over there, there's an event taking place over here. And so on. It gives you the feeling that the world is bigger than you and that it continues on without you. It also does an excellent job of making sure you're going out into that big world and not just staying put queuing up for things. It does the MAJORLY part of MMO correctly.
This isn't without downsides, though. Aside from the group events, which naturally should be designed for a group of people, a lot of the regular events feel too difficult when you try to do them on your own. Obviously this is a minor complaint, since this game is meant to be played with other people and the designers encourage that fact as often as they can. However, I worry what will happen in a few months time when most people are done with a majority of the content and there's no one around to help that new player with those difficult events. This is helped out a little bit by the "effective level" system they have in place, where your level is adjusted down when you enter a lower level area. But I don't think it will fully solve the problem. You may get scaled down, but the content is the same. Gamers get bored easily. They're fickle. And they consume content faster than it can be logistically and financially created.
That leads me to my next worry: End game. No one knows what it is, or if it even exists. The leveling in this game is so very rewarding and so very fun. It's driving me to play quite a lot. I worry that once that level cap is reached, there really won't be all that much to do. This happened with SWTOR, and it's one of the infamous reasons why that MMO has, for lack of a better term, failed. I hope that the designers have things in place for people at max level, and that it's something as diverse and interesting as what we go through to get to that max level.
I'll have much more to say later, but there's some first impressions for you. (Yes, you can read that to mean that I can now log back into the game. Because that's exactly what happened.)