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After playing the Guild Wars 2 beta over the weekend I can honestly say that it was one of the best MMO's I have played. I only wish the beta could have gone on longer! When I first started playing Guild Wars 2 , I had the initial excitement of creating a character that I always have with any new MMO I play, as I personally love character creation. Once I entered the game though, I felt like I had been dropped into the middle of someone else's game, and even though I am an MMO enthusiast, there were no visible tutorials, and when a tutorial did pop up, it was for something random and unrelated. Even when I entered the options menu I couldn't find anywhere to turn on tutorials, and as Star War: The Old Republic is so different to other MMOs, I must admit I had become somewhat out of sync with the classic style of game play.
However, for those who haven't played an MMO before, the controls are very easy to grasp. Those who have played MMOs in the past will likely already know how to move and attack as the controls are pretty much always the same from game to game. I feel like Guild Wars 2 is in a whole new league of fantasy style MMO though, as the combat is quite different to that of World of Warcraft or Rift. You feel a lot more like you're playing a game on a console than on a PC, as the moves seem to have your character jumping around all over the place unlike your usual fighting style in an MMO, where you will stand there and hack and slash at your enemy until it is defeated.
That brings me to the strange "fight to survive" feature in Guild Wars 2. I felt like this was never properly explained. I ended up just button bashing hoping for the best which seemed to have a mixed reaction. At times it worked and at times it didn't. You are given 4 abilities to use as your character lies incapacitated on the floor. As you use the abilities, your character punches and attacks the air "fighting to survive". I never saw tutorials for this and personally thought it was unnecessary and unnatural to the typical MMO style. Perhaps if I knew its purpose and how to properly use it I would have appreciated this feature more.
Guild Wars 2 shares similarities to SWTOR though. As Bioware has revolutionized the way we view MMOs by adding cut scenes, perhaps ArenaNet also realized it would have to do the same on order to compete. The cut scene graphics are very artistic and appear to be sketched and illustrated. The dialogue scenes keep to this by having two characters pop up in sort of comic book fashion. They say what needs to be said and you return to the game. This is a great way to spice up the story, as I know from experience that in MMOs such as Rift you are given a block of text to read which supplies you with the information and story behind the quest you're accepting. By having spoken dialogue it helps you to absorb the story as it’s not as tedious as reading a massive block of text. Most of us probably skip this and just accept the quests, but when it is spoken out in a cut scene between characters we feel more compelled to listen.
The characters in Guild Wars 2 have to be some of the most detailed I have ever seen. ArenaNet have really gone to town on the graphics and it has paid off, allowing players to fully customize their starter gear. You can choose all the individual colors for your starter outfit, and can have two-tonal hair. I liked this feature as creating a character is one of the most exciting parts at the beginning of an MMO, as you're choosing who you're going to play as right to the end of the game. Also, the voice acting is solid and believable. There would be nothing worse than having to sit through dialogue cut scenes where the characters parts sound forced and unrealistic. Unfortunately I discovered the beta a little later than most so therefore didn't get the whole weekend to explore the Guild Wars 2 world, but from what I experienced, the story was interesting and captivating, making you want to play more. This is essential in an MMO. As they're such monumentally large games, the story must be solid in order to keep the players focus and attention. I felt as if Guild Wars 2 did exactly that, and I was very pleased.
Guild Wars 2 has a feature that I haven't seen for quite some time in the MMO world. You have a number of different things to do in each town, including main quests and story quests. However, you can also use fast travel/teleportation pads that help you get around the world faster. You have a total number of fast travel access points to find, as well as a counter for all the side quests you have completed for each town you have visited. This is a nice way to push the players to do everything possible in each town before moving on. It also helps the player to judge and remember what they have done and where, allowing players to level up faster without having to try to remember what they have done, how much more they have to do in a town, and so on.
Being used to see through maps in Rift and SWTOR, the map in Guild Wars 2 annoyed me, as it was a solid screen that you had to keep checking. I am aware that WoW uses this style of map, so those of you who are WoW fans will not have a problem with this. Personally I prefer maps that I can use while I run. If you want to keep the map open while you run you can do so, but then it feels less like playing a game, and more like steering something from point a to b and is not as enjoyable.
Whilst Guild Wars 2 had its bad points, the good far outweighed the bad and it was thoroughly enjoyable to play. I'm happy to have been a part of the beta testing process and to have been given the chance to play it as I have been very excited about it since it was announced. I would recommend this game to anyone who is already an MMO enthusiast, as whilst it embraces the usual conventions of MMO, ArenaNet have also made a conscious effort to separate it from the crowd. Anyone new to MMOs should definitely check it out too, as the stories are captivating and deep.