My Take On Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend 3

Can you smell it? Yes, it’s the smell of finally achieving something in a limited beta test.

The Seraph-Issue Armor, by race

So, the whole plan was to take pictures of the same armor with 4 races (everything except human). The results:

Charr:

Norn:

Asura:

Sylvari:

Just to make sure, I’ll tell you that those pictures were taken with the new build-in equipment preview and that the Seraph-Issued armor is only the chest and legs parts (headgear, gloves and boots are not part of the “set”). Also, the current implementation of the equipment preview is not taking in consideration your armor colors from looking at gear that it’s on your bank (why it was in my bank in a second). When I put the gear, it finally picked up the personal colors, although it was not in the preview anymore.

But why the the gear was in my bank, anyway? Well, that’s the part where I tell you what I did this weekend.

Seraph Begins

At first I rolled a Charr (only because it’s the first in the list). After reaching something like level 13, I decided to take my path towards Kessex Hills going through Queensdale, doing whatever events or renown hearts there were in the way. Once I reached Fort Salma, I noticed that there wasn’t an armorsmith vendor and to actually buy the gear, I’d have to complete some renown hearts and turn then into karma vendors. Now that wouldn’t be hard, except mobs around are all level 20-23 and that would probably mean being plowed no matter what I did. So back to Plains of Ashford.

Everything Is Better With Crazy People

Once back to Ashford, I went going my things, jumping between renown hearts and personal story, with a gathering there and a dynamic event here, when I suddenly found myself in the middle of this group of people. The guy leading the pack was one Redditor (Acid Dream Laser Beam ftw). But then thing is: while the place had mobs around level 13-15, this guy was level 5; the rest of the group had a level 9 with them (and they were probably moving forward only due the pack size). Since I was doing fine with my Guardian, I decided to follow along, with the thing in mind to not let this guy die.

And there I went, with a group that was being out-leveled everywhere and trying my best to keep everyone alive (oh mace, how I love you for that). In the end, it was just me and this guy (now at level 9) just trying to complete the map. Needless to say, I got pretty close to level 20, which was enough to go back to Kessex Hills. And I still had a whole day to try to get said gear.

Did You Saw That?

One of the new things you get this time are “vistas”. Those are new elements that you need to complete to complete a map and you earn a little XP every time you find those.

Vistas are books floating usually on top of high ground which will give you some XP and you’ll usually have to deal with some sort of jumping puzzle to reach them. Remember when I said I was having problems finding the jumping puzzles in the previous betas? Well, that kinda tells you “Hey! There is a jumping puzzle here. Go find it!”

Also, there was this really obvious jumping puzzle in the Sylvari zone, although without a vista at the top:

Whoa, You’re Going to Get Us Killed!

I didn’t realize this till I thought I had enough, but leveling was incredible faster this time. If you remember, by playing BWE1 and BWE2, I reached level 28. Now, if you realize, in a little bit more than a day (Saturday the whole day and Friday night), I was only 8 levels behind. If they scaled the XP rewards up for people to experience more content this time with Asuras and Sylvari, if it’s their final adjustment in XP gains or if that happened due me running around with a group, that’s a different story.

Keep in mind that I kept jumping between Sylvary, Asura and Charr when bored and took naps whenever I feel like (which on weekends is pretty common). One person focusing on a single character the whole weekend probably reached level 30 easily.

It’s Crafting Time!

Still lagging a few levels, I decided to take a break and play with crafting and check how the leveling goes. Fact is, up to that point, I was gathering everything I could and breaking down every single piece of gear that I couldn’t use or was replaced. I had more than one full stack of Copper Ore and, thus, it felt it was the right time to abuse this.

The first discipline I got was weaponsmith, since I already had plans on getting better gear anyway. There wasn’t any change since the last BWE, but what I was interested was the level you earn. And you get a little XP every time you level up your discipline and only when leveling the discipline. Earning crafting XP to level your discipline will not earn a single bit of character XP.

Also, I noticed that even when every crafting possibility is grey already, if you find a new combination, you’ll still earn crafting XP. For example, if the Healing Green Inscription, Bronze Mace Head and Small Green Haft are all grey already (meaning you won’t get any experience from making them), by making a Healing Bronze Mace you will still earn crafting XP. So it seems everything fall back into finding all possible combinations of everything to earn those 10 levels by reaching level 400 in a discipline.

But, since I only reached level 70 as weaponsmith and level 20-something in leatherworking (for the bags), I only got 2 levels. But, for what I wanted, that was enough.

Full Circle

And back to Kessex Hills, I finally had enough levels to complete the hearts. The first piece I got was the legs, which required level 23. “No problem”, I thought. “I only have to find where I can find the chest piece and I’m all good”.

Realizing the chest of a set shouldn’t be far away, I decided to check the renown heart nearby. Lo and behold, completing the renown heart just outside Fort Salma opened the required vendor. “Fuck yeah”, I though, just before seeing it had a “Binds of use”. Well, fuck. Now I’d have to level my Sylvari and Asura to level 23 too! And that’s when it hit me that I could just drop said gear in the bank and use the preview.

Phew, that was long.

Bonus!

With about one hour till I had to go to sleep to work next day, I decided to check the cultural heavy armors. I took screenshots of all 4 races, cut them for easy showing and… Someone posted this link with all armors in all races. Oh well, have fun there.

Other Tidbits

Apart from the feeling that performance went bad in this BWE compared to previous one, I didn’t find any glaring bugs or felt things were incredible unbalanced (although the Flame Shaman still is a pain in the backside).

My Plans for Guild Wars 2 Beta Event 3

Only 8 days to go to the last Beta Weekend of Guild Wars 2 and there is only one thing I want to do:

Roll a male guardian of every race and do enough dynamic events to reach Kessex Hills and Fort Salma and buy the “Seraph Issued Armor”. Why? Because that’s the last armor I managed to get with my human Guardian and it’s one of the armors that have a very distinct look. While other armors would have a single small piece that made it look different from the others, the Seraph Issued armor really stands by its own.

And, in case you’re curious, that’s how I looked (and yes, the armor is freaking weird):

My Take On Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend 2

Last Sunday we had the end of the second beta weekend of Guild Wars 2. Everyone could still use the characters from the first beta weekend — no wipe this time — and with “OH, this is new!” feeling gone, I think it gave a clear view of what we can find in the game.

Something New, Something Old

So, what changed in this beta compared to previous one?

First, visually, the endurance bar now sits on the top of your health bubble, with a tick pointing how many dodges you can still do. So you can, pretty quick, see that you have enough endurance for another dodge or not. Where the endurance bar was, now is the boons and conditions bar, which previously were sitting on the top of your health bubble. With all those changes, the cast bar was also moved down, giving a bit more of visual space in the middle of the screen (although I can’t say that the cast bar was too high to break any kind of immersion).

Also, boons and conditions now clearly show how many stacks you have and how long it will last, using a white outline around the icon.

The map also changed. Instead of the radar map you had in the previous beta, the map now is, basically, a window, which you can resize any way you want.

Also changed is the tiered skills and tiered traits. What does this mean, anyway?

Tiered skills works exactly like before, but instead of having access to all skills straight away, you have to pick at least 5 skills of Tier 1 to enable the Tier 2 skills and at least 5 Tier 2 skills to have access to the Tier 3 skills. There was a huge debate about this blocking people from creating characters the way they wanted, but I didn’t see this a huge game-breaking. It’s more like “Hey, try this skill before you try that other one”. With my Warrior, I could clearly see that they had some 3-point-skills that were basically upgrades from 1-point-skills (for example, signets in the Tier 1, although having the same functionality of a Tier 2 skill, the stats were more in line with what most warriors will probably use — which didn’t totally ruled the Tier 1 out if you’re trying a different build).

Tiered Traits also works almost like before, but now you have 3 tiers of traits: Adept, Master and Grandmaster, each allowing you to add 10 more points in the trait lines. To open each of those, you need to buy a book from your profession trainer. So, if you only buy the Adept book, you can only apply 10 points on each of your trait lines. Another change here is that some major traits require at least one tier. Yes, I can’t explain this but basically, this means that some traits can only be selected if you have enough points in that trait line. For example, let’s say that Protector’s Impact, a Guardian trait, is a Master trait; this means that you can’t pick it if you have only 10 points in Zeal, but you can use it as your Grandmaster major trait, if you have 30 points in Zeal.

Why they changed this? Basically, this was a way to prevent the abundancy of 30-10-10-10-10 builds, where people would pick one specialization and then apply 10 points on every other trait line and pick the most awesome major trait there. Personally, this didn’t affect me ’cause I didn’t level enough to have to worry about Master traits, even if I could manage to get the gold for the Master book (Adept book goes for around 21 silver, Master and Grandmaster books cost 1 gold) and because the only times I played with a build creator, I went with things like 30-15-15-10-0. I didn’t even checked what major traits are available at Master and Grandmaster, so I’m holding my opinion if this is good or bad till we have a finalized trait list.

Dashed Plans

My initial plan for this BWE was to spend the whole time in PvP. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen as expected.

First of all, I went into WvW, expecting that my experience as a level 20 would be much better than it was when I did at level 4. Well, it just happens that it didn’t. Sure, you have the upscaling to 80, but I still felt too much underpowered compared to others.

One thing I thought it would help this time was the gold I got last time. So, first thing I did when I joined the Eternal Battlegrounds was to buy blueprints. Knowing how well the ham did last time, I bought 3 blueprints straight away, effectively using all the gold I had. Lo and behold, there was a bug that some people were getting a “Cannot Deploy Equipment” condition, with the single explanation of “…” (I’m not kidding, that was the explanation). There were some solution floating around — basically, getting out of the WvW maps, going to your home instance, then going all the way back — but seriously, no one would do that in the middle of a fight. The other option was to drop the blueprints in the ground for others without the condition to use — a process that it isn’t that simple: you had to open your inventory, double click the blueprint, which would change your skill bar to the blueprint bundle, close the inventory and then select the “drop bundle” icon. Annoying, but still doable during combat — as long as you had someone without the condition in your team.

Rewards are still not great. Sure, I got more gold this time due to rewards being scaled to a level 20 instead of a level 4, but still wasn’t that great.

One thing I learnt was that defending can be a huge source of income. One time I was alone defending a tower, doing whatever I could as a Guardian without any ranged weapons (it was my choice, and I totally regret it). So I would take the portal, smack some people a bit, drop some symbols, run back to the tower and, from the time to time, pick some supplies and fix the gate. Thing is, while you’re defending, you enter a 2 minute event “Prevent attackers from capturing the point”. So, if you’re doing that and if the attackers can’t capture the point, you earn a gold medal in the event. If they take 10 minutes to break the front-gate, congratulations! You just completed 5 events with a gold medal! So you can get a lot of crappy rewards, if you have the patience.

(Also, for the note, I did get out of the Reddit guild I was in the very beginning of BWE1 when the guild broke and thought it wasn’t nice bothering the guild leaders again, so I roamed the last day of BWE1 going solo. I joined a guild — received a random invite during one event — but that guild was almost dead this BWE.)

It’s All in the Wrist

Another thing that shook me away from PvP was my unfamiliarity with the game after a month. And that’s when I saw the real power of the pre-purchase. But that will require a more deeper explanation.

So, my first day: I’m noticing things aren’t going so well in WvW, so I decided to level a bit more. And if you were around me, you’d see a Guardian going around and jumping after one mob is dead and there are more around. Yes, as it happened in the first day of the previous beta, I was running around, selecting targets with Tab and then pressing Space, as if I was in Guild Wars 1. Dodge? None. But starter zones are easy-peasy, so I didn’t mind too much.

Day 2: Now I’m not jumping anymore and I’m dodging, although everything is badly timed. Spamming skills like there is no tomorrow.

Day 3: I’m finally seeing the telegraphs and dodging in perfect timing. I’m slowly building a rotation of sort in my head: It seems a good idea to use the snare after I use the AoE, not the other way around. I can see which situations each skill is a good idea and those that aren’t. I’m finally letting my middle finger go of the right mouse button and I’m using the cursor do inspect other people health mid fight to see if it’s worth putting Symbol of Faith down. I’m using Judge’s Intervetion to bring down groups (and occasionally annoy my foes in WvW). Just noticed I didn’t use my Virtues. At all.

And why does this means a somewhat unfair chance for pre-purchasers: 3 day head start. When everyone else join the world, those (me included) will already have 90% of game mechanics nailed down. The sense of familiarity settled down and everything have a known face.

Press R to Level

During the post-WvW leveling, I was going everywhere trying to find dynamic events like a complete moron, trying to get the maximum XP of every encounter, I decided to sit back and just walk around and complete the maps.

What I actually found was that, by finding everything in the map, including the cities, you get a really good XP reward.

So yeah, pro-tip time: If you want to level faster, try to complete all the points of interest, heart events, waypoints and skill challenges.

Stand Awhile and Listen

One thing I must say is that, this time, the cutscenes really felt out of the place. In the previous beta, things weren’t so bad, but this time… Ugh!

I remember people complaining about it and, if you remember, it didn’t bother that much in the previous beta but this time, with all that familiarity with the game settling, it really felt out of place.

But thing is: ArenaNet already have a better system in place.

When I was leveling an Engineer, again in the Norn lands, there was a custscene about the Minotaur spirit being angry and you and Eir should investigate it. The cutscene cuts and you have Eir and Ferghen still discussing about why the Minotaur spirit would be upset. That was way more entertaining/interesting than the cutscenes ’cause it really felt like Eir was talking with Ferghen and not those two discussing with a third person in the far away.

Didn’t Mario’d as Much as I should

I really thought about getting into those jumping puzzles, but I couldn’t find any. It’s probably easy to find those if you know where they are, but if you’re expecting to stumble upon those challenges while walking around… though luck.

In a way, thinking about getting into the jump puzzles was more of an issue than something funny. Why? Because one would think that those two rocks near each other is a jump puzzle and stop doing whatever they were doing, in the hopes of finding something cool in the end.

On the other hand, I did try the WvW dungeon. Which, as any other jumping puzzle, is a pain to find. I only found the entrance ’cause I saw a video on how to find the entrance. And, even with that, I couldn’t get much farther, as there are no obvious indications on where you should go (the WvW puzzle have a “start… HERE” indicator, but that’s it).

I saw a video later one how to complete the WvW jump puzzle and the rewards were pretty damn impressive. But, again, finding those is not something you just come around.

Conclusion

Even if I sound a bit frustrated — going around trying to find dynamic events to be able to do WvW effectively, not being able to find the jumping puzzles by myself — I must say that, man, that was fun. In the very end, I think the most frustrating thing in the whole weekend was the feeling that I had a very short window to enjoy the game, so I kept pushing me to keep going even when my body and mind were falling apart and getting disconnected from each other. If it was a continuous beta, I think I would enjoy it a little bit more. But, then again, that’s absolutely not the point of the beta, the point is to find bugs and report them (something I failed miserably by forgetting there is a report bug button inside the game and only got my head right after the forums were closed).

So… yeah, there are minor issues, some balancing issues still exist, I didn’t notice any increase of FPS (but that was noted by ArenaNet: Not everyone would see an increase of performance yet), effects still need some tone down and, maybe, mobs in the starting zones need larger telegraphs so people get the idea of dodging straight away. But the game feels pretty good already, even if I didn’t feel we had a huge jump in progress from BWE1 to BWE2.

Firefall Needs Some PvE Love Too

In the last few days, I was collecting information on Firefall, which I got a beta key recently. Because the beta servers are, currently, running 24/7, I could check the game in and out — but then I got the Torchlight II key and things went downhill.

With the TL2 key in hands, I kinda let Firefall slip a bit. But I was, from time to time, putting thoughts together on how to explain Firefall, what it does right, what I think it doesn’t fit or feels weird… and then Red5 drops this:

Basically, what they are saying is “the base is changing”. With the base changing, I can’t really say if things work or not. Surely, I’ll write my take on it once the conversion is done — ’cause, you know, Firefall beta test is now going 24/7 — but I didn’t hear a word about the PvE part of it.

Sure, I understand that the main focus of Firefall is PvP and the PvE is there as training ground. I didn’t do any PvP yet in Firefall, to be honest — not that “it’s not my thing”, as it was the only thing I was doing in WoW, but I’m the kind of guy that first have to understand how to play before jumping into PvP. People usually understand that you’re a noob and some things you may not understand straight away — at least, in the betas, good luck trying that in a LoL match — but I really don’t like to jump into a PvP match and end up with the feeling I didn’t really help my team ’cause I didn’t got the mechanics right. Sure, people will punch their desk and go on, but if I end up with the feeling that I didn’t actually fit the shoes I chose, I ruined other people’s game. Also, what kind of shoe I want to wear is something I want to find by myself instead of jumping into other people’s game and trying to find it there[1].

Personal insecurities aside, I spent all my Firefall time so far in PvE. The story, as I remember watching, is that you start in Fortaleza after some weird thing that made all nature larger, but you keep fighting and expanding the “known world”, and keep protecting it from being taken over again (and some sort of “human bad guys” group, which I only saw when I got in). That sounds like an awesome “thug-of-war” combat and, for those that are not that into PvP, it would give a larger meta-game to go after.

But, so far, PvE consists of a single daily quest: Thumper collecting. Thumper is a device added to the game to collect minerals, which currently you need to improve your gear (emphasis on “currently” ’cause it may change in the future). So you’re playing a medic, you buy a blue print — or find one, dropped by one of the mobs — for a better gun and then you have to collect the materials to build said gun. That’s where the thumper comes in. And, as I said, the only mission currently after you complete the tutorial quests that explain how combat, research and build works, it’s all you can do: Collecting 400 of one mineral and that’s it.

And the mob variation is absurdly small. On the top of my head, I can count 6 models (one of those which is pretty much a normal/player model with a different color), with some varying textures and sizes. And, that’s all you see around. It gets really boring seeing the same thing over and over again. “Wait, didn’t I just killed 20 of those already?”

Yes yes, I know, the focus is in PvP. I said that myself. That’s where Red5 is focusing right now and what they want to complete first and then focus a bit in the grand scheme of PvE. I just think it shouldn’t be forgotten ’cause even LoL in its matches against bots can be interesting if you want a quick pass time.

Side note: Beta is beta, that’s not the current focus, my laptop is not, in any stretch, a gaming machine (heck, it’s a MacBook Pro, for fucks sake), but in the matter of graphical engine, the engine is pretty slooooowww. In order to get something near 30 FPS, I had to put in the “extremely low” setting — which could also be one of the reasons I didn’t venture into PvP yet: How am I supposed to engage in fast combat when the game is so slow? Again, beta is beta, that’s not the focus of the team yet, but it’s a kinda a put off at the moment, ’cause you watch any video around and the game looks so beautiful and then, when I run it on my machine, in the low settings it looks so bland and boring.

[1] Who am I trying to kid? I’m usually the healer/support guy.

My Screenshots From Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend Event 1