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.
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.
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.