Beta test weekends are tricky devils especially the final one, because you know its a stress test by another name. Not only that, but a wobbly first impression can put you off the game, even though you know it’s not necessarily representative of the final product.
With SWTOR, my first impression was not good. In fact it was so bad I can cancelled my CE preorder.
I’m not about to do that with Guild Wars 2. First up, a caveat. I only got to play for about an hour and a half, so this is superficial at
best. Also I knew next to nothing so I had no expectations at all, a complete tabula rasa.
Initial impression were promising with an elegant painted style that is throughout the UI and immediately marks the game out as something different. The character creation screens are logical and flexible enough to tweak your character to your satisfaction. Controls are fairly standard and even though it was a stress test weekend, there was no lag that I noticed, despite plenty of other players rushing about.
Conversations with quest givers are animated, but instead of trying to integrate them into the gameplay, you are gently lifted out of it as your avatar and the quest-giver hold their exchange in front of an elegant background.
Combat is engaging and fun, some strategy is a good idea as button mashing, even at an early level, not only gets tedious but won’t give you the best effect. One aspect of the game I particularly liked was that you are not made to feel like you are on some heavily scripted linear progression, a long standing frustration I have with some other games. Here, you don’t get led around by the nose but are encouraged to explore what appears to be a sprawling environment and locate events and quest-givers with only limited support from the map.
Even though I had such a limited time to try the game and despite not being hit over the head with plot points, I still found myself being drawn into the story. So that’s another tick.
Finally lets talk quickly about the graphics. One word – sweet! GW2 isn’t having to wrestle with a relatively untried engine. It looks
excellent, with detailed textures and draw distances that always remind you that it’s a big world out there. Considering I’m still using a creaky ATI 4850 and didn’t bother to tweak any settings I could quite happily pick up where I left off without touching a thing.
While I don’t doubt there are flaws, bugs and other irritations that I’ve yet to discover, I can honestly say I’m looking forward to
returning and waking my toothy cat guy from where he is currently laying down and sleeping deeply.