Thursday, February 20, 2014

February Post 2 - Guild Wars 2 Review Levels 11 - 20

DING! No...wait, there is no fancy dinging or glowing when you level up in Guild Wars 2. It is just a flash on the exp bar and some sparkles around the last segment of the bar and poof! Your number rises. And today folks I am level 20...Actually 21, but this is my evolving review for levels 11 - 20. In my last review I wrote about how Guild Wars levels 1-10 ended with a score of 2/5. It did not have a great cinematic effects. It lacked in armor models. Feel of a true combat system. Lack of direction and solid quest lines. And although it trumped in unique environment look, it's PvP felt very dislodged from the game experience...and it's menu systems were messy. But I am a young pup in the world! There is a lot to learn...or is there. The first impressions are important since most core game mechanics rest the same through end game. So let us press on to the next chapter. Here are my notes in Chronological order starting with PvE:
(Random NPC...not sure where his race came from. Was just hanging out.)


Sometimes npcs act smart with enemies. Especially the first level, the guards attack the enemies and rez you if dead on ground. As if the developers just gave up coding, allot of territory now for level 15+, I can drag a train of enemies into the camp and the guards just sit there...Static..ughh. - This was a bit of a disappointment, in a long line of many. In the first levels of game play, you had this very "alive" feel of the world. The tower guards would fight mobs of centaurs. You fight along side, and sometimes you find yourself badly beaten down. When beaten down, NPC guards attempt to run to your aid, and you run to theirs. It was not exploited, it was actually done VERY well to give it a live feel...After just ends. It feels silly, especially when you have certain NPC's standing there saying: "YEah, lets fight!" and the enemy walks up and they just stand there...What happened? Did the developers just GIVE UP the dynamic world? To make up for this obvious little flaw, they just super animated the voices and left interactions between NPCs take place. This is a little important since the mobs in level one, are the same copy and paste well down into the level 20's, so it is like seeing the same enemy do the same thing, but the NPCs and villages get dumber...that is, if you are playing with your brain on. If not. Just turn brain off and ignore it...

Because the game does not have guided quests to push you from one area to another. They get you to move around through 3 methods: 

1) The mob method. Mobs can act like the barriers between pathways. If you wanted to explore out on your own in other areas, YOU WILL be blocked. The world has botleneck maps. It seems like a large open world but if you really try to sneak your way past certain parts, it won't happen. They turned the agro level to an insane range, so you will be spotted and attack from long distance.
More than once my exploring out of my level range was cut short when the path bottlenecked to a linear path between two large mountains. I was forced to kill at least 2 enemies at the same time. If I was two levels higher, I Could (and would) do it. Since I am not. I get killed, and am forced to forever stick it out in my level range. The rule of thumb, quest where the mobs are 1 to 2 levels higher than you, or do events 
in these areas. One of my new leveling up methods is to just sit and farm the "invasion" events. Where enemies come in waves. 
I keep seeing these fan boy rants: "There is so much to do! This game is so different!" I even just saw an article over at saying this game has "so much to do" and lists "helping farmers and killing bandits". This is a mask for exceptionally shallow and dead PvE. Let me explain. Level 1-5, I was on a farm helping dig up giant worms in the cow pin. You kill them (kililng X mob quest masked as a "task" quest). I go well beyond the noob farm range into a village at level 17. There is a farmer growing beer hops. He asks to take care of the bug problem...I go in...It is the same animation, same mob used here as in level 1!!! ...I move on, there is another farm level 19, it is a corn field. He has a wasp and guessed it, worm problem with the same level 1 worms....
It is the same mob type and same task... So although you are not "killing 10 rats" and turning it in. You are killing 10 worms, on every farm, and turning it in (automatically). The thing here, is that it is super hubbed. You can not go far to kill 10 rats, you have to stay on the farm..
Ladies and gentleman. I would like to introduce you to: THE SUPER QUEST HUB game design. It is more than a quest hub, it is a SUPER QUEST HUB! Quest hubs are, in most mmorpgs, made to bring you in, collect quests, and push out a good distance in the area. This game brings you in. Offers you repeat graphics, story, and content. And the only real reason to ever want to push out is for "exploring". Again, you are dangled a little box in front of your nose as a "collection" point. The fact is, you can skip it. The real exp comes from farming world boss or events. It is like you are in a giant bubble. Boy in the bubble, and they did not want people to quest with a huge hand holding. "It is to scary out there, just stay here
and farm worms until you can OP the mobs"... This detracts from story: Nothing you will ever do in the real world will ever tie into the story. Hell, even closed down games I have played knew that holding certain cities meant you got resources etc..that aide in the over all world and story line. (This is actually done in PvP side of GW2). It is odd, because you would think they would tie in the same elements in PvE, that will be familiar in PvP, and in the over all story arch. NOPE! PvE is a sad excuse to just move around and look at what they designed. This brings us to point 2:
2) Boredom. Let's say you are the guy that likes to collect every little "achievment", and reveal spot. Even if the games "look" seduced you stay in one place...sooner or later you will have to progress, and or, the BOREDOM sets in. You will be so bored of doing the LIMITED farm tasks, and killing the 2 to 3 varietyof mobs in one area
that you will be forced to test your limits and push on to the next map area.

3) Main Story arch. If step 1 and 2 do not get you moving out, the main story arch will. The story arch, not surprisingly, really has nothing to do with anything you do in the open world. The huge disconnect makes the entire PvE process feel shallow and just an excuse to power level to the next story line..This is also why all story lines are instanced. They also guide you to certain level caps. The first noob story starts of course in the noob area. This pushes the typical mmorpg player, like me, to follow the story and not the stupid "finish in 5 min" farm stuff. I followed it until I hit point (1 The Mob Method), mob placement. I literally could not continue my story because the next part was in a land that was to high for me. This made me hunt out a farm that was 1 or 2 levels higher than me so I could farm exp (or just camp world bosses until I was high enough level to get back to the story)...see the pattern yet? DISCONNECT. Back to story. DISCONNECT. Try some pvp...wait I have not talked about PvP...Shall we?
(From the very top level 1 to the bottom here in level 20. The same copy and paste content. Same farm enemies. Same bulls to escort. Same Centaur waves to push back. I can name, falt out, 5 other F2P titles that have much deeper player insertion and mob variety starting from level 1)
Actually, before getting into PvP, a few more small points in PvE. That map. The teleports are one of the most silly ideas I have ever seen in an mmorp. The great paradox is that, although they created a large world to "explore" it is very RAILED and linear. But very well masked. One obvious feature of this is the teleports and the reasons they can never insert mounts or flying mounts. To understand this, we have to look at games that do this right. Let us look at Perfect World to start. The land is MASSIVE and persistent! There are key teleports between key towns, and although it is a treat and a game experience to walk on foot, a flying mount changes this. Now, when you take to flight, it does not exploit it or make it easier! In fact, the enture "upper world" now has a new perspective of how the world looks and how to get around. Giving the designers a very creative edge. It also introduces new dangers as there are enemies above. Imagine, if you will, if the stupid Guild Wars 2 map teleporters were removed (except key village ones), and you could use cool flying machines, that could be attacked by NPC flying machines! You could risk a parachute or a falling death! They could have done something dynamic. They have the tools (the PvP turrets, etc)! They just did not have the vision or fore sight (plus it would ruin their linear game design). 
Even mounted pets would be an amazing touch, but since there are teleporters, there is no need. This is odd since most enemies you fight are hooved. Also you have pack animals all over the map to escort. I understand "keep it humans on foot feel". But see my firest review about how they stray away from humanoind character creations, and mix in the fact, that after 20 levels of zipping around teleporters, the game loses it's "alive feel" without human companions, notably mounts. It just feels: "We are cheap designers. And we know our baby boo bop Buy to win crowd that needs showered in easy mode". It is a turn off for me and I have no desire to "discover" the linear mysteries of teleport hopping in later levels. Some games, the unknown map parts are worth leveling up to visit, USUALLY DUE TO THE LOW LEVEL experience. The only feeling I am experience is "Can I get my money back for this game?"

Vendors are stupidly worthless. Cater to crafting. Every town I discover there are icons of armor, weapon, and repair vendors. In most mmorpgs this is the "YES I MADE IT!" part that rewards you for coming out so far with a special vendor that sells special regional items...Not Guild Wars 2. Nope. Every single vendor sells the same stupid stuff that scales to level. The two armor and weapon vendors sell inferior weapons. The "MErchant" always sells the same collecting gear (scythe, axe, etc..). The only one sort of interesting is a repait vendor. IF you are lucky, he or she, can sell you a possible upgrade. This happened on 1...ONE out of many I came across. And it is was under my character level. Meaning the real upgrades come from the auction house.

Auction house is mildly broken. Text not readable and strange click lag. - I will say, I love the auction house set up. You can "Demand" an item and when people throw it in the auction house, it funnels down to you. So, it serves like a Ebay order and shipping service. OF all the things they tried so hard to "change", the auction house is the only idea that did not really break....BUT, and there is always a "BUT" in GW2, it is kind of broken. I have mass lag accessing the Auction house. Sometimes in trying to sell an item I click, nothing happens, I have to click off, then back on, then back off, then back on...And grace of god it works and I can sell it. NOt smooth at ALL! Also, the text is broken. I can barely read the auction house text. They use very thin broken white text. And when you use a drop down box the words blend and break. I had to guess where I was clicking half the time. But it is managable. Just one of those ugly "under the hood" things you find playing Guild Wars 2. Makes you scratch your head thinking: "All that money to make it. All that franchise reputation. All those fan bois. And this is the broken result?"

I am now 20 levels in the game and have the same look since Level 2, despite the fact I have had over 10 different armor choices...and no, dyes do not fix this problem. Game design fixes this. SIGH. Not allot to say folks. I have passed 20 levels. I have physically changed my armor over 10 armor look never changed. Although my armor has new name, new green and blue rarity, and new stats...It all has the same model since level 2...YUP! "Oh go farm dyes" was the response from last weeks article...That is solving a problem with a problem: 1) "Go farm..." STOP! should not pay a box price to farm colors of a owned pieces. 2) Coloring armor does not solve the armor problem. You realize this is like saying: "The car engine is broken...just paint the car blue and the problem goes away"...GW2 fan boi logic..

(This is their idea of "fun". Not being able to jump something I should be able to jump up. The camera and motion physics are not at all meant for jumping. I will,if possible, avoid all jumping puzzles in this game. Just a joke.)

Ok, Noob PvP time!

Not allot changed since levels 1-10, I do find that very disappointing. - The entire scenery changes, but the game experience stays relatively the same... This caters to the "give me the shiny" gamer mentality. Showered in rewards and hand outs with very little work for it. So I decided to get beat up on. Before hopping into level 17 PvP I opened up the PvP menus. WOW! LOTS AND LOTS of useless information and confusing menus! An entire menu about player stats...players I do not care for. I will never meet this other guy, so why do I have 1 entire page of in game menu of player stats? Guild stats, wins, losses, territory control, etc..I learned that once in a guild, you are sort of put in a faction, and I think it is server based. This means, on the battle field, all guildsthat are in your faction will be considered friendly.
The entire let down is that this has a HUGE disconnect in PvE, there is nothing at all that coincides with this design choice in the real PvE world nor anywhere else. Hence, proving my point correct. They failed to create factions (like Aliance and Horde) at start of the game and left with a very "do it only in PvP, it is to late to rethink PvE" sort of fail design. Any ways, Confused how to really go from the PvE map to PvP...I found it by accident.
Most games you talk to a PvP NPC, or click an icon and que up as the game populates a map to get the battle field balanced...Kiss all that good bye.
I accidentally pressed "B", and that opened up a menu screen (sigh), and it said WvW, ok, let's go right to it! I had choices of maps, I clicked on one, and was instantly teleported in. The map choices in WvW are the territory regions. There are points to control etc..basic territory control features.
Ok, wow, that was easy. IS this really a match? Yup! You start on a large PvE looking map with lots of the same PvE icons. There are look out points to capture. Herbs and plans to farm. Achievement points, and this time more PvP icons, like supply bull, castle, resource node,, it seems fairly strategic...but I know my fail design companies. There is a logic behind this. And that logic is"ZERG to the important stuff, ignore the rest". Am I right? I will find out: YES!
I have not started the battle. I talked to an NPC guide, he told me how to play quickly as he did a fly by of the map. After I am still standing in the huge it feels empty..This sort of freedom, I was not used to since PvE is such a linear crap fest.So I walked out, scared of the big world...I have no idea who is the enemy. I just see some npcs, and some castle door...And a little blue triangle moving around in a non npc fashion. I followed it and yes it was a commander of my "faction"...
How to be commander? I do not know how that works but he never spoke, just jumped around and seemed to know where to go. Togther we ran around taking over little spots on the map. Burning down small farms, retaking little villages. Then more people showed up on our side. Oh yeah, by the way, they boost your stats to level 80 so the game is "equal"... There is no tiered PvP. It is all like the armor design: "Make everyone one look good so it is 'equal'". This ends up feeling shallow and fake...It also does not work this way in PvE, so why gimp PvP? but whatever, let's try to have fun... 
With our group of 5 (very low population for a "World vs world") we went to go take over a castle. We bashed a door for 20 min...Then it opened, nothing but NPC archers, we run past them all and right up to a tower to take out the NPC commander. The castle is ours...And yes, that just confirmed, SCREW the details (killing archers, taking A before B) just ZERG your ass to the good stuff and GO!
(PVE mob fail.)

then it happened - we were heading a little deeper down the path, we had about 10 people now... then a giant zerg of red named players burst out of a cave...knowing we had no chance, we all stopped, looked, they looked at us, and we all ran different ways. They ran north, we ran south...we ran for our lives, they ran to the most important thing; A castle. They really could care less about PvPing us. It was about resource and land capture. This should instigate enough of us to kill each other at one point..but usually it just makes us sneak around capping territory. Let me emphasis this for. This game is so zerged out, even when rival enemies see each other, they just ignore the pvp, and zerg right on down to the destrucable terrain...Watching two massive enemies groups just run by each other and do nothing but zerg NPC camps = the lamest WvW I ever played... You can not even be that sneaky solo guy that goes to provoke one side. You have to zerg or GTFO. 
Oh the IRONY! They tried so hard to make a game that makes you all "equal". Since it is about ZERGING. There is no equality (SO MUCH FOR THAT EQUAL ATTEMP GW2!) Fear the ZERG! One servers population will determine the winner. It sucks. I was bored 30 min once that was apparent. No one is here to engage, we are here to troll the property and zerg your offense and defense. SIGH. Regrouped at distance, knowing we cant take the zerg, we just walk on to the next NPC castle. As soon as we got to the front door, a mass of NPCS poured out, and cannons poured fire on us: My entire pc lagged and we died. I quit PvP and went back to the super hub Pve. I do want to go back to PvP in this state. Seems like most people are into the new gear grind than pvp. *shrug* Which sucks because of the 3 territory groups, if Server A is PvP based server (fans) and group B is PvE based server (fans), Group A will have the zerg advantage when B decides to try it out. Never a fun time.
That said, I only tested WvW, I will be now testing other PvP options: Arena and Player vs Player.
So I tried regular PvP, - You teleport into a sort of noob area, where you learn to do everything you do as a level 1 in PVE, except this time you are boosted to level 80, given 80 gear set and spells if you are low level. You help aid NPC off the ground. You hold a little zone. And you kill enemy npcs. Then you are off to the next part. A sort of instanced PVP base. It is super confusing, but it is basically the base where you buy and sell PvP related things. Why this is not just in the town castle like a logical game does?WHO KNOWS! (bad design), so I am now off to talk to a master PvP npc who sill yes...OPEN yet another menu,
and have you instance into yet..another map of PvP...*facepalm* - Now I have the choice to Arena solo or in a group. Or filter some lobby and join instant action. Never have I witnessed such PvP fail design as this..
(This is me close to level 20. In PvP maps you get "MAGICALLY" transformed into a level 80. That "level 1" on the exp bar is your "PvP" level (not the same as your character level)...This is what I call the "band aide effect". It is as if the developers hit a problem late design they had to band aide all this together so it "works"...what a mess. In the chat widow, my level 80 guild even agrees. I ask: "The armor in PvP is only usable in PvP?" they reply: "Sadly, yes". They wish it was not this way.)

More about being boosted to level 80 I am given a weapon and armor set that boosts me. I have 2 pistols. I have never played duel pistols, I am pistol and dagger? What is a player not level 80 supposed to do with this? Thankfully there is a vendor that GIVES AWAY FOR FREE LEVEL 80 WEAPONS AND ARMOR! So I changed back to my preferred build. But wow...I seriously was just handed the goods (that mentality).
Also, they unlock all your spell bars and give you spells. I am only level 19! I have not unlocked this many spells. It is ok, this game is pretty easy, so I learned fast. I learned that my last spell on the far right makes clones appear, I have a heal, and some smoke, and basic 4 attacks, ok...Great! Now to be "useful". I see a conflict. I enter it...Everyone just slides and skates around each other. And guess who wins...THE ZERG! Combat feels just "run around and spam". IF you ever played a FPS you know the term: "Spray and pray". That is the 
heart of PvP. This is the most up right fail design I have ever played. In fact...I think I prefer World PvP because at least I can run around and distract people. In PvP, it is smaller map = mass zerg to one area and just jump in the cluster of close combat....Ok GW2, this is how it is done. This is how you do PvP RIGHT:

1) YOU HOLD PVP BATTLES BASED ON TIERED LEVELS! Levels 1-5 pvp rounds with map specific spots that have unique rewards. This means if I was level 80 and wanted a weapon skin or reward coin of level 1-5, I "SCALE DOWN" to a level 5. This gets everyone equally involved. But you do not go the other direction. A level 1 does not hop into level 80 battles, this makes unlocks to much in advance and unprepares the player. It also gives us sets we do not want and gimps the group all together. When it works high to low, it improves the groups...SIGH. This is Pvp 101, how did they fail so bad?

2) The map is uselss. seriously. With how much we float and skate around the map, allt hose highs, lows,bridges, control points serve as nothing but ways to get us to ZERG. Look at WoW! MAP ration vs in game ration = every piece of land is stratigec. The biggest fail here is that you can not HIDE. So why try and make these elaborate maps. In the end, we are just all on top of each other like a football pile. If you ever played WoW PvP, you would see two sides face off, and one side slowly starts to poke and prod the other, and people form strategic teams to sneak unseen around mountains and drop in, and ....LAND = STRATEGY!
This game just creates land, terrain to say: "Isn't it pretty??? look at all the FLASHY! Now go climb that bridge because we put it there, and to win, you have to cross it and take the tower. Oh and by the way, may the best ZERG win...*FACE PALM*
SEriously guys...I knew my levels 1-10 PvE were dissapointing. And I was hoping GW2 redeemed itself for what it was designed to do...PvP. But this early level PvP is by far one of the worst PvP designs ever! 
Who does it benefit? The kids that like shiny and insta rewards. There is no real "skill". Get in the group, zerg. And lose or win you get rewards. SIGH. I mean, I was a low level noob boosted to 80 and I just joined the ZERG and WON every match XD. 
I have one hold out...perhaps, as I progress in levels and get to keep my weapon load out, I will enjoy it a little more as I use familiar spells to troll the enemy. PErhaps...We shall see, but all in all. BIG WORD of advice...DO NOT DO PVP AS A EARLY LEVEL CHARACTER! Wait for end game. You will thank me.
I suggest, at least, join a WvW PvP as a noob, because it is more open and you can get resources etc. I could not help but look around and wonder who else is a noob like me that is running around gimping the group and whos is supporting it. By logical rations that means, if lost are gimped noobs boosted to 80, just a select hadnfull
over geared level 80 are pulling the entire PvP zerg. Seriously...This makes RIFTS 30 man vs 30 run around spam fest look good... Well my friends. We will try again level 30.

3) PVP armor ONLY?? Seriously?? Now I get it. Here is one of the corner stones of the "oops, we messed up the design" in the PvP. They have to make it Instanced and seperate because once you instance in a pvp map, there is PVP ONLY ARMOR! And guess what, they screwed up so bad, that they are vendors giving away all the pieces you need to start FOR FREE!
So what is carried outside can not be brought inside and vice versa...This game has ZERO cohesion. IS is so disconnected from itself it is like WHAAAA??? Nothing you exploit in PvE will ever carry over now into PvP. and vice versa! I seriously want to stop playing right now -.-.
The Normal PvP also has it's own Leveling system. You start as a level 80 of course, but you have a new EXP bar starting at level 1, or Rabbit rank. As much as you pvp the higher this bar goes up. You have your own currency to gain to but new items etc.. But again, 100% detached from everything you do outside of it. Since no real EXP is given in normal PvP, it is all very skippable until later. The solution: PvE coinsides with PvP sets, and you keep a second "load out" tab of armor to mix and match with the best PvP build gears. Not "magically be wearing them when I enter PvP instances".

(THIS IS HILLARIOUS! Ok, look at the char. I am in a French EU server. So we pair up with other EU countries in PvP. We have German, etc.. Some guy, right after a WvW match, was so mad at the fail PvP design he yelled in english: "Try to learn how to play, seems that you only play wvw zerg..." Sadly, this is NOT THE PLAYERS FAULT. You can not blame a player for using the game how it was DESIGNED to be. Sorry folks, I am not sure how much proof you need to see the fail: Have you ever been so mad you started yelling in english?)

4)*Knocks on Arenet's head* hello! You know what would have been smart? Open World PvP in the PvE areas! it is like they almost wanted too. They installed "contested areas" by NPCS. Basically ALL the results of open world PvP, like in WoW, are there. You wipe out the bad NPCS, hold a spot, and the good NPC come, the teleporters open, etc...So the RESULT of BUILD of open world PvP is there, but they blocked it out and just put NPC (and the same copy and paste ones) in place...How do GW2 fans not see the fail?
That is like me zoning in to a PvP arena, and fighting nothing but NPC waves... it is an Arena...An ARena for PvP. A contested area and held points are PvP ELEMENTS! NOT NPC! *pulls hair out*. And to make matters worse, to admit the screwed up, they give you mass exp to do these "events" they call them. But is basically...IMAGINE this my GW2 friends, You have normal quests, and and can quest in parts of the map PvP safe...then, certain parts open up to PvP wars, like the teleporters, key farms and vendors etc. And they reset to neutral after your presence leaves. Wouldn't that be AWESOME??? That is called EPIC PVP based game. That would be awesome because 1) the teleportes should not even be there.
They are a CONVENIENCE, and a cheap PRIVELAGE (and an excuse to remove mounts). So holding them is just a convenient way of making you play like normal MMORPGS and WALK! This makes sense ESPECIALLY since there are no mounts. Teleproters are an AMAZING incentive to instigate you into PVP battles! What other way to piss off a faction side than cap their Teleporter. They won't break the game since you can just walk around and to your destination, but yeah, it is a luxary worth fighting for. See! GW2 has POTENTIAL! And shoud have been made smart. IT honestly feels like thay had to many teams working on to many elements and ended up with a fail flap jack of a game.

There is no sense of accomplishment in PvP. I can be an undergeared noob that zerged my way to victory. Showere in shiny and rewards and I leave feeling empty (caters to this kind of PvPer). Perfect World PvP still triumphs over this. Working hard in PvE to get gears, then taking battle on the same terrain you PvE'd on to fight for territory and reputation = SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT. AION did this right. WoW is a champion at this. Not here in GW2...where there is not even...guilds that war each other...That is like creating a game called "Dragons Prophet" and not having Dragons...The power of delusion.

All that said. My experience so far DROPS this Guild Wars 2 score, as of levels 11 - 20 to a 1/5. The game has been 20 levels of disappointment. I will try my hardest to put my 40 bucks to full use and push on to levels 21-30. See you in my next review where the score could: RISE - REMAIN - ot FALL! Until next time my friends! 

(This was a silly quest. Some cave guy turns me into a pig so I can dig up mushrooms while avoiding getting 2 shotted by gian trolls...ahhh GW2. When you run out of ideas by level 20 that you start turning us into pigs)

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