“Best laid plans” of GW2
Having had a chance to play in both Beta Weekend Events and the Stress test, I now have some actual playing time on which to base my observations and comments. The first thing I want to talk about though, is what a difference actually playing the game makes!
Prior to the BWE’s I, like many fans waiting for the game, spent a lot of time watching videos and reading every scrap of information that the wiki had mined. I reviewed skill lists and poured over every trait for every profession. I engaged in many debates with friends about what weapon set was "best" for a particular profession and which professions would be easy or hard to learn and master. When I pre-ordered and guaranteed my spot in the BWE’s, I was excited because I would have a chance to put all of my plans to the test.
And what plans I had! I had mapped out eight characters (one for each profession), including race, preferred weapon sets, crafting choices and the answers to all of the biographical questions. I had decided which profession was my favorite and which was my least favorite. Ditto for the races. All I had to do in the BWE was verify that my reading and wiki research was correct.
I started with a Charr Thief since that was one profession that I was on the fence about. Since Charr were my favorite race out of the three playable races, I thought that choosing Charr would help shed the best light possible on the Thief. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Charr starting area is dark, dirty and very, very brown. It makes a very poor first impression (in my humble opinion). Thief is also probably not the best profession to start with. It requires a certain finesse and familiarity with dodging and the mobility-based nature of Guild Wars 2 combat. Although I had read about this and knew it at a conceptual level, putting it into practice was something else entirely. So I died a lot because the self-heal can’t outpace the damage you take if you stand still in melee combat. It can’t even keep up if you stand still in ranged combat. I persevered though and got to a point in my personal story where I couldn’t find the NPC that I had to talk to. So, frustrated, I rolled a new character.
The Mesmer was another profession that I was on the fence about. Norn were my least favorite race going into the BWE, but after the poor impression that the Charr had left with me, I figured I’d give them a try. My initial impression of the Mesmer was also not good because the mainhand sword that I started with just did not fit my idea of the playstyle for a Mesmer. I wanted a ranged weapon! However, I kept at it and eventually got a Greatsword as a loot drop. Followed quickly by a Staff. With these two weapons, I really started to enjoy the Mesmer. I also found that I was loving the Norn area! Reluctantly, I decided that I should try out another profession that I had been on the fence about.
My third character in Guild Wars 2 was a Human Engineer. When the Engineer was first announced, I was excited. But after reading various articles and seeing the profession in action in Press Beta videos and reading over everything that the wiki had, it had dropped all the way down to eighth place. Once again though, I was surprised when I actually got to play it. I liked the profession much better than I had expected, despite finding the Flamethrower to feel totally ineffective. So much for that skill on my planned bar…
Although I had planned not to play the Necromancer (because it was a lock for #1 favorite profession), I eventually caved and played it as well. Between the two BWE’s, I managed to get him up to 24th level and to complete the personal story as far as it would let me play it. Although the profession has dropped from a clear favorite into a slim lead over Thief and Engineer, it is still my first choice. However, my plans for weapon sets and utility skills have completely changed! I had thought that I would go with Dagger/Warhorn and a Staff. After actually playing the game, I was underwhelmed by the Staff (one ranged attack and 4 "traps" on long cooldowns). The mainhand Dagger is a true melee weapon with a miniscule range which doesn’t suit my style at all. I wound up using an Axe with a Focus offhand as my main set for 99% of the time and I barely ever used the weapon swap because I was just that unimpressed with the other options.
My final "best laid plan" that has gone seriously awry is the Guardian. Again, when it was announced, I loved it because it seemed to have some elements of the Ritualist (spirit weapons, healing/support) that I liked in the original. However, when I played it, I didn’t have any ranged weapons until I found a scepter and that felt weak. When I tried to go toe-to-toe with a foe, I wound up getting my backside spanked. I briefly tried out the Guardian again in BWE2 and found that the speed of the scepter was vastly improved, so that helped a bit. But my overall impression of the profession is that it just feels weak. So it dropped from second place all the way to eighth.
If there’s any comfort in my plans falling to dust, it’s that it wasn’t just me that this was happening to. Talking to my guildies after the events revealed the same things happening to them. Somebody who was dead set on the Elementalist tried a Guardian on a whim and wound up loving it so much they leveled it past their Elementalist. Another guildie found the Charr area as grimy as I did and also discovered that the Norn were far more enjoyable than they had anticipated. There are too many similar stories to recount all of them here.
So the beta events have taught me something that I already knew — there’s no substitute for experience! Armed with some actual playtesting, I’m now off to the drawing board to draft new plans. I have profession/race combinations to change and weapon sets to reconsider. I also did enough crafting to know that there’s so much overlap in materials that trying to pursue all eight crafting disciplines across four characters will be very difficult or very expensive. Which means that there’s more plans I need to revise.
For anyone who has been planning what characters they’ll roll — if you haven’t had a chance to try the game, I would seriously recommend pre-purchasing it so you can get into the next BWE and try things out. Reading about stuff is one thing and watching videos is nice, but actually playing the game is an entirely different experience.
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