Guild Wars 2 – My First 5

Outside of a few glitches, my early access experience went pretty smoothly. Unlike other launches, I didn’t have to wait in queue to log in, and although other people experienced login issues, I wasn’t one of them. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t playing in the first few hours of the launch. In fact, I didn’t even log in until almost lunchtime on Saturday because my husband and I had been celebrating our anniversary out of town.

The first order of business, of course, was creating my new characters since none of the beta weekend or stress test characters/items/cash carried over into launch. I had a hard time deciding who my Fynralyl would be since I both wanted her to fit my idea of who Fynralyl is as well as be a character I would enjoy playing past more than the first few levels. While I am really interested in most of the professions, I knew that certain ones, especially melee classes like the Thief, wouldn’t exactly be my cup of tea so to speak.

My very first Fynralyl was a gnome rogue in the first D&D game I played with my husband. There is a Thief class in Guild Wars 2, but as I mentioned in my previous post, I was very hot/cold with the class and knew I didn’t want to tie up my main name on a class I just wasn’t sure about. So, I started looking at other Fynralyls in my gaming history. More recently, I’ve had a Sith Inquisitor and a Smuggler in SWTOR, as well as my Shaman in WoW that were all named Fynralyl. The Elementalist could stand in for either the Inquisitor or Shaman in different ways, but I still think of the Elementalist as a mage-like character, so knew that wasn’t going to feel right either. Engineer is probably the closest to a Smuggler in GW2, but I had no love for the small amount of time I played one. Engineer was definitely not going to be one of my first five GW2 characters created. I was stumped. I wanted my first character to feel right as Fynralyl because no matter if another class levels faster or gets more playtime, I still think of Fyn as me.

Another first Fynralyl was the very first one I played in an MMO. Not long before Wrath of the Lich King came out, I started playing WoW with my friend (and within a few hours my husband joined in as well). My first Fynralyl, created on a PvP server no less, was a Holy Paladin. Since my friend was a Prot Warrior, we leveled all the way from 1-80 as a team and had a blast doing it. I never switched to another spec. I learned to help DPS with Holy Shock and Judgements, stacking crit to have them count (and score bonus heals). I was Holy and I was a healer, but I wasn’t just a healer.

I was hesitant to try a Guardian in Guild Wars 2 because of the whole melee thing. I’d heard that it was a lot like a pally, but I was still not sure I wanted to have a melee main, despite the fact that my Shaman was Enhancement and I’d leveled another Paladin as Prot (also named Fynralyl, but on a different server), I still didn’t think I would do well with it. And let’s face it, we all want to do well and have fun in a new game. I had played a Guardian for a few minutes during the only beta weekend I was involved in and I remembered liking the mace ability that felt like Consecration. I said, sure… why not! Worst case, I would hate playing it and I’d have to delete and reroll as a new profession.

So, as a nod to the very first Fynralyl, who was a gnome rogue in D&D and to my first MMO Fyn, who was a holy paladin, the first official character I rolled in Guild Wars 2 was Fynralyl, Asura Guardian:

Isn’t she adorable?

Naming and creating my next four were a lot easier. Vystrie, Norn Mesmer:

Kturra, Charr Thief

Nyevnen, Sylvari Elementalist

And finally, Lindria Lorlach, my Human Ranger, who is named after the first character I ever made in D&D, even before I made the name Fynralyl Raydona.

I spent most of the weekend playing on Fynralyl and had a great time. I did, however, have a few gripes that others have likely gone into more detail about. First off, grouping was not working well. A big part of that was the instanced overflow areas. I play MMOs as a way to play with specific people in my life, you know, like my husband. If we didn’t have our timing down, one of us would be in an overflow while the other was in the main map. Someone might then recommend that we not take the “travel” option and stay in overflow. Except this doesn’t work either as there are multiple overflow instances and no way to bounce between them. In fact, we came out of an instanced story that we’d participated in together as a group in a party, and were then put in different overflow instances. It was beyond frustrating. I know that it was a major issue for my friend Anexxia and her guy. I do, however, have every confidence that they’ll adjust it as they get everything ironed out during launch. I just hope it happens sooner rather than later.

Another bone of contention for me is that the Black Lion Trading Post (ie: auction house) was down all weekend. Now, I’m not one who plays the Trading Post to make as much cash as possible, just to have it. I do, however, like selling off excess mats and finished goods so they’re not cluttering my bags or becoming vendor fodder. Not having an outlet meant that not only are my characters strapped for cash, but the single small bank that they all have to share is bursting at the seams. While raw and refined mats each have their own slot in the shared crafting bank, if you exceed the max stack, those items can’t be deposited. Also, any component pieces you make (like settings, rings and hooks for my jewelcrafter) have to go into the main regular bank that only has 30 total slots. Combine this with the finished goods I haven’t been able to unload and my bank already looks like this:

Again, I’m sure they’ll bring the Trading Post up as soon as possible, but this only served to highlight how limited storage really is in the game. If it were just limited storage, it wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s also the only method to move items between characters unless you have a trustworthy friend to mail items through. Unlearned dyes that I want a specific character to use and crafted weapons, like the dual axes in the above screenshot, have to be stashed somewhere while I wait to get things sorted out. Don’t get me wrong, the shared bank space has its perks, but I think it should be in addition to character specific space. Just like five sisters can’t share a single bathroom without catfights, 30 slots of non-crafting material bank space is enough to start a riot between my five girls.

Even with these couple of gripes I have, I’m still having so much fun playing my new game. Guild Wars 2 is definitely my kind of game. Off I go to explore some more!

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Free to Play

I’ll be honest. I’ve never been a fan of the Free-to-Play model because it usually translates to Nickel-and-Dime-to-Play-via-Microtransactions model. I know myself. I’m a spender. I could definitely see myself paying more via microtransactions than a subscription. I also hate feeling penned in. The potential of data restrictions on my phone makes me bonkers, so I’ll be paying full price for phones as long as it means I can keep my unlimited data. Monitoring usage or spending is so not something I want to do with my fun time.

With Guild Wars 2 coming up, I had to start rethinking my stance on the issue. In GW2, there is no subscription model. It’s purely a purchase and play game, with the option of buying cosmetic items in the cash shop. I’m not sure yet how much I might be tempted by things in the cash shop of GW2. There’s plenty in the game to enjoy without paying for extras. I’ve been ready to accept this, especially since I think it will be a casual playground for me. I just want to run around in the game and explore all the beautiful world.

Then there was the rumor (now confirmed) that Star Wars: The Old Republic was going free to play (F2P). See, here’s where I had a problem. Usually when a previously subscription based game goes F2P, they completely convert over. You suddenly find yourself in a position of having to pay for things you didn’t have to think about before. This was the last thing I wanted for my current MMO of choice. It would be enough to drive me away.

But EA actually did something smart here. Instead of going pure F2P, like I had feared, they went for a hybrid. Customers can play to level 50 for free (with restrictions) but they can also choose to have a fully unlimited playing opportunity by subscribing (or remaining subscribed) to the game. There’s really a model for just about everyone (I’ll get to the exception shortly). I went from being very anti-F2P, to actually considering taking the F2P model in place of my subscription. All because they didn’t take my subscription away from me. Isn’t it crazy the way that works sometimes? I would have hated it if I didn’t have the option of keeping my subscription, but now I may happily give it up because the F2P model being offered covers most (if not all) of what I want to still enjoy in the game.

I can’t go into the all the details right now because my gaming news access is limited at work, but I will post some links later for those that want more information. However, here’s a brief rundown on the more pertinent details of the news:

Subscription: Remains $14.99 USD/month, and includes all current access, plus priority in login queues and bonus cash shop currency. As far as I can tell, subs lose nothing.

F2P: Unlimited class story content through level 50. Limited access during character creation, limited access to methods of travel, limited number of warzones, flashpoints and space missions each week. Extremely limited Galactic Trade Network access (to hinder F2P credit farmers I assume) and NO OPERATIONS.

Class story is, by far, the most important reason I play SWTOR, so I’m very happy to see that no matter which choice I make, I will be able to enjoy them fully. Character creation restrictions would bother me if I hadn’t already created most of my characters. This would only be an issue if for some reason they decided to retroactively restrict when an account goes F2P. I don’t see this happening, as I had actually been paying for a subscription during the time the characters were created. I’m not sure about limited travel options, but we’ll have to see on that one. As far as warzones, flashpoints and space missions go, I don’t see them as an issue for myself. Besides running new characters once or twice though The Esseles or Black Talon, I avoid all of the above. Limited access to the GTN may be an issue, just because I use it to unload my excess gear and mats. Again, not sure how severely restricted, but we’ll have to see.

By far the biggest limit on F2P accounts with the new model will be the zero access to Operations, which are SWTOR’s version of a raid and the primary endgame content. Now, this isn’t a big deal for me personally, because I’m not big on endgame anyway, but I know that there are many in the community that this will impact. They really only have two choices if Operations are the only thing they’re interested in: Subscribe or don’t play. Now, I don’t think there’s anything to say they couldn’t re-sub for new content, then drop back to a F2P model while waiting for new content. I think a lot of them will do this. However, I think most will just skip it and get their endgame content elsewhere. Again, it doesn’t affect me directly, but I do love to see others happy and excited to play the games I love.

Will I go F2P with SWTOR? I don’t know, yet, but the chances improved greatly today when I was able to find out more about it. I’m looking forward to playing both GW2 and SWTOR over the next few months. There’s also a chance we will pick up the Mists of Pandaria expansion, so being able to drop my 2nd sub (locked into Blizzard’s Annual Pass right now) would definitely be nice. Maybe play with the pandas for a couple of months, then drop that sub too and just play my free games.

Nice to feel like I have options.

Guild Wars 2 – Late to the Party

Confession:

I was in the final Guild Wars 2 beta this last weekend and I only took screen shots once (but I always take extras “just in case”! So you get a whole whopping TWO screen shots in this post.) I apologize in advance for the wall of text. I’m not generally a gaming blogger, so taking screen shots was the last thing on my mind. As a rule, I also don’t get involved in very many beta opportunities. I would rather experience and explore everything  when it’s fresh, new and READY.

An Exception to Every Rule:

I’ve seen rumblings about Guild Wars 2 for about half a year. I casually asked my husband what it was all about and he said that based on everything he had seen, it was primarily focused on PvP. If any of you know me at all, you know I do not PvP. So, we both ignored it indefinitely as yet another MMO that wouldn’t be worth our time to try. Neither of us are into trying every single game out there, so we’re very choosy on which ones we give a chance.

Last week, with the final beta weekend coming up, GW2 was being talked about by a lot of our friends on twitter and Psynister brought me into a conversation by saying that since it was a PvP focused game, we wouldn’t be playing it. Now, if any of you know him, you know that he lives, eats, breaths, dreams PvP. I replied that he was making me sound mean and that if he really wanted to try it he could, as long as he didn’t stop playing #SWTOR with me.

That’s when our fabulous twitter friends told us we had it all wrong. While the PvP was exciting to talk about because of the way it’s being done differently, it was far from the main focus. In fact, there would be plenty of PvE things to keep me occupied. We both went very quickly from disinterested to anticipating with everything that we saw or read about the way the game worked. Many of the features we saw seemed tailor-made to our playstyles. That’s when we decided that we needed to check it out and started pestering anyone who would listen about getting beta invites so we could check it out before committing to buying the game.

Disclaimer: While this was certainly our reason for seeking beta access, I want to be clear that both of us are serious about beta testing as well. We weren’t just taking beta slots to check it out, but actively participated in testing. We filled out every survey that popped up and reported several bugs.

Playtime!

After scoring some beta invites (Psynister via twitter, myself via one of my awesome SWTOR guildies) we prepared for a weekend filled with games. Unfortunately for Psynister, his plans were severely cut down because he was busy helping his dad help us by fixing the drywall in our kitchen that is in the middle of an unexpected renovation. I know he’s going to be posting his own opinions from his more limited play time, but here are mine.

It should come as no surprise that I maxed out my five character slots while checking everything out this weekend. In fact, I also deleted and re-rolled one slot, so I made a total of six characters. It was my first and only Guild Wars 2 beta weekend and I had to check as much out as possible to decide if I wanted to buy the game.

Nyevnen, leaf chick

My first character was a Sylvari Elementalist. Love the Elementalist. I think my favorite elements were fire and earth, using a staff. While I think it’s cool that your abilities change depending on what weapon you’re using, it also has some drawbacks (more on that later). As the first racial area that I explored, I really enjoyed it. Initially, it was difficult to find my character’s connection, but I really began to hate the Nightmare Court for what they were doing to corrupt the Sylvari. Also, it was beautiful there!

Ill-fated thief, Fynralyl

My second character was an Asura Thief. Asura as small, cute and a little on the creepy side. I’m not sure why, but their teeth scare me a little. Kind of like a Gizmo that hasn’t turned into a gremlin yet. I mostly got past that by the end of the weekend. I really liked my little thief. The dagger abilities were a lot of fun. I was using a dagger in my main hand and a pistol in the offhand for the first three levels. Then, just as I got a main hand upgrade (a second pistol) I tried to go into my first instanced personal story and crashed to desktop. It was beta afterall. Unfortunately, the crash locked me down pretty hard on that character. Any time I tried to load her, I would get an error related to not finding the affected mission. I opened a ticket for her on my Sylvari and got to work on other characters. Late in the day on Sunday, I tried again and CS had bumped her out of the instance so I excitedly tried her again. And hated it. I didn’t like the abilities of the pistol/pistol combination nearly as much as the dagger/pistol abilities. It made me very sad since I had sold my nice dagger and I simply stopped having fun. Also, my husband had progressed on his Asura Elementalist and I didn’t want to make him come back with downgraded abilities just to help me out. So she was eventually deleted to make room for another character.

Kturra, the short-lived

My third character was a Charr Warrior. I don’t think I got her past level two. She looked cool and what I remember of her abilities, they weren’t bad. I don’t know if it was just that it was late and I was tired or if I was just having a hard time getting into her story, but she just kind of stayed there.

Lindria Lorlach, & her friend Gale

My fourth character was a Human Ranger. I needed a character that had the highest potential of solo play because hubby was working with his dad for most of the weekend and I figured having a pet would help with that. I really liked both the human story as well as the ranger playstyle. She was only one of two characters that passed level 10 (not by much) and I liked being able to swap between her axes and her bow depending on which abilities I needed. This was one case where the differing weapon abilities was a good thing. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the city and the surrounding environs. I also really wanted a chance to flirt with that Seraph leader. Yum. Alas, it was not to be. Lindria is also the only one who had her image captured.

Tree-hugging Lillythe

My fifth character was a Norn Engineer. I really like the depth of the Norn area, even though I didn’t get her very far along. Not a huge fan of the Engineer, though. My perception of the Norn area visually and content in the first few levels, is that it felt like a combination of Dwarf, Tauren and Vrykul from WoW. The best parts of all three. Absolutely loved the hair options when customizing my girl.

Asura take #2, Aelsynia

Remember I said I deleted the Thief? I had to roll another character in her place. This time my Asura was a Guardian and she was a little more cute/less creepy than her predecessor. The Guardian doesn’t have as many damaging abilities, at least in the first few levels, so she felt more like a support character. Her survivability was really good though because she had great combinations of healing and defensive abilities, so it’s a profession I think I may try when it comes to release time.

Other thoughts

Overall, I really enjoyed the game visually. One of my favorite things to do was to hunt Vistas, cutscenes that took some figuring to get to, but really showed off the artwork. I also really enjoyed how highly customizable the characters were. I also loved most of the gear (and the ability to change colors to suit my taste)! In fact, that’s why I took the one screen shot that I did. I really loved the bandit costume my Ranger got to wear and was really sad that I didn’t get to keep it. In fact, here’s another picture of it, just because it’s the only other screen shot I got.

Gale likes to rawr at Lindria, in case you couldn’t tell.

I also loved how explorable the world felt. You don’t have to get very far in before you start seeing that you can any of several different paths to continue your leveling experience. I’m looking forward to see everything eventually. For a completionist like me, I felt encouraged to check everything out and tick them off on my map lists. Being rewarded with more than just experience certainly helps.

One thing I had looked forward to, but found annoying was the “sidekick” effect. Designed to allow higher level characters to go back and help lower level friends while still being challenged as if the quests were “at level”, Psynister and I both were really excited to see it in action. It would be perfect for a couple like us that often gets out of sync because one plays a little more than another. Unfortunately, it doesn’t bring you down to the lowest level in the party, but the level of the quest. Since we were both doing all of the hearts, vistas, points of interest and events, we were outpacing the quests around us. We were level 10, but both of our effective levels were 8. I don’t know about the rest of you, but sometimes I want to go to a lower level area to relax, farm, etc. This basically takes that aspect away. I wish that it would simply have an on/off switch in the interface, so players could decide when they wanted their effective level reduced or stay overpowered.

Even with the handful of gripes I have, there’s still plenty to interest me in the game, so we’ve decided to buy it. I think it’s going to be a great game and while the story itself isn’t compelling enough to pull me away from SWTOR, it’s going to be a fun playground to mess around in.

TL&DR: Didn’t think I would like GW2, videos got me interested, scored beta invite, I made a lot of characters, had fun on most, think the world is very pretty, will buy the game to explore it all, was disappointed by the effective level reduction feature, but buying the game!