It’s quiet around here, isn’t it? Sorry about that, I’ve been stomping around the land of Tyria slapping dragon worshippers upside the head with my incredibly long braided beard all weekend.
This weekend, ArenaNet opened up their forthcoming baby, Guild Wars 2, for another weekend of public beta testing, stress testing and other kinds of testing. Well, as public as asking people to pre-purchase the game to participate and dishing out a limited number of account keys in a variety of ways gets. My character’s a norn warrior, by the way. Norn are like humans, only by nature a couple of feet taller (a little bulkier, too), influenced by Nordic history and mythology in the real world and given an entire culture centred around hunting for sport and glory for the most part, which made for a surprising storyline in the first Guild Wars (specifically, its last and only expansion) where, in order to convince the norn to aid your character in his or her quest to defeat a potentially world-ending threat, you had to show your potential allies that said threat was the best prey ever bar none. I kid you not. Also, they can “become the bear”, which basically means transforming into an axe-wielding anthromorphic grizzly hell-bent on dislocating your head from its shoulders. Tell a lie, they use other weapons too.
In the second game, the norn, in becoming a playable race (the first game was all about the humans), have had something of a cultural expansion. Where most of the norn you meet in the first game were almost always hunters and warriors, with the odd skald (okay, just the one) the sequel sees many becoming authors, sculptors, priests etc. My lore’s a little rusty, so this might have been the case all along, a shift that occured over the course of the 250 years between the two games or a straightforward retcon. Whatever the case, their ‘gods’, the animal spirits, are given a lot more coverage this time.
So, these Beta Weekend Events. They are, like betas in general, something of a pain for me, not helped by the fact that RPG maths just isn’t my strong suit. I could probably read up on all the published information in the world about any pre-open beta online RPG yet as soon as I get into one I find my brain may as well have thrown its map out of the window long before reaching the first roundabout. There’s so much to learn in three days, if one even has that time to spare. And if you do, lay off the Red Bull and hit the sack for a bit, okay? It’s not healthy.
In this second BWE, I was armed with what I’d bumbled into learning through the first, but it was still not enough. I was derping all over the Shiverpeak Mountains like a certain over-eager Monk Henchman from the first game, more or less. Only with added failure to read skill descriptions properly, which is probably even more criminal since there are so few of them per profession this time around. It’s taken until this BWE to realise that a skill that insta-revives my character after being downed only goes and kills you after 15 seconds and also to click that 50 extra points of healing from a skill just isn’t worth the extra 40 seconds recharge time imposed upon it. I learned eventually and altered my build accordingly. On a side note, for those who have any idea what I’m talking about, Savage Leap > Kick > Shield Bash is a fun skill combo. It may or may not be an effective one in some players’ eyes, but it is fun.
I also gave myself a mini heart attack when, after using the option to send collectible ingredients to my ingame Bank account from the middle of the map, I returned to a Bank NPC only to find that nothing had actually turned up in my storage. And then I discovered the Collectibles tab in the Bank window, where they actually went. Cue facepalm.
Crafting is also taking its sweet time to make sense, but that’s a part of the game that remains somewhat disaster-free. It is starting to make sense, though, and the Discovery system has become like like tossing a load of chemicals into a pot and awaiting the result with gleeful optimism and no beaker exploding in your face. And the chemicals are weapons and armour parts, at least for my character.
Nevertheless, in spite of all this bumbling, I’ve persevered and somehow managed not to snap at someone. Betas have made me cranky in the past, one particular game seeing me get into an argument with an extremely fanatical furry that saw the lead developer of its only other rival at the time as some kind of MMO antichrist. The more I’ve cottoned onto, the more I’ve enjoyed the game in spite of the sub-double-digits framerates I’ve been getting (I may be overdue a massive PC upgrade). I’ve enjoyed my character’s personal story and how the lore of Guild Wars 2 ties into its predecessor, though encounters with the Charr have felt strange.
In Guild Wars 1 this catlike race worshipped fire and knew nothing but war and trying to stomp over any territories outside of their own, but the 250 years since the that games events (which included the player helping them ditch their fire gods) have turned what used to be a monster army to fight against into the most technologically advanced civilisation in Tyria. The emphasis on civilisation there. Where once every charr you pass wanted to cut you up and throw your remains onto a pyre, many now run farms or have turned their skills to other non-combat professions and will often greet you with a smile and a job to do.
That’s my character, probably cooking up a cunning plan worthy of Raven’s approval.
What of my own character? Every character gets what’s called the aforementioned personal story, which offers a chain of missions based on multiple choice questions that define your character’s past before the events of the game. My norn warrior, The Pointless, worships the Raven, which represents cunning, trickery and knowledge (ironically all three I lack) and he has a bit of a revenge thing going. Nothing traumatic like the loss of a loved one at some big bad’s hands, though. That story choice just boils down to settling a score with someone he lost a brawl against. By way of entering a tournament that saw him flatten goodness knows how many in a free-for-all and making off with a dragon worshipper’s prized helm to qualify in the semifinals. There was some brilliant dialogue in a lot of that too. The term “dolyak’s arse” is t-shirt material.
The first part of that personal story was dependent on my character’s religious choice and, because of my choice of Raven Spirit, revolved around saving a lesser animal spirit – specifically Minotaur – from aforementioned dragon worshippers the Sons of Svanir. Choice moments in that storyline include tricking a group of these fanatical norn into drinking themselves so stupid they won’t notice when you release their captive minotaurs back into the wild. That was a laugh.
Sadly, that’s as far as the personal story went in the BWE, presumably because ArenaNet didn’t want players to get too far before the launch proper. Makes sense, really. Not a major problem, though. By the time I reached that point, it was Sunday, I’d clocked up a stupid amount of time in the game already and I was overdue a break. But, hey, I clocked up those stupid hours enjoying myself.