It would be an understatement to say that I’m stoked about Guild Wars 2. (Yes, I finally got into the beta site to register.) Cynical bastard that I am, though, even with all the wonderful things I’m hearing and reading about the game, I’ve got a few reservations that are keeping my “This game will be the most perfect thing in the history of perfection” emotions in check. For the most part, I’ll put my trust in ArenaNet to come through when it counts, and they’ve certainly shown that they’re willing and able to overcome MMO inertia and make the right decisions when it comes to challenging “gameplay as usual.” Also, since I haven’t had any hands-on time with the game itself, maybe these are all less troubling than they appear from the outside. But for now, these are some of the biggest unresolved issues that I’ve seen:
80 levels? I know, I know, it’s not going to be a grind, or so ANet says. I know you can hang out with other people at different levels and you’ll be City of Heroes-esque “sidekicked” up or down to match their levels. Still, the whole concept has always sounded a little weird to me, and I played CoH. As I mentioned Monday, levels are one of the last old and tired conventions that MMOs are clinging to, and it would have been nice to see GW2 abandon the concept entirely, like The Secret World is doing, rather than trying a “we’ll-keep-it-but-it-doesn’t-really-mean-anything” approach. My humble prediction? Guild Wars 3 won’t have levels at all.
Crafting. There’s a lot about MMO crafting that bugs me. First, you have to wander around picking up stuff — easy, but not interesting from a gameplay standpoint. Then you have to hope you’ve got the right mix of ingredients — oh, I’m sorry, you have 8,000 hides and 4,000 bits of ore, but there’s that one rare ingredient that drops from one out of every 200 mobs that you also need, so you can’t make anything. And finally, most of the stuff you make is useless until you achieve a certain mastery level with your crafting, by which point you’ve usually outleveled whatever you could make, so crafting is reduced to grinding out 100 suits of armor to maybe be able to make that one item you can actually use.
Crafting is something we probably won’t be able to judge in Guild Wars 2 until we get a chance to really play around with it, and I haven’t even covered the “discovering recipes” aspect of GW2 crafting yet, which seems like it could be equal parts exciting and frustrating. I just hope crafting, which is rarely fun, is at least entertaining and useful and less of a hassle than in most MMOs. (Kudos, at least, for getting rid of the “crafting something might raise your crafting level and it might not” present in games like World of Warcraft and Rift.)
Combo effects. It’s cool that players will be able to “combine” effects, the most-referenced one being an elementalist creating a wall of fire and a ranger firing arrows through it to make flaming arrows. But having seen some of the WvW PvP videos with dozens of characters going at it, firing off practically every ability in their arsenals, it seems like it’ll be very difficult to coordinate these kind of combo attacks with any precision. Things might be better in smaller, five-man dungeons or small open-world groups, but the effects you can interact with won’t always be as obvious as a wall of fire. It might also be that it’ll just take some time to recognize all the effects and use them properly, but it’ll definitely take some training — not to mention combat effectiveness beyond “hey this looks really cool!” to make such efforts worthwhile.
In the grand scheme of things, these are all fairly minor issues. But ANet has shown that it’s paying attention to the “little things” in Guild Wars 2 design. With so many other good decisions being made, it would be a shame if they missed some of these “trifles.”