Yet another beta test. Continent of the Ninth Seal (C9) is an interesting hybrid- it feels like a mix of action RPG with dustings of a FB social game (without the daily limits and corresponding pandering for micropurchases). Like anything else in the F2P model, it does have those... but it's not rampant like limited-action games.
First issue was the client download. Found a few different links, either a compressed full-install EXE or four setup files. Got those installed and removed the stupid social sharing program that was included. I had applied a key to get a head start to open beta, but when I tried to launch the client, it said it wasn't available until OBT start. Didn't play with it too much, but waited until the OBT did start... and still got the same issue. Turns out there was a web link that installed a browser plugin, which updated/passed info to the client. After that first time on the web launcher, I've been able to start the launcher itself and avoid the web interface.
(Fonts at 1600x1050 were too small, so I'm stuck at 1024x768 on a widescreen monitor. Not the game's fault, though- my monitor or graphics card doesn't seem to like the other options for 16:9/10 ratios).
There's a few steps to loggin in that seem annoying- pick US vs EU server before game starts, pick world once in game (only one at the moment), choose character, tjhen pick instance. The chat window overlays the loading screen and is still available, which is an interesting change vs. most laoding screens, but also makes it feel a bit cluttered and busy wit the loading bar and other information on the screen. That's the only time I can read chat, though- opacity is set a bit too high and so far I can't find an option to change it to read stuff while in town or instance.
The game itself is an interesting mix. There's cutscenes with text in speech bubbles (which I can't read) and the same text underneath. Not sure why they go both routes, but I can at least read what's going on, when they use that method. Other times, it's put in the chat window, which isn't very visible, either. Haven't found anything that important, though, so not too worried about it.
Talking with key NPCs brings up a nice dialog box, dark background, decent buttons for dialog choices and color-coded quests to accept in a separate panel. When in town, you can highlight a quest and see a dotted line you can follow to the turn-in point, which is kinda nice.
You leave the town by choosing an instance and a difficulty level (unlocked when you complete a preivous one). The first few instances (which is as far as I've gotten) take 5 to 10 mins or so to play through. At first it was doing tutorial quests- both for the game itself (play through this instance on Normal difficulty; now try it on hard, now try it on expert) and for new skills acquired (go to the trainer, learn this skill, go to an instance and use this skill or this combo with said skill). After a few runs through, I got a few story quests- same instances, but with a purpose (collect loot drops, click an object in the instance, etc.).
Kill the boss at the end of the instanc and you get graded on time, skill, etc., and some random loot rewards based on how well you did. Then it's back to town to turn in those quests, get new ones, and repeat until you can get to another instance. (As I said, here's where the social-media-esque feeling shines through- if you went to a screen that said 'blacksmith', 'store', 'trainer', etc. instead of roaming free in a town, you'd swear you were on Facebook.)
Combat is decent; levels come quickish and grant you new abilities. Skill choices seem pretty linear at the start, especially when you want to follow the tutorial quests that tell you what skill to pick up and use next. There is an extensive in-game help system that even includes movies of your combat moves in action, which is pretty unique.
Loot drops in the instances are pretty rare, at least at my low levels. I probably got 3 or so pieces for another class for every piece I got for my class. Almost all of this was via quest rewards and not mob drops. There's a crafting system to make more, with pretty standard fare (metalsmith, woodsmith, alchemy, cook, etc.). Disassemble items for components, combine components... standard fare.
(Crafting did bring about one small issue- armor information doens't include type. I chose Metalsmith for my profession, so I'll definitely have weapons... but can a warrior-mage wear metal armors in this game, or should I have gone with a lighter armor crafting choice?)
Since Guild Wars 2 won't be out 'til August 28th, it looks like this might hold me for a few weeks. Especially under free-to-play model, sure doesn't hurt to check it out.