Apr 29, 2012

Guild Wars 2 Beta Impressions (and Diablo III beta comparison)

Pre-purchased Guild Wars 2 a few weeks ago, and this was the first of the three beta events. So, here's impressions.

No real notes on install- entire download/game was a single .exe that downloaded a single 13 gb .dat file- very portable and easy to move. No idea if/where anything is saved (can't find anything in appdata, etc), but if the end game is like that, well, more power to 'em....

So, on to game impressions!
  • I tried Charr thief (primary), Human warrior, and Charr elementalist. The introductions pretty much played out the same way- thrown into the fray, fight some regular stuff, keep going, fight some more, then fight a big boss. Two of the three times in the boss fight, I was downed (but not killed) in the first hit, and the third I managed to avoid it until almost the end of the fight.
  • There was a definite lack of training/introduction- there was the typical MMO popup helps ("Move with the WASD keys!"), but you pretty much start fighting right away and don't really get time to understand your skills/etc. It IS an open/active world, though- I guess it's hard to do this differently. Didn't mix well with the speed of the intro, though.
  • I started w/ Charr Thief, did a few things in the low-level area, then went to the main Charr hub, the Black Citadel. Very hard to navigate and get used to (worse than The Exodar was when I first made a draenei)- it's what made me start my other characters. Spent a few hours trying to find where to continue the main story quest before giving up and going back to Ashford.
  • Melee does just as much damage as ranged and needs to be close to take more damage in fights. Ranged can get into fights from furher away- in one-on-one, it's probably balanced, in group fights it's hard for melee to keep up w/o teleport-to-target type skills.
  • One skill point earned each level and a handful of skill points available on map events. Skill abilities seemed balanced for skill points, but many skills (at least for thief) seemed somewhat generic, and a few missing- you hide in shadows to heal and can lose aggro when you do it, and you can shadowstep to hop from one spot to another w/o detection, but really, no backstab or sneak?
  • Better crafting system w/ limited-use tools and components > parts > specific armor pieces. Not sure on progression (nothing indicated) or pieces at higher levels.
User interface wasn't too dramatic:
  • Lots of white backgrounds in the beginning- launcher and login screen in particular. The panels during creation and once in game had various dark background and white text, so not too horrible, but they also tossed in some transparency that would've been nice to choose to remove.
  • Options include UI scale to make stuff bigger. I didn't notice a difference, though. Text was mostly legible, except for more bright-red for inventory info that was a little hard to read.
  • I had to use pisto (follow the bullet path) to find mobs in several instances- more contrast for mobs in general (and particularly targeted mob) would be nice.
Overall, as I expected with my Diablo III beta post, I'm definitely happier with this choice over Diablo III. I want to check out more race and class combos (hopefully with a better capital layout than the Black Citadel) and get to the new content. The dynamic events kept things active and kept grind to a minimum. The game has a buy-with-real-money system but it doesn't feel intrusive or unbalancing, and there's so much content that already exists- it doesn't feel like it's built specificly for later expansion packs out of the gate. It's tougher, and takes work- it's not just tank-and-spank, you get downed a lot, you do have to manage money on item repairs (and inventory space unless you spent some time farming materials or extra cash)... but I think it's going to be a lot more enjoyable.

Apr 22, 2012

Diablo III Open Beta thoughts

So, found out about the Diablo III Open Beta this weekend. Several thoughts on it.

Pre-play impressions:
  • Installer doesn't offer installing to a different location; you have to move it yourself. The first time I moved it, I didn't realize it was updating/verifying the new location, thought it was downloading the whole thing again. Really, being able to choose an install location is pretty much a given nowadays.
  • I had client installed at 10:45 and tried to play, and got an error. A quick google search showed me that it was that the beta didn't start until noon PDT so I didn't have access... but could've saved a TON of forum posts if it said access denied instead of just "Cannot connect: Error 3005" or whatever.
It opened at 2pm, and they were stress testing with the millions of peeople that wanted in. Went out for late lunch/early dinner... didn't get in before I left, got home around 5pm or so and then got in fine.

So, on to the gameplay impressions:
  • Loot values seemed a little outta whack in spots. Maybe it was light vs heavy, but torso armor was 12, 13, 15, etc., and then suddenly 48, 51, 53. Shield slot had a similar (though much smaller) jump as well.
  • Magic items, except for one set piece I got off the Skeleton King, were blues and identified. No ID mob or scrolls that I could find to figure out that one unidentified item, but really, I knew it was gonna be better than anything I had. Having most the stuff already identified sorta lost a bit of the "Ooh, magic item!" feel and money management for ID scrolls from D2.
  • Loot drops seemed uncannily programmed to take up JUST enough space in inventory before I completed my objective and was sent back to town. I never heard any message about "my pack is too full" or the like, no inventory management ever necessary. (I did have to Town Portal once (end of second fllor of a three- or four-floor dungeon), but again, it was right at the end of the floor, like it knew I was at a break point to go back before venturing to the next level.
  • Crafting system was mediocre. I got one tooth (never used it) and made a few items, but the 'totally random' effects make it difficult to want to use. (Then again, I had way too much gold, even with upgrading the blacksmith and buying a few items, so salvaging all my blues wasn't a big deal.)
  • Normal difficulty setting was incredibly easy. I didn't die once, and used a whole two heals in the whole time I played- both in the fight against the Skeleton King before I recognized his patterns. I changed my secondary skill back to the first ability instead of my AoE heal because I never used it. (Maybe monk's just that beefy?)
  • No real sense of choice/decision. Each level you got a new ability or rune or whatever, and it was obviously better than what you had before. Only time I ever strayed with what was most recent was to get rid of unneeded AoE heal.
Thoughts on the UI:
  • Item tooltip DPS and AC values were unnecessarily large. 95% of the time I looked at items, I was comparing magical properties- those should use more real estate (and a brighter font). Visuals on elemental damage weapons and stat changes if equipped were nice, though.
  • Text was small in general. Dropping resolution usually helps this, but the game seemed to make sure text stayed the same size no matter what resolution.
  • The fog in the overworld was annoying. I understand it's dark, dreary, forsaken, etc., but it just felt washed-out. Interiors looked nice, though, and weren't too dark (or bright).
I probably spent four to six hours on this first act w/ the one character. Granted I could go back and do it with the other few choices, but it feels very bare on content and overall value. Even if there were eight more acts at same length (or four to five of increasing length), that still doesn't equate to much content by today's standards. I didn't find the usual nonessential dungons with a few floors' worth of loot- only a few cellars and "Sorry, your king is in another crypt" sections. I uninstalled when I finished the first act- I had no real desire to go back and try a different class or see if there was anything else hiding in the wilderness.

I'll see next weekend, but I'm already pretty convinced I made the riht choice with GW2 instead.