Thanks to a certain Tarutaru melee pal currently under the employment of ArenaNet, a few friends and I were able to get in to the Guild Wars 2 beta when it either was or was just coming out of alpha. I had planned to post about it here and keep them under lock and key until the NDA was lifted but ended up with cold feet. The NDA we were required to sign involved us having to sign and fax documents directly to ArenaNet with copies of our ID. That felt like a bad ass enough NDA that I didn't want to risk being sold.
Truth be told, I only solidly played and enjoyed the first weekend's beta. Picking Warrior and Charr (Asura wasn't available) I went at it full force to be of the right level for the first dungeon. I plan to try Guardian but I enjoyed Warrior so much that it's hard to imagine myself maining anything else. Having access to every single weapon really made Guild Wars' Warrior feel like an actual Warrior what with your skills being based on your weapon and the surprisingly deep combo system. I did end up using a Great Sword and Hammer almost exclusively in the end though. Great Sword is so monstrously overpowered that I actually reported it as such. The Hammer offes incredible control over the mobs, something that will turn out to be a pretty big deal if ArenaNet stick to their guns. Warrior aside, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed playing Charr. I suppose they're not a million miles away from Tauren, the race I mained for many years in WoW, but my only reason for picking it out of Human and Norn was to give the content Cobbi designed in Plains of Ashford and Diessa Plateau a whirl. The race felt really meaty and the story quests were the best I got to try, especially the BEASTMODE 24/7 gun I can't recall the name of.
The greatest thing that happened during our first weekend was BTB, Disdain and myself getting high enough level to do Ascalonian Catacombs. That in itself was good but by some minor miracle we ended up doing it with Rob Hrouda, the dungeon designer for Guild Wars 2. Even cooler, he downloaded Skype and got on it with us so we could chat while progressing through it. As sad and almost fanboyish as it sounds, it was wonderful experience to have and something I'll always remember, especially when running the dungeon again in retail. Ascalonian Catacombs though... it was here that it really dawned on me the type of game this is going to be. This wasn't WoW where you just faceroll through and try to top the meters. Without teamwork, you will wipe. Trying to top the meters with a Great Sword instead of timing stuns with a Hammer will cause a wipe. It's that tough. But that's a good thing! Like Demon's Souls, the satisfaction felt when overcoming the bosses was immense. One boss in particular is two mobs that buff each other if they're close. To keep them separated you have to pick up rocks around the arena and throw them carefully at each enemy to push them back. We were crazy enough to attempt Explorable Mode afterwards which was so absolutely batshit insane hard that I'm dying to see how it works out in the future, probably literally. I was most definitely reminded of vanilla Dead Mines and that is not a bad thing at all.
The second weekend I think I ruined for myself. Having unsurprisingly lost our characters, I decided to just play a Warrior again and race it up to 30 to be able to do Ascalonian Catacombs again. The biggest mistake I made here was to pick the horrible Human area to level in to keep things fresh. Without enough events to stay up to scratch level wise with while being thrown all over the map in an inefficient way, the experience while it was being repeated with a class I'd already played with no changes made to it was not the best one I've ever had. I had a headache and decided to cut my losses.
I didn't play any of the other beta weekends until the one last weekend that introduced Asura and Sylvari. As much as I enjoyed Charr, I can't not play the Tarutaru class when retail rolls around. I think I only got up to about level ten before we started talking about Dungeon Defenders and went to play that instead. It was fun, sure, and the game is fun, sure, but I had a realization at some point this year that there's really no point in playing betas too much. I won't argue that there are experiences to be had, just look at what occured in our first Ascalonian Catacombs run for example, but ultimately what you're doing doesn't mean shit when the game is live. I guess I'll know how to handle the bosses in Ascalonian Catacombs and how to do some of the truly amazing jumping puzzles but beyond that? Eh.
I did second guess Guild Wars 2 a bit but it's a promising game and one I'm going to put some hours in to. At this stage of my life I will never return to the way I used to play MMO's but I think they've moved sufficiently far enough away from that model now for better or worse. I don't know what we'll do for live. I would like to host a guild where all my good friends from over the past decade can congregate together with an active US group and an active EU group with as much overlap as possible. I don't know if that will really happen though as it will involve everyone EU side being okay with playing on a US server or vice-versa. We'll see, though, but for certain I will be on Guild Wars 2 laughing at the people with no idea how to do the Flame Temple Tomb water puzzle from day one.