Monday, April 18, 2005

Guild Wars and its Relationship to Balls: An Essay

In case you're not aware of my balls-related rating system, look here and here. That ought to provide the background needed for this article, as well as serving as useful kindling if you print them out.

I played Guild Wars most of the weekend (part of the Beta Weekend event). As you might remember from this article, I've been looking forward to Guild Wars for some time. In fact, ever since they first showed it to me many moons ago, I've thought, "Hrm, that looks like fun." I pre-ordered my copy, got into the Beta Weekend Event (or BWE, as the kids call it), and played most of the weekend away.

Working at a game developer and living among fairly hardcore WoW fans as I do, I am surrounded by people who are harsh gaming connoisseurs, or however you spell that. I seem to have been the first person in my circle to kick the WoW addiction (and get my balls back) for the most part, and Guild Wars, to me, represented another way in which I amd some friends might spend some time online without having to grind to hang out together. I played all weekend, partially to find out if I'd like the game, and partially to inspire some friends to try it out and see if they like it, too.

The result? Almost universal failure.

I'm not sure why. For my part, I really like the game. The complex way in which skills can interact, leading to varying ways of handling problems, appeals to me. I made four characters: A warrior/necromancer, a warrior/ranger, a necromancer/elementalist, and a ranger who didn't last long enough to get a secondary profession. The warrior/necromancer handled quite a bit differently from the warrior/ranger and the necromancer/elementalist, and I liked that. My favorite was the necromancer/elementalist, and I nearly got him to the point at which the rest of the game begins before the weekend ended.

I had maybe 10 or 12 skills with the necro at level 7. I had a ranged lifetap, a touch-ranged lifetap, a couple of damage spells that affected multiple targets, my undead minion-summoning spell, a resurrection skill (which anyone can get but only works once per mission, unlike the resurrection skills monks get), etc. In most situations, I could use my DoT lifetap on the enemy and wait him out, but if things got hairy, I needed to think quickly. If I could get three guys close together, I could pretty much take them out all at once and end with nearly full health if I paid attention. But I had to pay attention. It wasn't just, "DoT this guy, send pet, stack more DoTs, drain life drain life drain soul dead." It seemed far more hectic than that. It felt a bit more like the Diablo II necromancer in that you were always moving, always casting a spell, and most likely always doing something different and exciting. Killing felt less like grinding when I was rounding up bandits by the threes, surrounding them with bugs and firestorms, and creating bone terrors from the fallen to hound those who still live.

I enjoyed the long walks through really pretty areas. I enjoyed finding trainers (even the elementalist trainer by the big awesome tower in the snowy area), I enjoyed going through the catacombs for the fifth time (each time the path led me through a different area, to temples and caverns and ritual chambers I'd probably never have found just running through). I enjoyed going to get the devourer egg both times I had to do it. I enjoyed fighting grawl to collect their necklaces; I only needed five to get that piece of equipment from the collector who wanted them.

Sure, the game has its problems. For some reason, characters and certain terrain have huge collision boxes that block movement, making it a bit of a chore to get around compared to, say, WoW. Lag can be an issue, with characters popping about (if you are detained from your destination, you'll likely be jumped there after a few seconds... even into the same space as the NPC you're trying to reach). Also, the Mesmer class requires a higher degree of twitch and timing than other classes, but they note that it's for "advanced players" on the class selection screen.

But yeah. Guild Wars sorta reached for the balls this weekend. I think about it more than I think about WoW at this point, and WoW was the previous balls-holder.

My friends, though, went the other way. I spent the afternoon playing with one, and we had fun, but he decided he wouldn't buy the game in the end. Another friend took pains to point out everything that was awkward with the game (he even picked the Mesmer class for his first character, which seemed to be a bit motivated by spite). My fiance' played a bit last night, and she loved the character design and the look of the game, but she found it hard to learn, which is fair, since there's no tutorial to speak of. In the end, I found myself wondering when Guild Wars would stop licking balls.

As much as I liked it, and as much as I know I'm going to buy it when it comes out and play it as long as I enjoy it, the game apparently licked so much balls that I'll be playing it alone when I do, and that sucks.

I dunno. Am I insane? Are other people too critical? Is it that they resist leaving WoW, or is Guild Wars really not good? It seemed good to me, a good halfway point between WoW and Diablo, and considering there's no $20CAN monthly fee, I'll overlook some missing polish in return for a game that has some interesting choices to make and far more flexibility and uniqueness per character than a game like WoW. Every time someone complained about something in Guild Wars, I wanted to say, "Dude, look at Beyond Divinity and other games like that. This is lightyears past that crap." That a no-monthly-fee game can even compare to an MMO is worth something to me, and having it compare favorably against other online action RPGs like Diablo definitely puts it in line for having the balls. Every instance in which it licked balls was like a bad collision volume here or a bit of "too much walking around" there.

In the end, my friends didn't like Guild Wars, and I really did. Since I suck at making friends in these games (because I am a snob who feels like everyone else in the game is a knuckle-dragging 13-year-old psycho), I will likely play it until I can't solo anymore and then drop it. And really, I've already played it far more than I've played the last three games I bought, so there you go.

Just... if Guild Wars hadn't licked balls so much, it would have my balls by now. Such a complex balls relationship can never be a good thing.