Well, I've at least had enough time to draw some firm opinions about the game. There are a lot of things I like, but there are also things I wish were different. This is by no means a conclusive list of those things. What are they? You'll never know unless you skip below the jump. Go on. You know you want to.
Levels of success in the personal storyline
Missions in the original Guild Wars kind of spoiled me. As a weird halfway point between dungeons and quests, they had a lot of immediacy that quests lack. Their different levels of success meant you could feel extra accomplished going through them. Many of them also conveyed a sense of real immediacy.
While I understand making the personal storyline more accessible and removing more challenging content to the dungeons where players can seek it out, the result is that the storyline, while interesting, rarely makes me feel as if I have a real stake in my performance.
Give me NPC allies worth the screen space they take up
I deeply resent NPCs in my personal story, and to a lesser extent, dungeon NPCs. As they behave now, their presence actually detracts from my experience in the personal story. I don't even mind the fact that they're about as intimidating as a mouse and as useful as nipples on a breastplate. I understand that players have to be the ones dealing out the damage and meting out the punishment. But could the NPCs please manage to not fall over if the bad guys give them an especially fearsome glare? That's really all I'm asking.
This isn't even just about story or immersion. In almost all PvE and PvP situations, it behooves you to consider downed players around you. If there are only a few of you going at it with a big boss, you have to consider whether it's worth the time to help rally the person (or fully revive him if the time for rallying has come and gone) or it's better to just press on and kill the boss. In a sticky PvP situation? You'll need to consider the same thing. On one hand, cutting down damage output and situational control in order to revive someone can put you at a severe disadvantage; on the other, that other player might be the key to winning the fight. That situation doesn't crop up at all with NPCs. Logan went down? Cool, he can stay that way until the end of the fight.
This is only slightly less irritating in the open world. I was protecting some Seraph building a bridge the other day and watching as the NPCs, who were about five levels above me, got consistently one- and two-shotted. In related news, I'm getting extraordinarily close to my Combat Healer title.
(Side character and low-level storyline spoilers ahead!)
This isn't a particularly fair example, but I don't really care. As a young Ash Legion member, I was sent to the Serrated Blade Tavern to do some sneaky business. Dozens of levels and a few story arcs later, I was sent back to the same tavern because it just so happened to be the bar that a certain nefarious character happened to frequent. Later, as I was heading into a story mission in Orr, a Charr accompanying me talked about how much he wished he were back at the Serrated Blade.
Do the Charr have only one tavern? Are they so committed to the idea of total war that they only spared construction materials for one bar for the entire Charr nation?
As another example, when following my buddy into his personal story in Orr on my human character, I found myself profoundly weirded out by the people sitting around an encampment in Orr. Corporal Beirne, who had apparently been promoted since I saw him in our defense of Shaemoor, was standing around and talking with the lady who was apparently the Priestess of Dwayna whom characters are introduced to after defending the Shaemoor Garrison. I met them weeks, if not days, ago, and it felt very odd to have not seen them since I was level 2 and then suddenly -- hello! -- they're in Orr, right there with me!
It felt like a play for nostalgia, but I never had a chance to form an emotional attachment to them in the first place. Weirder still, there was a Crusader Deborah present. According to the long-lost sister storyline for the humans, my sister was a soldier named Deborah (which I remembered mostly because my character's last name is Elisia and "Debs Elisia" sounds hilarious). Given that the game just reminded me how small the world is by bringing Beirne and the Priestess up out of nowhere, I'm going to assume that this is my sister. My sister, whom I haven't heard from or thought of or seen at all in the last, oh, 60 or so levels. She's here. In Orr. Now, it wasn't my instance, so I don't know if there would have been some acknowledgement of that fact if it had been, but it doesn't really matter. The fact that she should just happen to turn up in the same Pact camp I was in was weird, especially since she was, for all I know, zapped there with no plot progression.
There are Orr and final storyline spoilers in this one, for serious
Ravious of Kill Ten Rats wrote an excellent thing talking about his thoughts about Trahearne the Flawless. I presume he did that while my character was busy scribbling Trahearne's name on her binder with big, loopy hearts around it.
While we're in the spoiler zone, I'd like to talk about the final bit of the storyline: Arah. I actually really, really, really appreciated most of the story mode of Arah. The fighting was challenging and intense but ultimately manageable, the pacing was pretty alright, the giants were huge, and the tone was epic. What was not epic was the fight against Zhaitan itself. I know that there's not really a way to get up close and personal with the elder dragon because, uh, did you see it? Given that, though, I felt pretty silly firing at the dragon, especially as the cannon I was firing didn't do a particularly good job of convincing me that I was actually firing at Zhaitan. It had the least finesse of pretty much any interactive firing weapon I've come across in the game. While I'll admit that Zhaitan's a big target, the aiming on the cannon allowed me to either fire way off to Zhaitan's far left or fire way off to its far right. It just didn't feel as cool as everything leading up to it. Maybe that can't be helped. But I could at least have shot something right at Zhaitan's ugly face(s).
I'd like a camera that doesn't make me play worse than I already do
I don't need help being bad at this game.
So when I'm in an underground tunnel and I switch to tornado form and spend almost the entirety of the transformation staring at what I'm assuming was the floor of the level above me, I tend to get crabby. When I'm in a tight corner -- you know, the kind that fills up the majority of jumping puzzles -- and can no longer receive useful visual information, I tend to get a mite frustrated. When I'm navigating a closed space in PvP and may as well be running through fog for all the visibility I get, I tend to start hoping there's a camera fix on the way.
I know this one is on its way, but I'm a little bit anxious for it to be here already.
Elisabeth Cardy is a longtime Guild Wars player, a personal friend of Rytlock Brimstone, and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column updates on Tuesdays and keeps a close eye on Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. Email Elisabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org.