Guild Wars 2: MMO Vs. Story, Round 7

By Richard Cobbett on August 30th, 2012 at 11:00 am.

I get knocked down! But I get up again! Because permadeath isn't part of our world!

Guild Wars 2 isn’t the first MMO that’s tried to tell a single-player story. For that specific element, it’s not even the highest profile one in recent months – both The Old Republic and The Secret World going all out to make narrative matter. The stories it tells, while definitely fun, aren’t as interesting or memorable, or even as notable a presence during most of my travels.

So why do I feel much more involved with my Elementalist’s personal journey through the world than with either of the games that set out to make narrative their main selling point?

For me at least, there are several reasons the personal story works so well – starting with how much effort ArenaNet put into scripting unique encounters instead of simply writing lots of dialogue, and heading all the way down to the fact that it essentially gives you the chance to tell the game exactly what kind of story you want it to tell. With any race, you get six obvious “This Will Be A Thing You Will Do Later” choices to make, and with them, six chances for the game to get you at least slightly invested in the personal stuff before it even starts.

The killer difference though? Pacing. In more ways than one.

'I think of you as a very close friend.' 'What?' 'I SAID I THINK OF YOU AS A VERY CLOSE FRIEND!'

The way Guild Wars 2 does its story is to dole out a new chapter every few levels. You spend most of the time doing your own thing, occasionally being called to a specific location to do a more scripted bit. You don’t have to. Like everything in the game, you can skip it if you want and go do PvP instead, or simply come back later on and catch up at your leisure.

It’s those gaps that make all the difference. Both The Secret World and The Old Republic are so driven by dialogue that they have to keep the pressure up at essentially all times. You’re always in dialogue. You’re always being given stuff to do. You’re always meeting new characters and always getting involved in small stories. Even done well, it gets incredibly repetitive – and both those games have some nightmare pacing issues. The Old Republic goes out of its way to waste your time, while The Secret World’s problems start right about the time you see your first assignment is 18 freaking parts long and spread out over three huge maps.

In short, while both tell good stories, the way they do it is a recipe for quick burnout – lots and lots of small things in sequence, presented in pretty much the same style as the important stuff, which you’re encouraged to rush through in bulk to the point that everything soon melds together into a general lump of narrative that soon loses all meaning. Factor in the rest of the genre’s standard features and everything soon collapses. There can be no danger, because you know the game doesn’t have the balls to do anything to you beyond make you walk back from a respawn point. You know and have it constantly reinforced that your actions have no real meaning beyond making a little bar move a little further to the right. With good writing, this can be made enjoyable, but rarely feels anything other than hollow in the long term.

Yes, yes, but what I want to know is why our queen has a comfy couch instead of a throne. I'm not saying she's WRONG. I'm just not sure it's sending out the right message to the geek gnomes, warrior cats, plant people and snow giants who might show up.

The more you play, the more this becomes noticeable – especially when the main practical difference between the handful of personal quests that supposedly matter and the vast bulk you’re just doing for virtual brownie points is that some guy tells you they’re more important. How do single-player games handle this? They don’t have to. Even something like Skyrim isn’t built with the idea that it has to provide months and months of content to every player, so the focus gets to be telling a good story and packing it with side-quests that add flavour and intrigue rather than simply another ten minutes of hitting things in the face and taking their gold.

By spreading these moments out, and handling them in a completely different way to the normal questing and NPC interactions, Guild Wars 2 accomplishes several important things. First, it keeps these specific missions something of a novelty, and a welcome dose of structure in an otherwise incredibly freeform MMO. On the story side specifically, it also gets to focus heavily on the things it wants you to know and reinforce them. Picking the Human side, you’re not going to get to Level 20 and not know who Logan Thackeray is. Key words like “Destiny’s Edge” will at least be on their way to being embedded in your skull, and made more prominent by being voiced and delivered in cutscene form instead of simply buried in flavour text.

As straight fantasy, nothing I’ve seen has been that special, and certainly not up to the quality of The Secret World’s acid-tipped pen. It’s effective though, with the focus and pacing tricks it pulls off more than enough to make seemingly trivial stuff like investigating a carnival seem important simply because someone as high profile as Logan is taking a personal interest.

(On a smaller scale, the story – at least of the Human faction – is pleasingly driven by interpersonal connections rather than pure authority. You’re not sent into the field by your boss, but by friends your actions have earned you. It trends warm, while both TOR and TSW typically leaned cold. That’s not necessarily better, but is a heck of a lot more welcoming.)

The subtext of my personal story is 'fire is good and solves all your problems'. It is also the supertext.

Despite this, I certainly wouldn’t call Guild Wars 2 is a story slam-dunk. It does a brave job of going beyond regular MMO conventions with things like dialogue trees, tracking your response types, offering branch points and keeping the great unwashed out of your heroic story. It’s still hobbled by its engine/interaction methods though, the fiction itself is serviceably entertaining rather than awesome, and the MMO elements do still get in the way – especially when an encounter doesn’t seem to have been tuned for an Elementalist to get into a fight instead of a Warrior, or a character tells you to hurry up and save the day only for you to have to reply “Okay, but first I’ll need to run across the world and get some XP from the kitties!”

And conversations after taking too much armour damage can really be awkward…

Remember, those eyes dip for just a second and I charbroil your testicles with my fire magic and sell them on the Trading Post. When it finally starts working.

I don’t necessarily think this is a great approach for MMOs to take – I still maintain that while story/setting is vital, I’d always prefer games like The Secret World or The Old Republic to be single-player experiences that wouldn’t have to sacrifice their narrative and immersion for the sake of another genre’s needs. In turn, I’d much rather see see multiplayer games focus on cool things only they can do rather than trying to be jacks of all trades.

If the worlds of massively multiplayer action and single-player driven storytelling must be rudely smushed together like a pie and a sleazy politician’s face though, this is – at least so far – the best implementation I’ve seen. It’s not that it’s more ambitious than The Old Republic or better written than The Secret World. It’s simply that unlike those games, I can take it for what it is, and on its own terms, as a part of the experience that neither wastes my time nor constantly makes me wish it was something it isn’t. That might sound like the faintest of faint praise, but by this genre’s narrative standards, it’s actually pretty damn good going…

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164 Comments »

  1. Cinek says:

    No idea why, but I very much agree.
    Either focus everything on MMO experience or focus on storytelling. Cause so far noone succeeded to mix both in some acceptable level. SWTOR got great storyline, but was a huge step back in RPG experience comparing to KOTOR][ because of trying so hard to be good a MMO. GW2 also fails in being good storyteller to some horrible degree, while I believe that spending those resources on creating a better MMO experience could be much better option… well… seems like devs will never get it. >_>
    Trying to get a wider audience is always in contrast with getting a better product in it’s own kind.

    • Fearzone says:

      Good MMOs should encourage players to play together–joining together, trading with one another, or fighting each other. A personal story keeps players apart, because you can’t all be having the same personal story.

      So that is why MMOs and stories don’t go together, unless it is some kind of world story of which the player is an audience to–like alliance vs. horde in WoW–rather than a personal one where the player rises to the most powerful and influential character in the gaming realm and saves the planet. Stuff like that is almost annoying even in single player games. You can’t have everybody doing that. It makes no sense and kills an MMO right there.

      To the degree a personal story takes a back seat and is forgettable enough, then it doesn’t do much harm and won’t ruin the game. But people who hate MMOs are going to hate MMOs. There is nothing going to change that. Make MMOs for MMO players. We need interactive challenges and complicated and varied systems to build our character… not stories.

      • jimjam says:

        GW2 story is well executed simply because COOP party play is so broken!
        It truly is a Massive Online single player game with random players gatecrashing.

        • socrate says:

          How is it broken when it was intended to be that way,grouping is just not necessary and i have seen way more people helping each other and being useful then in WoW for example where people all fight each other to get the quest done instead of being smart and grouping and yet its still possible and bring advantage to group up with people.

          • BluElement says:

            I agree. I always go out of my way to revive a downed player. I like being rewarded for being a nice guy, regardless of if I’m in their group or not. :P

  2. President Weasel says:

    My username is President Weasel, and I strongly endorse this article.
    I Agree With Cobbett. Make some badges or something.

    To be fair, I did rather like the stories in SWTOR, it was the constant, constant, shoehorning in of Star Wars references that did my head in and made me stop playing. We’ve spent millions on this license, so if any players goes more than a minute without being reminded in a heavy-handed way of something from the original trilogy EVERYTHING IS RUINED FOREVER. The personal stories in SWTOR, well written and nicely acted, were actually the parts that came closest to stopping me cancelling my sub.

    I do prefer the GW2 approach – “there’s some story over there at the green thing, if you fancy it? Or you could do some jumping if you like, or maybe see if you can invent onion rings!”

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      It made me really want a proper Imperial Agent KOTOR style game. But a proper one, focused and… oh, sod it. A little like The Secret World, with the words ‘Alpha Protocol 2″ invisibly in front of it.

      (A working version, obviously. But darn, I wish that game would be ripped off more.)

      • BigJonno says:

        I’ll take that Imperial Agent game, although I’d prefer a Bounty Hunter one. As a bit of a Mandalorian fanboy, I loved the BH storyline. I felt that SWTOR did a great job of allowing you to role-play your character, even with fairly limited dialogue choices. Playing an honourable, Light side BH was fantastic fun, especially whenever I got to stick it to uppity Sith Lords.

        • The Hairy Bear says:

          Its nice to see some love for Alpha Protocal, I loved the story in that game, it was just a terrible shame that the actual mechanics were quite terrible, not to mention ‘that’ boss fight! Really surprised you prefer this to the Secret World have to say, I thought the stories in that were pretty cool, it was just the combat that was meh!

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            The combat and minigame mechanics were poor. The dialogue and plot branching it offered were astoundingly good.

            “Really surprised you prefer this to the Secret World have to say, I thought the stories in that were pretty cool, it was just the combat that was meh!”

            The stories are better. The game put me off actually experiencing them. Hence, I wish it had been a single-player game that wouldn’t have to compromise for the sake of MMO needs. GW2 isn’t as imaginative or as clever or as well written, but it’s not as jarring about what it’s got, which is so far keeping my attention far better. That’s the point.

          • woodsey says:

            Eugh, I thought the dialogue was atrocious and the plot incredibly bland (and entirely predictable). Plot malleability was the only thing that game had going for it at all.

          • Ragnar says:

            I played an Imperial Agent in SWTOR and rather enjoyed it. It let me get into the story and play my role, and I effectively treated it as a KOTOR. I agree, a proper Imperial Agent KOTOR would be great.

            I agree with you in that I wish both SWTOR and TSW were single-player / co-op games where we could appreciate the game world and story without the MMO mechanics getting in the way.

            I disagree with you entirely on GW2. I thought GW2 had the worst story, and was very jarring. It really felt like they shoe-horned the story into a game that wasn’t designed for it. It felt shallow, forced, the writing was rather bad, and the content wasn’t interesting. I too played a human elementalist, and I couldn’t bring myself to care for the personal story at all. And the way that it was spaced out every few levels just made it feel more disjointed – like you took a break from doing chores outside, watched a soap on TV for a bit, then went back outside to resume your chores.

        • Wyrm says:

          Are these the droids you’re looking for?

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars_1313

          • BigJonno says:

            I’m hoping that 1313 is going to be good. I’m looking forward to seeing a bit more of the game beyond shooting stuff in a third person fashion.

          • 2helix4u says:

            Maybe cause I’m not the biggest starwars fan, but I don’t really understand the excitement for 1313.
            “Hey we made another cover-based (I’m guessing) third person shooter, but with BLASTERS!”

            Fighting a jedi or sith as a non-force user could be interesting though I guess…

        • Cooper says:

          I want to see the promise of Prey 2′s bounty hunter set-up in the world of KoTOR. Running through Coruscant hunting down Twileks with my blaster…

    • KikiJiki says:

      Last night I invented Hamburgers. One step closer on my Necromancer’s personal quest to become Chef Boyardee!

    • prometheanbob says:

      Yes, one of the most satisfying moments in my MMO history is inventing onion rings last night. I really enjoy the fact that the game allows a bit of exploration & discovery of this sort.

      • President Weasel says:

        They slightly increase your chance of finding magical drops – which is better than real life, where they noticeably increase your chance of heartburn.
        I made deep fried cheese triangles today!

  3. Dominic White says:

    The personal story stuff is all based on your race/history choices up to level 30. From there, it converges somewhat, based on which of the three major factions you choose to join, although there’s branch points after that big decision, too. There’s a lot of it, and it’s possible to see mostly new content on at least three – maybe five or six – separate characters.

    • f1x says:

      Plus, when leveling until 30 you have absolute freedom to level in any zone of the world you prefer, as there are not quest chains or limitations (you just teleport to the hub from the mists and then to any of the capitals)

      so you can start two human race chars, have different personal stories and also level in different zones,
      jump from zone to zone, etc

  4. Njordsk says:

    I love the way LOTRO melted story telling and classic MMO quest. It was a brilliant MMO.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      I’ve tried to play that a couple of times, but never clicked with it.

    • frightlever says:

      LOTRO still IS a brilliant MMO. Plenty of life in it yet. I’ve been playing it to death over the last couple of weeks and been having a blast. I have a VIP lifetime sub from day 1, though I barely scratched the surface at the time, so my experience will be different to a F2P player eyeing a bunch of stuff with price-tags that I got as part of my sub.

      The world is VAST. There’s actually a danger of getting stuck in an area running quests that are so much lower than your level because so many are available.

      The RP servers are genuinely, endearingly bonkers.

      • BigJonno says:

        LotRO absolutely nailed the world building side of things. It’s one of the few MMOs that feels like an actual place and not a playground set up for grinding mobs and fetch quests. It’s also very role-player friendly, with all the nifty little features like the instruments and cosmetic gear.

        • 2helix4u says:

          I remember playing LotRO when it first came out with my friend who was a LotR fan who had never really read the books, so we just went in search of things from the film. Wandering into Bree at night there was a guy playing the lute by the campfire. The world was the first since WoW that felt like a real place.

          Its just a shame the combat and character models were (to me) pretty ghastly, I install it every year or so, make a hideous character and quit.

      • RedViv says:

        It’s probably the best of the “modern” MMOs when you want to be on a role-playing server and *feel* it.

      • Torgen says:

        The completionist in me compels me to do every teeny quest, but then I get very grumpy that I’m getting no benefit from them. :P

  5. AmateurScience says:

    I came for the writing and stayed for the alt-text.

  6. AngoraFish says:

    The problem is the developers imposing their vision on your story. A freeform MMO, when done properly, shouldn’t need stories. The stories come from you overcoming some mammoth boss with your guildies, or stumbling into a higher level and getting slammed, or reaching the top of the tallest peak and checking out the views. One day, one might have the smart idea of actually integrating the time you killed a boss six levels higher than you into the mythology of the game, to be mentioned by strangers as you walk into a new pub. I love both GW2 and TSW, but the stories are, frankly, forgettable interruptions to the stories I’m making for myself.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      “One day, one might have the smart idea of actually integrating the time you killed a boss six levels higher than you into the mythology of the game, to be mentioned by strangers as you walk into a new pub”

      City of Heroes does that – though not to that specific level of depth. It’s one of my favourite things about it, that your activities are presented as having an impact beyond the XP. It’s especially weird in long-runners like Warcraft though, when you personally killed three of Azeroth’s greatest threats and still random people in the countryside treat you like a raw rookie when giving you some bit of crap-work to do.

      And honestly, forgettable I think is fine. It’s a problem when it’s jarring or objectionable.

      • MaXimillion says:

        CoH is another MMO that doesn’t get ripped off enough. The variety in customization not to mention the global chat system that’s still the best of any MMO I’ve ever tried really put the competition to shame.

        • malkav11 says:

          And their group finder has never been equalled. Hell, most MMOs haven’t even bothered to try to rip them off in that regard. It’s amazing how many games still ship with at best a global/zone based LFG chat channel. This didn’t work in 2003, it certainly doesn’t bloody work in 2012. Granted, WoW’s Dungeon Finder tech is modestly more convenient, but it’s certainly less flexible and less customizable.

          • Brun says:

            Having a LFG channel worked fine in WoW for 4 years. People always wanted a group finder for convenience, but it really only became necessary in Wrath when the design paradigm for dungeons went from things you did occasionally for extra XP and gear to things that you needed to run at least once per day for daily rewards.

          • MaXimillion says:

            I’d say DDO’s system is far better if you’re actually looking for a group, and equal if you’re looking for more people to fill your current group.

        • lasikbear says:

          CoH also has the best sense of actually being powerful in an MMO. Its the only one I have seen where you actually can say “if I pull those two groups of enemies 3 levels higher than me over to this group of enemies and a boss I can get this fight done much more efficiently”.

      • Cooper says:

        I’d prefer half-decent filler that feels like part of the game to The Secret’ World’s route of really great story missions that are ruined by the innate absurdity of the MMO conventions and tropes.

      • Arglebargle says:

        I see a number of things in GW2 that look to be inspired by City of Heroes. Perhaps both being under the NCSoft banner made that a little easier. What’s weird is seeing those things praised as wonderful or innovative in GW2, when some of these ideas have been around since before WoW launched.

    • Zanchito says:

      Cue in EVE and Ultima Online. Totally freeform gameplay can work marvels in single player too: Dwarf Fortress and Crusader Kings II

      • Blackcompany says:

        I have criticized EVE for some developer choices, but the emergent game play it allows – even encourages – is like no other game. Yes, you can run missions. But everyone is still talking about that time a corp mate forgot gate guns matter in low sec, or forgot he was not in the same fleet as another member during high sec pvp “practice.” Or the time a miner hauled add out of a belt & warned everyone off of it only to find out a ship called Scythe isn’t nearly as dangerous as they feared.

        Your stories from EVE really are your own. Unique, painful or funny or frustrating or exhilarating. No one else will ever have a story to match yours.

        I wish more devs understood the appeal.

    • vee41 says:

      I feel like DE’s can offer that ‘create your own story’ or memorable moment thingy pretty well.

  7. Flukie says:

    I’ve only done about 3 quest missions, fantastic so far though on the Asura side.

  8. starmatt says:

    Too bad the dialogues are so cheesy. It’s almost as bad written as Diablo 3!

    • f1x says:

      you are right, but somehow (in my opinion) they are not pretentious so you can listen with a smile on your face

      in Diablo 3 everything was so “serious” and transcendental that it made so obvious how bad the writting actually was, in GW2 my nord char dialogues consists of brags about how he is going to “pwn” everybody, its so cheesy that its amusing instead of annoying

      • Achilles84 says:

        I agree. It doesnt take itself too seriously. Some of it’s cheesy, but in a funny way. My charr storyline has had some cheesy parts, but not not all of it. And I’m enjoying it. So far I’m not just chomping at the bit to get to my next story mission because I enjoy exploring a lot as well. But as the story progresses, it is getting better…

    • 2helix4u says:

      I don’t know… Diablo 3 set a new standard in bad writing.

      “Ahaha! I have assembled the 3 macguffins into the ultimate macguffin while you were elsewhere! Nothing can stop me now!”
      *Player walks into room* “Whats going on here?”
      “Nooo! You have won this battle, but not the war! muahahaha!” *Teleports out, forgetting to take the ultimate macguffin this entire act was about*

      Although I maybe biased since I’m playing Charr, and every character I talk to looks and sounds awesome.

      • Achilles84 says:

        Hahaha thats so true about Dlll. Every fight was “YOU CANT STOP ME!” BIFF BAM BOOM….. “YOU MAY HAVE STOPPED ME THIS TIME, BUT IT DOESNT MATTER!!!!” Rinse, repeat.

        DIII’s dialogue SOUNDED ok, but the writing was awful. GW2′s writing and voice acting are way better imo.

    • khomotso says:

      Quite right. There may be a point to be made about the structural advantages of the GW2 approach, but the writing is simply awful, and it really gets in the way of engagement.

      A stretch of fighting and crafting will lead me to develop a certain feel for what sort of person my character is, and then it crashes up against a personal story sequence that leaves me groaning: “Why do I have to be such an over-earnest boob?” Takes the wind out of my sails.

      I’ve left TSW, and won’t be going back, but I do really miss a developer with an ear for language and some sense of human psychology. GW2 might have crowd-sourced its dialogue to its beta community, for all the fan-fic-level results it achieved.

      • f1x says:

        Yep, its absolutely generic fantasy, but tolerable as the game doesnt show any pretention further than that,

        when playing, somehow I felt like reading some Dragonlance trilogy again, generic fantasy but enjoyable and sometimes with even cool characthers

        • khomotso says:

          This line of thought puzzles me: it’s bad, but that’s ok because it’s not trying to be good.

          • f1x says:

            No, its still not good

            But it has a function and it acomplishes it, inside a game pretentions and tone can make a big difference, what I was talking about is if the quality of the dialogue can run the fun or not, and in this case it dosnt, thats why its tolerable (but of course every personal experience will be different)

            Diablo 3 needed superb writting to acomplish what the game pretended and didnt have it (for me it ruined it completely as I’m not interested in farming items), GW2 is fine with its cheesy dialogues, in the fashion of an 80s action flick

          • BluElement says:

            Obviously it puzzles you when you don’t actually get what the line of thought is. :P

            It’s not that their “not” trying to be good, but rather that it may be of poorer quality, but it’s fun. Think of it as in movie standards. Evil Dead is just a horrible, horrible movie. The writing and story make no sense. And he does things like making a highly sophisticated robotic hand out of chainmail. I still watch it every chance I get though, because it’s simply fun to watch.

          • Ragnar says:

            I found it to be the exact opposite. D3 was very over the top, like they took their inspiration from Captain Kirk, but I didn’t mind it. It quickly made realize that it wasn’t about the story, and I was able to get on with the game (though the cutscenes were all rather good, as if they were done by a completely different team). The NPC conversations were rather amusing, particularly with Shen and the scoundrel. In any case, D3 made it really easy to just skip all the story and get on with killing things.

            With GW2, it started out with a game that wasn’t about the story, and then the story was forced onto me. It’s like the game really wanted me to care, seeing as it was supposed to be my personal story, but it didn’t feel personal at all. It felt as if they had taken terrible fan-made GW visual novels and inserted scenes from them into the game.

  9. JD Ogre says:

    “starting with how much effort ArenaNet put into scripting unique encounters instead of simply writing lots of dialogue”

    Given that most of the story encounters involve those cheapass conversation cutscenes**, I’d say they put *less* effort into scripting unique encounters and instead simply wrote lots of dialogue….

    “You know and have it constantly reinforced that your actions have no real meaning beyond making a little bar move a little further to the right. ”

    …and you just described the Dynamic Events in GW2 perfectly.

    ** (obviously to save the effort of making real cutscenes, which are very few and far between – lucky to get even 2 or 3 real cutscenes, most under 15 seconds, when doing your completely unconnected level 1-10 & 10-20 stories; a huge disappointment there, by the way, coming from GW1 where each campaign was a single story from beginning to end with meaningful cutscenes along the way).

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Your experiences are radically different to mine then.

    • Malfernion says:

      ““You know and have it constantly reinforced that your actions have no real meaning beyond making a little bar move a little further to the right. ”

      …and you just described the Dynamic Events in GW2 perfectly.”

      I really disagree with your notion that the dynamic events have no meaning.. I mean on a grand scale, no games really have any meaning, but in GW2 if you fail at holding off some centaurs, you don’t just try again, they take the outpost, then depending on other factors you either get to try retaking the outpost, or they try to bolster their foothold by attacking somewhere else.

      By this point I am not watching a bar move, I’m sucked up in a story. I see the that as having meaning, at least more than in most games I’ve played, and definitely more than in any other MMO i’ve played.

  10. x-jay says:

    Yay for positive storytelling, but I am the only person who finds Nolan North really stoic and possibly the most generic voice actor ever!? Its making me want to re-roll my mesmer.. and mesmers aren’t easy to level.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      North isn’t generic so much as over-used. He’s actually very good at what he does and has a decent range – he’s just most noticeable in his everyman roles. And really, he’s playing “Human Male”. How out there and wacky were you expecting?

      • x-jay says:

        Having played the last ‘blockbuster’ mmo, and picking my main as a Jedi Knight, I feel I have ported my character straight from SWTOR.

        I agree he’s not bad and he is overused, he doesn’t have a decent range though.. All his characters from recent memory are identical, 100%. Drake, Human Male and Jedi Knight inclusive.

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          That’s not his full recent range by a massive, massive length. You’d be surprised how many characters he does who aren’t leads – he’s willing to do a lot of smaller parts, down to bit-stuff. It’s one of the reasons he’s so popular with game companies. And notably missing from his more high-profile stuff at late there was The Penguin from AC.

          Not saying he’s one of my favourite/the best voice actors out there, and I do inwardly wince when I hear him as a lead for the fourth time in a week, just that he gets an unfair rap sometimes.

          • Telzis says:

            Not to forget the space core, adventure core AND the defective turrets in Portal 2.

          • trjp says:

            The core problem is the voicing YOUR character is a mistake in a ‘role playing’ game surely?

            I always prefer the silent protagonist thing – I am my characters voice, not some rent-a-voice who is likely going to make me reroll to shut them up.

            Some people really need to look up ‘role playing game’ and then either make one, or call their game something else.

            What can we call a game where we’re crammed inside someone else’s body and made to act is if we’re them (rather than the other way around) – erm – Possesion Play? Acting?? :)

          • KikiJiki says:

            Just listen to the work he’s done on Dota2 and you can see that not everything he does sounds remotely the same, vocal effects notwithstanding:

            Shadow Demon, Lycanthrope, Lone Druid, Brewmaster, Gyrocopter, Ogre Magi, Keeper of the Light

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            “I always prefer the silent protagonist thing – I am my characters voice, not some rent-a-voice who is likely going to make me reroll to shut them up.”

            While that helped murder TSW for me, because all I was doing was listening to pointless monologues people had no real reason to launch into. It was less immersive than just going “Okay, I sound like this right now.”

          • Skhalt says:

            ^this, it was so completely ridiculous in TSW. That, and the fact that I was already bored after killing 3 zombies (not even exaggerating) on Solomon Islands.

          • Llewyn says:

            Personally I thought North’s Penguin was one of the worst pieces of voice acting, at least in the context of a quality production, that I’ve heard in a long time.

            I agree in general though; I’ve noticed him in credits for games several times and thought, “Oh, didn’t realise who that was.” And not in the Penguin, “Ah, so that’s who’s to blame!” way.

          • malkav11 says:

            I’m fine with not voicing the protagonist (in the case of user-selectable dialogue, which is imho the optimum for a theoretically player-created character), but having a silent protagonist is all sorts of immersion-breaking. I love TSW, but having my character stand there like a lump, unblinking, while people monologue at her is…weird.

          • Arglebargle says:

            The problem for me with voiced protagonists is that if it’s the wrong voice, I’m not interested in playing. SWTOR’s Bounty Hunter, with his teen-power-trip Wulverine-wannabee voice would have precluded playing that line for me, if the female voicing hadn’t been available. The voice in my head is more accurate to the character’s ideal, for me. Not to say it can’t be done well, but it is a strong factor. Do a poor job of it, and you have to listen to it throughout the entire game.

            Not to mention voicing’s very expensive and makes easy adaption much more difficult. I still think full voicing is net negative. I’d provide enough voice work to fix the feel of it in the player’s mind, then switch to text.

    • Yosharian says:

      Not entirely related to this, but my Asura male necromancer is beginning to piss me off.

      “I’ve made life! Of a sort…”

      Heh.

      “I’ve made life! Of a sort…”

      “I’ve made life! Of a sort…”

      Ok, I get it.

      “I’ve made life! Of a sort…”

      Alright.

      “I’ve made life! Of a sort…”

      Shut up.

      “I’ve made life! Of a sort…”

      No.. please stop…

      “I’ve made life! Of a sort…”

      Please make it stop.

      “I’ve made life! Of a sort…”

      *starts banging head against brick wall*

      “I’ve made life! Of a sort…”

      *cackles maniacally with a note of insanity*

      “I’ve made life! Of a sort…”
      “I’ve made life! Of a sort…”
      “I’ve made life! Of a sort…”
      “I’ve made life! Of a sort…”
      “I’ve made life! Of a sort…”
      “I’ve made life! Of a sort…”
      “I’ve made life! Of a sort…”
      “I’ve made life! Of a sort…”
      “I’ve made life! Of a sort…”
      “I’ve made life! Of a sort…”

      • Brun says:

        I play a necromancer as well, a human, and his flavor text is actually kind of cool (“Grenth, your power flows through me!”, “I am death incarnate!”). However, the biggest thing that bothers me about him is the pets. Minions in this game must have suicidal tendencies, and hate their masters. Three-fourths of the time, my (elite skill) Flesh Golem seems to run around and attack the nearest attackable object, regardless of whether I’m attacking it or not. The rest of the time, he just stands happily by while I’m getting wailed on by a Veteran mob, looking aimlessly about.

        There also seems to be a problem with pet threat, they pull an inordinate amount of aggro for the amount of damage they do, and when combined with their general over-aggressiveness the result is that everything but the Flesh Golem tends to die every fight. The most useful minion is the Bone Minions, since their suicidal tendencies actually enhance their function as remote-controlled bombs.

        • Yosharian says:

          Yeah, pets suck ass in this game. It’s another area where WoW completely outdoes this game. In WoW, i can order my pet to return, attack, be passive, be aggressive. I have complete control. In this game, my pet just basically does what it wants, which sometimes is useful. Another thing is that pets don’t regenerate hitpoints, which is just fucking annoying, as the only way to resummon them is to kill them, which results in a cooldown. Some pets can’t even be killed directly – you have to switch skills to remove them, and then switch them back again.

          I disagree with your assessment of Bone Minions, by the way, because the suicide command detonates one at a time (they come in pairs), at random. So one of the little dudes is near death, and you try to detonate him… and the full hp one detonates. Gee. So they’re pretty useless.

          • Brun says:

            The Flesh Golem appears to regenerate HP between fights, just like your character does, which is why I tend to use him the most (plus he does hit quite hard, about 150-250 damage per hit at level 33).

            I can’t really speak for Ranger pets, they may work better than Necromancer minions. Minions are meant to be a bit more expendable than Ranger pets, so perhaps the lack of control and flimsiness are intentional.

          • BluElement says:

            You can make your ranger pet aggressive or passive and there is a “return to me” button, but that’s never seemed to work for me. You get one ability that you can trigger for your pet, but everything else is by the pet’s choice. Pets never die, either. They’re just “downed”, and slowly walk back to you, at which point you can switch out to your secondary pet. I usually just forget about my pet until I see that it’s down, and then hit F4 to bring out my other pet…

            I’ve noticed that no matter how much damage they do, pets just seem to gather instant aggro.

    • Fearzone says:

      Try Resonance of Fate (on XBox and PS3). It’s a weird JRPG with a weird story, weird world, weird enemies, and weird combat mechanics, so off-kilter one would not expect it to be a block-buster, and it wasn’t, yet for all that, it has an unusual level of polish and high production values.

      …including having Nolan North voicing one of the main characters Vashyron. You can tell he is letting his hair down and having a lot of fun with the role, while still playing it straight-faced. By far my favorite character he has voiced.

  11. Bremze says:

    I think you’ve hit the reason that the game works so well as a whole. Almost everything Guild Wars 2 does has, while maybe not with such polish, been done before. It’s the freeform nature of the game that allows you to enjoy the elements without them feeling like a drag or grind.

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      Exactly how I’ve felt. I’m not an expert on MMOs or anything, but I’ve played a few and have not enjoyed most of them. While GW2′s mechanics may not be inventive or anything new, the whole experience seems very well paced and is diverse enough that I never feel bored, that I’m doing the same types of quests over and over, or that I’m stuck grinding mobs for hours just to level up because nothing else gives meaningful XP.

      Bored of DWEs? Then go explore the map and figure out some Vistas. Harvest plants, chop lumber, go mining. Try a dungeon run. Do your storyline quest. Try some crafting. Then there’s also the PvP. And the best thing is that all of these things legitimately help to level you up. (although I’ve heard PvP is a bit tough for leveling)

      Just the other day, I wanted to continue my storyline quests, but I kept dying over and over. I was two levels below the recommended level and I really didn’t want to do any more DWEs. So, I decided to try some crafting and made a bunch of Copper Ingots, Leather Squares, and Wood Planks. It was enough to bump me up from lvl 12 to 14, and to let me continue on with my storyline.

  12. Telzis says:

    Probably not directly related to the article, but what also intrigued me in Guild Wars 2 was the NPC population. First, there are loads of generic “Citizens” and “Wardens” and “Travelers” standing around – nothing special for a MMO. But they are often in groups of two or three and randomly chatting about what happened to them recently. I find it really amusing eavesdropping on them and have yet to hear a repeated line.

    Secondly, among the city crowd you can find some named NPCs that sometimes tell you about their job, their personal worries and I even encountered some where I had the choice of “fixing” relationships in one of the three attitudes my character can have or act as a trustful listener. Nothing of that had any consequences on their or even my progression, but it was there.

    Both of these things may not be the greatest feats of immersion, but it impressed me that ArenaNet cared to put it in there and those details added a lot to the world feeling like inhabited by people and not just animated decoration and evil bad guys.

    • Skhalt says:

      Each passing day I’m more and more impressed with the amount of details (and i was already very impressed at day 1, so that’s no small feat).

      Yesterday I was exploring the Black Citadel, and came to the Blood Legion tribute quarters – I started talking with his aide, really expecting nothing more than some generic explanation, “Blood Legion for dummies and tourists”.
      Instead, as I play a Norn ranger, and she is a ranger herself, she asked about the Norn beliefs in the Spirits of the Wild, because she found it weird that we could befriend the animals we worship.

  13. Hoaxfish says:

    Being much more of a fan of Arenanet/GW1 than Bioware/Star Wars, I can’t really tell if GW2 is actually getting a much more positive reception than SWTOR or not.. I get the feeling it is, at least from a technical stand-point it seems stronger.

    • trjp says:

      I’d say it’s getting a stronger response from people who play MMOs – SWTOR obviously calls out to Star Wars fans and they’re not likely to be grabbed by GW (and vice versa) but generic MMO players seem to like it quite a bit (well, until Pandaria anyway!)

      I’m not sure what hardcore GW players are making of GW2 yet – the only 2 I’ve spoken to are not really terribly impressed (though they admit they weren’t ready for how different a game it is and they are PvPers with years of play behind them).

      As for non-MMO players – I’m sure they’ll play it and complain about ‘grind’ in the same way I’d play an online manshoot and complain that it’s tedious shit populated with imbeciles (e.g. complaining about the bloody obvious).

    • Skhalt says:

      SWTOR had that incredible capacity of making you think “Ah – it’s WoW with a SW skin” after about 10 seconds while GW2 definitely succeeds in having its own flavour.

  14. Yosharian says:

    I’ve just hit level 20 and I’m finding the game terribly boring. The heart quests are becoming really tedious (essentially it’s the same thing I was doing levels 1-10 repeated over and over). The events are still pretty good. The personal story quests are great.

    The problem is that it’s taking much longer to level, because there aren’t enough heart quests in the zone I’m in to maintain the level curve. I’m having to visit other beginner areas to maintain my level high enough to do the zone I’m interested in (15-25 asura), which you would think would be interesting but it’s just tedious because it involves lots more heart quests, which are the thing I hate the most.

    • KikiJiki says:

      You’re doing it wrong.

      The heart quests are simply pointers for where you should be looking for Dynamic events, they were only added because players complained that they didn’t know where to find the events.

      Dynamic events are the meat of ‘questing’ experience so you should absolutely not be just doing hearts and then thinking you’re done with a zone. Hell, in the high level areas there aren’t even any hearts.

    • Dominic White says:

      There are five 1-15 zones, and four 15-25 zones. If you’re getting sick of the scenery, TRAVEL. There is literally nothing stopping you. Once you’ve visted an area once you can teleport back to it for a pittance in change.

      After 30, the levelling pattern is ‘two 30-40 zones, one 35-45 zone’, ‘repeating up. 2x 40-50, one 45-55′, all the way up to 80. There should always be at LEAST two places you could be at any given time, and often three.

      You have to be wilfully ignoring huge swathes of the game if you think you’re running out of things to see that early.

      • Richard Cobbett says:

        I disagree about ‘willfully’ ignoring it. For all that Guild Wars 2 does well, it doesn’t go out of its way to point out a lot of things like that, and it does ‘feel’ like getting 100% in an area should translate to “I’m done, time for the next one” instead of finding yourself several levels too low because you neglected to chop down trees while you were walking around or whatever.

        • Squirrelfanatic says:

          Maybe the game isn’t clear enough about how you can manage your leveling. Exploration really is the biggest source of XP, on par with crafting, at least in my experience. Farming mobs and resources however really only nets you a small bite of “filler” XP here and there.

        • f1x says:

          I dont think the game should indicate you how to level, and I dont know if I’m missing the point but:

          you can gather every resource out there and attend every random event to boost your XP and then be on par with the zone always,
          or you can go zone jumping or try to complete exploration on the main capital

          I prefer that they dont specify exactly to you how you should proceed, you have to find yourself and sometimes stop and think “ok what should I do now”,
          I think we are also too much conditioned by the previous MMOs, actually nobody is forcing you to go 100% completion on your current zone and then move to next one that is right after but rather we force ourselves to follow a linear completion/progression
          of course zone completions offer nice rewards but its just an extra, you could do just 50% completion on 3 (same level range) different zones if you feel like it

          As a more personal opinion:
          I find myself strongly conditioned by that linear/eficient mentality after many years of wow, rift, etc, when I’ve managed to free a bit from that I’m enjoying the game much more, for example yesterday night I got 1 hour to play and I spent most of it in the capital exploring, checking armor models, checking professions and npcs and had a lot of fun, finally I got rid of the stress from MMOs that force you to have a “productive time” (Complete X quest in X time to feel your playtime/subscription time has been well spent)

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            “I prefer that they dont specify exactly to you how you should proceed, you have to find yourself and sometimes stop and think “ok what should I do now”,”

            Sure, fine. But what actually happens is that you get to the end of a map and feel like you should be able to continue, which breaks your flow. It makes it feel like you’ve done something wrong in a game that’s built to be the Land Of Do As You Please. Factor in that many people simply won’t know about the Gates and it’s a recipe for people to suddenly start feeling they have to do boring grinding. It’s also a problem that the ‘fun’ solution is to run around the entire map in the hope of finding enough events to continue, or having to step through a stargate to the other side of the world to toughen up enough to walk into the next bit of forest.

            It’s not a critical issue, since there are ways to continue progressing when it happens. It is however a jarring one the first time it happens, especially if you’re approaching it as someone who came into the game cold rather than someone who did lots of homework in advance.

          • Yosharian says:

            “I think we are also too much conditioned by the previous MMOs, actually nobody is forcing you to go 100% completion on your current zone”

            But what if I play that way because of personal preferences rather than habit?

          • Bobtree says:

            Completionism is a disease.

          • Yosharian says:

            It’s not necessarily completionism, it’s a desire to do things in order, leave nothing unfinished before moving on.

        • Dominic White says:

          I’m currently level 36, and haven’t 100%’d ANY zone. Or even close to it. I’ve done a tiny bit of crafting, but only a little. There’s about 4-5 zones available to me that I’ve not even seen at all. I’ve literally just been running around, exploring interesting-looking things and checking out new areas when they present themselves.

          Really, there’s no fixed ‘you need to do X or Y’ to level, beyond ‘Explore’. The fact that MMO players have been conditioned for so long to just follow the breadcrumb trail rather than just wandering around and seeing what’s happening is just sad.

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            That’s irrelevant. The problem is that people who have been going with the flow as presented suddenly find on their own and with no idea what to do next. It is a problem, regardless of whether you personally know enough about the game to go “Well, you should have crafted more!” or “There are another four zones to explore!”

            In short, within the structure the game presents, it is absolutely reasonable to go “But I’ve got 100% completion here! Why can’t I survive in the next area yet?”

          • f1x says:

            But again, (even tho I agree it can be a problem and it could be better handled) you are exporting concepts from other games, the concept that you should do a zone lineally from the lower level heart to the highest level heart and always have a next similar level heart to go once you are done, that you should have at hand a planified linear leveling path without the possibility to go wrong

            I’m not saying the game is perfect and that players are wrong, dont get me wrong, GW2 is not a 10/10

            but then, as said, what you say its a problem, sounds actually more like a unavoidable preset from previous MMOs, of course GW2 is telling you to go to the hearts because those scouts guys even discover them for you, but the game is not supposed to have a constant flow or have you traveling from heart to heart in a straight line

            The player that finds himself with the problem you mentioned, is the player that if it was not so blinded by the previous MMO mechanics, should explore the interface and find the options himself, he would eventually find the heart of the mists and the teleports from there, or should gain experience from professions,exploration, hubs, etc
            The thing is that the players that have that sort of problem with “flow” is players that are demanding from the game a linear-highspeed-leveling/no error posible progression like in previous mmos, and the game is definitely not like that

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            Er, no. If the game didn’t want to give that impression, it shouldn’t give you talk of ‘completing’ areas – and the why of why it does that doesn’t matter even a little. It is entirely down to its own presentation that this is an issue, regardless of what preconceptions people bring to it. In addition, it’s unfair to tell players that they’re playing ‘wrong’ when the game has no interest in directly telling them how to play ‘right’, and especially if what they’re doing has been working so far.

          • Gnoupi says:

            I’d add to this that some races have a better “flowing” starting zones than others. I had no issues going through one thing to the next as Asura or Sylvari.

            As human, however, I often found myself under-leveled when I tried to just follow things around.

          • Snakejuice says:

            Richard the point is that it’s part of thea game to find out for yourself what to do and how to structure your playtime, take that away and you take away a big part of the reason I’d rather play this game than for example WoW, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            “the point is that it’s part of thea game to find out for yourself what to do and how to structure your playtime.”

            Only when you perceive you have a choice and haven’t been screwed/screwed yourself over, which is what the game conveys in this situation. You might *want* people to go “Okay, well, I’ll try this…”, but what they’re actually going to do is have a very boring time either retreading the events they’ve already done because they know where they are, or doing something dull like chopping wood/grinding against monsters instead of having fun.

            That is the path of least resistance. It’s also the path of least interest. If people actively ignore it in favour of just killing ettins for five hours, that’s on them. If the game doesn’t do a good job of educating them on what more is out there, that’s on it as a game, not them on for not having doing their homework or spontaneously developing psychic powers.

          • f1x says:

            I still agree, that of course some zones / xp rates could be better tuned, but I think the system is working as intended overall,

            Richard:
            ” it’s unfair to tell players that they’re playing ‘wrong’ when the game has no interest in directly telling them how to play ‘right’, and especially if what they’re doing has been working so far.”

            Thats exactly my point, the game has no interest in telling you how to play “right”, yet we (classical mmo players) are demanding a “right” way to level , asuming leveling is the most important and has to be geographically conected, properly indicated and time efficient

            As said, I’ve had the problem you mention (nord zone), I’ve found myself with a zone next to me that was too hard for my level, but I didnt feel any problem, I traveled to the capital, I explored the mysts, found teleports, explored some areas and then I went to that zone again

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            “Thats exactly my point, the game has no interest in telling you how to play “right”, yet we (classical mmo players) are demanding a “right” way to level”

            I don’t believe I’ve said anything about levelling specifically. My complaint is that the game explicitly telling you that you’re finished with an area doesn’t mean you’re ready to progress, which is bad signposting and bad design, and with problematic solutions. Going somewhere else is a good thing to be able to do, simply to see somewhere different or to avoid getting stuck, but it’s a lousy fix because it breaks the flow of the journey and many players simply won’t be aware it’s a possibility in the first place, leading to at best disruption and at worst extended periods of absolute tedium.

            If you’re not affected by this, great! Your experience is not however universal, and when it hits people, it’s because the game itself has dropped the ball rather than them doing anything wrong.

          • f1x says:

            Of course my experience is not universal, I never said that, just placed an example

            The thing is I still prefer the game as it is, rather than being tuned / add indications so players are directed from heart to heart and to the next geographical zone in a straight line, I would rather praise Arenanet to keep doing the opositve

            That dosnt mean “confusing” players, but I’m my eyes, rather re-educating them so they feel like exploring and “finding out” stuff, of course, as I’ve said in every one of my posts, that dosnt mean that some details could be improved, tuned, and some features could be better advertised
            actually the game is based on a design that rewards exploration and roaming freely, I’m afraid that if they actually enforced things so it was more easy/viable to just powerlevel from heart to heart from the first zone to the next adjacent zone and so on it would be sort of a mistake

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            Nah, it’d be fine. You get a decent amount of time in an area, then you get to decide if you’ve had enough, with the completion counter for if you feel like being completist or just filling stuff in later on. If people want to rush to new areas, it’s no skin off Guild Wars 2′s nose, unlike the games that have to chase a subscription – especially since they can already avoid most of the content by just going into PvP or similar instead.

            The only catch is that harder-core players would get sniffy, but it wouldn’t have to affect them anyway. It’s not like there aren’t already Level 80 players going “So.. uh… what now?” I’ve seen two of them on the server in the last hour.

          • Brun says:

            I’d say f1x is right, people have been far too conditioned by “contemporary WoW’ into thinking that by following all the little icons on their map their leveling progress will be smooth. Original, vanilla WoW required a significant amount of travel to different zones for leveling – completing one zone did not necessarily mean you were ready for the adjacent one (especially with level 1-10 zones bordering level 55-60 zones). People seem to have forgotten that.

            That said, a few points. First of all, you can certainly complete content above your level. Usually you can survive and complete Renown Hearts and Dynamic Events at least 2 levels above your current level. Second, I think the very thing you guys are complaining about – “not knowing what to do when your zone is complete and you aren’t ready for the next one” – is at least partially intentional. They’re trying to encourage you to explore and go off the beaten path – and that’s a good thing.

            However, I do agree somewhat with Richard in that the game doesn’t do a great job of explaining a lot of its more intricate systems. It covers the basics well enough but it lacks a more advanced tutorial.

          • f1x says:

            Yep,
            the things is I hate absoluts, so I’m quite sure finding a middle point would be the best in this issue
            so in part they should try to tune XP gains in some areas and advertise better some features (like moving to other cities, or the importance of exploring / gathering ( etc ) as Richard said
            and on the other hand they should keep incentivating players to experiment and explore and get rid of previous MMO powerleveling conventions

            and Brun, indeed WoW Vanilla was similar in that, sometimes you would cross a map to find the next zone was too high level (north of Redridge for example, while south to Duskwood would be too high aswell and you were left in that zone with only the group quests left to do) and you had to actually find out where to go, find out a solution (grinding was an option but nobody likes grinding), so traveling/exploration was the solution in the end
            Of course, now when you look at it, it was an arcaic system, but somehow that gave the game sort of or more depth, some magic through discovery, that is what I was defending

          • Brun says:

            Well the other thing to keep in mind about Vanilla WoW was that the zone geography in that game was strongly driven by the lore and storyline of Warcraft, which legitimately featured areas that were highly dangerous adjacent to what would be considered “home areas” for several races (Tirisfal Glades/Western Plaguelands being the best example). One of the biggest goals of the Cataclysm storyline was to advance the lore in such a way that the original vanilla zones were streamlined, so that sitiuations like that occurred more rarely during the leveling process. Also, the geography and lore of Warcraft was strongly established by the RTS franchise, whereas that of Guild Wars was built for an MMO from the outset.

        • Silarn says:

          I’ve gotten to this point myself and my issue is not so much that I don’t think there’s enough to do so much as that I know there must be additional events to do but waiting for/finding them in random corners of the map when I have no idea they are there is irksome. I do wish events would reveal themselves from a slightly greater distance, particularly if the area has already been explored.

          Also, getting the necessary items to craft even out of the first material tier is a real chore. Not only do you need tons of random item drops from various enemy types on top of their anti-farming systems (you stop getting drops after killing too many things at a time), but the trading post is still down. I feel like the requirements for low level crafting are just a bit too high. I’ve already spent a lot of time in the 1-20 areas trying to get these mats just to get my 2 skills up to 75 and basically gave up. I’m now over lv 30 and getting into the tier 3 areas with 20 levels left to even get to tier two. Of course, I have a decent backlog of tier 2 mats waiting, but I have no desire to farm for those last 20 levels.

      • Yosharian says:

        Why aren’t there any quests that naturally link me to those zones, then? I have no idea where they are..

        • Brun says:

          Why do you need breadcrumbs to follow? The whole point of setting the game up this way is so that you have the freedom to say: “You know what? I kind of want to check out the Asura zones, I heard they were in a jungle and that sounds cool.”

          • Yosharian says:

            “I heard they were in a jungle”

            That’s the sort of indication I’m talking about. An NPC could say “hey, you should visit the jungle east of here. I hear they’re having trouble with blablabla”

            I’m not talking about a giant arrow or GO HERE NOW sign. I’m just talking about little clues to lead the player to places they might find useful.

            It’s all too easy to say “oh but you’re supposed to explore”. I could spend an hour exploring and not find an appropriate zone. For someone with less time than me, that hour could be the only time they get to play game that particular day.

          • Brun says:

            The zone levels are shown on the map, so you can get a general idea of what direction to start hiking. However, one thing the should have covered in the tutorial but didn’t are Asura Gates, which allow fast travel between Racial Capitals. But again, the tutorial is one of the weak points of this game.

      • Achilles84 says:

        I’ve actually found that I am staying way above the recommended level for anything I have opened up. If you do your personal story, craft some, complete zones, help friends, try some WvWvW, I don’t think you will have any problems. They only time the game will “point” you to another zone will be the green marker for your personal story. Other than that, there is nothing really saying, “You should go here next”. It doesn’t hold your hand much, and I could see it being hard to know where to go next if you were new. I dont think they designed it for a player to go from heart to heart, zone to zone in one non-stop grind to the top. In my experience, once I hit lvl 15ish, I’ve been steadily getting higher lvl than any zone or area I need access to to continue.

  15. barelyhomosapien says:

    The dialogue for the Asura and human noble initial story quests sparkles in my honest opinion. It’s often amusing and has made me chuckle more then once.

    I’m glad I never bought into the hype around the game as I had no expectations going into it, clearly some of those that did have become quite disgruntled.

    I do hope this is not going to be another game that gets too much coverage on RPS, like Diablo 3 before it…dissecting every issue, bug and patch was a little excessive.

    Apologies for the grumpy whine at the end.

  16. Merecraft says:

    The story in GW2 is not in the same league as the story in TSW. I can’t remember a single line of dialogue from the GW2 storyline I’ve played, but I can remember loads of lines from TSW – the writing is leagues better.

    The article also misses the point about how the story is told in TSW. There is no infodumping. By only running the main story quests you’ll get the basic gist of what is going on, but to get the full story you need to do all the side quests and find and read the lore. Even then you don’t get the full picture but have to piece together all the clues as to what is happening.

    Absolutely loads of the side quests and other quests have information that directly ties into the main storyline, deepening the main story. Even random NPC dialogue cann reveal story points as you run past. Almost everything that is happening on the island is tied into the main storyline – the story is TSW is not just the main storyline quest.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      “The article also misses the point about how the story is told in TSW”

      No, it doesn’t. It talks about my experiences with the story, whose good stuff was destroyed by – amongst other things – MMO nonsense and the pacing issues. A game’s intentions are completely irrelevant if its execution turns me off playing it, despite in theory being something I should absolutely love. The point of the article is that despite being much less ambitious and imaginative, GW2′s approach to execution has kept me interested regardless of what ‘should’ be better.

      • Merecraft says:

        “lots and lots of small things in sequence, presented in pretty much the same style as the important stuff, which you’re encouraged to rush through in bulk to the point that everything soon melds together into a general lump of narrative that soon loses all meaning”

        That describes the GW2 story better than either the SWTOR story or the TSW story, except that the important stuff is presented in exactly the same style as everything else.

        Saying the first assignment is 18 stages long and spread over three zones, and therefore is a problem in TSW is disingenous. The first part of the story is 18 stages long. You could say the same about the story in GW2 or SWTOR (though I agree the way the mechanic is presented in TSW does leave something to be desired). Each stage of the 18 is equivalent to one full story quest in the GW2 story, plus I zoned a lot more doing the GW2 storyline that I did doing the TSW one.

        GW2 is a great game, but the storytelling is no better than average (by that I mean script, quests, dialogue, storyline etc) by almost any other MMO standard. GW2 is getting enough hype as it is (for good reason in some cases) without having to praise it’s least successful elements as the best in the genre.

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          “Saying the first assignment is 18 stages long and spread over three zones, and therefore is a problem in TSW is disingenous. The first part of the story is 18 stages long. You could say the same about the story in GW2 or SWTOR ”

          No, you can’t. Both of those games fix their gaze primarily on the near future – the next couple of levels, the next planet. The equivalent in TSW – which it totally should have done – would be Kingsmouth having one story about finding out about Beaumont (or better still, one involving the ship and then another leading to him), then link into two more 5-ish parts for Savage and Blue that also brought those maps to a close.Those areas can have exactly the same overall arc, no problem, but staring at that one epic quest for hour after hour, day after day, while being distracted and called away by a hundred smaller, typically overly stretched out things to do is simply exhausting.

          And I repeat: I did not say that GW2′s story was better. I said the opposite. And no, that absolutely does not describe GW2′s story. A similar thing does apply to the heart quests, and there’ll be talk of that in the WIT, but that’s out of the bounds of this specific article.

  17. jellydonut says:

    Devs need to learn from EVE Online. What the fuck is the point of an MMO if the player has no impact on the world, can’t have any impact on the world, there is zero consequence to anything you do, and the only thing resembling a story is something everyone else did while they were leveling?

    • GameCat says:

      That’s why most MMO sucks. I want MMO where not all players can have “Super Legendary Unique Sword Of Some Ancient Badass Who Ruled This Land Years Before(TM)”. Where only way to obtain this sword would be a) killing that ancient badass b) killing player who killed that ancient badass earlier.
      Not “everything is istanced and everything respawns every 5 minutes”.

    • Brun says:

      Players impact the world by completing Dynamic Events. Completing or Failing a Dynamic Event does have an at least short-term effect on the world around you. For example, I did an event helping some Seraph capture a fortress from Centaurs. Had we failed that event, the Centaurs would have controlled the fortress, cutting off access to the Waypoint and vendors located there. Most people rarely see the impacts of their contributions, however, because 1) they usually don’t stick around to see the aftermath of the events and 2) the game is so crowded right now, with so many event participants, that every event usually has the same outcome (success).

      I think part of the problem is that the events seem to be undertuned, there’s really no risk of failure if you have 20 people participating in a “Defend the NPC” event. That may change in the higher-level zones, however.

  18. Chris D says:

    I’m, perhaps ill-advisedly, playing all five characters simultaneously. On the positive side it does mean I can cover all the crafting bases easily and, more relevantly for this article, it means I’ve got to see a good chunk of five different stories.

    I shall probably come off sounding like a fanboy but I’m not sure there’s anything I can do about that as if this game was a woman I’d want to settle down and have babies with it. And if the game was a man?What the hell, we could always adopt.

    Anyway, I’ve been enjoying all the stories so far. When people criticise or praise a games writing what they’re usually referring to is the dialogue, but that’s really only one part of it, there’s also concept, characterisation and pacing and a bunch of other stuff. While the dialogue varies from ok to great in parts and the pacing mostly takes care of itself, I’d say what the game really nails is the concept and character.

    I find with each of my characters I’m always doing something that draws me in and involves me, and gives them more depth than just the guy/girl who kills a lot of monsters. In some cases I knew what I wanted them to be before I started other times they were more of a blank slate. The stories have allowed me to fill out the blank ones while still being generally true to the vision I had for the others.

    And another thing…wait, what’s that, brain?

    “Error 52: You’re not playing Guild Wars 2 right now.”

    Sorry, something important just came up, I have to go.

  19. derbefrier says:

    its not bad but like most generic fantasy stories I have already found myself skipping most of the dialog. But I have no investment in guild wars lore and even tend to do this in single player games with boring predictable dialog (about half way through TOR i was skipping most everything) . Its always been difficult for me to get into video game stories simply because they are never really that good and GW2 seems to be no different.

    I know i sound harsh and it really isn’t that bad compared to other games but there are very few games out there that have managed to get me emotionally invested in the story so maybe i am just a tough crowd. I don’t buy MMOs for the story anyway, hell in my 5 years of WoW i don’t think i ever read or cared about any of the quest lines so its not something i am necessarily disappointed by, its just what i expected. I am not taking any points off for something i didn’t care about in the first place. I will say i haven’t felt this addicted to an MMO in a long time. I am really enjoying the quest structure and I am finally getting comfortable with the combat system and having a lot of fun. I think it may be time to finally try some PvP during my long weekend.

  20. malkav11 says:

    Really not my experience at all. Oh, Guild Wars 2 is lovely, and the poking-around-in-the-world stuff works quite well. But the personal story stuff, despite admirably attempting to personalize things based on those character creation choices you made, is so clumsy and poorly written that it’s bouncing right off me. I’m level 11 now, my next personal story chunk is level 6, and I have no particular desire to get back to it. And I’ve been one of those people that’s more than happy to read the quest text in most MMOs, much less engage with the vastly better delivered narratives in SWTOR and TSW.

  21. Ashen says:

    Can’t.. compute. The personal “story” in GW2 is just flat-out terrible. The writing is Blizzard-awful and the voice acting gets even worse. Also, it doesn’t fit the rest of the game at all – this isn’t a narrative driven game and it really doesn’t need awkward attempts at storyline.

    I’m not sure how you can even put it in the same sentence as TSW.

    • Thurgret says:

      The quality appears to vary somewhat from race to race, and depending on your choices within that race at character creation, too. I’ve been reasonably satisfied with the Charr so far. It’s nothing super, but it’s not too horribly dull, either.

    • Achilles84 says:

      How much of the story have you actually completed? I’m guessing not a whole heck of a lot. Not every segment is super interesting. Especially in the beginning, but it does build and get good. At least to me. And as far as the voice acting being terrible… I think you’ve got some TSW fanboy blindness. The voice acting in my Charr storyline has been pretty spot on. 1 or 2 cringe worthy lines but that hardly makes it terrible.

  22. takfar says:

    I’ve played both human and sylvari stories up to level 16 (ie. right until you leave the starting area), and I’ve played the very first quests for the other races. While storytelling is a bit awkward, for the precise reasons you’ve stated (it’s a game not built around storytelling, but rather exploration and skill growth) I personally think the sylvari story is the stronger one.

    The story of (slight, harmless spoilers) “an evil knight wearing an indestructible suit of armor whom you have to defeat by some means” is pleasantly reminiscent of classic fairy tales of fantasy, and the personal relationships and personalities of characters involved are actually believable. The human story is much more standard fare, and didn’t really leave an impression on me so far.

    Regarding the pacing, tho, I find it somewhat similar to GW1, only the thing barring you from playing the “missions” was location, and not level. GW2 is infinitely more interactive in its story, as GW1 was basically a single tale being told. And of course, there were about 18 missions in GW1, whereas GW2 has many more shorter story missions.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Yeah, specifically, it’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, right down to him being called Bercilak. Though sadly, with a much less interesting finale when he turns out to just be a horny douchebag instead of a test. I had much higher hopes for that, as enjoyable as the journey was.

      • takfar says:

        Yes, compared to the Human one, the sylvari quest was more enjoyable. I was actually eager to go into story quests, rushing to level up so I could do them, whereas the human was not unfun, but I’d just take them as they arrived without much involvement. I’ve just started the Charr one and it seems interesting. (Ideally, I want to play all characters until level 16 and then decide which one I like best to go and finish the game)

  23. woodsey says:

    My friend’s been pestering me to get this, but I was somewhat burned with SWTOR and let’s face it, pretty much every damn MMOG makes exactly the same promise. The game’s also very bloody expensive everywhere I look right now (yes, no sub I know) which isn’t exactly letting me test my curiosity.

    I know it still adheres to theme-park-esque stuff, but how genuinely free-form is it?

    • Yosharian says:

      It just feels as if it’s faking it most of the time. Mobs sit around waiting to be killed, and respawn pretty fast. The dynamic questing system doesn’t actually appear to have as much of an effect on the landscape as it was expected to.

      My advice to you is, get this game if you’re really interested in the PvP. If you are only looking for a PvE experience, wait for RPS’s final verdict and make your decision then.

      • Achilles84 says:

        While some events don’t have a lot of effect, if you stick around after an event, a lot often do. No they aren’t all super world changing, but to say they have NO effect is an un-truth.

        Yes a lot of mobs “stand around waiting to be killed”. But the mobs that are part of events hardly ever do. Stationary mobs give filler and aren’t a negative thing at all. Not sure what you are wanting here?

        I say if you like PvE, get it. If you like PvP, get it! I do not think you will be disappointed.

    • Bremze says:

      It’s free-form in that you can do whatever you choose without any arbitrary requirements (except dungeons, those start from lvl 30) and everything you do contributes to your character development (except spvp, but you can still get pretty clothes from it). As for what Yosharian said, the dynamic events often branch depending on whether you win or lose them. With the launch rush, you don’t see the losing conditions happening very often, which I’ve found to be more interesting like Centaurs taking human settlements in the first human zone.

  24. Yosharian says:

    Since this is becoming somewhat of an in-depth discussion, here’s something I was reflecting on a few days ago in public chat.

    I don’t feel like a Necromancer. To be specific, I don’t feel like the game is acknowledging my necromancery. I summon deathly creatures and make my enemies rot from the inside, but when I’m doing my personal quest I’m just Johnny Asura science expert.

    In WoW, you start the game as a newbie (for me it was Warlock). Some Warlocky guy tells you that to learn how to be a warlock you have to do x y and z, and those are basically fetch quests. You slowly get given more spells, and eventually the game gives up with the whole warlock thing, apart from a few token quests every now and again (and they got virtually removed from the game anyway because people complained about them). But at least the game acknowledges your class, even if it’s in this small token way. In WoW, I felt like a Warlock, and I knew that my powers came from these Warlocky guys, and they made me do stupid quests to get my spells. (actually some of the quests were fucking cool)

    In GW2, I’m basically a necromancer by addendum. I’m an Asura smartypants that does all these things like create golems and all this stuff, and I have these necromancer abilities as an aside. I don’t really FEEL like a necromancer with regard to my quests, storyline, etc. All that stuff that’s important to feel immersed.

    So I guess my point that despite WoW’s obvious shortcomings in this area, at least it tries. GW2 doesn’t seem to try at all.

    • Achilles84 says:

      I see your point here, I think the dialogue takes mostly your race and personality into consideration. It would add another huge layer of complexity for the game to change its responses based on your profession as well. Although, I’ve found by the other choices I made, (choosing ash legion as a charr/thief), it very much makes me feel as I am a thief. Ash is sneaky, but if I had chosen, Charr/Ash Legion/Elementalist, I’m not sure I would get that same fealing.

      I think some races fit with certain professions better.

      I have had some random NPC’s acknowledge my class though.

      I guess some imagination on our part wouldn’t hurt.

    • takfar says:

      I felt the very same thing playing an asura necro. I guess we could reason that profession is not the main defining factor in asuran society, but rather the college the asuran belongs to. They *all* tend to dabble in magical-mechanical contraptions, and the tools they choose are secondary to the philosophical stance.

    • malkav11 says:

      You’ll be pleased to learn that WoW took all that out, then. Well, I know they funneled all those rewards back into the main levelling system and made those class quests completely optional (for quality class-specific gear), but I think Cataclysm actually eliminated them, full stop.

      The only class specific content anymore as far as I know is the death knight starting area. Possibly something like that will be incoming for the monk in Mists of Pandaria. I think it’s a pity. I mean, a lot of those class quests were frustratingly difficult and tough to get help with because nobody outside your class would get any reward from it. But it helped give the sense that the game world knew and cared what class you were. Whereas now…well, for example, a lot of Wrath of the Lich King is honestly a very weird experience as a death knight because people should have some reaction to you being an undead former minion of the Lich King, especially death knights that are still working for him, and boss characters that helped train you. And they don’t.

      • Brun says:

        Well at the end of the Death Knight starting storyline, when you visit your faction capital the first time, the guards and citizens will insult and say generally hateful things to you while you’re walking to visit your faction leader, as well as pelting you with rotten fruit. But after you complete that quest things go back to normal.

        • malkav11 says:

          Yep. And that’s long before you play any 70-80 (i.e., properly speaking Wrath storyline, even though Death Knights are a Wrath-introduced class) content.

  25. MadMatty says:

    Yeah, as much as i liked Everquest and WoW for their snazzy 3D and cool combat systems, it was clear they had taken a step back, when it comes to things you could possibly do in the world, compared to the “first” MMO, Ultima Online.
    For me its always been the stories that emerges between players, but you gotta offer a bigger toolkit with more interactions with the enviroment, than these late gen MMO´s, to make that interesting.

    For instance, Ultima Online, you could throw things on the ground, and they´d stay there for like 48 hours.
    Also, you could place your house exactly where you wanted it.
    Only newer game that has these options, is Wurm Online, which is great, but underpopulated and underfunded.

    As for a good story in AAA productions this decade, i´d say parts off Mass Effect were tolerable…. Indies are far less risk averse, and so generally come with the gritty stories that are actually good, instead of this test-audience proofed stuff thats been polished down into blandness, Hollywood style.

  26. Brun says:

    Enjoying the Human story so far although there have been some disconnects – one moment I’m hunting bandits, and then, inexplicably, I’m dealing with a group of surly heroes called Destiny’s Edge. I don’t think the story ever really explains how they became involved. The Destiny’s Edge scene, however, is one of the best in the storyline so far – some great voice acting and an interesting angle on the “group of adventurers trope.”

    • Achilles84 says:

      If you are interested, I would recommend reading both of the Guild Wars books. They give the story leading up to GW2 and you learn a lot about Destiny’s Edge. Good books!

  27. tumbleworld says:

    I really want to love The Secret World. I did my best to take exception with your comment about the 18-part first assignment Richard, because it’s not entirely fair… but I couldn’t because honestly, even if it’s not the whole story, you are right. It would have been nice if the main quest had changed zone to zone. The overall narrative structure is peculiar, to say the least. Even the Templar boss keeps being sarcastic about my digressions into do-gooder territory. The writing is gorgeous, the acting often superb, the incidental detail glorious. I adore the investigation missions, and some of the others can be quite brilliant.

    But oh Gods, the actual game part of the game…

    And now Guild Wars 2 sounds like it’s actually, genuinely offering an explorer-friendly setting. Where random wandering might be encouraged, rather than immediately punished with over-level mobs packed shoulder to shoulder. It’s a serious temptation. I’m a little scared to indulge — so much burn from large releases over the last few years — and fantasy feels so much less appealing than Lovecraftian madness, but dammit, I think I’m being sucked in.

    • Achilles84 says:

      Do it, do it, do it, do it, do it!!

      It does reward exploration. There are areas you should avoid until you are the appropriate level of course, but inside the zones its all about exploring. Even in the cities. There are some REALLY cool hidden mazes, jumping puzzles and the like.

  28. Ultra-Humanite says:

    I don’t play Secret World so I can’t really relate to the context, but it seems like you are basically saying it is “too long didn’t read.” Which is a novel complaint, to say the least.

  29. Rippentrop says:

    ***Possible charr spoilers ahead***

    I was particularly impressed – only about 16 levels in – when my charr was forced to choose between letting his father die unhonourably, or to execute him myself in honourful manner. A bit later though I did find a third way out, but that part left me with some very nice The Witcher-like vibes which I absolutely love (regardless of the bad writing / voiceacting at times). It was one of those times I just sat still 10 minutes doing nothing but trying to puzzle which is the best devil to marry.

  30. piesmagicos says:

    I have to agree somewhat on the story telling aspect of MMO’s…TSW had phenomenal story telling and AoC tried to get a story going as well to limited success. GW2 the same…never tried TOR….but what gets me is, i have very few moments that stand out as memorable from these games. Or any MMO for that matter. The only real MMO that i have specific memories for that stand out. was in DAoC…its story was pointless, the quest were typical, but the playground of frontiers allowed for many stories to be created and drama to occur within PvP and RvR….and to this day no MMO has approached that level of immersion…i think dev’s try too hard to create a story for their players and not enough time creating a environment where the players can create their own story.

  31. Fearzone says:

    Handing you story is not what MMOs should do, but rather present you with a world that presents many choices in which you can build your own unique story.

    I was disappointed to learn that GW2 PvP maxes everyone’s level to 80. Maybe that seems like a good idea, because it makes things more fair or something, but in MMOs the game is to make yourself more powerful than the next guy, so equating levels undoes that aspect of gameplay. I know that levels are only one part of character progression and probably items and skill are a more important part that would still distinguish different players.

    Still, sometimes part of the fun in PvP is still being useful to the team with an under-levelled character. In Warsong Gulch my level 11 warlock could still fear the flag carrier even if my DPS lagged behind, or my shaman could slow him down with speed bumps. Or in Arathi Basin low level characters can be useful capturing undefended flags and calling out “incomings”. You learn the game better that way–both your own character’s support abilities as well as the battleground.

  32. AlienMind says:

    You all forgot that the gameplay of this one fucking rocks. Combine that with a group of people in Teamspeak and you got fun for the next 7 years until GW3 comes out. Try team-combos! Try dungeons! Try World-VS-World! Do not write an essay about how a game can not give you a real world simulation in terms of story. It’s just pointless.

  33. Lamb Chop says:

    Where does one actually get a copy of this game, since apparently they’ve stopped digital sales? Yeah. Digital versions. Are sold out. That’s a little bit worse than not being able to get to the same server as your friends. Makes Diablo’s launch look smoother than a pickup artist.

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