Monday, July 23, 2012

Ways Guild Wars 2 Could Be Improved

I've certainly sung Guild Wars 2's praises over the past couple of months, and for good reason: it's a good game.  But it's not perfect, and this post is here to list a few reasons why I personally don't think it's perfect.


I know, it's in beta, but it's coming out towards the end of August, which is coming up.  The game is still mostly CPU-bound, which means that while of course it's still using your GPU, it's using the CPU for a lot more than it should be.  I know I'm running it on an 8-year-old computer, and it's a miracle that it runs as well as it does, but still.

One thing they could do for less powerful computers is have an option to turn off all the non-essential NPCs.  There are so many random NPCs milling about towns and combat areas that if the game had less to keep track of, it would probably run a lot smoother for people with less capable setups.  This is shown quite plainly through my experience, where the farther away I was from towns, other players, and dynamic events, the better my framerate was.

Key Bindings

They're fairly different from Guild Wars 1, and to a certain degree that's to be expected.  Old habits die hard, so I often find myself targeting an enemy and then jumping, because in GW1 the "go attack now" button was spacebar.

Also, by default, there is no keybinding for "target closest enemy".  You have to bind it yourself, and then you discover that it is incredibly finnicky.  It prefers targets in front of your character, but sometimes it picks the strangest targets.  I really wish it worked like it did in GW1 where it would just target the closest enemy to you, regardless of anything.

The "target closest enemy" function can pick neutral things you may not want to attack like target practice dummies when really you're trying to target the drake directly behind one of them, as happened to me in the Charr area.  I ended up destroying all of the target dummies just so I could get a reliable target.

It would also be nice if your strafe controls would strafe you in a circle around an enemy when you have it targeted.  It could only do it if you're in attack range, to avoid unpredictable behavior.

Combat Awareness

I really miss the compass from GW1 that showed you the little red dots to tell you where enemies were.  It made it a lot easier to know if something was patrolling up.

Also, they need to tweak enemy respawning, big time.  Enemies can respawn right on top of you, without warning.  The respawn algorithm needs to check in a certain radius of the spawn location for players and not spawn the enemy if a player is close enough to be immediately under attack.

Equipment Comparisons

When you're going to sell stuff to a merchant, if you hover over a weapon, it'll pop up a comparison window showing you what you currently have equipped and highlighting the important numbers in either green or red depending on which ones are better or worse.  That's nice, but it doesn't care about weapon type.  For instance, it will readily compare a greatsword to a longbow, which doesn't help when I'm trying to see if a greatsword I just picked up is better than the greatsword I currently have, but not equipped.

All throughout the beta I was keeping all the weapons usable by the class I was playing available in my inventory so I could swap around while out of combat.  I don't know how much of that I'll do after release, because that takes a ton of inventory space for very little gain, but it needs to provide more relevant comparisons somehow.  It only ever cares about what's currently equipped, not even going as far as to also show you what you have on your weapon swap.  I accidentally sold my shortbow because of this and ended up with two longbows equipped, wondering why I could no longer swap to my shortbow skills when I needed them.

Aquatic Pets

They're available, but they're damn hard to locate.  I found one by dumb luck while exploring the underwater portions of Lion's Arch, and later discovered that the Whiptail Devourers available in the Charr area can be both terrestrial and aquatic.  I spent the majority of the time I played my ranger without an aquatic pet, simply because they're so difficult to locate.  A bit of "pet sense" would help here.  It could just be a simple out-of-combat spoken line "there are tameable animals nearby!" or something more fancy, but anything to help locate potential pets would be nice.  I wrote a guide for it in Guild Wars 1 (available on and maintained by the denizens of GuildWiki) after they added the Zaishen Menagerie to the game, so maybe I just need to locate a guide that someone else has already written.

Rewards Relevance

I completed the exploration objectives in the Charr area on my Sylvari Ranger, only to receive two Masterworks that weren't usable by my ranger.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because of the trading post and being able to have multiple characters, but it'd be nice if one of the rewards could be locked as always being something relevant to the class you're currently playing.

Also, completing the exploration objectives for a town nets you a money reward of one copper.  Really?  I know it's a town and there aren't really any hazards other than fall damage, but come on.  One copper?  Seriously?

Doing the Asura jumping puzzle you encounter two chests, one after the very first segment, and the other at the end.  I got wholly unremarkable items out of both.  Given the amount of effort required to do that puzzle, the rewards definitely weren't worth the effort required.

Finding Stuff To Do

It seems odd that there'd be a lack of things to do in an MMO, but I saw with a fair amount of regularity "What's there to do in this area around level X?  I can't find anything!" in the chat.  I also experienced some of this on my own, where I couldn't find a place where I felt comfortable killing things that were around my level, starting at about level 9.  I always ended up in an area where things were two to three levels higher than me, which while possible is a fairly daunting challenge and generally requires you to follow someone around who is actually at the appropriate level for the area.

Some areas are worse about this than others.  The Charr starting area (Plains of Ashford) is without a doubt my favorite place for the level 1 to 15 experience.  The layout isn't very complex, there are large areas where you can feel comfortable killing things before you start to encounter stuff that's too high-level, and there's plenty of room to retreat and maneuver around enemies.

In comparison, the Sylvari and Asura areas were horrible and led to the situation described in the first paragraph of this section.  I didn't stick around the Norn area too long with my Elementalist, but it seemed okay.  The Human area was fine as well, but it was so incredibly lag-inducing for me that I had to go elsewhere.

Unrelated, take a five minute tour of any NPC-populated Asura area (for instance, Rata Sum, which is easily accessible via the portal from Lion's Arch) and tell me you don't grow incredibly tired of hearing the word "Excelsior".  Go on, try it.  Here's a hint: it's impossible.

Crates (or... Mystic Chests)

Ever played Team Fortress 2?  Then you undoubtedly know about the cancer that is crates.  In TF2 the only way to open them is by buying a key from the microtransaction store, or by trading something to another player for a key that they've purchased.

Guild Wars 2 has Mystic Chests, which require a Mystic Key to open.  Unlike TF2, Mystic Keys do drop from enemies, but they're incredibly rare.  I only ever got one.  Since the drop rate of Mystic Chests is so high, you end up with lots of them and no keys with which to open them.  You can buy them through GW2's microtransaction store via Gems, which can be obtained in unknown quantity for real-world money or in-game money.  At least you can convert in-game money to Gems, so it's a step in the right direction, but... I'd much rather just have the drop rate on Mystic Keys increased to match that of the chests they go with.

Do we really need a microtransaction store in an MMORPG anyway?  They've already stated that it's not ever going to be "pay-to-win", which makes it entirely overlookable for most purposes.  There are some convenience items in there that enable access to your bank or a merchant from anywhere, but there are plenty of random merchants sprinkled about the combat areas, and if you find a town with the crafting NPCs you can access your bank there regardless of whether or not you have any experience with crafting anything.

Embedded superlative:  The rest of the Black Lion Trading Company is absolutely amazing though.  Through it you can buy items from other players without ever having to interact with those other players.  Which means the reverse is also true, you can sell stuff to other players without ever having to interact with them.  It basically removes scamming from the game.  Given that GW2 has crafting disciplines that are entirely optional to learn, it opens up the possibility of essentially going into business for your character, making stuff and selling it through the trading post for a profit.  I used it to buy leather to make 8-slot inventory bags, and it works really well.  It shows you how much of what you're interested in is available at any given price, and actively gives you the lowest price it possibly can for the amount you want to purchase.

Underwater Combat

This is the big one.  They've pitched underwater combat time and time again as a superlative, and while it does add variety, it seems a bit stale and under-utilized.  Aside from a few story missions or finding some NPCs you might need to talk to inside a cave somewhere, the underwater portions of Guild Wars 2 that I've seen so far can be pretty much overlooked.  I didn't skimp on it either, all five of the characters I played over the course of two beta events obtained all of their underwater combat skills, and one of the early Asura story missions has underwater combat.  What the regular, open-world underwater combat needs is boss encounters and other big events that happen underwater.  I only ever encountered two events that really involved underwater combat at all, one in the Charr area, and one in the Asura area.

It also doesn't help that one of the available underwater weapons is a melee weapon.  Now that the enemies can move in all three dimensions, positioning yourself for melee combat becomes very difficult.  I often found myself wildly swinging my spear at nothing while thinking I was attacking an enemy.  While there are skills for underwater melee combat that explicitly point you at and make you charge towards an enemy, they don't recharge quickly enough to be useful.  Therefore, the autoattack really needs some form of a homing ability on it, in that it will turn you towards your target and if you're within a certain range that's outside of your attack range, move you into attack range.


Guild Wars 2 is a great game.  These things I've listed that I feel need improvement, while annoying, don't detract enough to make the game not worth the purchase.  Everything mentioned here can be changed with a game update, and ArenaNet typically listens to players when they have good suggestions.

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