Chris Thursten recounts the early beta experience with both the good and the not-so-good, including some personal preferences in the character creation process:
As someone who likes MMOs — and who isn’t necessarily convinced they need saving — I’m treating my uninterrupted weekend with the game as an opportunity to see how far it can deliver on its big ideas. If it can convince me that we really have been doing everything wrong since World of Warcraft, then ArenaNet could be on to something.
I opt to play a female human warrior. My choice of race is down to the fact that the human starting area — lush farmland under attack by roaming centaur warbands — is the most frequently cited example of GW2’s evolving ‘events’ system, where quests are thrown out in favour of dynamic objectives based on the independent actions of players, monsters and friendly NPCs. I become a mail-clad warrior, meanwhile, because I want my character to put some bloody clothes on. The land of Tyria is populated by clear-faced underwear models, and it’s an uphill struggle to make a female character who doesn’t look 15 years old. The best I can do is a kind of Disney Joan of Arc, a waif-thin airbrushed beauty wielding a sword bigger than she is. I avoid spellcasters entirely because there’s only so much Renaissance-themed fetish gear I can handle.
It’s not all aesthetic hell, however:
Guild Wars 2’s events system is starting to make sense. “Events are very visual,” Flannum says. “They don’t require a lot of explanation. You run into a city and there are centaurs attacking everyone – you kind of know what to do, right?”
[. . .]
We cooperated wordlessly, matching the capabilities of our characters to the present need without any planning or leadership. When the behemoth fell, a cheer went up. It dropped a glimmering treasure chest, from which everyone received a boon of item upgrades and general purpose loot. My gold-ranked contribution to the fight earned me half a level and filled me with genuine pride. What was remarkable about this encounter is that it provided top tier thrills with none of the set-up, none of the stress. This is exactly what ArenaNet are aiming for, Eric Flannum says. “One of the things that we really wanted to avoid was this feeling that the game doesn’t really start until max level.”
What was remarkable about my time with GW2 as a whole is that situations like this one — impromptu mass cooperation, with a real sense of a collective experience — came about several times. I have questions about how events will operate when zones are either over or under-populated, but if nothing else my time proves one thing: the system works.