It’s kinda funny; I have been complaining about the Dilex rate until the Phoenix Pack dropped it to a reasonable level. Hurriedly I liquidated the dilithium reserves on every single one of my toons, which left me with more Zen than I know what to do with. At the same time, for over two weeks straight I have been running dailies on each of my toons to rebuild their dilithium pool… which takes over 2.5 hours of doing nothing but clicking at various screens.
Guess what happened? Burnt out. 😦
So I’m taking another break from Star Trek Online. Meanwhile, Fungi and I have taken up Guild Wars 2.
Guild Wars 2 is a MMORPG which is currently free-to-play; it is set in the fantasy world of Tyria, and at first glance reminds me quite a bit of Rift in terms of looks and aesthetics. The world is absolutely HUGE, with a wide variety of environments, from the rolling hills of Kryta, the blasted plains of Ascalon, to the lonely snow-covered mountains of the Shiverpeaks, and the pretty pretty fairy lands of Caledon Forest. The human city of Divinity’s Reach is massive compared to Rift’s main city of Sanctum; the latter feels more like a small fort compared to the former. Animation is smooth, and definitely far superior to STO; your toon’s lips actually move when she’s speaking! In fact, as an overall game GW2 feels a whole lot more polished than STO.
Although at first glance, gameplay seems typical of MMORPGs (i.e. use of skill bars), it’s a bit different in practice. The number of skills available for use is limited to 10 at maximum, and they are somewhat locked in place: Skills 1-5 are fixed to your choice of weapons, environmental items, or in the case of my main girl who is an Elementalist, what attunement she’s using. Skill 6 is your Heal, Skills 7-9 are Utility Skills, and Skill 10 is the “Elite” skill. Whereas in most MMORPGs different classes give you different skills, in GW2 each class gives you a different interface so they all play differently. As examples, Elementalists have an extra selection bar for the four different elemental attunements, Rangers have a pet selection/stance skill bar, Warriors have an Adrenaline bar that fills up and depletes in battle.
Because of this relatively small set of skills, combat in GW2 is more action-oriented. In addition, dodging is actually very critical – it’s often the best way to avoid damage, and you can’t fight someone who’s behind you.
I’m still in the middle of leveling, so I can’t speak about endgame content yet, but I can attest that the leveling grind feels a lot less “grindy” than other games. You move from area to area where “Hearts” are found, which are quest-givers whose tasks you complete for XP and loot. The game makes clever use of its rich environment to give you a variety of tasks so it’s rarely repetitive. The best part about this is the game randomly generates “Events” around the map, cooperative tasks such as defending a fort, killing a boss enemy nearby, escorting a caravan from Point A to Point B, and so on, which you can participate in between your leveling quests.
The whole thing is also interspersed with your “Personal Story” missions, which are based on choices you made for your character during CGen. This is your personal ongoing storyline, which apparently can also impact the world around you.
Gear drops have been very generous so far, although I noticed a lot of the endgame Barbie-ing is locked behind real money purchases. We’ll have to see how expensive it gets when I get there!
The other part of the game that requires real money purchases is the expansion, “Heart of Thorns”. The expansion adds a new class (Revenant), unlocks some restricted features such as zone chat and additional character slots, but mainly it adds some new open-world maps which I suspect will be important for endgame play. The expansion happened to be on sale during Boxing Day so I went ahead and bought it as a Christmas present for myself, but Fungi didn’t buy it so I’m not sure what we’ll do when we get to level 80.
Overall I’ve been enjoying my time on GW2; it’s a vast, beautiful world where, as far as I can tell, you are not really penalized too much as a free player. Will it replace STO as my main game? I don’t know yet, but it’s entirely possible. One thing I have noticed is that the GW2 business model is pretty smart: no subscription, but you buy expansions as they come out in addition to small optional purchases along the way. As a comparison, STO’s lifetime subscription is USD$300 — buying Heart of Thorns is USD$50, which is a whole lot easier to swallow. Buying a STO ship is USD$30 (3000 zen) per ship, and probably essential — on GW2 you buy an outfit for USD$10 (700 Gems), which is entirely optional. As far as I can tell, most Gem Store items are either vanity items, or utility items designed to make life a bit easier… but nothing is essential. That makes quite a bit of difference when it comes to making a purchase.
So if anyone is interested, come play Guild Wars 2 and we can co-opt!