(work in progress post)
The new stand-alone expansion is now available on NCSoft online store for the exact same price of the boxed version (49.99$). I’m trying to gather a full feature list with more details about the new game modes, for now there’s the official FAQ that explains what you can expect from the game. For other early details there’s also my previous glance.
Since it’s stand-alone you can choose to create a brand new account or add the expansion to your previous standard Guild Wars account:
If you add the new access key to the existing account all your characters will be able to access all the content from both expansions and you’ll get two new character slots, instead if you open a brand new account you’ll get four character slots but you can only enter the areas of one of the two campaigns. Considering that the new expansion adds new skills and items for all the classes it’s obviously suggested to choose the first option. It was also announced that this summer it will be possible to buy new character slots for 9.99$.
Launching the game for the first time I noticed that now all the classes have an unique look depending on the campaign you choose. So even the standard classes will have new face/hair combinations and all-new itemization. See this example about how the warrior class looks differently between the two campaigns.
I’m moving the first steps around the moebius-shaped tutorial zone. Sometimes the pup-up messages are too quick and I have already various comments/gripes. This is a quick list I’ve written down, most of these points are complaints carried over from the original game:
– The dialogue windows pop-up right in the center of the screen, obscuring who’s talking. It’s not possible to reposition this window and it would be a much better choice to have placed it more on the side of the screen, without covering the view.
– The party window is still too intrusive and ugly. It would really need an overhaul.
– Still no way to deselect your current target without selecting something else.
– I stull dislike the ground textures, with bad-looking transitions.
– Sometimes there’s a cutscene right at the beginning of a zone, it would be nice to ask the player to press a “ready” button before it starts, when the loading is complete. Preventing to miss the cutscene on long downloads (when I alt-tabbed back to the game the cutscene was over and I didn’t even know it existed)
– The chat bubbles still appear overlapping on the NPC’s heads instead of above them. From the distance in particular, the chat bubble point of origin should be the bottom instead of the center.
– Still huge rubberbanding around obstacles.
– Many monsters still have badly synced animations and “skate” on the terrain while moving.
As in the first chapter you start fighting ugly bugs (GW’s version of the “kill 10 rats”) and the tutorial is exactly what you would expect. I noticed there’s a white circle around the center of the mini-map that represents your aggro radius, I didn’t remember this in the original game but maybe it’s just my memory. I find it quite functional but it is also a limit of the game. No matter of the type of the creature or the situation, the mobs will always aggro at the exact same distance. It’s kind of a trend in Guild Wars, more oriented toward a game-y experience than an immersive one. As always 90% of what you see on screen is just prettiness without a role, for example you could see a building, but it is almost sure that you cannot enter it. It’s mostly scenery very well done, but still nothing that gives some depth to the game. Nothing that is really part of the game. Extremely abstracted.
My very early impression is that this new chapter is rather pricey but content rich. Not much changed from the original GW so if you found it bland this chapter won’t be much better. It’s not a different game, nor one much improved from the last time you played it. But at the same time it continues on what it did, many new skills to create new, orignial builds and the new PvP modes that sound more involving, with alliances fighting for the control of the territory. I’ll comment more about this part as I reach it, even if I’m worried it is planned too much around the dedicated guilds and not easily accessible for other players (which means I could never see that content). The character window shows the three factions that will give you points that you can then spend for yourself or add to your alliance pool. In this second case I think the alliance can use those points to take control of some of the PvP zones.
About the amount of content I also have a comment from EFlannum, one of the devs:
To put things somewhat into perspective our times playing through chapter 2 are roughly equal to the times we got playing through chapter one, there is overall less square footage in chapter 2 but more content per square foot. I would describe it less as an expansion and more akin to the old d&d gold box games, it’s a new standalone game experience built on the same engine and using the same ruleset.
This wasn’t necessarily the plan right from the start but it is what it turned into. Hopefully it all works out.
The game continues to confirm its setting-independence, as I wrote as I played the game for the first time, and this is confirmed by the brand new look of all the classes in the new campaign. It becomes some sort of metaverse of parallel words represented by each new expansion. So it’s rather probable that with each new one they’ll approach a brand new setting, like this one has an asian theme. Creating a mixup of history, myths and exotic cultures. A melting-pot of cultural influences and suggestions. A truly “fantasy culture”.
I’ll write down more comments and add screenshots as I continue to play.
This map screen represents the whole landmass of the expansion, if you look carefully you should notice two parallel blue/red lines that should represent the territory of the two rival factions that the players should be able to affect.