GW2: Free Trial Impressions


Guild Wars 2 (GW2) recently had a free trial week, along with a 50% off sale, so I decided it was finally time to go take a look at this game that I’ve been hearing so much about for so long. These are my quick impressions about the trial and the game.


The trial lasted a week, which for someone like me who wants to play pretty casually is not really a very long time to try it out. I had to make a conscious effort to try to get in enough play sessions to form an idea about the game, and I’m not sure I really succeeded.

I tried out one character, a human of the engineer class, and I think I’d only just hit level 9 by the time the trial ended. By that point I had four weapons skills available.

I heard that with the GW2 megaserver technology, you can easily hop to other servers to play with friends, but only within your own region, i.e. North America (NA) or Europe (EU). That was a tricky choice for me, because there are probably people I’d like to play with in both regions.

There are no designated RP servers in GW2, which I normally prefer to roll on, despite not being much of an RPer myself. From Googling it seemed that RPers have decided to make Piken Square and Tarnished Coast their unofficial places to congregate. It turned out Tarnished Coast was closed to new signups, so I went for Piken Square.

The trial wasn’t long enough for me to try any instances, or to see if I could find a guild I liked hanging out with.

What I liked about GW2

  • It ran very smoothly on my PC, always an important consideration for newer games.

  • Graphic quality and overall visual style is very good and to my liking. I don’t like overly cartoony worlds, but this has more of a grown-up graphic novel vibe than a kids’ cartoon feel.

  • There seemed to be plenty of people around in the starter area. Of course it’s hard to say whether that’s normal or a function of the one week trial period bringing lots of people in to take a look.

  • Dynamic events were pretty fun. For example, there’s one where a big ox cart carrying a bunch of trade goods makes its way from one town to another, a sort of group escort quest. It feels like a meaningful thing to do, and it’s nice to be doing things with other people.

  • I found it’s possible to enjoy playing this game in very short bursts. As an experiment I tried a 15 minute play session. That’s 15 min from clicking the icon to launch the game, right through to signing out. It helps that there aren’t a lot of hoops to jump through to start and end the game! (In TSW I seem to have to click through about 4 screens just to get the heck out of the game.) In GW2 the content also tends to be bite-sized enough that you could do a couple of things from beginning to end in that time. At least that was true in the starter areas, I guess it may change at higher levels.

  • I was intrigued by what I saw of the story. But I didn’t get to see very much really.

What I disliked about GW2

  • I was often confused about what I should or shouldn’t do next. Are there things that are vitally important to do while I’m in this area? Is it time to move on? Is that place too high-level for me? Too low-level? What’s happening with my personal story arc, it hasn’t been mentioned in quite a while?

  • Although you have some of the pleasures of grouping with dynamic events, it’s watered down compared to traditional grouping. There’s not much talking or coordination, and the relationship – such as it is – only persists for a short while until the event is over.

  • Events seem to become a zerg fest, where sheer numbers of people and spamming skills at random is sufficient for success.

  • The chat channels (from the admittedly little I saw of them) were on the childish side, somewhat depressing and immersion breaking.

  • Dodging is an important thing in GW2, and I’m never particularly fond of that mechanic. Maybe with some classes and builds you can avoid having that as a big part of your playstyle, but there’s no way to tell from the limited trial experience.

What I noticed

  • I always forget how much of a learning curve it is to get to grips with a new MMO. Take basic things like “How do I take a screenshot?”, “What happens when loot won’t fit in my inventory?” etc and multiply by all the things you routinely need to know, and you realize there’s a lot to learn before you even get to anything of tactical importance, like stats, builds or whatever. Learning any new MMO to my own satisfaction would take a lot of time.

To buy or not to buy?

Overall I felt I didn’t have enough info from the trial period to really tell if I would like this game long term or not. Maybe it could have a place in my life as a game to go to when I want a short session of undemanding, chill-out fun. On the other hand, if it’s not just going to wind up on the pile of bought-and-barely-played stuff, it’d take a fair investment of time for me to learn its ins and outs to my satisfaction. Knowing me, if I don’t take the time to dive right in and dive in deep at the start, the game will inevitably end up on the unplayed pile.

Right at this moment, I don’t want to be putting in that time to dive into learning a new MMO, so I decided to skip it. Maybe I’ll pick it up in a future sale sometime.

See also: Inner Adult, Inner Child


11 thoughts on “GW2: Free Trial Impressions

  1. Nice to hear a new player’s perspective on GW2, especially in light of the recent leveling changes.

    I’m curious about how you felt about the content guide in the upper right corner of your screen, given that you were feeling confused about what to do next. Was it helpful or not really? What kind of direction would you have liked?

    • It took me a while to figure out what that guide was about, and I found it somewhat problematic. At first I thought the arrow might be pointing me to my next quest objective, and was puzzled when I seemed to be taking me off in a direction that wasn’t helpful to the quest.

      First time I had an inkling of what it was really for and followed it, it took me to a place with a bunch of trainers. But it did that at a level when I couldn’t train anything, so I didn’t understand why that was the most important place to discover at that point. Esp as it took me away from the area where I’d been questing back to a lower level area. (IIRC)

      In principle the guide might be a good idea, but in practice whatever logic selects the next thing to recommend needs some serious improving. A lot of the time it’s recommending some nearby event. What if I don’t want to do that event? e.g. What if that event is taking me back the way I came?

      Generally I’d prefer classic quest flow mechanics, a proper quest log and tracker, and ways of seeing where all the quest objectives were on the map. I would like to know things like “The next quest in your personal story is X, it’s in location Y, and it’s level 10 so don’t try to do it just yet.”

      I’m no stranger to MMOs but this is probably the most disoriented I’ve felt in a new one.

      • I guess it’s because primarily GW2 is less about a linear quest progression and more about seeing what’s over the next hill. The events are a good way to get a healthy chunk of xp, which is why the arrow likely pointed you towards them. It’s also quite impossible to make irreversible choices that screw up your character, so it’s not really worth fretting over whether one has done the “right” thing or “missed” anything.

        I guess the main problem is how to communicate this to new players used to a certain style of MMO, within the game itself.

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  3. Old school MMOs have a very formal structure and a very linear progression pattern. Guild Wars 2 leaves it up to the player. I have frequently met players in-game that aren’t comfortable with this approach. It’s very much a case of “horses for courses”.

    However, if you find the lack of “order” to be off putting, you can always meticulously clear an area. Find all the way points and points of interest. Complete the heart quests and vistas. World completion is also a goal to aim for.

    Guild Wars 2 is great for the casual player. You can dip in and out of the game as little or as often as you like, with no major problems. There is no skills bloat so it’s easy to return after a break and pick up your skills rotation.

    The social aspect comes from being in a Guild rather than through events and questing. You may well enjoy your experience more if you can find a good Guild.

    I personally like the freedom that Guild Wars 2 offers to me and it’s a game I return to as and when I feel the need.

    • I might be able to get used to it in time. I certainly would have appreciated a longer trial, or something like making it free-to-try up to level 20 or whatever.

      Another thing that I found unsatisfactory about the lack of quest chains is that it made everything feel like a random series of unconnected incidents rather than an unfolding story.

  4. I really need to go back to GW2 at some point. To be honest I was a bit disappointed with the game – being a huge fan of the first one – but I’ve heard that they’ve made some changes since I last tried it. I agree about the dynamic events. While fun, they can get a bit chaotic at times and it often feels like there’s very little strategy to them. I much prefer to arrange smaller groups and feel like we’re playing on a more tactical level. I also like to see the impact of my contribution as such feedback makes the experience more enjoyable for me (something that I feel the original game did very well.) I’m quite a hardcore gamer when it comes to MMORPG’s though, and I’ve heard that GW2 has been built to be more friendly to people who just want to play on a casual basis. I can see why it would appeal to others more than myself. A week is definitely not long enough to get to grips with any MMO though, considering that content tends to get unlocked slowly as you level up.

    • I never did try the original Guild Wars. It was around before I really got into MMOs. Perhaps I should take a look, as it’s always sounded a pretty interesting concept.

      I’m in the tricky position where I enjoy a “meatier” MMO experience, but the practicalities of life mean it’s more workable to have short adhoc sessions than long regular ones.

  5. The main thing I enjoyed about Guild Wars 2 is how laid back and liberating it felt. There’s no real pressure to gear up or conform to a cookie cutter build, and you can pretty much just start walking in any random direction and be guaranteed you’ll find something cool before long.

    What I didn’t like is how the story is incredibly thin, and so poorly executed you’ll wish it was an even smaller part of the game. I also found the gameplay became fairly repetitive after a while — even by MMO standards — and the “Living Story” is a very unsatisfactory source of content, and completely at odds with what the game does do well.

    I have lost interest in GW2 over time, but I’d still tentatively recommend it to people because it is a very high quality game with a lot to offer. I got a few months of play out of it, and that more than justified the expense I paid for it, in my view. Even if you don’t intend to make it a longterm commitment, it can still be worth it.

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