So the pre-order early access/final pre-launch stress test for GW2 was this weekend, and I have a lot of Feelings. A lot a lot.
I was pretty skeptical about this game for several reasons, not the least of which was that I’d spent some time in Guild Wars 1 a million years ago when the earth’s crust was still hot and was bored stupid by it. It’s not really my kind of thing, playing a game where the story doesn’t mean anything to me because I’m so far behind the times. I’m into things like SWTOR and WoW, which have established worlds that I’ve already loved for years and I can eke out my own space within them.
There’s also the problem of the cash shop, which bothers me a lot (and is concerning me about SWTOR’s future). I understand the capitalist theory behind F2P: you can get more cash out of a volume of cheap impulse purchases than you can out of a single steady subscription fee. This is industry-proven, even, considering Blizzard made a couple million dollars off the much-derided sparklepony in a matter of hours. However, understanding the economic theory doesn’t mean I like it. I don’t like it at all, as a matter of fact, because I recognize my own personal limitations. When I get involved with a F2P microtransacted game, I will without fail at one point suddenly surface from a hazy dream of a spending frenzy where I’m playing hangman dressed as a pirate or singing karaoke versions of shitty indie death metal. Seriously my Rock Band track list is motherfucking absurd. So many hundreds of dollars, you guys. It’s not normal.
However, a lot of my friends were planning on spending a lot of their free time in GW2 and the promo shots all looked really pretty, so I figured I’d dick around in it some and set up painstaking screenscapes for fabulous image galleries when the mood strikes me, because hey, no sub fee! I don’t expect to do any actual playing, so the cash shop will not hurt me. I’ll be fine! Fine! Just fine.
I preordered the digital edition, because frankly any time I can spend in my house not interacting with physical people in physical stores is a very good time, which means I got to download and start playing on Friday at 11:30pm. I figured I’d hop in, play around in chargen, reserve some names, and that’d be the end of it for awhile until the mood struck me.
Fast-forward to 2AM Monday morning and I have no idea who I am or what is going on anymore.
I started out with a Norn Guardian because one of the most compelling gameplay mechanics is that your skills change based on what kind of weapon you have equipped, and the Guardian seemed the most diverse there (staves give you very powerful healing spells; two-handed hammers are giant smashy defensive things, etc). Unfortunately, she hit about level five and suddenly guild stuff crashed and she couldn’t represent the guild anymore; since this is pretty important for guild-building, I decided to play around in chargen some more and see what stuck.
After some fiddling to find defaults that did not make me want to kill myself, I ended up with a human ranger because HOLY SHIT DRAGON PET really you guys really DRAGON PET.
Now look, I hate pet classes, because I suck at the micromanagement involved. I even used to have trouble making sure my shadowfiend wasn’t incredibly stupid at, say, breaking CC on Moroes’s adds in Karazhan. So I figured I’d dick around a little, get to the city, play with some dye, and wait for my guardian’s guild invite to repop.
Two days later I’m level 21 and I have no idea what happened.
I have so many feels about what’s good in chargen. The sheer volume of skin tones and body types, the ability to dye your armor wherever you want, the miniscule variations provided in specifying the exact height of the bridge of your character’s nose over and above the dozen or so different basic face shape options. I love this part of it so much.
It should be noted that I did expect to love playing paper dolls; that’s kind of one of the things I’m adamant about in my games, and something that always made me sad about Warcraft. I went straight from SWG and its infinite sliders and Image Designer skill trees into “here, you get half a dozen different faces to choose from, ready go” and I’ve never quite gotten entirely over it.
The one problem I have with this particular character generator is that I went with the headband hair because it’s fucking adorable, and did not realize until I got emotionally invested in playing her that I could not actually ever change the headband color ever again. So I’ve got all these amazing red and purple dyes that I CANNOT USE because ORANGE HEADBAND. The moss trench is really badass, at least.
I didn’t try to level quickly on purpose, and in fact did not try to level at all. I discovered, much to my surprise, that this is an entire game predicated on exploring beautiful, jaw-dropping vistas to find more fake people to do favors for in order to make them love you.
You may or may not recall my discussion previously on how one of my primary MMO Win Conditions is making fake people love me. And here is an entire game, AN ENTIRE GAME, where instead of linear questing you DO FAVORS FOR PEOPLE TO MAKE THEM LOVE YOU. Literally, there is a little heart you fill up and then they send you presents because THEY LOVE YOU. The Queensdale Monastery Brewery, the pretty vista header for this post, humbly requests that you help them out by taste-testing their new beers.
WHY DON’T MIND IF I DO.
I kept getting sidetracked on my personal story quest because I’d find just one more Point of Interest over the horizon or just one more underwater camp of adorable tiny many-toothed whalesharkian quaggan needed me to fetch them some crab meat.
And then I decided to kill a little time crafting, just to see what it was like. I picked up cooking, because that’s how you make dyes, and also I’d found a lettuce farm that I totally gutted the shit out of, so I figured it was worth trying. Now, the Master Chef NPC trainer lady tried to warn me: being a chef in Tyria is not for the faint of heart! It is SERIOUSLY HARD CORE! BEWAAAARE! And I was all man fuck you, Master Chef NPC trainer lady, I do what I want.
Oh how wrong I was. Listen to the Master Chef NPC trainer lady, you guys. Do not make my mistake.
I lost like four fucking hours after the gup went to bed last night just playing around with cooking experimentation and discovery just trying to figure out if I could, I dunno, make a BLT. It was two in the morning last night and I was still going WHAT IF I ADD BAY LEAVES????? and I was a twitching, cackling monster. I had to spend ten bucks to buy two more bank tabs because I MIGHT NEED THAT COOKIE DOUGH LATER and HOLY SHIT I HAVE NUTMEG COMING ENTIRELY OUT OF MY ASS and BUT WHAT DO YOU MEAN BANANA CREAM PIE IS CHEF 225 I WANT TO EAT IT NOW.
So Crafting in GW2: fucking awesome. Exploration, vistas, and platformer puzzles where your character jumps entirely when and where you expect them to (I am making a pointed frownyface at you, SWTOR): fucking awesome. Making fake people fake love me: fucking awesome. Having a character with dark skin that looks realistic and not like they dropped a black layer over the default texture: fucking awesome.
However, there are also some … problems … that I’m having. If you aren’t interested in hearing any criticism about GW2, I totally understand that you want to fanninate yourself and hear only good things. That’s cool. Stop reading now, and enjoy your fourteen hundred words of shit that I think is fucking awesome, and enjoy the rest of your time in Tyria.
…Are they gone?
Okay look. There’s a lot of good here, and a lot of things to like, but also some surface shit that is driving me absolutely up a wall. For example, the reason why I started to roll a human ranger and discovered that there was a dragon pet at all is because I had a ladytype name in mind, I wanted to enjoy the human zone, and, I discovered as I was beginning the whole human female thing, playing a caster was completely out of the question.
Well, let’s take a look at why.
Y’all. Seriously. What the fucking shit is this? The necromancer’s perky little gothic lolita cheerleader is the LEAST offensive of these, but whether or not you like floofy frilly skirts or whatever is not the point: the point is that loot dimorphism, especially this pronounced, is fucking gross and wrong.
If you want your character to wear a loincloth and garters, whatever. More power to you! You make that choice and you own it and you enjoy yourself as only you know how.
When the same item ID is an awesome badass robe on a dude and turns into nipple caps and butt floss on not a dude, YOU HAVE A PROBLEM.
I am not advocating the removal of Sexy Gear, yet whenever I bitch about this kind of thing people throw their hands in the air and flip their fucking shit about OH MY GOD ARO SAYS NO ONE CAN EVER LOOK SEXY EVER. No, see, the thing is about CHOICE. If you CHOOSE to get sexy gear and put it on, THAT IS FINE. I would not ever want to deny people that choice! My WoW figureprint is wearing the Robes of the Guardian Saint, for fuck’s sake. But when you remove that choice, when you say that female characters HAVE TO wear nipple caps and butt floss, we have a problem. When you prevent male characters from wearing nipple caps and butt floss, we have a problem. The solution is SEXY GEAR FOR EVERYONE.
This is a very unfortunate and not very flattering angle for THE QUEEN. It would be really super great if I did not have to deal with sideboob every time I moved up a step on the personal story (and since Alessia is a noble, THIS HAPPENS A LOT). You guys, that is some seriously impressive disregard for physics and over-reliance on boob tape. Royal fashion: a killer.
The other challenge I have with superficial shit is a really small thing, but nonetheless means kind of a lot, and BEWARE SPOILERS FOR HUMAN PERSONAL STORY AT LEVEL 18.
Remember Alessia, my character up above? Well, I met her sister, and she looks like this:
They expect so many people to play blond white folks that they don’t even bother having a customized skin for Deborah (which is something Bioware implemented with awesomeness in Dragon Age 2).
ETA, because this is important: your character’s sister’s race is determined by the option you choose when the story-giver asks you where you and your sister were born. There was a whole list of choices that meant very little to me, and I could find no way to figure out what any of them meant; apparently if I’d made a different choice Deborah would have been dark-skinned. I wish I’d known that earlier!
That’s just such a sad commentary on the status quo default in the gaming community: developers expect you to be white, male, and enjoy looking at naked butts.
I mean being all of those things is totally okay and all, and it is awesome if you are those things! I am not even a dude and I enjoy naked butts from time to time too. But I’m sad that I can’t play a human, norn, or sylvari caster (I have an asura elementalist instead; she gets a robe because short squat humanoids aren’t allowed to be sexy) without wanting to stab myself in the eye, and I’m sad that for all the awesome diversity of NPCs something as important as a PC’s family still defaults to white.
There are so many good things, but there are quite an awful lot of status quo bad ones, too. I expect better.
But hey, I’ve got a bank full of chocolate-covered bananas and cheese pizza and a ton of brewer monks who love me. Party at Divinity’s Reach!