Monday, 7 September 2015

I'm not a Gilded Warrior

In keeping with my newfound interest in trying out new (to me) free-to-play MMOs, and after a strong recommendation from an old SW:TOR guildie, I decided to give Guild Wars 2 a try.

And because I'm a masochist, I decided to not even bother with a Windows installation first and went directly to PlayonLinux.

I actually thought it would be pretty easy to install since it's such a popular game and there's already a PoL script available. That was my first mistake!

I didn't know, at the time, how much memory my video card has (I sure do know now, thought!). So when the installer script asked me for a figure, I did a quick Google search and pasted in the first answer I found. Which was, of course, wrong.

This mistake lead (or so I thought) to the game spiking my CPU and locking up my system whenever I tried to launch it. After more research, however, I found out that because of some quirk in the way that GW2 renders itself on the screen,  we Linux users need to tell Wine (via PoL) to create a virtual desktop for the game to run in.

None of my other games need this so I wasn't familiar with the process, but it wasn't actually too hard to configure. Setting it up got the CPU problem under control and gave me an actual window wherein I could see the game running (or at this point, downloading).

Unfortunately, something in my stack, (Xorg or PoL or Wine or something) insisted that this virtual desktop belonged on my laptop's built-in screen, and not on the significantly larger monitor I have attached.

Again, much googling finally yielded a command that I could use to grab the virtual desktop window (which the Gnome window manager steadfastly refuses to decorate with borders) and offset it by the width of my laptop screen, effectively shoving it onto the external monitor.

So, all in all, it's not an elegant installation, but it works. The game launches, runs, and appears at the right resolution on the correct monitor. But it's been the hardest PoL installation I've tackled to date.

By this time the game had downloaded to the point where I could log in, create a character and begin futzing around in the starter area. So, on to my thoughts about it.

Firstly I don't really go in for 'fantasy' settings in my media, be it books, movies or video games. I'm a die-hard sci-fi guy. Not that I won't make exceptions if the work in question is good enough. But usually don't feel any pull towards the fantastical realms of speculative fiction.

I'll be honest and say up front that Guild Wars 2 isn't likely to change that preference. It's got all the usual fantasy tropes and, thus far, it doesn't really do anything new or interesting with them.

I created a human engineer (because dual wielding pistols!) after a failed attempt at playing an Asura (Asuran?). I've played him to around level 6 or so and, while the game is interesting (because it's new), I'm already starting to struggle to see what will keep me interested long enough to grind to the endgame.

So far I feel the setting and storylines (such that I've encountered in beginner regions) are generic, the movement and character models feel clunky and awkward, and even the UI, trying to be all Gothic and mystical, is just ugly.

Having said that, though, there are some things that have jumped out and really impressed me.

I really like the way 'group' content happens organically through one player spawning an 'event' that all nearby players are informed of and encouraged to join. It's usually just a boss fight, but still, the unexpected, organic and cooperative nature makes them kind of fun.

I accidentally spawned one of these group events during my most recent session and was gratified to see other players pitching in to help carry it to conclusion (especially because it became rather tedious in the end).

I'm also a big fan of the way GW2 offers multiple weapon options to a class. My other MMOs (SW:TOR and Wildstar) give each class precisely one weapon option. I was pleasantly surprised when I recently realised that my engineer could stow his dual pistols in favour of a two-handed rifle. And that when he equipped it, it changed all of his abilities to ones more befitting the weapon!

This versatility really feels like it could keep the game interesting, especially during long levelling grinds. Equipping different weapons loads different abilities which creates a different rotation and leads to a different playstyle for your character. I like this idea so much I wish it would be adopted by other games.

But yeah, all in all, unless something changes soon to keep me engaged with GW2, I can't see it becoming a permanent feature in my gaming roster. Sorry Narine.

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