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Monday, March 27, 2006

Guild Wars: My preview weekend

As I expected, I didn't get to play as much of the Preview Weekend as I might have liked due to family visits, sickness, etc. However, I did get to play a few hours of the Alliance Battle format so I can talk about that a bit.

So, for those who didn't play, here's how the format works as presented in the preview weekend.
  • In summary: Battlefield meets Guild Wars.
  • Each team has 12 players but you can only enter with a team of (max) 4, like Team Arena.
  • Also like Team Arena, if you enter on your own or with less than 4 you'll get randomly paired up with other players.
  • Resurrection is fast like kill-count Arena so bringing resurrection skills isn't necessary.
  • Each team is from opposing Factions, i.e. Luxon or Kurzick. The map consists of a bunch of control points.
  • Capturing a control point gives you something useful (e.g. a Resurrection Orb) and spawns defending NPCs including a newbie-pleasing dragon on some maps.
  • The benefits gained by capturing a point and the NPCs spawned depend on what type of point it is.
  • You capture a control point by having more people on your side within range (the range is the aggro circle) of the point for a short period of time.
  • Capturing is faster with more people.
  • Having control of the capture points gives your team score and the first team to a score of 500 wins.
  • Winning maps for your Faction gives you personally Faction points and (eventually) moves the Faction control boundaries in your Faction's favour.
  • The maps are balanced so that if your Faction is winning a lot, it gets harder and harder for you to win.

Alright, so that's how it works. My experience was that (a) the lag was pretty horrendous (apparently this is normal for a "free" weekend event) and (b) the random team arrangement made for a sea of less experienced players much like Random Arenas. Despite this, it was the only format I played during my time in the preview weekend because I was having an absolute ton of fun. I was playing with guildmates so we had a pretty coordinated squad. Most of the opponents didn't really seem to understand the format well and so I think it ended up that I ended up with about 8 wins and 1 loss over the weekend. It's unclear to me how much of that was due to our team having a guild group vs. generally stronger players on the Kurzick's side at the time we were playing.

If you think of the format and immediately imagine huge concentrated damage because of 12 people on a team, you're wrong. While it's possible to group up your team into a huge ball and roll around capturing single points, you will lose quickly to a smart team that splits up into 3-man or 4-man capture squads which can grab points quickly. This is what ended up happening in the majority of rounds I played - we had a couple of Alpha players who knew the maps reasonably well and could avoid the bulk of their team in favour of capping points on the side while quickly demolishing opposing stragglers. Capturing the Resurrection points is absolutely vital too since otherwise players on your team that die will have to spend 30 seconds running out of the base back to the action. Anyway, here's the team we were using:
  • Charge warrior - very useful to provide mobility from cap point to point.
  • Blinding Flash turret - excellent against the masses of Assassins and Warriors.
  • Minion master with Verata's Aura - the number of corpses available is very high since combat is nearly continuous and there are a lot of NPCs that die easily so amassing a sizeable horde of minions is quick. Verata's Aura is currently somewhat bugged but still necessary to grab or re-grab control of minions.
  • Boonprot with Aegis and extra e-management - Aegis is normally too expensive to run on this build but it was borderline abusive with the current format since (a) a lot of players can be within radar range and (b) there were a ton of melee characters with people trying out Assassins.

I played the Flash guy and the monk over the weekend. It was much harder playing the monk because of the lag. Kinda fun playing the RoF-Guardian-kite game with 6 people all trying to kill you personally though, especially since you know you're winning the game by doing it. If 6 of their players are occupied essentially doing nothing but trying to kill you for even 20 seconds, your team should have grabbed an extra point in that time which is much more valuable than your life. Ensign had a similar verdict on the format being fun at the end of the weekend, I noticed.

Alright. So what was broken? Clearly the implementation was unfinished. I'm told that the party window having 12 players is not the final version - eventually you'll have a separate window for your squad of 4. I don't know whether you'll be able to see the other 2 squads in party windows. This feature was part of what was making party-wide enchantments like Aegis and Order of Pain fairly obscene so it'll be nice to have that fixed. I think the strength of minion masters will be addressed without balance changes simply because both teams will have to compete on corpse resources or lose. The other major problem was that players on a team that was starting to lose would ragequit. Struck me as rather sad since the best game I played was one that started very badly but we managed to come back to a 502-495 victory. There's some debate on the best way of fixing that issue and I think it's a topic worth discussing on its own. The other thing was that it was unclear to me how group formation will work in the final version. It's called Alliance Battles - does that mean that you will have a team based on your guild alliance only? Or the current Team Arena-style groupings? Or both, i.e. random battle areas like the preview as well as a more organized alliance area? I'd really like to know the answer to that so I'll keep my eyes peeled for any announcements.

Meanwhile, I'll try to find out what else happened over the preview weekend since I only got to play one corner of the game.


Anonymous Sian said...

Great review. I spent as much time as possible over the weekend, running around the new areas, trying out various combinations of Ritualist and secondary professions.

I didn't get a chance to participate in any Factions combat as such, and whilst it's not something that I tend to do anyway on GW, it certainly looks interesting and I might give it a try at some point.

3/28/2006 03:42:00 AM  
Blogger Josh said...

I played for, like literally, a minute ... so thanks for this. I'm pretty excited for Factions as I could feel my stint with the original slowly draining.

3/28/2006 06:30:00 AM  
Blogger Clamatius said...

Glad it was useful. Rereading the post, there's some pretty horrendous run-on sentences in there though. Alas! Maybe some day I'll be able to write a little better. If I get enough energy maybe I'll restructure the post a little bit.

@Sian - Glad you stopped in. Always nice to get a bit of civilization around the place. Spent a few years in Wales when I was growing up myself. Anyway, back to the subject of PvE vs. PvP. I thought you might be interested in this thread on the reactions of players who normally exclusively play PvE to the Alliance Battles.

3/28/2006 10:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Sian said...

Some interesting points of view there. I will definately give it a go when I get Factions.

3/28/2006 04:57:00 PM  

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