Time to write up my impressions of WvW, now that I’ve had a few excursions out to do battle on behalf of Gandara server against whoever the hell we’re matched up against today. I’d been meaning to do this anyway, even before Spinks mentioned that she hadn’t seen many bloggers talk about WvW yet. Honest. I’m coming from the perspective of an old Dark Age of Camelot veteran, so I remember the halcyon days of bashing on keep doors and zerging in Emain Macha. For WvW, I’ve played with both my warrior and engineer, and in both cases they were in the level 30 to 40 region – so a full bar of skills, but some way to go in building up their traits.
Firstly, WvW is fun. I recognise that’s a subjective statement, but it bears making. I’ve enjoyed myself when I’ve been out there, and judging from the chat channels I believe most players feel likewise – certainly there’s been very little of the “OMFG this is so boring!” whining that MMO players usually aren’t shy about making if they feel it’s justified. I’ve enjoyed the open field fights, assaulting keeps and defending them – when I can get into WvW at all. Which leads me to…
WvW is popular. Apparently, a lot of players like WvW. How can I tell? Well, partly because there are plenty of people to fight alongside and against when I get in there. But mostly because a lot of the time I can’t get in there. The WvW maps are population capped, which does wonderful things to improve server performance and game balance. However, it means there are lengthy queues to get in there at peak times – well in excess of an hour, from my experience, to the point where I don’t often bother trying on a weekday evening. I’ve done much of my WvW on Sunday mornings which go from no queue very early, to a bearable queue as people start waking up and logging on. Not sure what Anet can do to alleviate this easily – just raising the pop caps, even if the servers could take it, would make maps more crowded and zergy – but if WvW remains this popular they’d better start working on something. I don’t begrudge others their fun but let me have some too, damn it!
WvW is rewarding – but not overly so. Almost anything you can do to help your side is treated as a Dynamic Event and rewards XP, karma and coin like any other DE. Capture a tower? DE. Defend a tower? DE, with success defined as “keeping the enemy out for a set amount of time”. Seize a supply camp, or intercept one of the enemy supply caravans? DE – along with progress on the ‘Yakslapper’ achievement for killing supply dolyaks. You can make a fair bit of XP in WvW but – and this is the key point – nothing out of line with what you could be earning in PvE. This saves WvW from being full of people who hate PvP but just want to farm the rewards, which is an issue with certain other games.
WvW has its incentives pretty well worked out. All of those Dynamic Events I mentioned are rewarding you for actions that help your team win. There are no rewards for AFK leeching, so the game is free of that plague. The rewards for just killing players aren’t that great, so the game doesn’t seem to be degenerating into zergs that ignore the stated objectives whilst farming each other over and over again (cough, Rift Conquest, cough). The one activity that was abuseable and abused was escorting friendly supply caravans – there were reports of masses of players escorting perfectly safe caravans, well behind friendly lines, back and forth. Lord knows why. It may have been challenge free XP, but it certainly wasn’t very good or fast XP compared to actually playing the game. Regardless, the next day after I saw this reported on the GW2Guru forums there was a patch and escorting caravans no longer yields any rewards. Looks like ArenaNet understand that players respond to incentives, and if you give incentives for the wrong behaviour then that’s what you get.
WvW involves a lot of running. WvW has very few waypoints for instant travel compared to the PvE maps, and those that do exist become unusable if there’s fighting nearby. Expect to have to run from your side’s home base out to where the action is, and if you die and can’t be revived by friendlies then expect to make that run again. This is a deliberate design decision, I think. Having significant travel time to get around the map makes tactics matter, and makes killing an enemy and forcing him to respawn an actual victory – he won’t be straight back in your face 30 seconds later. It does comer as a shock after getting used to hopping back and forth between waypoints, though, and while the run is nothing compared to the old DAoC runs out into the frontiers it will come as a shock to the modern MMO generation who are used to very compact battlegrounds.
WvW is not for lone wolves. Not many objectives can be taken solo – you could take down a supply dolyak on the road, but that’s about it. GW2 doesn’t have any long duration stealth, so there’s no place for the rogue assassin/ganker. If you try running around solo, you’re probably just going to get killed. And then have a long run back (see above). And then get killed again. You need to team up with other players, or at least stick in close proximity to them. I don’t have a problem with this, but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
WvW lacks a well-defined enemy. In DAoC, the other two realms were fixed, and different. As a Hibernian, I knew that Albion and Midgard had not only different character races, but different character classes as well. the enemy were outsiders, they were Other Than Us. They had Clerics and Healers instead of noble Druids, they had dirty Berserkers and honourless Mercenaries instead of our proud Blademasters, they had weird guys like Theurgists with no equivalent in any decent realm. On the flip side – the enemy was fixed. You fought the same enemies day after day, week after week, and got to know which enemies to fear, which to despise, and who were honourable foemen. I’m convinced that both of these factors – a strong separate identity for your side and getting to know your enemies – contributed to the realm pride that made DAoC what it was. GW2 doesn’t offer that. There’s a regular rotation through different sets of enemies, but they’re all identical to the guys on your side. It weakens the sense of Us versus Them that binds a faction together, and is my only real grumble about the way WvW has been designed.
WvW is here for the long haul. I don’t see any sign that the mass of players are trying WvW once or twice, going “meh” and leaving it for either the more rewarding (in terms of cash and xp) PvE content or for the more concentrated hit of action in sPvP. the eternal battlegrounds are staying busy and the queues seem as long now as they were two or three weeks ago. The maps are large and complex enough to make battles feel different from one another. Tactics are still evolving – for example, last time I was there I saw “stay behind” enemy mesmers transporting enemy strike teams in to recapture keeps and towers we had just taken from them – but there’s no sign of the game settling down into a boring set of degenerate tactics (such as WoW’s Alterac Valley where after a while both teams ignored each other and raced to zerg the bosses). I don’t think WvW will become enshrined as THE endgame for GW2, especially if it continues to have hour plus queues at peak times. It will however be a popular part of the game for a lot of players and like DAoC’s RvR before it will generate loads of great memories and war stories – like the time my engineer killed a keep defender by dropping a crate on his head…