I’ve written about some of what I like about Guild Wars. It’s not a perfect game, though, and there are a few things about it that bug me. On balance, I’m very favorably inclined towards the game, so this list is considerably more… nitpicky and superficial than the Goodness list. I’m also only partway through the game, and I haven’t tried all the classes, so I’m sure that I could add to both lists as time goes on.
First and most annoying from a gaming standpoint, I can’t issue simple commands to my henchmen. I can tell my pet to Attack, Guard or Heel, why not henchmen? I play as a Ranger, and often, I want to pull an enemy from its friends, but I can’t do that when my henchmen start attacking whatever I target. Even a simple “stop” or “go” command would be great.
Second, and more generalized, the skank factor. This is present in nearly anything these days, but I’m tired of the relentless oversexualization. It’s mostly women who suffer, but even some of the male dance animations are tasteless. (Monks have some cool kata moves, though.) Elementalists suffer the most here, but really, all of the women have an uncomfortable “look at my chest” stance and most have attire more suited for a harem than serious adventuring. I blame Boris Vallejo and decades of testosterone oversaturation in the industry.
Third, Necromancy. In GW, like WoW’s Warlocks, the Necromancer class seems to want to be the prototypical “antihero”, but even in-game the portrayal is fairly schizophrenic, ranging from sociopaths to cosplaying undertakers. It’s almost like the designers are tossing a bone to the emo herd, when what they really need is a slap upside the head and a job in a soup kitchen. If you want to see “necromancy” done right, read Sabriel by Garth Nix. GW’s pasty white emo rockers are shallow and ridiculous. Beyond that, antiheroes are overdone, even when done well. What’s wrong with being a real hero?
Fourth, characters by the numbers. Yes, the storytelling is a notch above WoW, but still several notches below the giants of the fantasy genre. The “rebellious strongheaded prince vs. his stubborn antiquated king father” trope was tired when Arthas went all Dark Side on his daddy. I just can’t care all that much about Prince Rurik or the King when both are phoning in their lines based on writing from Cracker Jack boxes. I didn’t jump into GW for a literary experience, but it could at least be better than this.
Fifth, forced grouping. I absolutely detest forced grouping. An early PreSearing quest requires making a party to acquire an inventory expansion. (OK, it’s not necessary to the gameplay, but it’s still annoying since it’s a high demand item.) There’s another quest that requires another player to go open a gate by pulling a lever, despite an NPC soldier walking past with absolutely nothing better to do. These two quests are a big part of the chat spam in Ascalon; people offering to be “gate monkeys” for gold, and others asking for party mates to go get the belt pouch. I can understand forcing groups to assemble to do raids and such, but as a general principle, forced grouping annoys the snot out of me, especially when it’s so… vapid.
Sixth, the Searing. Yes, I have a “permanent PreSearing character” because I happen to like that world. It’s very much like going back to a beloved save game in an offline RPG, as I described here. It’s funny, since the Searing really does give a sense that the world has changed, something that many (including myself) seem to think is missing from the narrative of MMOs. I’ve just gotten used to other MMOs and their static worlds, with the ability to go pretty much anywhere if I feel like it, since things never really change. This is only a complaint because of what I’ve come to expect (static worlds). When taken as a part of the narrative of GW, it’s actually very effective, and a nice departure from the static MMO worlds that have become the norm. Still, I like having the option of leaving a character in the PreSearing world.
Seventh, the habitrail effect. Shamus describes it well here, but in a nutshell, PreSearing Ascalon is pretty much free range adventuring, but once the world burns, suddenly the topography is all over the place, with walking paths through narrow valleys and plateaus. It feels more constraining than it should. Ultimately, this doesn’t bother me all that much, since I’ve gotten used to it, and it does make it easier to find things in missions, since the paths don’t often have a ton of branches. Still, for a wandering soul accustomed to going anywhere with minimal rerouting, it’s a bit… cramped.
Eighth, dead NPCs. I play a Ranger/Monk, and I usually have a Monk henchwoman along. Why in the world can’t we use our handy resurrection spells on the occasional NPCs who lend a hand, or quest NPCs who have the gall to die (usually because they rush into combat instead of following along like good little escortees)? They aren’t in our party, so somehow the magic doesn’t work? Lame, lame, lame.
Ninth, arbitrary party sizes. Yes, I can respect them as pacing tools. I can even respect them as tools to minimize relying on henchmen too much. (Though I’d disagree with that; I love the henchmen mechanic.) But seriously, if I can scrounge together three of my closest friends to play together, I want to be able to party with them in PreSearing Ascalon. But nooooo, I’ve got to wait until the Searing to be able to have a party of four people. Lame, lame. If my friends and I want to zerg the heck out of the lowbie mobs, let us!
Tenth, plodding PreSearing. This was part of “sixth”, but then I realized it’s actually its own concern. (Notice to English handicapped readers: those are two proper uses of the different words “it’s” and “its”.) This article from the GW wiki illustrates the trouble: in order to progress to level 20, you must “death level” and resort to weird timing on quests and other gymnastics. There’s even a title for it, so the designers know that people are doing it. Bizarre. All I want to do is be able to grab a henchman and go hunt Charr north of the Wall, exploring all of the map while I merrily go on my genocidal way. Only, there are no henchmen, you need another player to open the gate, you’re limited to two in your party, and the Charr hunt in groups of four or more. Lame.