What did you find better than MMORPG standards? What's merely different?
For me, what's above and beyond what the competition has done to date, is their world building. It's little touches like NPCs talking to each other, like some old Charr devourer trainer and his three 'kit' apprentices. I had to drop a Nr.2 in the loo whilst standing next to them, so I heard like 5 or 6 unique conversations. One kit asks the teacher if devourers have a warband, and the teacher gruffly responds that devourers are a tool of war, and as such have no warband. The world is full of NPCs doing that. Gossiping, talking, discussing. Whilst 'area-bound heart quests' aren't a mechanical relevation - you'll still kill monsters and collect and return items and interact with hotspots - the effect it has on the 'feel' of the gameworld is immense. Even more so the dynamic events. One moment I'm in a snowball fight with the playful youth of a Norn village to gain favor with the villagers, the next moment a band of bears attacks to raid the the local beekeeper's beehives. Just grand. Or some kid hits the blacksmith with a snowball, and he loses it and turns into his Norn-Animal-Hybrid form and goes on a rampage.
What's merely different, and I'm not yet completely sure if it'll work for me in the longrun, is how GW2 drops the holy trinity. Instead of the mutual codependence of tank and healer and damage dealer - players being bound to a set role within a group - the game's combat mechanics build on self-reliance and cooperation. Everybody gets all the tools needed to succeed, with very limited direct support, and lots of synergies/combos - with different abilities augmenting each others effectiveness. The upside, I'll never need to search for something extremely specific. For the most cases, if I need to group, anybody will do. The downside, group play gets awfully muddy. I didn't get to play any specific group content, such as a 5-man dungeon, this past BWE - so I can't really comment on how it will feel in a tough PvE encounter; in instanced PvP however, I lacked a sense of 'group play' beyond sheer numbers. I guess given a challenge and a steady group of players in VoIP, this will be alleviated to some degree - though I do remain skeptical until I 'feel' GW2's group play come together firsthand.
What about you guys? Did you find something particularly 'better than' other games in the genre? What's your stance on the many things GW2 does a little differently, like questing and group dynamics. For me, it's mostly feel of the world and quality of the presentation, which feels truely MMO 2.0. I'm not yet completely sold on some of GW2's mechanics though. Especially the combat system's depth is definitely less apparent - rather than being clearly structured into tanking/supporting/damaging, it's about nuance. An extra layer of depth to cooperation, rather than finely honed codependence. I know I'll love it in the 'short-term' (by MMORPG standards) - if it will hold up for months and years though, I'm still skeptical.