The title of this post is, obviously, a little misleading. We've been beta and stress testing this game for months, but I've certainly noticed that the whole game feels different when you know your accomplishments aren't going to be wiped out after Sunday evening. Nevertheless, I'm going to approach this like this is a whole new game.
As MMO launches go, it has been a mixed bag. I'm going to avoid the negatives so early in the post, (though, believe me, they are there) and instead focus on the positives (of which there are a great deal more).
The world is beautiful, there is no avoiding it. From the sweeping hillsides of Kryta, to the icy slopes of the Shiverpeaks, the whole world shines and screams quality. It is a fantastic world in which to play, and I love every second of exploration, combat and story. I haven't experienced any graphical glitches or even that much lag since launch which even more impressive considering some of the high-population fights in which I embroiled myself.
The combat is, as promised, very active. Even the simple addition of the dodge mechanic makes the whole experience of fighting an enemy much more dynamic and reactive. Add in the skill combos (where one player might lay down a fire wall, and another will shoot through it - imbuing their shots with flame) and ground-targeted healing and you discover that Guild Wars 2 combat is all about movement, positioning and watching your surroundings/target. You will know when a troll is about to unleash his power-attack, it's best to roll out the way!
The dynamic events work perfectly. Easy to follow and pick up, fun and challenging at the same time. I was in one of the mid-level zones earlier today, trying to wipe out a camp of Centaur. Each preliminary quest was nicely signposted, and the main quest NPCs always made their way back to a town in the center of the map before setting off for the next phase - so the whole story was easy to follow and pick up half-way.
One criticism I would have is that it isn't always clear what the impact on the world will be. Take the above quest, once we'd worked our way through all the prelim quests, it was time to assault the main base - by this time we'd gathered quite a crowd, so we swept through the Centaur camp in no time, and then wiped out their Chieftain. We got our quest reward, and... then sort of... wandered off. I couldn't see any noticeable change to the zone at all - no extra merchants, no reduced centaur activity, just a sort of petering out. I think, perhaps, the impact on the world should be listed under your quest rewards "1048 Karma, 2000 Exp, 91 coins - due to the ease in centaur activity, trade routes are now open - Marta the Ale-Hound will now sell her ale at a reduced price!". Just a suggestion.
I'm really enjoying my personal story, and I find that I'm doing the heart quests and dynamic events simply to level up and reach the required level to progress with my storyline. The characters are colourful and believable (particularly fond of the Order of Whisp... *Cough* I mean, Order, what Order?). I'm intruiged to see how my choices will impact upon my experience, I've already met the Knight I saw in my dream - but I haven't yet seen how my choices of "Cycle of Night" and "Act with knowledge, but act" affect it.
I do, however, have a couple of criticisms: where is my home instance? Do I even need to go there? I've never been compelled to go and have a look around. Ok, I'm being glib, I know I have one and I've seen it, but I wish it were a more prominent part of the story (it is my home, after all!).
I also don't think the personal story is the most inclusive element of the game. I know you can bring your friends along - but unless they are following the exact same storyline, they will not gain any benefit from tagging along and experiencing it with you, and so it makes it difficult to convince people to stop what they're doing and come along to give you a hand. It's not a huge issue for me - the quests are balanced to be completed alone and I quite enjoy the freedom of gallivanting about on my own - but it just doesn't seem to fit with ANet's ethos of inclusion.
I love crafting, and I´m sure I´ll love it even more if the trading post can stay open for more than half an hour. I like the discovery system, and I also quite enjoy going out and finding the recipes held by certain karma vendors - adds a certain element of discovery to the already discovery-heavy feature. I´ve so far invested mostly in leatherworking (simply for convenience, I thought at first, but I´ve far outlevelled my ability as a craftsman simply because you can´t level crafting all that quickly without unlimited access to the trading post.
Anyway, they´re early impressions. I´ve loved my time in the game, can´t wait to get home and play more!
Gotta dash, on my hols and theres 8 seconds of my time le
[edit - home now!]
...eft on this pay-per-minute computer.