Right around the time most players will have all of their weapon skills unlocked, which for me was level five in most cases, you’ll also unlock your first utility skill slot and begin earning one skill point per level. By the time you reach level 20 you’ll have unlocked all 3 utility slots, and at level 30 you unlock your elite skill slot.
A huge plus to the skill system in my book is that players have a certain amount of direct control over how quickly they earn skill points. You naturally gain one per level, but given that some skills might cost seven points (or even 25 for some elites) you’ll want to open your map in each new area you explore and find where the skill challenges are located. The map legend will tell you how many are in a given area, and how many you’ve already completed.
It’s a great system overall, but does have one potential downside when it comes to replayability. Skill challenges are found in every gameplay area following the tutorial intro for each race, so if you want to unlock all the available points on a given character you’ll basically have to hit every single area in the game to do so.
So say you’re bopping along on your norn warrior and are nearing level 30. You start eyeballing the elite skills, but also realize you need a dozen more skill points to purchase even the cheapest of the bunch. If you keep following the normal area progression for your character, it might take you a little longer than you’d like to earn enough points. Your only other option will be to hit the starting areas for each of the other four races and complete the challenges there.
While I probably cooperated with over 100 different players outside my guild in normal quests throughout Tyria, I only talked to or heard from a handful of them. The only significant conversation occurred because one player asked if I wanted to group for a dungeon, not knowing that dungeons in Guild Wars 2 don't even appear until level 30. Since there's no need to ask another player if they don't mind grouping (so you're not competing with quest objectives,) you could run through an entire questline together and never say a word. Many do. This silence vanishes once you join a guild, but the perceived lack of conversation might make getting into one easier said than done for players without existing MMO buddies. It's one of the few cases in which Guild Wars 2's innovations might work against it in a small way.
One place where players do get chatty is the world-vs-world battlegrounds, where entire servers battle each other for control of key points on a gigantic battlefield in the nebulous Mists. Even better, you can jump into these almost right after you've created your character. Participation was a little lackluster (likely due to the relatively small amount of players in the beta), but the excitement coming across from a full-scale battle in the wastes always leaves a good impression. This is more than mere player slaughter; world-vs-world PvP allows for full-blown sieges in which players build catapults and trebuchets to knock down the walls and gates of keeps, while players in those keeps can bombard their assailants with mortars and cannons. In feels much more like real medieval warfare than what we get in most fantasy-themed MMOs, and the rush of breaking down a gate and slaughtering a keep's inhabitants is one I'm looking forward to experiencing again at launch.
I'm doing my best to keep my excitement in check. For one, I know I felt something like this following Rift's release, but the semblance of dynamism that the rifts provided died out quickly, and today many rifts churn without a single player trying to close them. Guild Wars 2's dynamic events aren't quite the same, since they feature widely different scenarios besides holes opening in the sky, but I can see a day when the Shadow Behemoth rages alone and unchecked, and when new players struggle to complete dynamic content that's meant for multiple players. I hope I'm wrong, and that remains a hypothetical worst-case scenario.