I don't know how much I want to play before launch, but I definitely wanted to take a few steps into the game to see just how well it lives up to its hype. Well, I must say, I'm rather impressed so far.
At first, I was disappointed, as I logged into the newbie area and was inundated with the usual assortment of mindless kill X and fetch Y quests from the usual assortment of motionless people with glowing crap floating over their head. It involved a lot of running around and it wasn't very involving, like most quests in recent MMORPGS, such as World of Warcraft or Age of Conan.
But there are three standout features that changed my opinion drastically:
1) Public Quests: these really are the step forward that the industry needed. They are FUN. Sure, like any other feature, it can become a grind, but its a grind that involves community. But, unlike quests, they are always there, and everyone is always on the same step at the same time.
My problem with quest-driven gameplay has always been that it divides people up even further. Most MMORPGs restrict who you can play with by level, faction, zone, and needed classes already. But when you thrown in quests, it can be very difficult to find people who want to group with you, given that they get nothing out of it if they don't happen to be on the same quest.
Well, with public quests, there's always something going on in the zone where everyone is always on the same stage. It's ideal for the casual player; you can come in, play as long as you need and drop out. And they are fun because they involve more interesting scripts, that in most MMORPGs you don't see outside of raid instances.
2) Open Groups: I haven't played with so many different people since I played City of Heroes. Its nice to see groups in the area, sorted by distance and what they are working on, and be able to just pop in and join a group when I want. No more shouting LFG all the time... So far, most of the groups have been relatively short lived, as people join up for certain goals and move on, but at least we're playing with other people.
3) Instant Action RvR: I've never been a huge fan of PVP but their battleground feature was rather fun, and it was nice to be able to instantly jump into the fray without having to run halfway across a map to find the entrance to an instance or whatever.
Anyway, that's my first impression. Now to get back in game...