Wow. This stress test brought some nice, unannounced changes. Dance and laugh emotes were revealed, the fourth PvP map was opened for testing, pre-purchase items were handed out, and even the stress test was extended an extra two hours. I spent the majority of my time in structured PvP, and some friendly fire-elemental slaying in Metrica Province. I at least died 10-15 times before we downed that damned thing. Class balance is definitely improving, though I will admit it's still not quite there yet for most competitive aspects.
First and foremost, dance emotes were released. And much fun was had around the world. Seriously...that sylvari dance kills me. It's like an indian party that began to mimic some country folk square dancing. It's hilarious. There's a video up on youtube that roughly compares some of the dances to their real life counterparts. For example, the humans is LMFAO's Party Rock Anthem. I think some of the comparisons were merely done in jest, because the Charr comparison made me uncontrollably laugh for far too long to be right.
The fourth sPvP map was released, aptly named Raid of the Capricorn. In the center of the map lies a pirate ship surrounded by shark-infested waters. The middle point is underwater and whoever holds the center point controls the sharks. The sharks are extremely hard hitting, and if you are low on health and own the center point, I highly recommend that you jump in the water. It's an extremely useful and effective way of escaping. There's definitely some problems, one of the biggest being able to phase through one of the walls along the ship. Another issue that was mentioned by my brother was profession specific to mesmers, but I can easily seeing this situation extending out to other professions. Much to his frustration, everytime he entered the water it messed up 'something' with his mantras. I didn't see it in first person, so I'm not exactly what was occurring, but it it a little disconcerting if it becomes a major problem in an e-sports environment.
To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of PvPing underwater. I think most of this can be contributed to how little time I've played underwater and that the controls still feel strange. I also find the downed state while underwater more detrimental to gameplay than if it weren't there.
As for class balance, I think it's decent. There could definitely be some improvements, and as for my personal opinion....as a long time thief player, this stress test was the strongest we've ever been. I would be lying if I didn't feel frankly overpowered this time around. I never lost a 1v1 in any of the PUG matches I played, and I obliterated both my brother and my friend. Previously in other tests and weekends, I would normally win, but not nearly by such a large margin. Several times between fighting my brother or friend, I took them from 100% to 0% in under 5 seconds. And I'm pretty sure my runes in particular could have been better optimized. Shortbow thieves and dagger/dagger thieves stuck out in my mind as being too common, too easy to play, and too strong. I'm not asking for huge nerfs, but there definitely need to be some changes. Shortbow was very useful until the very last stress test where they nerfed the weapon to the ground, and now it's back on top, nearly better than ever. It's rather strange.
The other profession fare pretty well and each have strikingly strong characteristics that you must adapt to when playing against them. Other than my remark on thieves being too strong this time around, I can't find myself saying that another profession was too weak compared to the others.
On a different note, it would be nice to see some more intra-professional diversity. I'm tired of seeing the same, popular builds by many professions. However, finding the root of the problem may not be as simple as it first appears. Whether it be lack of player creativity, reliance on previously popular builds, or just because the other builds are 'actually' worse, are all possible reasons for the lack of diversity.
And by the way ArenaNet, on the subject of glitches and bugs, they seemed a lot more frequent than previous tests. My poor friend experienced one of the worst bugs I've seen firsthand. Each time he used a specific move as a warrior, he would be unceremoniously thrown into the throes of death, he didn't even get a downed state. Also, that glitch in Keg Brawl was rather interesting. The fact that after each match I was thrown into a real sPvP match for a few minutes was surprising to say the least. And please, for the love of all that is holy, tone down that fire elemental in Metrica. I understand that it supposed to be difficult, but there are too many times where I died for no reason. Our party of three rather coordinated players continually wiped for close to 45 minutes to bring down that thing. Luckily, his HP never went back up after each wipe, and we eventually downed him. It was fun, but definitely more painful than it should have been.