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Guild Wars 2 preview

At one point in our demo of Guild Wars 2 we shot a ridiculously large screen-filling dragon with a mega-laser. That’s not an exaggeration either. That happens in Guild Wars 2. What’s more, this wasn’t even a raid boss, but rather a completely random encounter that warped into the main world like the titular rifts in Trion World’s Rift.

The random encounter pitted dozens of players against the enormous wyrm, but the battle wasn’t as simple as a regular fight (i.e. hack it until it dies). The dragon was the size of a small MMO town and the battle took place over a huge portion of the zone. Not only were people fighting the dragon, but there was another set of people defending turrets and the aforementioned mega-laser against the zombies that the dragon was spawning (did we forget to mention the zombies?)

After you’ve seen something like that happen in a gameplay demo, you tend to lose focus a little bit and forget all of the other things you’re being told. “Oh, so your character customization is ridiculously deep, huh? OK...so when’s the dragon coming back?”

We did manage to keep our wits about us long enough to glean a few interesting details about the experience though. We got to see the character customization process in full effect on humans, Charr (like a giant cheetah-bulls), and the Sylvari, all of which have an enormous amount of options for crafting a unique character.

Guild Wars 2 doesn’t stop at looks when it comes to building a character though. They told us that they want to really give the player a chance to define more of who the character actually is. To that end, they’re adopting a system not terribly unlike Mass Effect. When you create your character you’ll also be quizzed about their background. What have they done with their life? Who do they hold allegiance to? Are they gentle or wrathful? Who are their friends?

All of these questions will shape the opening of the game. Not just the quests, but the opening cinematic will actually branch into different paths depending on your choices. MMOs have always struggled with lack of player investment in their character. For the most part they’re just little toys you play with in front of you, hence the nickname “toon.” So we’re excited to see Guild Wars trying to make some strides in that area.

Another way Guild Wars 2 is trying to get you to feel more like a character in the world is in the talking segments. Normal MMOs would just roll out a big swath of text for a quest and wait there while you read it. In Guild Wars 2 it looks more like an old RPG. It cuts to a separate scene where you and the character you’re speaking to take up most of the screen as you speak to each other in fully voiced dialogue (everything in Guild Wars 2 is fully voiced.)

As far as classes are concerned, Guild Wars 2 is taking a very fluid approach. It’s not quite the no-classes system of The Secret World, but it’s less restrictive than World of Warcraft. There are no dedicated healers in GW2. Instead, everybody has some limited healing capabilities. There is also the ability to switch weapons instantly. So you can warp from a wand to a giant mace in moments.

All of that is just single-player content though. NCsoft is also putting a ton of focus on PvP as they’re aiming to be a major force in e-sports. To that end, in PvP they’re letting to automatically play as a fully-leveled character regardless of what level you are.

The game mode we saw was similar to Arathi Basin in World of Warcraft in which two teams vie to control 5-6 points on a map. Guild Wars 2 introduces so awesome new mechanics though. Chief among them: giant trebuchets. They’re not just for attacking though. You can also use them to collapse building and create new paths through the level for your team. There’s some other instances of destruction as well. You can knock out windows with attacks so you can leap directly into buildings.

Guild Wars 2 is without a doubt one of the most exciting MMOs in development today. With WoW’s subscription numbers starting to slip, it’s beginning to look like there will be a power vacuum in the MMO market in about two years. When that time comes it’s going to be an insane battle between the likes of Guild Wars 2, The Secret World, Firefall, and whatever Blizzard’s secret MMO is. There’s a really interesting age approaching in the MMO genre, and games like Guild Wars 2 are going to be leading the charge.

Sep 2, 2011

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PAX

11 comments

  • Vordhosbn - September 7, 2011 2:32 a.m.

    Really want to try GW2 after seeing the previews etc. But I think I'll be waiting a while, my PC struggled to get decent FPS on Rift in low graphics mode, this would probably burn a hole right through my cheap ass GFX card :(
  • liadz - September 7, 2011 6:05 p.m.

    I wouldn't be so sure. If I know well the ArenaNet guys, they are masters of optimization to the point I could run GW1 on onboard video cards in 2007 and the game would still look better than lots of other mmos that my computer would struggle or wouldn't even be able to run. And they said that's a priority for GW2 too. About Rift, my computer is not super awesome or anything, but I can run games like Just Cause 2 with almost everything maxed and The Witcher 2 on medium, but when I was trying Rift my fps would barely go above 30 some times, most of the time it would on something between 20 and 30. I think you shouldn't use Rift as a reference. =P
  • Vordhosbn - September 8, 2011 1:26 a.m.

    That's great news. I can run games like TF2 etc on high settings with no blips, but after the whole Rift thing I've been weary of any new "big" 3D games. Maybe GW2 will take my money sooner than I thought :)
  • MuckPuppy - September 3, 2011 7:19 a.m.

    And don't forget Tera, either. That game looks great, is redefining the party system, and will NEVER be released!
  • Spybreak8 - September 2, 2011 10:58 p.m.

    I'm a big fan of Guild Wars but let's not forget Star Wars: The Old Republic will also be out. That one also has full voice and hopefully that becomes a new standard and walls of text become retro cool in indie games. Oh wait...
  • mockraven - September 2, 2011 8:12 p.m.

    This is what I'm biting my fingernails for in anxious waiting. Gimme a character creator so I can at least design my perfect character for when the game finally comes out!
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  • dropdeadjames - September 2, 2011 6:22 p.m.

    there are a lot of reasons that this game looks great. Rift took common MMO features and themes and greatly improved on many of them, GW2 is looking to be the game-changer. One of the coolest things I've heard of is the story immersion. One big complain I've always had about MMO's is the whole wall of text thing. A gigantic demographic of players mainly skips through everything a questgiver says, because it's usually boring, doesn't relate to a main storyline, and is monstly intended to give you a bit more of a reason to go and gather 8 plants. I'm glad that questgivers are going to speak and that the game is more interactive. can't wait.
  • rabidpotatochip - September 2, 2011 5:59 p.m.

    Screw the dragon, I'm happy GW2 lets me jump! I still play the original GW every now and then. I logged in after four years of inactivity and my characters were as I left them. That game totally paid for itself. I can't wait to see the next one.
  • scorche - September 2, 2011 5:48 p.m.

    It's got an upfront cost but no subscription fee. Also: "NCsoft is also putting a ton of focus on PvP as they’re aiming to be a major force in e-sports. " correct, except Guild Wars 2 is developed by ArenaNet (I realize that NCSoft is publishing it, but they really don't have much say in how the game is designed).
  • Manguy17 - September 2, 2011 4:50 p.m.

    looks, good, this is f2p isnt it? if so this may be my ride back into mmo's

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