Guild Wars 2 Press Event - Overall Impressions

by: Sean Cahill -
If you followed me on Twitter (@seancahill2) these past couple of days, you already have some of the information that I was able to send over the social airwaves from the press event I attended in Bellevue, Washington, regarding Guild Wars 2, the MMO set to be released this year by publisher NCSoft and developer ArenaNet.  As promised, I have summarized much of what I encountered throughout the weekend and the time has come to share it with everyone else.

You can get the whole scoop on the next page...

Character Creation

I will have a FRAPS video up for this in the near future, along with my commentary, but to give you an idea of what to expect, the character creation is very in-depth.  Some of the primary points to note:
  • Five races to choose from:  Human, Charr, Asura, Norn, and Sylvari
  • Eight professions:  Mesmer, Engineer, Thief, Guardian, Necromancer, Ranger, Warrior, and Elementalist
  • Professions are not race-specific
  • Customization will include all specific body parts including eyes, ears, face, body type, height, etc.
  • Starting armor is customizable, including the color
The second part of character creation comes in form of your character's biography.  This will have an impact on the initial story that your character deals with.  Questions will be asked of you, such as what type of helmet do you wear on the field of battle and what huge regret you have in your life.  These questions will mold your character's story and make it unique to you.  The biography is what impresses me the most, especially since the goal is to create a character that is yours, not a cookie-cutter character that everyone has the same story with, but we'll get to that later.

Customization of the character you choose offers plenty of options.  There will be base models, of course, but making changes to hair style, color, length, and many other things, truly give you the feeling that this character is yours.


Storyline

While I tried to avoid doing anything major regarding the story of the character I created, it needed to be done in order to get a perspective on just how it works.  I progressed far enough to make the first choice that will alter the story.  Some of the keys include:
  • Choices do affect the way you progress.
  • Story events are depicted on the map with a green cyclone mark
  • Voice acting is very clean
  • Storyline conversations are done in a pseudo-cutscene format with a general background of the city.

In most MMOs, I have found that the majority of people either do not know or simply do not care about what is going on in the world.  All that they care about is leveling up to maximum.  Guild Wars 2 wants to make sure that you have a memorable experience


Environment

No bullet points necessary here.  A few of the people covering the event made specific comments regarding the artwork, but the most telling comment that was spoken was that they "had never seen a world where the concept art looked almost exactly like the game itself."  I have to echo those sentiments, as I was immersed in an absolutely gorgeous world.  Cities are bustling with activity and NPCs, with outlying areas full of a testament to the elements in forests, farmland, creeks, lakes, swamps, and mountains.  Screenshots and FRAPS will not do this justice.  You will simply have to wait and see it for yourself.


PVE

While the combat system doesn't change too terribly much between PVP and PVE, I felt it necessary to split these up.  Questing takes on a different feeling with Guild Wars 2.  The Dynamic Questing system assures a player that a town may be different from the first time he visited it.  Colin Johanson put it best in the preview video from a couple of years ago:  If a quest-giver says that the centaurs are attacking the town, then there are going to be centaurs attacking that town.  You aren't going to just run out and kill a bunch in a random field, then return to the town to finish the quest.  You are going to see towns getting attacked in real-time.  Failure to protect towns will have certain consequences.  There isn't much detail on that, but be sure that you will see many of the results for yourself in the beta weekends that are upcoming.

The overall feel of PVE is very straight-forward, but the dynamic questing is going to change how one approaches leveling.  You may be on a roll with knocking off the set in stone quests and come across a town that is under siege, allowing you to join in the protection of a town.  Also, I love that ArenaNet has made sure that "kill stealing" is a thing of the past.  Everyone is rewarded who takes part in attacking and taking down an enemy.  You are rewarded on dynamic quests based on a gold, silver, and bronze system, which will go towards money and karma points, all of which are used towards buying better weapons and armor.  The PVE of this game really makes it shine.


PVP

For those of you who are looking for a player against player challenge, Guild Wars 2 will challenge you in two ways.  I must admit that I was a little disappointed with the lack of open world PVP, but the two forms that ArenaNet is providing to the players will make sure that PVP enthusiasts are challenged.

The first format comes in a smaller scale that is similar to king of the hill, with three points that need to be captured.  Points are awarded for each capture point as well as for kills.  To make sure that everyone can enjoy this, everyone is on an equal playing field in this version as a player gets bumped up to level 80 and will have access to gear, skills, etc.  That way, someone who has been playing for much longer than the other would technically not have an advantage, but you will be punished if you do not know how to play your class.  I love that everyone is scaled up as it makes sure that skill is the determining factor.

The second format is the one that is being the most hyped.  The World vs. World PVP is technically tri-fold.  Three servers enter into a two-week long battle that is about holding down supply camps, castles, and taking over other castles.  This will be on a much larger scale, possibly as many as 300 players going at each other.  Forget about singling out weaker players, as well.  You will not see character names over other players' heads.  Instead, they will be labeled as "Red Invader," for example.  This is to prevent those who may not be as skilled or relatively new to PVP from being taken out by a group of players.  It will create a more enjoyable atmosphere for PVP, though it is still quite competitive and chaotic.  What I really like about this version, though, is the server ranking system.  Wins and losses will be tallied to balance out these matchups between stronger and weaker servers.  That way, a server that may not be as good at PVP as another server will not constantly face each other and be at the end of a beating in each contest.


Overall Thoughts

I've spent the last 24 hours taking in everything that I saw, trying to come up with the proper way to explain everything.  What you've read above, some of it you have already known about.  My experience, though, is what has sold me on the game.  I had plenty of hands-on time with the game, and really feel that ArenaNet is doing this for those that want the best possible experience out of an MMO that seems to throw the general ideas of the genre out the window.  MMOs are designed to be social games, not a game that you just run off by yourself and go from level one to 80.  The brilliance of the dynamic questing system is that you will technically be grouped without even being in a group.  Random players will band together to reap the benefits of sieges from the enemy, which I believe will only bring players closer together.

Building upon the fact that this is being made for those wanting the best experience, you have to applaud NCSoft and ArenaNetfor sticking with the initial fee only for the game.  Micro-transactions will be included in the game, yes.  However, as Mike O'Brien has stated very clearly, there will not be a major advantage for a player who wants to put more money into the game over someone who just wants to pay the 60 dollars at the start and that's it.  That is refreshing to hear, considering that other games with cash shops are all about giving players distinct advantages over others.  Perfect World International is probably the most guilty of this, considering that you can buy enhancement stones for your endgame weapons by simply plugging in your credit card and doing nothing else.  With Guild Wars 2, players are not going to see that.  Yes, there will be items to help them along the way, but they are there for assistance, not as a huge advantage giver.

The bottom line is this:  Guild Wars 2 is going to be a solid MMO.  The people at ArenaNet might every well be just as excited for the open beta this weekend as the players are.  While we do not have a launch date, the next few weekends are going to determine when we get this game.  For now, enjoy the open beta weekends and let us know what you think about it!
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