Disclaimer:As a former player of Guild Wars, I will say that this review/editorial is extremely biased, and is mostly to show my support and my feelings on the game. I played and enjoyed Guild Wars for many years, and still have people that play it regularly on my contacts list.
That said, I’ll break this down into my table of contents.
As you may, or may not know, Guild Wars 2 was announced many moons ago, but unlike Duke Nukem, it will NOT be a disappointment. The game was initially announced in 2007, at the same time Eye of the North was announced, which was the final addition to Guild Wars. Since then its been bits and pieces delivered here and there; wallpapers, design art, and the like.
Recently, we have been given some youtube videos from the press events and things, which of course bring back all those feelings of excitement! As soon as I heard that prepurchases would be in all open beta events, I was sold. And so this story really begins.
This always has been the strong suit of Guild Wars, in general. I think even the original game had great design to the characters, but GW2 brings in real traits and features. I easily could have spent an hour just creating the character! So many combinations and values to change. It’s reminiscent of a Bethesda title.
First, the race. We were given 3 to choose from; Norn, Human, or Charr. There will be 2 more on release, Sylvari and Asura, but I don’t think they are ready to put those out in the wild for the open events yet.
Norn are huge, human-like beings, with amazing strength and power. This is immediately evident when you are in game as the smallest Norn towers over the tallest Human. The power is very also prominent when you go for body size, as even the female is quite muscular.
Humans are, well, humans. They have been on the scene since the first Guild Wars as a playable character, and they definitely have the strong showing of options here.
Charr are a feline race, a bit larger in size than the Human, but not quite as large as Norn. The run animation (all fours), is quite honestly the coolest thing I noticed about the Charr. They are also very well designed, as they are quite a foray into the fantasy, yet they don’t look out of place and have plenty of options regarding horns, hair, snout, and the like.
After we choose the race, we choose male or female, and the profession, as they are called in Guild Wars 2. There are a few options here. A few new, and a few from Guild Wars.
New: Thief, Engineer, and Guardian. The old are: Mesmer, Elementalist, Warrior, Necromancer and Ranger. I’m not going to go too far into this portion, as if you want to know more about each profession, that’s a whole other review!
Now it's on to the size of the character, if their lips are pursed, if they have a purple mohawk or if they have tattoos over half of their body. The amount of customization on the Human race seemed to be the most, followed by Norn and Charr. Charr I’m sure its because it took 4 times as long to do all of the designs of a face that is only from an art drawing.
After this you decide on things like how you were brought up, what kind of social background you came from, some basic character traits and what gods or spirits you relate to. You now get dropped into...
As I said before this is strictly a review from my point of view and I’m a PvE (player versus environment) player. I enjoy the “story” in video games, much more so than playing against other players.
So after you create your character there is a short video of where you came from and what you’ve done. Then you are dropped in game. I’ll go through a few sequences of what I experienced with my characters here.
First time through I created a Human Guardian. It was the closest to what I knew playing the original game, since I was a Warrior/Monk. This was a self heal (kinda) spike damage dealer. The Guardian is definitely a strong character and has no issue with running into the mix with reckless abandon. However, they also can be a strong support player. This works just as intended with the new skill system. As a Guardian, you can use Staff, Scepter, Mace, Sword, Hammer, Greatsword, Shield, Torch and Focus. There are 12 combinations of main and off hand weapons. This is second only to the Warrior in versatility. The skills range from direct combo attacks with the Hammer and Sword, to stand off play with a Scepter or Staff with support skills and light damage dealing. It really is a fun way to play, and the fact you can pick two weapons to do a quick swap with, really opens up your options during battle. This was one issue I had with the original game. Once you set up your skills in town, you had to keep those until you got to another town. So if you went out with a party and ended up going to an area where some of your skills were ineffective, there was nothing you could do about it! In this way, Guild Wars 2 is really allowing you to adjust your play style on the fly, as the world is in constant change around you.
Now because the Human race has so much backstory, you get a very immersive “My Story” as they bring you back to see some of the information about the old game and what happened. It really kept me involved, as while watching I found myself saying, “oh I remember that part!”
Next I tried a Charr Engineer. Engineer is a new profession to Guild Wars 2, and it felt it sometimes. When I looked to see what weapons were available, I was disheartened to say the least. Pistol and Rifle for main hand. The character story was interesting, but during it they stated something about how your character was already in the Legion and in a Warband, but he’s only level 1? That made it a bit confusing for me. The other professions in this race may be great, but I didn’t manage to pick one that kept my interest, unfortunately. They seemed to be greatly underpowered and the story a bit lacking. On one instanced mission, I died about 7 times, just trying to let my superiors see the gun I built. I hope they didn’t take that into account.
And finally on the last day, I decided to make a Norn Necromancer. Now I have to say, Necro was my second favorite class in Guild Wars. And this edition is no different. The Norn backstory is great, not as good as the Human, but certainly better than the Charr. The first battle right out of the gate is one of the “epic” battles, where the game has to zoom out for you to see the whole battlefield. This is level one folks. Right out of the gate, Norn means business.
Now the Necro has the same situation as the Guardian. They steal health and use it for themselves or allies and they deal physical and or shadow damage. They have a wealth of weapons available; Axe, Dagger, Staff, and Scepter. Add an off hand Dagger, War Horn, or Focus and you have ten possible combinations of weapons. They also have a “life force” as its called. When things die near them, they gain this force. You can then use this force to enter the “Dark Shroud” which can heal your allies or deal extra damage to the enemy.
In Guild Wars, the object of the game was to have the ‘correct’ skill set for your character and the enemies you would be facing. You unlocked some skills through quests, and then had to purchase later skills. You had to ‘hunt’ elite enemies to receive the elite skills as well. But, you had complete control of what skills you had on your skill bar, aside from only being allowed one ‘elite’ skill.
In Guild Wars 2, this has changed, and for the better in my opinion. Each character has certain skills assigned to them, and you have a bar of 10 skills. You can only have 6 slots to start, and as you increase in level you gain access to these additional skill slots. In addition, you start with one auto attack skill per weapon. As you eliminate your enemies, you gain weapon skills. The slots are as such, 1-5 are weapon (main and off-hand related), 6 is a healing skill, 7-9 are utility skills and 10 (0) is an elite skill. Obviously, you would want to unlock as many of them as you can so you can be the most versatile with your character. Now, I think this is a good method for unlocking skills, because it almost forces you to find out what your style of play is with the character you’ve created. For example, in GW, I was extremely fond of the Axe/Sword plus Shield combo for my Warrior/Monk. However, because the Guardian has so many options, the Staff and the Greatsword were my favorites. The Greatsword allowed you to stand in and do some heavy damage, and when you needed some healing, you could just step back and regenerate and protect your allies with some of the Staff skills.
Regarding the Necromancer, the situation was similar. In GW, the Necro, was generally speaking a standoff character. Fight from a distance. However in this new skill system, I was forced out of the gate with an Axe (I was thinking this won’t be good), and I have to say after trying all the other weapons, I switched between it and the Staff. Getting right up close and doing melee damage and stealing life, is just fantastic. As with the previous iteration, you are almost invincible for a short time.
This is what we all want in a MMO, or RPG. You want to be lost in the game. You want to feel like the decisions you make with your character, make a difference in the world you are in. I think that Guild Wars 2 definitely makes this happen.
First, you can’t help but notice the vastness of the cities and areas. I think putting the character in Auto-Run mode for about 4 minutes to cross one of the main cities is proof enough that you can almost make a sandwich to get from one side to the other. Now, on that note, I feel that the graphics need some serious optimization. I’m only on a 6850HD Radeon ($200 last year at this time) and I was having a rough time running it in 1280x1024 on medium settings. I think that the sheer size and the fact they are trying to keep that in your screen by increasing the draw distance a bit too much, had a negative effect on the playability. With the network congestion issues, the video lag was almost unbearable. At some points I died, because everything happened while my screen was frozen on a portion where no one was actually there.
Now I read and saw a few videos talking about this, and I can say that some people were downright childish about it, but I’m certain it’s because the graphics have not been DX11 optimized. I’ve been playing games long enough to know, that if you have trouble in a Beta, you don’t need to bash it into the ground, and it should definitely be fixed by release.
Some of my screenshots (I will post a link to in the end of this article), show how vast and open the areas are. If you are in the town outside the city, you can see the city rising up above you, towering into the clouds. It’s really very impressive! Same with the other portions where they increase your sense of immersion. In one of the swamp sections, the fog was so thick, I almost wiped off my monitor.
In towns and cities, you walk by NPC’s and they are talking to each other, or beckoning to you to sell you something. Two guards will walk by talking about who is the bigger hero in their minds. You can greet anyone in town, and they will reply.
This really shows that ArenaNet took a serious look at how to build this game to be great in every area. It is very immersive and I looked forward to logging on, every time I had to log off.
If you played the original Guild Wars, you will recognize some of the baddies. The Charr are on our side now however. There are a lot more ‘standard’ animals in the game now, which are neutral, so you can get after them for a quick kill or let them be.
All of the old baddies have returned, such as the Grawl, Griffons and Wurms. The UI tells you if the enemy targeted does extra damage and what kind of damage, which is nice so you can plan accordingly. If its a ranged enemy it will tell you and what type of ammunition and such. Also tells you if they cause conditions, bleeding, poison and the like.
The big to do about Guild Wars 2 is the Event system. When you are out and about, questing or just blasting through some baddies, this event system tells you there is something nearby. Take a look on your mini map and head over. I participated in 2 of these events, and being that I’ve never played a “mainstream” MMO (read WoW), I was thoroughly impressed with the size and scale of the 2 battles. You can just jump in and join the other 15-20 players that happen to be in the area, and it really feels like you are helping out! I think the targeting system is fair to good, and the AoE area notifications are nice so you can at least make an attempt to get the hell out of the way! At the time of the first one I was a level 16 Guardian and I got 2 shotted even at that level. It really sets the bar high for the player, which really gets you back into it. The other instance I was level 18, and I think there were some level 14’s there having a rough go of it. But it really had a feeling of community. Someone falls, and as soon as the opportunity presents itself, you run over with a few players and revive the downed player.
I feel that the enemies are great, and some of them even have stories, when they are part of the “my story” section, in an instanced portion of the game. Every portion of the game builds up to the next section; the experience.
Like I stated before, these are the things we are looking for in a game. To separate ourselves from the life we lead and make a foray into a fantasy world. I think I read an article somewhere that really summed it up for me. It was something like this; I have the feeling about this game, not that it will be the be all, end all MMO, but that it will be exceptionally good and I will have a great time playing and enjoying it.
This is almost exactly how I feel about it right now. If I look back honestly to the original game, I got it on release day, and I still have it installed, albeit 4 computers later. If Guild Wars 2 is anything like GW, I should still be playing it in...2019...