Gamescom 2010: Guild Wars 2 PreviewBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Aug 23, 2010
What We Know:
ArenaNet’s follow up to their popular massively-multiplayer RPG Guild Wars expands upon the strong foundation of story, gameplay and, an deep player customization established by the first game thanks to a host of expansive new features that look to make Guild Wars 2 just as rewarding and engaging for series veterans and newcomers alike.
What We’re Seeing Now:
For Gamescom, ArenaNet focused entirely on showing off the game in action. Our demo started with the game’s new character biography system. The developer demoing the game forewent the character customization stage for the sake of time, but assured us that the customization options will be plentiful. The biography system is particularly interesting as it posits a series of questions that can be answered in one of three ways. How you answer determines your character’s starting off point.
One of the immediate effects of how players answer these bio questions can be seen in the opening cutscene. The developer driving our demo chose to give our human character (one of the five available races) a commoner’s upbringing, and, sure enough, there’s a moment during the opening cinematic where our character references how being raised by common folk has shaped her outlook on the overarching conflict of the game world.
This is obviously one of the more straightforward examples of how a player’s biography will factor into the game, but there will also be far reaching influences that won’t become apparent until much later in the story. It’s at these key points where players will see just how divergent their experiences have been compared to other players.
The second major tent pole ArenaNet has established for Guild Wars 2 is the game’s dynamic events system. “The things that we always get frustrated by,” ArenNet senior vice president Randy Price explains, “and a lot of other MMO players get frustrated by, is your typical quest chain. You see an NPC, you click on them, and up pops a huge wall of text that you don’t read, and, in general, it’s telling you to kill 10 of something. You find the 10 of something out in a field wandering around aimlessly, kill them, head back to the quest giver, boom, there’s a wall of text to get your reward, you don’t read it—we don’t want that.
“Instead of walls of text, you see smoke rising over the other side of a hill. You run to the top of the hill and you look down and there are a bunch of creatures fighting against villagers. Am I going to run down there and get engaged in this? I can, if I want. I don’t have to. I can go off and adventure someplace else. But that’s pretty compelling. So I’m choosing to go down there. I join with the forces there, and other players are joining in because we’re all seeing the fire. We engage the creatures. We battle them off and force them back. This opens up new events and chains, and the dynamic event system all chains together, and you have different events that move back and forth based on outcomes that you as a player influence.”
The third pillar holding up Guild Wars 2’s ambitious intentions is the combat system, which puts more of an emphasis on real-time action than traditional role of the dice schemes. Players can move, attack, dodge, cast spells, all on the fly. I didn’t get a chance to try the game out for myself, but based on what I saw, the combat looks fast and fluid.
Another area where Guild Wars 2 is looking to differentiate itself from the MMO pack is in how it gives players the freedom to jump between professions and mix and match abilities to their liking. Want a warrior who can also heal nearby allies? Just set the appropriate parameters, and you’re done. ArenaNet hopes this kind of versatility will appeal to MMO regulars looking for some variety, as well as first or second time MMO players.
And clearly, the developers on the right track in this regard, because I am not a fan of MMOs, and yet, as I watched the game in action, I couldn’t help thinking to myself, “If I was going to play an MMO, this is definitely what I would want it to be.” The game won’t be out until sometime next year (hopefully), so it’s going to be a while before we’ll know if Guild Wars 2 can be the genre-bending success ArenaNet believes/hopes it will be.