Guild Wars 2 Hands-On Preview -- Dynamic Events, Underwater Combat, and Development Status ReportBy Leah Jackson - Posted Jun 27, 2011
Stepping in to Tyria to try out Guild Wars 2 is like breathing in the world's freshest air. Once you venture out into the world, or even as you're creating your character, there is so much creativity to drink in that you wonder why no developer has taken such a risk before. The staggering amount of innovation that ArenaNet is trying to deliver in every ounce of Guild Wars 2 is absolutely refreshing and invigorating as a massively multiplayer online role-playing game fan. Almost every aspect of the game, from the environments, to the user interface, to the story, to the events, is beautiful, and passion fills every crack of Guild Wars 2.
For those who aren't familiar with Guild Wars 2, the game is a fantasy action-MMO for the PC that takes place 250 years after the events in Guild Wars. Five Elder Dragons have woken up, causing utter destruction in the world, and it's up to the players to work together to fight off the ancient evil. Even if you've never played the original Guild Wars, or its expansions, you can still jump right in to Guild Wars 2 and get caught up to speed relatively fast.
With quite a few high quality MMOs already released, or coming out in the near future, like TERA, RIFT, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and the big daddy of them all, World of Warcraft, it takes a lot for a game to truly stand out from what's now considered a cookie cutter formula, and that's exactly what GW2 is doing it damndest to do. First off, the story in the game will be your character's story. This is different from your run-of-the-mill MMO where you create a character who has no backstory at all. Sure, you can make up your own roleplay if you want, but Guild Wars 2's philosophy is to make you important in the world, and that's neat.
From character creation onward, you will perform actions that help shape and effect your personal storyline. When creating a character, you have to answer a series of mad-lib type questions about how you want your personal storyline to go. Is your Norn, a member of a Viking-esque race, cunning or strong? Which one you pick determines your character's starting experience. Another relatively odd fill-in-the-blank question is, “At a recent celebratory moot held in HoelBrak, I ______.” You have the option to answer blacked out, got revenge, or lost an heirloom. A developer told us that later on in the game this answer will have a lot to do with your character's story, but won't have any consequences at the beginning of the game. I find that creating a character with a story that will develop as I play makes me care even more about her so much more, and that's what Guild Wars 2 intends to do.
Guild Wars 2 also introduces an action-packed, versatile combat system that's different than what most MMOs have to offer. For an in-depth example of this, you can check out our GW2 Engineer hands-on preview. The Engineer exemplifies just how flexible certain Professions (more commonly known as character classes) will play in GW2. There will be eight Professions total, including the Ranger, Elementalist, Engineer, Thief, Guardian, Warrior, Necromancer, and another one that's yet to be announced.
The seven announced Professions so far sound a bit standard, minus the Engineer, but how they play is anything but. Each Profession offers a variety of ways to both tank and keep themselves alive by utilizing different styles of play. They all have a self heal, and the two Professions I tried, the Engineer and the Elementalist, also had a few group healing abilities as well. Also, depending on which weapon you use, it will change the abilities for each Profession allowing for even more customization and unique playstyles. Guild Wars 2 does away with the need to stand around looking for the perfect group as each Profession can hold their own to tank, deal damage, and heal.
This was perfectly demonstrated during a dungeon run where a group of five Elementalists, another group of four Engineers and one Elementalist, and yet another group of one Elementalist, two Engineers, a Thief, and a Ranger all started and ended the same dungeon almost exactly at the same time regardless of group composition. Generally in other MMOs, you need a formulated “one tank, one healer, three damage dealers” group setup to complete anything, and Guild Wars 2 introduces a new way to let anyone play how they want to and still complete content.
Another GW2 combat mechanic that was recently announced was underwater combat. In pretty much every MMO out right now, your skills on land are the same skills that you get when fighting underwater, and no one has really questioned that. GW2 changes this mentality, and when your character submerges, all of their abilities change to brand new underwater abilities. Here are a few examples of underwater abilities for both the Engineer and the Elementalist:
Engineer Underwater Abilities:
- Torpedo Shot – Homing shot
- Mines – Shoots three mines that detonate after a few seconds
- Grappling Line – Retracting shot that pulls foes towards you
- Timed Charge – A shot that detonates quickly, hurting nearby enemies
- Net Wall – Fires a net that immobilizes foes
Elementalist Underwater Abilities:
- Fire Attunement:
- Magma Orb – Shoot a blob of molten rock that explodes after a delay
- Boil – Boils water around the foe dealing area of effect damage
- Steam – Blinds and burns foes in an area
- Lava Chains – Cripple foes with chains
- Heat Wave – Knock back enemies and regenerates allies
- Water Attunement:
- Water Missle – Fires a homing missle at enemies
- Ice Globe – Fires an icy orb at enemies
- Ice Wall – Creates an ice wall that you can shatter
- Under Current – Drag foes beneath the depths
- Tidal Wave – Allows you to charge forward and knock back enemies
- Air Attunement:
- Forked Lightning – Area of effect lightning damage
- Electrocute – Electrocutes enemies in an area
- Air Pocket – Blink to a bubble that continuously moves forward
- Air Bubble – Traps foes in an air bubble that makes them rise to the surface
- Lightning Cage – Electrical field that stuns foes
As you can see, the underwater combat abilities actually make sense in that environment. I loved using the Elementalist's air spells the most, especially the Air Bubble and Air Pocket spells. These types of attacks are just a taste of the creativity that's to be had in all of Guild Wars 2's combat, and one of the reasons that I'm so impressed with what I've seen of the game so far. It's difficult to play an MMO today where you don't think that one game is copying the abilities from another game, but while playing GW2, I constantly found myself pretty hyped to be trying things I'd never seen before.
Another innovative aspect of Guild Wars 2 is its Dynamic Event system. Seasoned MMO players are very familiar, and bored, with quest givers asking to kill 10 pests in order to go on to the next quest. Guild Wars 2 introduces a new way to play where once again players can choose whether or not they want to help. If you happen to be exploring and come across a town that's on fire, you can help put out the fire, or you can just keep running. If you do choose to help, you'll be graded on how much you help, and if you choose not to help, there will be other events happening all the time to keep you on your toes. While I was playing, I ran into a town that was on fire, and that was being looted by pirates. I chose to help put out a few of the fires and then go kill pirates. By helping, I filled out a little heart icon on my map and was also rewarded with experience, gold, and karma.
The hearts are a way to help breadcrumb players from one event to the next. Scouts will put them on your map if you need help finding events, or you can choose to just mindlessly explore until you come upon them. When you find a location with a heart, you can choose how you want to help rather than the standard “go kill 10 things” types of quests. What makes it even more interesting is that more than one event can be going on in a single location. We found a huge Centaur force that had taken over a city and combined their forces with another group, so now there were two types of evil we had to rid the city of instead of one. In a time where most people are too bored to read quest text, just allowing the events to play out for players is refreshing and makes me actually care about what I'm doing.
All of this combined is just a fraction of what makes Guild Wars 2 so intriguing. On top of it all, the art style is simply stunning. The painterly effect that the team is using adds so much life to the world of Tyria, and makes you want to go out and explore the beautiful world that the developers have created. With its hardcore feel, action-packed combat, innovative mechanics, and polished graphics, GW2 is the first MMORPG to come out since vanilla World of Warcraft that actually gets me excited again.