Guild Wars 2 (PC)
As a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game Guild Wars 2 enters a much changed marketplace since the original was released in 2005. The monthly subscription model is no longer king with most new games now using a free to play setup. Even those that tried to stick with the monthly subscription have found it difficult to maintain and have either swapped to free to play or lost some subscribers over the past few years.
We have known that a sequel to Guild Wars has been in the works since 2007. Now, it is finally here and on the 28th of August ArenaNet will release Guild Wars 2 worldwide. We have been playing the early access and today cover our initial thoughts on the latest (and greatest?) MMORPG.
Races and Professions
Guild Wars 2 is set some 250 years after the events of the Eye of the North, the final expansion content released for the original game. Set in the same high fantasy world of Tyria the five elder dragons sleeping under the continent have awoken and caused widespread destruction to the land.
Since the events depicted in the original game the native races of Tyria have had their ups and downs. The humans, once dominant, have lost much in their war with the Charr who have reclaimed their ancestral lands. The Norn have been driven from their icy homeland by the elder dragon Jormag and the Asura have been forced onto the surface of Tyria out of their subterranean home by the great destroyer.
The four races available in the original game are playable in Guild Wars 2: Asura, Human, Norn and Charr plus a new race called the Sylvari. The Sylvari have only emerged into the land of Tyria in the last 25 years and are a plant like humanoid race that aren't born but awake fully grown beneath the Pale Tree.
The races of Tyria have access to eight distinct professions, each with their own play style. There are professions steeped in the use of magic such as the Necromancer, Mesmer or Elementalist. The Warrior and Guardian professions rely on heavy armour and brute strength to beat down their foes. Then finally we have the Thief, Ranger and Engineer.
Guild Wars 2 doesn't feature a traditional healing profession that we might see in other MMORPGs as AreanaNet felt the model of having a dedicated healing class would restrict the game, with groups having to ensure they have this profession to be successful. Instead each profession has an element of healing within their skill trees.
Guild Wars 2 brings some new elements into gameplay from the original. For example in the new game the focus is on the quality of skills that can be used, rather than the quantity. The new game gives us access to 10 skill slots, which we can fill from a larger skill pool however the first 5 slots are defined by a combination of the profession we have picked and the weapon we currently have equipped. The sixth slot is used for a healing skill and the seventh to ninth slots are open for us to define as we wish. The tenth slot is reserved for an elite skill which is locked until we reach the higher levels.
Combat in Guild Wars 2 is designed to be far more interactive than combat in some other MMORPGs. Rather than a standard dice roll system combat in the game looks to the player to achieve victory through timing and quick reactions. Incoming attacks can be blocked by the use of a shield raised at the right time or dodged by rolling to the left or right.
The environment can be used to our advantage as well, which includes destructible items that can be used in combat. We can also combine skills with players we are grouped with, for instance one of our party can cast a wall of fire and if we then shot our bow through the flames our arrows catch alight and impact our target in a fiery explosion.
Dynamic events are also a big part of Guild Wars 2. These random events occur throughout the world and allow us to participate in stories that have a lasting impact on the world we inhabit. If we save a village from a group of rampaging ogres the ogres won't just give up, instead they may counter with larger weapons or retreat to nearby caves. The events provide experience and rewards and help break up the normal questing play that we expect with an MMORPG.
With a name like Guild Wars we expect that player vs. player content is a major part of the game, and we aren't disappointed. These generally come in two flavours with Guild Wars 2, either small teams of players competing in PvP matches or hundreds of players taking part in World vs. World events that can last for weeks. We can drop into these events at any time, no matter our current level and we'll be able to contribute as the game will adjust our character to maximum level if we are a bit behind our friends. For organised play competitive players will be able to use the tournament mode which will pit teams of five players against each other.
Graphics & Audio
The graphics in Guild Wars 2 are generated using a heavily modified version of the game engine originally developed for the first game. The modifications include the use of real-time 3D environments and the use of the Havok physics system. The new engine looks very good and the in game graphics certainly live up to the highly acclaimed concept art used in Guild Wars 2. Some of this art is now directly incorporated into the game, for example in the character progression story the key conversations between our character and the NPCs are displayed in a stylised manner fitting in directly with the art style of Guild Wars 2.
The frenetic combat style of Guild Wars 2 is also very well rendered on screen. Although we haven't yet had the chance to try any of the super large scale World vs. World battles we have participated in many dynamic events and we found that the graphics engine was able to handle the multiple spell and combat effects happening on screen. In solo play our attacks look great, as we smash our enemies into the ground.
Audio in Guild Wars 2 is also very good, with great background music and a large amount of in-game voice acting. The player interactions with general NPCs have a basic set of voice emotes, such has greeting with vendors. When we talk with quest givers or key storyline characters in the game we find much more complete voice acting which certainly helps to bring our personal journey to life. In general we found the voice acting to be good and to a high level.
Guild Wars 2 has been a long time in development and what we have seen of the game so far during the head start access is that this has been time well spent. In general the game appears to be very polished and offers some exciting elements in the MMORPG space. The graphics look great and the combat system works well. Additionally a level cap of 80 will keep us playing for some time and with no subscription fee all we pay is the purchase price of the game. We are really looking forward to getting into the rest of the game and trying out some of the World vs. World large scale combat.
A worthy successor to the original, Guild Wars 2 is a strong new contender in the MMORPG space.