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Guild Wars 2 Preview - Is ArenaNet's new game the next big thing?

Joshua Temblett takes a look at Guild Wars 2, examining the beautiful world of Tyria and the gameplay that allows players to engage with it.

Joshua Temblett, Blogger

July 22, 2012

7 Min Read

[This article was originally posted on the author's website, Candlelight-Studios.com.]

It’s a beautiful sunny day outside. Well, as sunny as it can be in England. It’s one of those relaxing days when nothing is going on and there’s a sense of peace in the air. I’ve just arrived at the beautiful, snowy Shiverpeaks in Guild Wars 2 (GW2). There is calm. I had just trekked up a mountain pathway and had been greeted with a sight of awe. Below me is a valley filled to the rim with trees, and a building sits in the vast distance. I can see other, tall, peaks in the far expanse as clouds slowly move over the world of Tyria. This is bliss, this is amazing, this is Guild Wars 2.

Guild Wars 2 - Human City

Created by US developer ArenaNet, Guild Wars 2 is the sequel to the original Guild Wars which was released in April 2005 and has since sold more than 6.3 million copies, making it one of the bestselling games on PC. ArenaNet’s latest game hopes to be bigger, better and change the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) genre for the better.

I can see other, tall, peaks in the far expanse as clouds slowly move over the world of Tyria.

Like traditional MMORPGs Guild Wars 2 takes place on a persistent, online server. Long gone are the days of venturing out into the world by yourself or with a few friends as experienced in the instance-based Guild Wars. In this sequel there are vast lands begging to be explored with thousands of other players.

From caves leading into mountain bases, to hidden passageways up a mountainside, to jumping on rocks over a beautiful and flowing sea, the world of Tyria has been carefully crafted. Whilst the graphics only run on DirectX 9, the art style carries the game’s presentation by providing a world which combines stylistic design with a realistic art style. This in conjunction with a soundtrack that can switch with ease between providing tension or calm, and you’ve got a world which feels truly alive.
No other part of Guild Wars 2 highlights the liveliness of Tyria than its capital cities. These large areas are filled to the rim with citizens moving and interacting with one another, as well as grand architecture that is enough to make even the most cynical person’s mouth drop. You can, and will, spend hours searching and exploring these vast real-estates. Characters will comment on your successes or failures as you move around the city from each unique area to the next, adding a touch of personalisation.


Guild Wars 2 - Sylvari

Indeed Guild Wars 2 provides a lot of atmosphere. Be it sitting on a mountainside cliff, or fighting off a hoard of enemies, the sound will pierce your speakers providing incredible emotion. In fact one of my favourite moments in the game was sitting beside a river which trickled down a hillside into a nearby lake. It was a wonderful moment hearing the water move softly down against the rocks. After all I had spent the previous twenty minutes fighting off a hoard of monsters from attacking a nearby shrine, so a break is always nice.

When I played in the first beta I found combat to be disappointing and underwhelming, as I didn’t understand all of its intricacies. You attack using hot keys, with the 1 key being used for basic attacks. There are no auto attacks and the passive play that comes along with such a game mechanic. Rather, combat is energetic and lively. You can dodge in and out of enemy attacks, and positioning is incredibly important. This is where most of the strategy and depth comes from, as well as the fun combo system. Put down a wall of fire and have archers fire through to burn their enemies with their arrows.

Players only have the choice of ten abilities at once and these can’t be changed on the fly, only when out of combat. With the first five of your abilities being taken up by your weapon moves, and the sixth slot being replaced with a required healing spell, this leaves you with four utility spells which you can customise as you wish. Changing weapons will change the skills of the first five abilities in the skill slots adding another layer of customisation.  You are very much so allowed to play the game your way and find a play style that suits you.

A combat system that once appeared linear and disappointing is now full of customisation and you will soon love darting around, using your abilities to combo your enemies to their inevitable death. Once you understand it, you’ll never want to stop fighting in Guild Wars 2.

Player versus Environment (PvE) content is much like other MMORPGs however with a much larger emphasis on exploration. You’ll be rewarded with a nice chunk of experience, and loot, for looking inside that cave and exploring its depths as opposed to just moving onto the next quest. The much talked about dynamic events, events in the game world which are triggered by other players’ actions in Guild Wars 2, appear to be just a marketing point at first with not much happening to the world depending on your failure or success. Dig a little deeper, leave the newbie area, and you’ll find that they do indeed have an impact. One such event had me raiding a nearby enemy base, protecting a sculptor so that he could put up a statue of one of Tyria’s gods inside their base. After completing the event, and the ones after it, the enemies turned passive and stopped attacking other players.

You’ll be rushing with your team mates to secure large forts, building rams to batter down the doors so that you can claim the well protected castles for your own.

One can only imagine how much of an impact your actions will have on the game world at a higher level.

The best thing about these events is that they scale with the amount of players which means even if there aren’t a lot of players participating in the event, completing the events is certainly doable.

Guild Wars 2 - Combat

Player versus Player content is perhaps where Guild Wars 2 really shines. World versus World versus World (WvWvW) takes place on the Mists, offering vast battlefields for servers to fight over. With three servers fighting at a time across four different maps, this aspect of the game is truly fascinating. You’ll be rushing with your team mates to secure large forts, building rams to batter down the doors so that you can claim the well protected castles for your own. The more areas you capture the more benefits you get for your server, which means there is always a reason to fight in the Mists.
There is so much depth in WvWvW that you can play it for a very long time and not get bored. I should know because that is what I’ve been doing.

Unfortunately that’s where I have to end this preview, the reason being I have merely scratched the surface of Guild Wars 2 and if I continued on any longer both you and me would be here all day.

Heck, I haven’t even talked about the crafting, helping out enemies in WvWvW so that they battle alongside you, the various jump puzzles, hidden dungeons in the most peculiar places or the storyline which is both engaging and exciting. There is so much to discover in ArenaNet’s latest game that I really don’t want to stop playing.

The internet has gone crazy about this game, perhaps because the game offers a lot of content with customers only being required to buy a copy of the game to experience it all. Maybe it’s because its world is so inspiring and unique.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s because Guild Wars 2 is something which definitely deserves people’s attention.

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