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Guild Wars 2 Column: Fresh Beats in Tyria

By David North on October 25, 2011

We were surrounded by several monsters and had no choice but to attack.  I turned around and began to cast spells on a target.  I knew my attacks were hurting him, as each one landed he cried out in pain.  As the battle continued, I heard my allies’ weapons piercing through flesh and clanging on armor.  We thought we were going to pull though, but then I heard strange cries from a dark chant off in the distance.  Soon the sounds of comets where heard, and they crashed on top of us. Each thundering boom, even if it didn’t hit us, brought fear to our hearts and made us act irrationally.  The battle had taken a turn for the worse and the music had turned from an epic tune to a melody that expressed the mayhem I was seeing on the screen. 

We always look and talk about the art and visuals of a game, often overlooking the efforts that go into making great audio.  These days we can just turn the audio settings down and turn our ITunes volume up, but shouldn’t we only be doing this to games that don’t have impressive audio?  For me, hearing what is happening in a game can really enhance the overall experience.  I was happy with the audio in the original Guild Wars, but I am looking forward to hearing the enhancements ArenaNet is bringing to the audio experience for Guild Wars 2.

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We have all seen Guild Wars 2 game play videos that feature sound effects in the game, so far I am pretty happy.  The clanging of metal, the ripping of flesh and the summoning of magical elements, all sound how we expect them to.  I don’t know about you, but there is something very satisfying about hearing a blade ripping through a monster’s flesh, or going through their skulls and hitting the brain causing an awesome squishy sound.  If it weren’t for that sound effect, hitting my enemy wouldn’t feel as exciting.  The same goes for magic based sound effects.  It’s important for the spells to give off a sound that matches its element, such as fire that sounds like a burst of powerful flames, or a dark magic that has the sound like something is breaking the barriers between our world and the underworld. 

When you hear a squish, you hear victory.

Sound effects also have to come from characters as well.  If something gets hit from a fireball, or a large axe, the intended target had better give off a cry of pain afterwards.  The same goes with a character performing an attack.  Why not have a character grunt as it swings its sword with all its might?  That would only breathe more life into the fight, don’t you think?  So far I we have that, but I‘m slightly disappointed with the sounds a caster makes while performing a spell.  We still get grunts, which are better than nothing, but I would like to hear the character speaking an ancient chant of some kind.  Is that being too picky?  Perhaps so, but from what we have seen so far, the overall quality of audio coming from characters during battle is of the highest quality that I have heard in an MMO,  so I guess I can’t complain too much.

     Can one do magic without magic words? 

I am super excited about the massive amount of background noises we are going to hear.  While walking through towns, we are going to hear the townsfolk talking to each other.  This is a huge improvement over the previous game or MMOs in general, as before we were reading random dialog boxes that popped up on our screens.  This really brings more life to the game since we can compare that experience to a real life stroll through town.  When we pass by groups of people we can hear what they’re saying.  I know that there are other games out there have been doing this, but for MMOs this is pretty new and very exciting, as it will help make this massive world feel a bit more real.

The trailers, and in-game footage we have had the chance to watch all confirm one thing.  This game has some seriously epic music.  Much like the original Guild Wars, the second game will bring songs to match the types of mystical areas we venture through, and during the crazy battles we fight while on our quests.  This is a pretty big standard for most MMOs, and from the sounds of it, Guild Wars 2 will not disappoint. 

So why is good audio important?  Is it a good idea for ArenaNet to be throwing all this time and money into making good audio?  I would like to say yes.  It’s nice to see that ArenaNet is trying to give us a reason to stick with the actual in-game audio, to help bring us deeper into their expansive world that they have created.  From background conversations, to great sound effects and moving music, Guild Wars 2 should prove to be worthy of keeping those audio settings turned on.

Is audio in a game important to you, or do you play your own personal music selection?  Do you think Guild Wars 2 will deliver a good audio experience?  Post your comments below and get some conversations started.

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