There is already a lot of pressure on Arena.Net to deliver what most sites and players have as one of the top contenders for Game of the Year before it’s even released. That pressure is only going to grow in the time before the game actually hits the shelves. Guild Wars 2 has a lot of our hopes boldly pinned to it. Judging by what I both saw and experienced this weekend, most people will be very happy.
I’m not going to pretend to be able to analyze every aspect, feature and nuance in Guild Wars 2. That’s honestly beyond my ken. I’m more of a big picture kind of girl but what a picture it is. Let’s take a look at several key components of the game just to whet your appetite.
Graphics and Aesthetic Look
Tyria has never looked so good.
Guild Wars 2 is an absolutely gorgeous world in every one of the three starting areas we were able to access this weekend. The Norn area is cold and bleak. The Charr lands are burned and ruinous. The human areas are lush and green as the shots from Bill’s UI video showing off the human farmlands and the enormous sprinklers shows.
But the prettiness of Tyria is more than just the expansive overview of the world. Everything is very detailed but it’s the in environments, both wide and narrow, where Guild Wars 2 really shines. The wind blows through the hair on the Charr bodies as they run through the game world. Norn breath shows in the frigid air. Apples shine on the trees. Dew glitters in the grass. The rivers and lakes shimmer in the sunlight. The underwater foliage undulates in the unseen currents. The trees sway in the breeze. In short, the environments in Guild Wars 2 truly create a sense of immersion, a feeling that one is actually in the world rather than just playing a game.
Combat and Grouping
Combat is fun and simple. There is nothing that I like better than a game that can cater to just about any type of player. Those of a more casual bent will appreciate the “pick up and play” style of Guild Wars 2. You don’t have to have a degree in Quantum Physics or Nuclear Science to figure out how to use skills and to use them effectively. With a limited number available to have active at any given time, it’s quite easy to get into the world and start fighting. You can watch your skills progress right on your action bar as the hotkey shows what percentage of the skill is complete. As soon as that baby lights up, WHOMP! You can use it immediately without having to hunt it down in your skills menu. Of course all skills can be mixed and matched but the starter set is pretty effective at the get-go.
For those with a more detailed oriented view of gaming, the skill and trait systems offer a wealth of micromanagement joy. There are so many skills and so many ways to apply them that it’s going to take a long while for the Flavor of the Week builds to start showing up. For those of a serious skill building mind set, fine tuning the right character for both the PvE and PvP aspects of Guild Wars 2 offers a lot of intricate detail that will keep even the most ardent gamer busy for a long time.
Combat action is fast and furious just as it was in Guild Wars 1. There are few times when it’s wise to simply wade in and start swinging. It behooves players to check out the surrounding areas as there are always other enemies to be found nearby. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, particularly if you’re suddenly enveloped in an open world event that happens to spawn where you’re standing. Caveat emptor!
Grouping is fun as well. While I didn’t have the opportunity to participate in any organized raids/dungeons, I did make myself available for any open world events that were taking place. If my screen indicated that there was an event nearby, I hot-footed it over to be a part of it. There was no need to join a group but to just get in there and start fighting. Everyone participating received the benefit of the encounter in the form of experience and in loot from the monsters.
Questing & Your Personal Story
Questing is a lot of fun in Guild Wars 2. Arena.net actually rewards players for simply exploring. Find a hidden hamlet? Of course and they need you! There’s always plenty to do in Tyria and it’s worth taking the time to discover new places to reap the XP gains from helping the townsfolk.
In addition, open world events are always ongoing. “Centaurs are stealing the monastery’s ale. Go save it!” “The sprinklers in the fields have been destroyed. Go find the pieces!” You get the idea. There’s always something to do and you’d better hope that others in the area are around as well. The massive numbers of enemies being thrown at players is nothing short of astonishing.
You’ll need to do a lot of exploring and leveling to keep up with your character’s personal story. Most quests given are 2-3 levels above your current one and are quite difficult to take on unless you’re fairly close to the recommended level.
Personal quests are cinematic in nature but don’t think Star Wars: The Old Republic here. The cut scene backgrounds are static and unmoving. The only thing happening is a conversation between your character and the NPC detailing the quest. Honestly, I have to say that, while nice from a story perspective, I’m not overly impressed with the way these are presented. I found the characters to be stiff and pretty uninteresting to look at in the early personal quests. In some ways it seems like an unnecessary feature but maybe that’s just me. I do like hearing more of the story and the “why” behind what I’m being asked to do.
Norn, Humans & Charr, OH MY!
I checked out all three of the available races this weekend and loved them all. The over the top bravado of the Norn gets a bit tiresome after a while but, hey, that’s the Norn, right?
The customization available when making characters of any race is quite good especially for those who want fine control over what their character looks like. Since you’ll be seeing a lot of your character in the personal quest line, it’s worth taking the time to make one that looks good from the front and the back. For those who just want to get into the game, take a preset and run with it.
Humans and Norn are pretty “run of the mill” in terms of look but where GW2 shines in this test is in the creation of a Charr character. Players can customize the fur of their Charr, the length and shape of its horns, ears, fangs and more. It was really fun though I had a hard time distinguishing between male and female Charr. I can only imagine how much fun it will be creating a Sylvari or Asura character when the time comes.
Each race has a male and female voice. It’s the same no matter what. I wish Arena.Net had several voice packages from which to choose but they don’t so we’ll have to live with it for now.
I know what you’re thinking: “Here’s another example of an over-hyped, over-the-top article about a game that is bound to disappoint as most others have in the last XX number of years.” I’m here to tell you that it isn’t just hype. Guild Wars 2 is simply that good. There are few things that will leave players scratching their heads and, of course things will come up over time and as more players join the game. Even so saying, I have every confidence that Arena.Net will address the things that do come up in a way that will be to most players’ satisfaction. Let’s face it: You can’t please everyone all the time but Guild Wars 2 is going to, in my opinion, please more than it will disappoint.