Last week at NY Comicon we got the chance to sit down with the Guild Wars 2 team and play the demo they had set up in New York City. I have watched the Charr Necromancer for a while and was happy to see it listed on the character selection sheet. Please understand we only had a short time to play so I wanted to test out the class as well as get a good look at the race and why it is appealing. When demoing a game for the first time, you are forced to make expectations as you go. Did Guild Wars 2 meet my expectations in that short time? Yes.
The first thing I noticed was how intricate the character selection process was. I am no longer one to quickly randomize a character and jump into the game. I took my time and was happy with all of the selections available to players. The way I have always approached MMOs is that they are a marathon, not a sprint. I will be staring at my character for countless hours of game play, so I better damn well like the way they look. Guild Wars 2 offers a lot of options in character creation. This was refreshing to see and something I look forward to really taking time with at launch.
The Charr Necromancer jumped into the world and I noticed right away I had a dagger and a war horn. GW 2 developer, Colin Johanson quickly leaned over to tell me what a lethal combination that was. I was excited to see it work. With a much more spell oriented approach to the necromancer I ran off in a random direction to see what I could find. One technique I have always used when demoing games, which is pick a random direction and run to see what they throw at you. Sure the quests and story line are waiting, but I want to get a feel for my character first. The zone we played in was higher level so I had a lot of skills and spells to choose from.
The first thing I learned was that the Necormancer does much better when his pets are out. Yes, I know that is obvious. The little skull headed demon dogs went leaping forth and attacked my first target. I was able to attack with some bolts and a Mark spell. The Mark was nasty and placed a circle of power on the ground around the monster. It was quickly killed and I got some health out of the deal. Before I could check everything, my minions were off and running after another target. Hurray for aggressive minions. I jumped into attack mode again as my health bar was still strong and started taking out more monsters.
Here is one thing I learned with my random act of violence. Guild Wars 2 does not feel immediately grindy. It flows and moves quickly. The game play is fast paced and fun with cool downs that give you a decent variety of spells and don’t make you feel limited because everything takes a few minutes to return. I at least felt like I had a solid arsenal of spells and attacks for each opponent without having to wait for them. For the Necromancer, the minions were great as well. They were controllable and saved my Charr hide a few times.
The next area I wanted to test out was the near death interface that is in Guild Wars 2. These are referred to by the team as Downed Skills. My minions were gone so I rounded up a few mobs to chase me for a bit. The dodge rolls help you get out of range quickly, and work well against single opponents, but I had several enemies chasing me. Soon the screen started to flash and I was near dead. I had some options of skills pop up on the screen in an easy interface. I started spamming the buttons hoping they would pull me through. With more testing and time, I will likely set up a rotation that works best when near dead, for now it was a demo and the interface was exciting enough to play through. The Guild Wars 2 team has said they want the player to feel like they are fighting on the brink when these scenarios arise, they were successful, it does. The survival feel is captured in the changing interface and quick set of skills offered to a player to hopefully fight their way out of death. In my first attempt I failed and got crushed. However, after a few more tries on single opponents, this dynamic is very cool and you definitely get the feeling that you are beating the odds when you come back by using your survival skills.
Please understand that with this hands on after I really wanted to describe the feel of Guild Wars 2 gameplay. Not so much the content, personal story or epic arcs the game has been discussing. We know all of that is in the game already. I really wanted to feel the game play first hand. I wanted to be in the moment of combat, test the skills and spells, and overall see if killing mobs felt like I was mindlessly grinding. Guild Wars 2 was very successful in convincing me that the game is on the right track for a solid action MMO. It moved fast, played well, and offered plenty of options in a short span of time to keep my attention focused. I can only imagine what PvP will be like…grin. So my early expectation with this demo was to get the feeling of the game and it was fast and furious even with a Necromancer.