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The Closed Beta Preview

By William Murphy on February 20, 2012 | General Articles | Comments

The Closed Beta Preview

Building Your Hero

Now, just because the bulk of the PVE game (we haven’t even touched on PVP yet, that’s covered in a whole different article by Garrett Fuller) is about exploring the world doesn’t mean there’s not something for the achievement based player.  There are 80 levels in Guild Wars 2, seven crafting professions, hundreds of achievements (which grant titles and more), dozens of skills to unlock, and a varied and power-enhancing trait system. 


One of the first things you’ll notice while playing is that each weapon has its own set of skills.  As you use the weapon more and more, the skills will unlock.  It’s not an overly long process.  Consider it the replacement for “weapon skill” in many other games.  You want to get the most of your sword and shield? Keep using them for a while, and you’ll unlock all five skills related to them.  The first five keys on your hotbar are weapon skills, while 6 through 0 are based around your profession specific skills.  There is no mana, just cooldowns to make sure you’re not too overpowered (the staff on the Mesmer would make for a very powerful foe if these cooldowns were not in place). 

The skills you earn for your class are a different story.  At first you’ll start with just your basic heal skill, and little else.  But as you level, and explore to find “skill point challenges” littered around the world (there’s that exploration focus again) you’ll gain skill points.  Each skill of your profession costs a different amount, with the more crazy powerful ones costing the most.  So you can either use a point or two to get some skills early, or you can save and get something extremely useful and fun (flamethrower on the Engineer!) early on.  Either way, if you hunt down all the skill challenges you’ll be able to get every skill for your profession by the time you reach level 80.  Just like in GW1 though, you can only ever equip as many as your hotbar can hold.  So it’s up to you to figure out what combination works best for you.  I know I spent some points on other healing skills I don’t really care for, but it just means I’ll have to wait longer to get other skills.  There is no “re-speccing” of skills because there doesn’t need to be.  You just have to wait to get more skill points and eventually you’ll unlock them all.

The crafting system seem may be the most “standard” part of Guild Wars 2, but I’ll be honest and say I didn’t experiment with it much.  From what I can tell however, they’ve done an admirable job making sure that since players can only ever have two crafting professions, you’ll have to either a.) work with others to make items or b.) use the auction system to get what you need.  A vibrant economy is possible, but we’ll have to wait and see what the live game brings to really tell.  For now, I can tell you that the basic “collect this, have recipe, make item” system is what seems to be on hand.  The only caveat is that anyone can gather harvestable materials, and anyone can “salvage” items to get crafting components (and many of these can be used by several professions).  That’s all I feel comfortable saying about the crafting this early, but it is at first glance the most basic and least innovative aspect of the game.

Lastly, let’s touch on the traits system.  At level 11, you’ll gain your first trait point.  After visiting your class trainer to buy the ability to “trait yourself”, you’ll be able to put said points into one of several categories that differ depending on the class.  These are the closest thing you’ll see to “skill tress” in GW2, only without the suck.  Basically, it allows you to further improve whatever type of skills you find yourself using the most on your character.  Using my engineer as an example: I found myself loving my toolkits (unlocked via skill points), namely the flamethrower.  By putting trait points into the Tools path, I increased the damage done by them, and I also made it so that I gained back endurance (dodge meter) by using them.  This is key because the toolkits involve a lot of movement and dodging to use properly.  There are also paths on the Engineer for explosives, guns, alchemy, and more.  Depending on how you like to play, you can cater your character’s strengths.  And these can be re-specced for a price at the trainer. 

On top of all this, as in the WvW or PVP, if you’re character out-levels an area, you’ll be brought down to an “effective” level so you can still be challenged by the content (though not as challenging as it would be at level).  This is Guild Wars 2’s solution to “mentoring”, effectively making so that players of ultra high level can travel back and repeat content or help newer players.  It doesn’t work in for a level 1 to go to a level 80 zone, the scaling only works “down”.  However, in the case of PVP, it does scale up.  But that’s a special case.

All This and a Bag of…

I honestly can’t believe that this game will be coming without a subscription attached.  There’s a “commerce” button on the UI, but we can’t access it.  It plainly states that it’s disabled in the demo.  But now, more than ever, I wonder what it will have.  Because I’m just shocked that we’re going to get so much game for just the box price.  I played as much as I possibly could this weekend, with mainly one class, and I still barely scratched the surface of what’s available.  I didn’t really touch crafting, the auction system, only dabbled in the WvW and Competitive PVP.  I haven’t seen but the starting zones of the Charr and the Norn and one dungeon (oh yes, there are dungeons and we have a write-up on one coming later).  Then I look at the map and see there are thousands more events, locations, and achievements to unlock. 

The press weekend had a guild set up for it called Heroes of Tyria.  We all hung out, chatted, helped each other, and partied up as often as possible.  One thing I barely touched on is the Guild system.  You can join multiple guilds on your account, though you can only represent one at a time.  Everything you do for your guild will earn influence, which can in turn be spent on guild perks, which increase XP gains, give crafting bonuses, or buffs to PVP and more.  It all depends on what your guild spends its Influence on.  There’s even a guild emblem you can customize.  Not to mention the Guild Halls, which I haven’t seen yet either. 

Like I said… how can there be so much game, so much more than most MMOs have after a year of live service, and it’s only the first part of closed beta? It’s not even launch, I haven’t seen the Cash Shop, but I feel comfortable telling you all that GW2 will undoubtedly be worth the purchase when it comes out.  Unless something catastrophic happens, this is the most game you’ll ever get for $50/$60.

Feeling Stronger Every Day

Now the wait really begins.  We’ve had our taste, and we want more.  There is very little I feel I can complain about just yet when it comes to ArenaNet’s latest.  I’m sure as time wears on and I get closer to writing the review after launch, I’ll find something to nitpick on.  An early candidate is the crafting, for example.  But so much of what ArenaNet has been promising since we first got details on this sequel is falling into place.  All the hype we read from the devs is turning out to not be hype at all, but rather promises kept.  Those things they said they wanted to do: the axing of holy trinity, the massive PVP, the more dynamic questing… it’s all true.  It’s all here, in beta form, and it’s absolutely fun, fun, fun.  It’s been a very long time since an MMO surprised me.  More often than not, you know what you’re getting when you pick one up.  Guild Wars 2 is doing so many things different from the norm, and at the same time they’re creating a new norm.  We often talk about innovation in small steps, but that’s not ArenaNet’s style.  If all keeps going as planned, Guild Wars 2 will wind up every bit as revolutionary as has been promised and we’ll all have a new champion to herald.  This is just the beginning, just the first taste.  And I am drooling for more.

William Murphy / Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.
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