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GC '10: Did ArenaNet Walk the Walk?

Michael Bitton Posted:
General Articles 0

In the weeks and months since ArenaNet kicked off their official company blog with ANet studio head Mike O’Brien’s Guild Wars 2 “Design Manifesto” the development studio has put out numerous new articles covering specific systems Guild Wars 2 would feature, class reveals, and a whole host of new media including screenshots, skill videos, and trailers. Some might even argue that the pace of the reveals may have been too quick, information overload if you will, and as exciting as its been, it has also bred a healthy bit of skepticism.

Can ArenaNet actually accomplish all this? The company has made some pretty bold claims for their game, and appears to be positioning their game to create a statement for the genre. Star Wars: The Old Republic was enjoying a very healthy lead hype-wise within the gaming community before Mike O’Brien and Co. threw their hat into the ring, and they’re definitely giving the folks down in Austin a run for their money when it comes to fan excitement.

We’ve all heard this song and dance before, though. Let’s face it; the MMO genre is full of skeptics. Not by nature, but for many, due to experience. MMOs promised to be something much more than your typical 20 or so hour jaunts into the worlds developers envision when they create many single player games. MMOs offer players the possibility to explore the promise of what lay beyond the invisible barriers that often block the paths found in most single-player games and continue their character’s adventures beyond the content the developer shipped the game with, creating their own stories and experiences alongside other players. Unfortunately, with how young the genre is and the tendencies for developers during the genre’s infancy to promise the world and deliver bug ridden messes with far less features and awesomeness than what was originally promised, MMO gamers are understandably skeptical when a developer starts shouting from the rooftops about their awesome shiny new game. This time, however, ArenaNet appeared to recognize this and made a pledge to “walk the walk”, choosing GamesCom in Cologne, Germany as their venue of choice to do just that by making the game available for all to play.

So, did ArenaNet “walk the walk” as promised? Fans and press alike finally got to get their grubby hands on ArenaNet’s new baby at GamesCom, and while I wasn’t there myself, like many of you, I was glued to my screen pouncing on any new video, screenshots, interviews, or other scattered bits of information to be found. The very first video to trickle out of GamesCom couldn’t be any more fitting, with so much riding on the game, everyone jumped upon a lone poor quality video that didn’t really make much sense and wasn’t really flattering to the game. Of course, many gamers made an effort to reassure people that we hadn’t seen much of anything yet, but attempting to keep people calm when everyone was so antsy appeared to be a futile endeavor, leaving speculation to run rampant. People wondered all manner of things: Why weren’t the enemies attacking the player? Why was the person playing killing the mobs so easily? Is that a quest NPC I see there?

It all turned out to be a tech rehearsal for the demo that was to be shown at GamesCom. The real demo as well as a tidal wave of information and videos flooded the internets a day later, and at least by my judgment as an on-looker like the rest of you, ArenaNet definitely walked the walk.

The demo that ArenaNet was showing at GamesCom allowed players to create either a level 1 Human or level 47 Charr of one of the three announced classes (Warrior, Ranger, Elementalist), as well as a previously unannounced class: the Necromancer . Detailed character creation was disabled, so you couldn’t fiddle with your character’s physical attributes, however, the previously discussed biography feature, which allows players to answer questions that determine the base of your personal storyline was fully available and working.

Once the character was created, a cinematic that took into account the player’s biography choices played, and then the player was dropped into the game’s starting area (in the case of a new level 1 character) where things appeared to pick up at a pretty quick pace. The village the Human player starts in is being assaulted by Centaurs and it’s up to the player to rescue the villagers. Once the villagers are saved, the player moves to the village gates, which are bracing for an imminent attack by a large Centaur force, players must stop them there if they want to truly save the village. This appeared to introduce the player to the first of the game’s “dynamic events”, and culminates in an epic battle against a giant stone elemental summoned by the Centaur leader. By the way, this is all before your character hits level two, something the ArenaNet developers appeared to be especially proud of.

The player is knocked out as a result of the elemental fight, and awakens to a short (and fully voiced) cutscene that kicks off the personal storyline bits. Following this, it appeared that one could venture out into the open world and embark on all manner of adventures, most of which were mostly unpredictable as promised, given the dynamic nature of the “dynamic events” system. However, towns did appear to have scout NPCs that could mark the player’s map with an indication of where they might find something of interest to do, but even the developers admitted they had really no idea what was or what wasn’t going on at any given time.

If players wanted to see what Guild Wars 2 was like at the upper-mid level range, they could opt to create the aforementioned level 47 Charr character and test out some of the higher-level events and abilities, but the story content was intentionally absent to these players to avoid spoilers. At this level range, Guild Wars 2’s fast paced and visually exciting combat could be observed much clearer, as class combos such as the Warrior’s Whirlwind Axe paired with the Elementalist’s AOE fire attack resulted in the promised outward fanning of flames. The event system at this level range looked to be a lot more exciting as well, as one could participate in the Shatterer event (the giant purple dragon from the Design Manifesto trailer which often consisted of 60 or so players frantically trying to beat back the ferocious beast, even making use of weapon emplacements such as turrets and artillery to clear adds that spawned off the creature. Once defeated, the Shatterer flew off into the cloudy sky and lived up to its namesake, shattering into jagged crystal that rained from the sky.

In the end, almost everything that ArenaNet had discussed in their various articles appeared to be made available to taste as part of the demo shown at GamesCom, and so I would definitely say that ArenaNet can claim “Mission Accomplished” when it comes to walking the walk so far. Whether or not you liked what you saw (or for you lucky ones out there, played), is a whole different story. I invite you all to share your thoughts in the comments below, and please be sure to stop by the awesome Gamescom compilation thread that MMORPG.com user cyphers put together to review all the information and media for yourself. You might want to set down a few hours and grab some snacks though; there is a lot to go through!

While we weren’t able to make it to GamesCom this year, MMORPG.com will be at PAX Prime this weekend, and we can’t wait to share our hands-on experience with the game with you, so be sure to check back soon for more Guild Wars 2 coverage.

The content of this article is largely based on the demo shown to Jeuxonline, which hits all the major points of the demo shown at GamesCom.

Check out the links below to view the demo:


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB