Guild Wars 2 - First Hands-On
Guild Wars 2 - First Hands-On
The first thing you notice about Guild Wars 2 is the choice available. In the beta there were three different races available (of five) and each race could play as one of the eight classes. Iíll never personally get used to the lack of information MMOs give you in-game - while itís exciting to find things out for yourself, the excitement doesnít compare to the crushing frustration you feel when you find out youíve been hamstringing yourself by playing a certain way. With that in mind, my primary character was a Human Necromancer - because thatís what I played in the original Guild Wars.
After reaching level 20 and completing the storyline currently developed I went back and played as a Charr Warrior and a Norn Engineer and through the Guild Wars 2 Wiki I learned that the racial differences were mostly cosmetic. Different races do have a variety of different skills available to them as well, but they all appear to be well balanced and primarily only come into play once you go Elite at level 30.
There is a strong focus on story in Guild Wars 2 and during character creation you have a variety of different options to choose from - all of which shape the story your character will play through. My Human character was orphaned at a young age for example, so I wanted to know what had happened to my parents. My Charr Warrior was trying to make amends for the sins of her father. My Norn Engineer got really drunk at a party and passed out. Some of them are more serious than others.
Had I picked different background aspects, I never would have had the story I had - and while obviously there are only a limited number of different storylines available, it adds a lot of variety to the gameplay.
Every human begins with the same tutorial mission - defending the human village Shaemoor from the Centaur menace. As a tutorial mission itís pretty simple - my Necromancer (who I imaginatively named Limimi) began with a Hand Axe. Because your first five skills are tied to your weapon, this meant I had three skills at my disposal - although I quickly picked a staff up off a dead enemy - bumping me up to five once Iíd unlocked them all.
To explain a little better: each class has access to a variety of weapons and objects to be wielded or held offhand. While multiple classes can wield the same weapon - Necromancers and Warriors can both use Axes - the skills change depending on the class. Some weapons - like daggers for Necromancers or pistols for Engineers - can be held in either hand - and when they are they offer different skills. A dagger held in your primary hand gives you the main attack Necrotic Bite, the vampiric Life Syphon and Dark Pact - which sacrifices some of your health to inflict conditions on the enemy.
Held offhand, the dagger gives you Mark of Blood - a placeable mark which bleeds enemies and regenerates the health of allies - although apparently not yourself, limiting its use for solo builds. You also get Unholy Feast - although significantly different to Unholy Feast in the first Guild Wars. Instead of stealing health from groups, Unholy Feast cripples and damages enemies surrounding your target and - most importantly - does bonus damage for every condition suffered. I was incredibly disappointed when I first found out it was different - as a low level Necromancer I spent most of my time in a fight on the brink of death - but once I got to grips with the game I had a blast stacking a bunch of conditions on an enemy and then wiping them off the face of the earth.
It adds another element to choosing a weapon loadout, since you not only have to look at how much damage something does or any additional bonuses, you also have to figure out your best attack strategies. Wielding the dagger means getting in close and while Life Syphon will restore some of your health, youíll want to have better armour than you would need wielding a scepter or staff. Whether by design or not, the necromancerís offhand only items - the Focus and the Warhorn - have the best condition inflicting skills attached to them.
Once Iíd completed the tutorial mission I was dumped back into Shaemoor, just outside the Human capital of Divinityís Reach. Talking to a nearby scout I learned of the various farms and outposts in the countryside - and I was introduced to Guild Wars 2ís side quest system. Looking at the map you see a variety of hearts, which represent people or settlements in need of aid.
Knowing that most people skip through quest dialogue in an effort to get back to killing, ArenaNet has done away with them - you donít need to bring back 10 rabbit pelts for Farmer Ted or shoot 20 bandits in the back of the head for Villager Alice. Instead you complete Heart Quests - helping out the settlement they live in. Helping out the settlement might require you to shoot bandits in the back of the head, kill a bunch of rabbits or pick up ripe pumpkins - but you can go about any of the options without focusing on one.
Essentially it removes the need to visit some random stranger, hammer Space or Enter through his dialogue and rinse and repeat with the next person standing about with an exclamation above their head. You donít need to visit anyone to do the Heart quests - just be within the general area and once youíve done everything necessary you get an email with some cash and a bunch of experience points. Doing away with that dialogue also means you pay more attention when it counts - during your storyline.
While helping out folks around Shaemoor I also encountered the other mission type - events. Events kick off at specific times and have goals which need to be completed. Some of them, like the kind which see you defending certain outposts from invasion by bandits or centaur, have an impact on the world - if nobody helps defend the outpost, then the centaur will take it - and only when you take it back in another event will you be able to teleport to that area.
As you complete Heart quests and Events, other players will be doing the same so you often find yourself helping someone finish off a beast or complete an objective, with both of you benefiting. They might say thanks and then youíll part ways - and whether you see each other again or not doesnít matter. As players arenít competing for objectives, the game develops a much greater sense of community between players, which permeates throughout the game.
I occasionally ventured into Divinityís Reach, but the cities of Guild Wars 2 are massive - and packed with life. Itís incredibly overwhelming when you first realise you are lost in a city in a game and I probably could have spent my first day exploring. Given I only had two days in the closed beta however, I thought it would be better spent advancing my character.
My story saw me trying to keep my friend out of trouble with the local gangs - and while itís a fairly generic plot, itís told well. Unfortunately I encountered a game breaking bug while doing the quests associated with my storyline - I couldnít enter the storyline instances. Missions specific to your storyline are the only time (that I saw) when you enter an instance in Guild Wars 2 PVE - unlike the first game in which anywhere outside of a safe area was an instance.
Whatís more, it had the awkward coincidence of happening during the first ten levels of the game. Your first ten levels as a Necromancer are always the weakest and after trying to grind my way through to higher level areas, I was about ready to flip out by the time I decided to go to sleep.
The following morning I booted up Guild Wars 2, made a coffee while it patched, came back and breezed through the instance - the grinding had helped significantly. And as I expected, the game kept getting better and better after I hit level 10 - in part due to no longer being quite so weedy and also due to my gaining a better grasp on how to play the game.
Guild Wars 2 can be played like any other MMO, but itís better played just running about and doing whatever you please. The world of Kryta is packed with life and if you donít go exploring youíll miss out on some of the more exciting things to see and do.
Godslost Swamp is a good example. If I hadnít been messing around helping out ghosts, Iíd have moved on and completely missed the Shadow Behemoth. A giant creature of shadow and mist which spawned in the middle of the swamp, it hadnít been there the last five times Iíd run through the area. A small group had formed to fight the beast and I joined the fray - I spent most of my time hanging back and using my Well of Blood to heal people. More people joined until there was a small army of people fighting the creature - until it finally went down with a furious scream.
Later on I was kicking about in a different swamp putting off doing my story related quest when I saw a shady looking gent robbing graves. He was up front about it too, which I found refreshing - most people stealing items from the dead get all shifty. Following him back to his cave sounds like a bad idea in retrospect, but it wasnít too far away and I didnít have the blessing of hindsight we all have now.
He summoned 3 winged abominations and began attacking me with a ferocity I hadnít expected. I held my own for a bit, focusing on one of his pets until it died and then employed my favourite tactic - I started getting the other two monsters as low on health as possible without killing them, then I died.
You get a chance to rally when you die, an opportunity to redeem yourself by killing an enemy before your bowels completely fall out of your body. Lying on the ground, feeling the world slip away I would frantically hammer 1 in my attempts to drain as much blood from my opponent as possible - hammering 1 probably wasnít necessary but it feels good. I took out one winged nasty and ignored the other one, solely aiming at my main opponent. The creature I ignored killed me - letting me take him down and rally, getting back a third of my health. Now the grave robber was alone against me, my blood fiend, my shadow fiend and two bone minions. After exploding two bone minions in his face, he went down like a sack of potatoes.
I have a feeling I was abusing the rally technique - it does damage your armour, which costs money to fix, but I used it to clear out entire rooms of bandits when I was unable to enter instances. It sums up my feelings about Guild Wars 2 perfectly though - even when I was dying I was having a good time. Sure, I got frustrated after a while, but on the whole I was enjoying myself immensely and Iím genuinely sad that the closed beta event is now over.
Not since the multiplayer mod for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas have I had so much fun mucking around with random strangers and I am genuinely interested in seeing the rest of Kryta. Plus, Nolan North does the voice of the Human Male Necromancer, so every time I summoned a bone fiend Nathan Drake shouted ĎLIVE, MY CREATION!í and really, isnít that all that matters?
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Sat 25 Feb 12, 12:01pmamckern
Posted: Sat 25 Feb 12, 12:01pm
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