Guild Wars 2 carries a lot of expectations in the gaming community. Considering Guild Wars 1 was basically a dungeon crawler and not an MMO, many gamers are skeptical whether or not ArenaNet will be able to pull off a truly persistent world. On top of that immediate concern, there other claims ArenaNet has made, that if true, will chance the face of MMOs as we know it– enhanced grouping; event driven quests; truly competitive even-ground PVP.
Even with all of my skepticism intact, after previewing the game at ArenaNet’s recent press event, it looks like the famed developer is poised to succeed with Guild Wars 2.
For the purposes of this event, we played the Human starting area from levels 1-10. I don’t say this very often, but Guild Wars 2 is not your typical MMO. Right off the bat, you’ll notice when booting up the game that there are no “quests” — they have been replaced with “events”, which are much deeper than your normal progression fodder.
For instance, say you approach a town in most MMOs — the town leader may ask you to kill ten centaur enemies that are “attacking” the town. When you approach the specified area, the centaurs are most likely grazing around their camp, doing nothing. Once you complete your kill task, you go back to the perfectly serene town, turn in your quest, and never see that area again.
Guild Wars 2 wants to avoid all that, and make the world itself seem more alive. With the “event” system, you’ll find that not only are centaurs actually attacking the town, but they can actually murder NPCs and burn the town to the ground entirely. If you choose to join in on the fight, you’ll help fellow players not only rebuild and save the town, but you’ll also optionally drive the centaurs back into their own camp, and destroy their home base. During any point, you might actually complete the event parameters for bonus XP, but you’ll completely forget about it in favor of becoming lost in the quest.
What Guild Wars 2 has done here is truly remarkable, because in the 10+ events I was able to experience, this system actually works. In the finished product, events will scale depending on the amount of players in the area engaging in the event — meaning a large epic battle will actually feel epic, but if you’re alone in your task, it won’t be impossible.
Speaking of dynamic groups, this is easily my favorite part of Guild Wars 2. Multiple times, I was able to fully complete fixed events and randomized events without having to worry about a party, or having people steal my quest drops. ArenaNet has not only instanced individual drops, but allowed players to obtain equal XP even if they aren’t in a party when attacking mobs with other players. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dreaded seeing other players come in and steal rare required mobs in a certain area — when I only need *one more* red dragon, and that dragon spawns once every fifteen minutes, it’s absolutely maddening to have that kill stolen.
The event system also lends itself well to dynamic groups, given how so many different variations there are. For instance, in addition to the centaur example before, a town’s water system could be under attack, and any number of bad outcomes could occur, from poisoned water to an outright blight. In fact, for some events, there are as many of four tiers of outcomes, all of them dynamically giving you XP the entire time. Again, you’ll completely become lost in the moment, and eventually realize you’re leveling up and gaining XP — not the other way around.
In addition to levels 1-10, we also were able to test the World vs. World system with up to 40 players. Of course, the full WvW mode will accommodate for hundreds of players, but we were easily able to get the general gist of the mode by encountering various skirmishes at set areas of the map. Just in case you’re wondering, World vs. World is one of two PVP modes set up in the realm of Guild Wars 2. Competitive PVP will automatically level other players to 80, giving them equal gear and equal skills, allowing utter skill to take precedent over anything else — there is no way to gain an advantage. World vs. World subtly levels players to 80, but still holds you to your skills and gear at your current level, which can still allow players to earn gear, and thus, earn some competitive advantage. You can access World vs. World and PVP at anytime through the in-game menu, and you will instantly enter it.
World vs. World is similar to recent Dynasty Warriors iterations, in that it is largely a hack and slash affair, with strategy and war weapons mixed in. Various bases and checkpoints are strewn about the very large map, which allow for capture from any one of the three giant teams on the map. When a player captures a node, they’ll either gain a valuable supply commodity to build new war weapons, a vantage point, additional score to win the mode itself, or all of the above.
Each “round” of WvW will last around two weeks, and will wrap up on a score based system. Servers will be competing against other servers, and will constantly be matched up depending on which group is the most competitive. ArenaNet mentioned that various tweaks will be made to ensure that low performance servers aren’t completely abandoned in favor of other competitive WvW servers, but they couldn’t elaborate upon that. Sadly, other than in-game chat, there are no plans to include an in-game “Vent-like” functionality for teams, so servers will most likely have to rely on fan-sites for Vent/TeamSpeak info. Players on opposing teams also won’t be named, as to avoid meta-conflict and outside stress — instead, you will see “Invader” above their character.
In terms of leveling, players can take to the standard questing and world map mantra, or level from 1-80 completely through World vs. World. ArenaNet mentioned specifically that there are quests and things to do in WvW in addition to the player vs. player conflict, so no doubt many people are going to role play as various merchants and adventurers, which is a nice addition to the game. Leveling itself will largely be uniform, in that gaining most levels will “feel” the same when we’re talking straight progression.
To clarify, in most MMOs, levels 1-20 may feel really easy, but once you get up to say, 49-50, it becomes extremely difficult. Guild Wars 2‘s leveling will feel mostly the same, in that it will scale your level with the area you’re in, allowing you to level to 80 based on your comfort zone. This system will allow players to enjoy the world more regardless of the area, as opposed to grind in zones that they hate just to knock their level-notch up one digit.
So long as the game can keep people entertained, Guild Wars 2 is shaping up to be an amazing purchase — at least until level 80. Everything will hinge on whether or not ArenaNet can continue to develop new and interesting content, and whether or not they can keep their early zones updated to entice newer players. Be on the lookout later this year for more Guild Wars 2 news and previews, in addition to our official review. In the near horizon, I’ll give my complete impressions playing as a Human Necromancer.