If you haven’t heard already, the much-anticipated Guild Wars 2 is out this Today. Pre-purchasers have been playing since Saturday. While there have been the inevitable glitches and server problems (though nothing as horrible as the Diablo 3’s Error 37 fiasco), overall it’s been a fantastic few days.
Zangief Valshen was born, a proud, hairy Norn necromancer. With his pet at his side, a floating sack of gore, he strives to save the land of his people from a dragon made of ice. Some of his people even worship the foul beast, claiming it to be the strongest spirit. These Sons of Svanir have ever dwindling numbers, thanks to trusty, life stealing daggers.
The game looks great. Not only are the characters and environments beautifully designed and detailed, the graphics engine renders them speedily. To show off the eye candy, there are viewpoints dotted around the landscape, which give you an Assassin’s Creed-style overview, of the location you’re in… sans the swan dive ending. Conversations with major NPCs take place in special cutscenes, letting you admire your character as well as the NPC you are talking to. These conversations are all fully voiced by rather good voice actors. You probably won’t be surprised to hear Nolan North’s got a role in the game (the man is everywhere, when does he sleep?). Comparing all this to World of Warcraft’s rather dated graphics engine and the general lacklustre quest delivery system, I felt myself actually caring about the quests instead of just clicking accept as soon as I could.
Guild Wars 2, like its predecessor, has no subscription fees. You buy the game, and you can play for as long as you like. Of course, there’s plenty to buy with gems, the purchasable currency of the game, but these seem to be limited to vanity items like top hats, and the odd short buff.
The game features five races, available in both male and female, with a nice variety of character customisation options. You might not have the same freedom of say, the Sims, but there is a lot to be done to make your character something unique. Best of all, you can dye your clothes, meaning you can create that perfectly fashionable tree-person whose skin tone matches their outfit. Each race also has its own starting area and unique introductory video sequence. In fact, during character creation you have to make several choices, which then influence which story quest your character is on.
There are then eight professions, which are available to all races. This includes spellcasters like the Elementalist, Mesmer and Necromancer, melee characters like the Warrior and Guardian, and other specialists like the Thief, Engineer and Ranger. Each profession can be further customised with traits and skills, which unlock at level 11.
Combat is pretty interesting. You start with a certain skill or spell, and must use it in combat to unlock further skills, until you have up to five for a given weapon. Change weapon types, and you’ll have a completely different skill set. This is an interesting and convenient way of displaying your character’s varied fighting styles. Characters like the Elementalist have even more skills – a set for each weapon type they can use, as well as for each element! That’s a lot to unlock, but it’s a lot of fun to experiment to find your favourite set of skills. Guild Wars 2 continues in the vein of motion in combat, with very few abilities rooting the character to one spot. This means that all ranged classes are capable of kiting, and not just certain builds. Instead of having to worry about mana/MP, more of your time will be spent managing cooldowns and avoiding attacks. The dodge system also allows for the evasion of attacks, and humanoid enemies make use of it too.
GW2 has made an interesting move away from the grindtastic nature of MMOs by making almost everything provide XP. Doing quests, completing events, harvesting materials, crafting things and even exploring all work towards your next level. (In fact, killing monsters provides very little in the way of XP). Because of this, exploring town and crafting no longer feels like a waste of time, meaning more people, from what I have seen, are in town, talking away and reading up on odd achievements that also net XP. You can follow the main storyline, or help people in the area, or even take part in events that are happening in your part of the world.
Gathering is available to all professions from level one, provided the correct tool is equipped. The minimap also displays any nearby ore, herbs or trees that can be gathered. Unlike GW1, the world outside is no longer instanced, meaning you can complete quests with friends. To avoid kill stealing and loot issues, every character has their own version of items in the world, from that node of copper ore you are running towards, to the treasure chest after you defeated a world end boss, no-one can steal them from you. Once you gather a tree, it is chopped down for you, but not for anyone else. So far, this means I collect more resources and spend less time cursing my screen due to a loss of material. In fact, this seems to have resulted in a much more, dare I say it, friendly environment, as players work together towards common goals. Maybe they just want the XP from reviving your but hey, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.
So far the game is fun. Once I reach some instances, where I can give proper feedback on the lack of a defined DPS, healing, tank trinity, we will see if this game has what it takes to survive in the shadow of the behemoth…
If you have the game already, find me on Aurora Glade. My ID is Valshen.1568. Otherwise look out for random characters with Valshen as the surname.
Worried that your PC may not be able to handle the fancy new graphics? Here are the minimum system requirements from the Guild Wars 2 website:
- Windows® XP Service Pack 2 or better
- Intel® Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz, Core i3 OR AMD Athlon 64 X2, or better
- 2 GB RAM
- NVIDIA® GeForce® 7800, ATI X1800, Intel HD 3000, or better (256 MB of video RAM and shader model 3.0 or better)
- 25 GB available HDD space
- Broadband Internet connection
- Keyboard and mouse
Don’t forget to enter our awesome GW2 competition if you haven’t already!