To say that Guild Wars 2 (GW2) has been a long time coming is quite the understatement. The sequel to NCSoft’s and ArenaNet’s April 2005 MMORPG Guild Wars was actually announced back in March 2007 and despite confirmation that the first closed beta test would be available in 2008, these were soon cancelled, the action being justified with the explanation that this was “to ensure Guild Wars 2 maximum impact and appeal”.
Introduction, Development and General Gameplay Elements
NCSoft and ArenaNet finally judged the game fit to show the public in August 2009, releasing a trailer, containing both concept art and in game footage, and interviews giving an insight into the lore of the in-game world and the races available to play. A playable demo of the game was not released until late 2010 and it has been confirmed that the general public will not see the release of the game itself until 2011. So, considering we have been waiting so long for our initial glimpse of the game, what experiences do we have waiting for us?
There is no doubt in my mind that NCSoft and ArenaNet have a massive undertaking when it comes to GW2. Guild Wars and its expansion packs are all visually stunning, very engaging games which easily draw their players in. I have personally lost entire sections of my life to Guild Wars whilst barely even realising that time is trickling away and I’ve been without food for three days, and know many others in a similar position.
One excellent first piece of news is that, like its predecessor, GW2 will not require players to pay a monthly subscription fee after initial purchase. This is something that I have always wholeheartedly supported, never being one to happily shell out more money after the initial cost of any game, most of which do not come particularly cheap. However, unlike the original it has not been confirmed whether or not GW2 will come with any additional campaigns in later months. In fact it has been confirmed that mini-expansions are more likely, something which we are still awaiting final confirmation on however. Further good news come from the fact that it appears GW2 is going to be just as good looking at its predecessor, which, although needing a more powerful machine specification that the original, will still happily play on mid-range machines.
The combat system has also been subject to a shake up in GW2. The combat in GW2 has been described by the developers as “visceral, dynamic and visually impressive”. The new system includes the ability to manoeuvre around your enemies, use improvised tactics, and to search your surroundings, to seek out the powerful environmental weapons which will be available to you. The skills system itself (more information is given on this below) is set to be very easy to learn and extremely rewarding to master. In GW2 each character starts with a strong base set of skills that can easily be deeply customised to create your perfect character.
The fact that every player will experience an entirely new game every time they create a character will mean that every player has a set of his own personal stories which will leave their mark on the game, each of your characters will have a unique story and that story, it is hoped, will help you explore the fully interactive MMO that NCSoft and ArenaNet are offering. As the developers have said themselves, “Guild Wars 2 offers storytelling that is both epic in scope and personally meaningful. What is your story?”
Character and Skills Information
So what else can we expect from GW2? Well a good place to start has to be with the races and skills available to players, whilst there are similarities here there are also some major changes in the pipeline.
A trailer recently released (shown below) has highlighted one character from each of the five races available to play in the game, two of the races are instantly familiar, both the Human and the Charr appeared in the first Guild Wars game (albeit, the Charr were a non-playable race) although the others, the Norn, Sylvari and Asura less so. Each comes with their own unique culture, rich histories and specific abilities, giving the player far more to experiment with in the sequel.
To further the experimentation available to players each of the races has a series of professions that they can choose from. So far there are five which have been announced, four of which, the warrior, the ranger, the necromancer and the elementalist are well known from the original game. GW2 differs from the original by including there types of professions: 3 scholar professionals (to include the elementalist and necromancer, 3 adventurer professionals (to include the ranger) and two soldier professions (to include the warrior). Each of the professions will obviously once again have its own abilities, skills and limitations as well as having access to certain types of armour and weapons. In fact, armour will now be scaled between profession types and certain weapons will not be available to some professions. For example, the ranger will be able to use bows, but not guns.
So NCSoft and ArenaNet are definitely going to be introducing new professions to GW2, and in fact an announcement made last month has already brought us one – the guardian.
The guardian has been described as “a devoted fighter who calls upon powerful virtues to smite enemies and protect allies. As dangerous with a staff as he is with a mighty two-handed hammer, a true guardian is a master tactician who knows when to sacrifice his own defences to empower his allies to achieve victory“. Sounds impressive. Guardians have three virtues which they can use to empower themselves in combat: courage (the ability to shrug off enemy attacks), resolve (the ability to passively generate health) and justice (the ability to burn enemies). On top of this the guardian has other special skill types, much as do all the other professions, such as the ability to use spirit weapons and to place wards to stop an enemy advance. It has been said that the guardians could simply be a replacement for the monk profession in the -original game, but exploring that will have to wait until I can get my hands on the characters and manipulate them to my own needs!
One big change in the profession system however is that GW2 will not include the ability for characters to choose a second profession at higher levels.
The skills themselves have changed too, with NCSoft and ArenaNet aiming for quality rather than quantity in GW2. Each character will once again have 10 skill slots, but these will be set up rather differently than in the original. Five of the slots will be reserved for weapon and profession dependent skills and can only be changed when switching between weapons. The other five will be dependent on the characters profession and race, and can only be changed out of combat. From this group one slot will be reserved for a healing ability and one for an elite skill. The developers believe that this will give the player more options for successful builds than in the original Guild Wars games whilst decreasing the potential for creating less useful skill combinations, therefore improving characters. Another relevant point here is that each race will have a set of unique skills available to it. These will be weaker than the profession-specific skills but it is hoped that these will serve to cover the weaknesses that a character’s professional may not be able to provide for.
Lastly, it has also been confirmed that GW2 will include “traits”. Traits are abilities that a character obtains after completing specific challenges in the game. Traits will provide a character with passive advantages such as improved power, quicker weapon swaps or adding special effects to a character’s attacks (a good example of this is the trait Swordsmanship, which causes all the character’s sword attacks to cause bleed). These traits are not intended to replace the attribute system, which is to remain as it was in the original Guild Wars but to compliment it. Like skills a certain number traits may be equipped by the player at once, and a character may change these to his liking whenever he is not engaged in combat.
Guild Wars 1 Characters
However, one big piece of news is that it will not be possible to migrate your old Guild Wars characters to the GW2 world (although certain items from the original campaigns may be redeemed for rewards in the GW2 Hall of Monuments). The game is being seen as a fresh start.
Player verses Environment (PvE)
So how does the PvE world of GW2 change from the original series? Well the developers have confirmed that there will be some changes to the system used. Two of the biggest changes are that the new system will include a day/night cycle (faster than that of real time) and weather effects are to be introduced, changing the whole aesthetic of the game and its inhabitants, as well as creating time dependent events and enemies. Explorable areas of the game are set to be bigger and in addition it will now be possible to explore the interiors of houses and buildings.
Another big change which has been announced is the ability to explore, fight and breathe (gained from an easy to find consumable) underwater, making the GW2 world significantly larger than that of the original game.
Aside from this there are several other factors which have been officially been discussed by the developers:
Energy and Potions
The energy mechanics of GW2 have been reworked from the original. Each character will have a larger energy pool which will take longer to regenerate. To supplement this, energy potions are the only consumable which will be able to be used in combat, but these will have a recharge time after use which reduces faster out of combat. The developers have stated that the reason for this change is that “Guild Wars 1 did not have a long term resource. Encounters were very binary and a long term resource allows players to learn from their mistakes”.
It has been announced that GW2 will include crafting, but this is only going to be used to enhance the gaming experience, and it will not be a possible to create a career solely from this in the game. Only two disciplines, those of tailoring and mining, have been announced so far. As far as mining is concerned the natural resources available will be interacted with on a per-character basis meaning that the levels of materials available only diminishes for you, not for everybody else in the game world.
GW2 will also feature dynamic events. This means that from day to day the GW2 world will change, for example, a village that you may have been to yesterday to buy supplies may have been overrun by Centaurs and burnt to the ground the next. A player will be able to interact with these events and choose how he wishes to deal with them, leaving persistent effects on the game world. It is hoped this system will encourage impromptu group play where the players are cooperating more naturally.
Three examples were given to show how this system might work. For example a player could be walking down a familiar road which is usually quiet, but this time they happen to come across a travelling caravan. They can choose to travel with the caravan and protect it from bandits, or not. This in turn could lead to another event where the town to which the caravan is travelling could be under attack. In order to protect the caravan you would have to defeat the enemies attacking the town, and this could lead to the town asking you to counter attack their enemies, again another event which you could participate in, or not.
All these events will happen with or without the presence of a player and only those players close to the event will be invited to take part. This means that every character in the game can affect the world in which you play, creating a much more in-depth gaming experience.
This system will replace the old system of approaching non player characters with green exclamation marks over their heads to collect quests.
GW2 is set about 250 years after the events in the original Guild Wars Eye of the North campaign, with the world of Tyria drastically changed from its original form. This change has been brought on by the Elder Dragons resurfacing to the world after many years of slumber. The human faction will be much reduced in GW2 although the other races will have faired rather better. I will refrain from going into too much back story about the story of the game, but should you be interested in finding out more the novels Ghosts of Ascalon and Edge of Destiny set out part of the history between games (these are the first two novels in a series of three) which were released in July and December 2010 respectively. The story in GW2 will not move in a single structured line but will be made up of smaller story arcs, much like those in Eye of the North, creating a more sandbox environment to play in.
Player versus Player (PvP)
GW2 will include two types of PvP, which are covered in more detail below:
World PvP will alow a player to play against characters of any level using the skills that they have in their possession at that particular time. The discrepancy between levels will be relaxed by a “side-kicking” system. This will create a larger scale of battle than in the original Guild Wars game, with battles taking place over a long period of time with people coming and going as they please. This has been likened to an RTS and each battle will include a number of different objectives to be met. All battles take place in the Mists. Victory in World PvP will unlock benefits to the world to include improved drop rates, faster energy regeneration or other bonuses.
Structured PvP is similar to the current made of Guild versus Guild, and will allow each player to enter the game at maximum level with all skills, races, items and classes to be automatically unlocked.
Well that’s it, a brief look at the information released about GW2 so far. I’m thoroughly excited about the release of the game, being such a massive fan of the original series, and I can’t wait to see what else is announced in the coming months. I’ve also just ordered the first two Guild Wars books so I can read up on the history which takes place between the two games’ timelines.
If you want any further information about GW2 I have included several links which you can access for news, announcements and just general further information you may wish to get your hands on!