Sampling the Tyria’s plant people…
After five years of momentous expectation, punctuated by long periods of silence, the sequel to Guild Wars has finally been released. It feels weird to be able to jump onto servers and take our time with a game that usually we’ve had to blaze through during multiple beta weekends – just so we could see what exactly this “new kind of MMORPG” actually has to offer the genre. We actually figured out that we’ve spent at least fifty hours in the beta, sampling seven of the eight different professions and each of the five different races. Yet despite the lengthy beta process ArenaNet decided to leave out two of their most extravagant races until the final beta weekend; the plant people Sylvari and tech-specialist Asura.
The spunky lot at PCGZine decided to go for the diminutive inventors, which left us with the leafy folk born underneath the Pale Tree. Honestly we were a bit gutted to be playing as the masters of all that’s organic, just because they seem like the highest of high concept fantasy which usually doesn’t wash well with us.
A race of knowledgeable beings suddenly grown into consciousness thanks to an all-knowing deity known as ‘The Pale Tree.’ This is the sort of hard to grasp yet brave concept you might find in a R.A.A Salvatore novel, but every aspect of the starter area be it quest design, environments and enemies faced commits to it fully.
Players should expect to see a whole lot of green with grand mystical plant constructs which loop around organically and regular fights against insects to maintain the subtle ecological balance. An ongoing battle which has allowed the Caledon Forest starter area to flourish. The Grove, the Sylvarian capital city, is also really impressive with giant winged seedlets carrying players from one level of the giant area surrounding a skyscraper tree, to the other.
The environments here are truly something to savour, and perhaps draw even more attention to the curious exclusion of a first-person perspective, but ArenaNet have said that missing functionality is coming. Visually the Sylvarian experience is different from anything else Guild Wars 2 has to offer, but the central story still follows the same beats.
An evil villian terrorising villages with magical devices? Check. A splinter movement using nefarious means like slaves and brutality to forward their agenda? Double check. The overarching theme of reclaiming Tyria from the ever-present threat of all powerful dragons? Triple check.
As with all of the other races these beats are mainly delivered in instanced areas with talky cutscenes to add drama and personality to proceedings, but here we found them to be a bit drier with none of the humour you usually get with the Asura or Human races.
Rolling out as a Mesmer we found combat to be surprisingly enjoyable and a genuine step up from the previous game’s illusion-orientated class. Being able to switch between staff and sword, each of which have their own stable of attacks, really helped to vary up the gameplay.The ability to create carbon copies of yourself during battle, usually by avoiding attacks or parrying, was a also lot of fun and looked spectacular, especially when we took part in public boss battles.
We only progressed up to level 11, so we can’t say anything about this classes high level play, but the additional buff potential of confusing enemies by killing off your magical clones early could offer up some interesting momentum changes in PvP. This should also be the case with the teleportation powers and the elite ability of turning allies invisible. Seeing how this versatile class will be used in Guild Wars 2’s various PvP and World vs World match types should be really interesting.
There were a few other new elements in the beta weekend including the addition of Vista challenges, which require players to ascend certain elements of the scenery to survey the local area and raise that all important completion ratio for the local area. Doing so usually involves painstaking platforming prowess, but sometimes the latency makes that pixel perfect precision impossible, However Vistas are still a nice distraction from all the killing and offers a legitimate reward for exploration. The other new element we found were crate drops. Just like in Team Fortress 2, Guild Wars 2 item drops sometimes include crates which require keys to open. These ‘Mystic Keys’ are given out as quest rewards or are purchaseable via the in-game gem store.. Crates as a gameplay addition are a-okay, it’s just that we can imagine this kind of idea to be expanded to other sorts of crates which perhaps are only unlockable with keys bought for real cash. ArenaNet need to be very careful that they don’t mess around with the sanctity of item drops or gear, otherwise the very fabric of this MMORPG’s appeal could unravel.
After spending almost an entire working week with Guild Wars 2 at this point, it’s easy to see why gamers are so excited about it.
So many of this sequel’s core systems are new and innovative, and the public quest system makes playing with others easier and feel more organic than ever before – purely down to the staggering number of players on servers. We’re still unsure whether Guild Wars 2 is the second coming of MMORPG kind that it’s currently billed to be, but the signs certainly look promising.
Everyone who pre-ordered Guild Wars 2 can begin their new adventures in Tyria today, where as the rest of the gaming world will have to wait until the sequel is officially released on Tuesday.
Tags: Guild Wars 2
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