Guild Wars 2

Published on March 10th, 2012

Our experiences from the latest beta weekend.

It’s always a special moment when a developer decides that they’re comfortable enough with their own creation that gamers can begin enjoying it in their own home, and that feeling of excitement is doubled when it’s one of the biggest MMO releases of the year. Gaining access to for just a short weekend was bittersweet, as we knew our character would be confined to the great recycling bin in the sky. Nevertheless, we still got well and truly addicted to what was an effortlessly stylish online experience.

Guild Wars 2

Even though we didn't go for an engineer class, we still had the opportunity to mess around with turrets and rifles during certain quests.

Despite making massive changes to the core Guild Wars formula, booting up the sequel still felt like a historically resonant experience, mostly due to Jeremy Soule’s fantastic fantasy score. You can’t help but feel pumped up about your adventure, and that feeling only gets heightened as you select your character, carefully choose their back story and witness a purpose-built intro tailored to your decisions.

We selected a Charr Ranger and subsequently needed to choose our pet, legion alliance, sparring partner and other personal choices. The stitched together intro movie makes you feel attached to your creation before you’ve even started adventuring, but it only gets better from there.

That aforementioned sense of historical precedent reached new heights when we got into the game as we bore witness to the ongoing battle between the Charr and the ghostly fallen human warriors which occupy the ruins of Ascalon and the surrounding Plains of Ashford. Walking around this area caused us to double take as we noticed familiar landmarks such as collapsed columns and statues now utterly ruined. After taking down more ghosts than Dr. Venkman and co. we explored the Charr capital city dubbed Black Citadel, built upon the ruins of Rin, which centres around a multi-storey circular orb. So few MMOs get cities right, but as ever ArenaNet have crafted a vibrant and varied urban environment which boasted lots of lore statues, vendors and portals which transported our adventurer to other capitals across Tyria or to special PvP arenas.

Guild Wars 2

As before you can charm any member of the animal kingdom to be your pet when you're a Ranger, but you also get a companion straight off the bat.

This version of Tyria, which is set hundreds of years after the original, is a much more varied and interesting world to explore, purely because of the advancement the Asuran tech has brought to the world. During several quests we were introduced to the marvels of shotguns, pistols and auto-targeting turrets even though our class wasn’t proficient in them. Obviously they were taken away as soon as the requisite quests were complete, but it was still rewarding to try something new.

That isn’t to say the Ranger is as rigidly committed to the bow and arrow as before, instead you can wield daggers, swords, throwable axes, a Warhorn and a two-handed sword. Rather than purchasing skills from trainers, you unlock new abilities as you accumulate more kills with your profession’s weaponry. This is a fantastic system as it means you’ll unlock new abilities while out in the real world as you kill foes, and character advancement feels much more organic as a result. There’s still ample opportunity to specialise with traits which allow you to plough points into Markmanship, Skirmishing, Nature Magic, Beast-mastery and Wilderness Survival. This part of the progression system is very similar to the original Guild Wars and should lead to the same level of build obsession when it comes to competitive play.

Unfortunately, as we only had a dozen or so hours with the Beta build we didn’t have enough time to sample ’s dedicated player versus player or world versus world game modes, but we did meander through one of the WvW maps and it was massive. With five different castles allied to different colours, we could easily imagine hundreds of players battling it out using their own cunning and siege weaponry.

Guild Wars 2

ArenaNet's environments are consistently stunning.

It was a real shame that we could only capture video and not screenshots of any of the in-game sights that we came across, as this new version of Tyria is absolutely stunning to look at and interact with. The highly instanced nature of the original Guild Wars now only exists in the story missions, with our Ranger tasked with putting together a new rifle to turn the tide of the ghost war. Other than those however, the world is entirely persistent with roaming bosses to hunt and location-based quests which involve fighting off hostile invasions, helping out with weapon tests and even saving fellow Charr from slaughter.

In the plainest of terms, GW2 makes you feel important in its world, but at the same time you aren’t the centre of it. There’s plenty of actions involving NPCs around you, which creates the impression that events are emergent and that you have the potential to witness something amazing whenever you venture out into the landscape.

ArenaNet’s sequel has all the elements which made the original Guild Wars so amazing, but layered on top of that are some great innovations which make merely existing in this beautiful, enticing world even more entertaining. During the Beta the Sylvari and Asura character options were still greyed out and the same went for the in-game store option. Aside from some optimisation issues, GW2 seems in very good shape. Expect to hear plenty more about this unique experience before release.

To learn more about Guild Wars 2 and to see exclusive gameplay videos download the latest issue of MMOZine.

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