Guild Wars 2
A word of warning to Mike Morhaime, Greg
Zeshulk, and Ray Muzyka: watch your backs.
tour through Tyria.
At the time of the last expansion, Eye of The North, the basic idea
behind choosing eight powers had been
expanded to cover scenarios involving dwarven bare-knuckle fighting and
faction-specific power sets. The pre-built henchmen that could be hired
at one of the game's many quest hubs soon found themselves being dragged
along with companion characters, NPCs that could be customized by the
player and whose personal storylines were tied into the campaign arc.
There is no question that ArenaNet did some truly amazing stuff, and
sometimes was the first to put it out there.
Now it can be argued, and not without inaccuracy, that a large part of the original Guild Wars consisted of unlocking skills through PvE which were intended in large part to be employed in PvP play. I blew fortunes worth of in-game gold and platinum getting Seals of Capture and hunting down the rare “elite” skills from bosses, and I never did get them all. However, I never really got into the PvP aspect of the game. I tried a couple of matches now and again, but I got very frustrated and turned off by the standard “OMFG! Build Sux! GTFO, n00b!” behavior of PvP players.
You needed to have the right gear, the right skill loadout, and the right skill point allocations, or nobody would deal with you.
Needless to say, this attitude didn't do much to endear me to PvP. Even more of a superfluous observation, it didn't do much for me in PvE except to be thankful for the companion characters. But after a good ten hours or so with Guild Wars 2, I have no fear of that attitude, because there's literally no place for it in this iteration's structure.
Whereas you had a massive (and thanks to the expansions, occasionally redundant) list of spells, special attacks, buffs, debuffs, and such in the first game, your skill list is considerably trimmed down in GW2.
It starts with weapons.
Every player has a starting weapon and a starting weapon skill. Successful hits with the weapon slowly build up to unlock new weapon skills. Swap over to a new weapon, you'll start from square one again to unlock a whole new array of skills, but doing so isn't nearly as painful as leveling weapons skills in WoW was back in the early days. One handed or two handed, dual wield or “sword and board,” your first five skills will always be contingent upon your weapon loadout, and most classes have the option to swap weapon sets between skirmishes if a player feels their current equipment is insufficient to the task at hand. Also at level 1, each class has a basic healing skill. Now instead of having to rely a dedicated healer (the Monk class from the original game), everybody can heal themselves.
Furthermore, this isn't a single shot “one heal per combat” sort of affair, but there is a cooldown involved. This gives players the chance to survive even prolonged fights. And should you get put down, there's still hope. A special skill bar opens up, giving players the chance to rally back by bandaging wounds or throwing improvised weapons against opponents on the chance that they can make a kill and bounce back.
Even when you're knocked out of the fight,
other players can revive you and get back to the battle at hand, though
for areas like dungeons there is a death penalty and damage to your
Visual effects aren't just well done
--they're force multipliers and battlefield indicators. They're the
means to achieve some really nifty combo attacks with other players and
the subtle warning of when your character is under threat from a
horrific area of effect attack. I think it's best summed up that there
isn't anything in Guild Wars 2 that is uselessly pretty.
I didn't get much of a chance to really
appreciate the whole range of voice acting done for the game, but what I
did hear fits in perfectly with the degree of quality that the rest of
the game has demanded for the audio.
Should PvP grow dull, you can always go the co-op route instead, and
Guild Wars 2 provides an almost obscene amount of content for
co-operative play. Similar to the Public Quests in Warhammer Online or
the rift events from Rift, all manner of events occur on the map as you
stroll down country roads or through a town's dusty streets. As more
players get involved, the monsters scale up in hit points, powers, and
defenses in relation to the players involved, keeping the fight a
challenge while allowing for greater rewards. Mob tagging has been
eliminated, so you don't have to stand around like a schmuck waiting for
an event boss to respawn. Jump in, lay the holy smack down, and get
rewarded appropriately for your contribution. But if you're a dedicated
soloist, or just a virtual hermit, you can make your way down storyline
missions which are distinct to your specific character. Character
creation isn't just about picking race, class, and general appearance.
You're also charged with building up a backstory, using Dragon Age-style
icons throughout an extensive process that wouldn't be out of place in
an Elder Scrolls game or Jagged Alliance 2. Even within races, there are
factions and rivalries, and the number of ways your character can fit
into the overall situation is almost mind-boggling.
Five players, a big sprawling map, lots of bosses, and a lot of very tense moments. I will say that a party wipe in Guild Wars 2 isn't nearly so brutal as it would be in a lot of other MMOs. On the other hand, it's very difficult to actually encounter a party wipe, since other party members can revive you and keep things going. It's possible to do, but you've really gotta screw up by the numbers in order to make it happen.
If I have any complaint, it would be that
there be some means to repair your armor while in the dungeon, since a
full defeat incurs death penalty and gear damage. While I can appreciate
the visual cues that my armor is destroyed by making my character look
half-naked, it's troublesome when you have to borrow armor from other
party members in order to keep going. For all of that, though, I felt
like King Charr on cocaine when we brought the last boss down.
(April 30, 2012)
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