GDC is a week gone, but the fires are still stoked. I'd love to share with you all some juicy deets from the NCsoft presser, so I will! Drand and I sat down with NCsoft and ArenaNet to get the skinny on their next big thing: Guild Wars 2, an MMO sequel unlike any other.
Full details and gallery after the jump.
Guild Wars has been around since 2005, and was one of the first MMOs I ever signed up for. With no monthly fee, you can drop out and hop back into Guild Wars anytime (providing you pick up the expansions when they release); That's subscription model appealed to me, and the game delivered with beautiful graphics, carefully balanced game play and a fantastic fantasy setting to explore.
Now here comes the new hotness:
The first thing I wanted to know: What's fresh with Guild Wars 2 (GW2)? What's going to make me say "This is truly a great sequel to an MMO." The presenters laid it out for us clearly: There are three pillars to Guild Wars: The Personal Story, Dynamic Events and Combat, and they were all getting the presidential treatment. Back in Guild Wars 1, they pointed out, you could only play a human. Now, with the five classes of GW2, the realm of possibilities is vast indeed.
The Personal Story is GW2's way of re-structuring the story of an MMO. Picking one of the available starting races and classes is just where it starts. During character creation you choose your personality, history and focus for the upcoming campaign. All of your decisions during creation inform the game's story, and with full voice acting the intricacies of your choices come across smoothly, delivered during some excellent quest cutscenes. On top of the personality and history, you can choose from five races (The Char, Humans, Norn, Asura, and the newly formed tree people: the Sylvari) and a set of professions (Necromancer, Guardian, Elementalist, Warriors, Ranger, the newly revealed Thief and a still secret final class). Players have home instances they can visit, informed by their Personal Story, where totems they might have won will be waiting, or shops and smiths they met along their travels will visit to sell wares. All in all, it looks like the real goal is to get players involved in the story more than ever before, and it worked. I was enthralled by the presentation of the Personal Story, and for once it seemed like there would be an MMO I could focus on as a mostly solo player, without having to feel like every time I rolled a new character/teamed up with someone we'd be doing the same old quests. By refocusing the attention on why the player is there in the first place, ArenaNetis giving fans of lore and atmosphere something to hold on tightly to.
There's a story on top of each player's personal story, the tale of their race attempting to fight back the race of elder dragons who've ravaged the surface of Tyria, and your character plays an important part in the battle. What kind of part they play is up to you, though, and that kind of narrative control in an MMO is rare indeed.
But the Personal Story wasn't the only thing shown! Combat and questing have been overhauled as well. See a village on fire? Go investigate! It's a new dynamic world event, a situation that could happen anytime (They gave us examples like pirates attacking villages after a certain number of days, or persistent monster attacks) that any player can jump right in to help with. We watched as they demo'd one of these missions: The player sees a burning village, heads towards it and finds it beseiged by pirates. There's fires that need putting out, and pirates that need fighting. What to do? The player grabs a bucket and helps put out the fire, just one thing that needs to be done to solve the dynamic event but while that's happening other players are amassing to handle to pirates. Soon we were attacking the pirates, and my jaw hit the floor. Combat in GW2 has been overhauled from the stand and shoot, click-and-press-1 mechanics of early GW. Now players can move and shoot, using placement and on-the-fly tactics to focus on really dishing on enemies. Double-tapping move in any direction gets you a dodge and there's no cool down on weapons skills. Watching the new Thief class fight with twin blades was truly entertaining. And with the Thief you can steal from enemies, then use the item against them or on yourself! Gone is the need for healers in every team, as they've introduced a system where once you're close to death you fall to the ground, letting any player in the vicinity come to your aid. But one of the neatest things: Have an Elementalist put up a fire wall, then shoot through it to add fire to your arrows. This works with a few different Area of Effect spells to give you total battlefield control as a team or alone during a dynamic event.
As you can see, a lot of consideration has been given to the combat in GW2, and I think the changes were all for the best. There's a big push for more engaging combat in MMORPGs, and it's obvious ArenaNet has seen and is addressing those concerns with their newest in the Guild Wars franchise. Fans of the old game will have a lot to hold on to, and new fans will be able to jump right in.