by Lisa Thrasher
previewed on PC
Have you seen the MMO’s going around these days? The Old Republic came out in December and has already had plenty of free weekends and in future will adopt a free to play option. World of Warcraft is still going strong with an expansion on the way, but there’s only so many “new” experiences you can put in a Fantasy MMORPG, right? With a lot of MMOs trying to follow the Blizzard formula, it will be nice to have something a bit different on the market once Guild Wars 2 comes out.
Like The Old Republic, Guild Wars 2 has a heavy focus on story. However, your character’s story is based on race, and professions are not race specific. This allows players to enjoy the “best” storyline while enjoying the actual gameplay mechanics they prefer. There are five races to choose from, each with their own story and personality: Asura, Sylvari, Human, Norn and Charr. Your race determines in which of the five areas you begin, as well as the personality choices that you can give your character.
While creating your character, you make personality choices that affect dialogue options and the direction of the story. You give your character background history and flesh out his hopes and dreams. This biography leads you down a certain path while offering branching routes at every major decision you make. Your personal story is given through instanced chapters where you are the sole person to make key decisions. If need be, you can invite other characters to share in your personal chapters, but you will still be the only one able to make choices in the storyline.
Traditional and less traditional professions
There are eight professions in the game. These are Engineer, Warrior, Guardian, Ranger, Thief, Elementalist, Necromancer and Mesmer. A lot of the professions seem very similar to the classes in World of Warcraft (and a zillion other RPGs). However, there are a few slight mechanical differences for each profession that differ from the Blizzard way. The Warrior profession can dual wield one-handed weapons, the Guardians have AOE (area of effect) marks, Rangers can have three pets instead of one, Thieves can teleport, Elementalists have an added Earth attunement and Necromancers live on after death in spirit form. Otherwise, these Guild Wars 2 professions seem to play out much like the Warrior, Paladin, Hunter, Rogue, Mage and Warlock classes of WoW. But there are two entirely different classes in Guild Wars 2 that I haven’t seen before in a Fantasy MMO
Engineers are the explosive experts, which seems a bit out of the ordinary for a class in a fantasy MMO. Engineers can create weapon kits to equip new weapons when used, as well as backpack kits for replacing weapons in favor of more specialized skills like deploying a variety of bombs. But the coolest thing about Engineers is the ability to deploy turrets with different skills, such as a Thumper Turret to cause AOE damage. There are multiple kinds of turrets, and one of each can be deployed at a time. Don’t think enemies can sneak past the turrets, as they can self-destruct as well.
Mesmers are the reason you have nightmares. Relying on deception and confusion, Mesmers create powerful illusions to attack specific targets on the battlefield. The illusion can either be a clone of the caster, who will have the same name but a very limited set of skills and low health, or phantasms who look like the caster but have different names, as well as being more powerful and having more health. While all enemies can see and attack the illusions, clones and phantasms will only die if their health dissipates or their target meets his demise. Since Mesmers can summon and maintain up to three illusions, if you see one you will probably be seeing a few more.
Enemies and exploration
Along with general enemies, there are also open-world group battles. The first one that you encounter will be at the end of your tutorial area, throwing you into a space with a few other newcomers to take on a giant creature. Guild Wars 2 event system scales depending on how many players there are, so the more people in the fight, the harder the battle will be. After your first group victory, you will leave the area and run into a scout. Scouts are all around the area and marked on your map. Scouts remind me of viewpoints in Assassin’s Creed since they fill in part of your map, point out important landmarks and mark tasks for you to complete within the area.
The quest design rewards you for exploration and helping other people, making it more of an actual MMO than a single-player experience with a chat functionality. Guild Wars 2 also offers daily achievements that give you experience and loot to help you enjoy killing the creatures that you may already be grinding on, or give you somewhere to explore that you haven’t discovered yet.
Keeping you alive
As far as gameplay goes, you have two action bars stacked on top of each other on the bottom of your screen. They each have hotkeys built in or you can set up your own to your preference. Victory in battle relies a lot on using your abilities and cool downs effectively. There are no cast bars, so enemy animations give you queues on when to knock back or dodge opponents. But if you don’t manage to get the timing down and hit 0 HP, not all hope is lost. There is a Borderlands-style Fight to Survive bar that allows you to revive yourself if you kill an enemy.
Overall, I am attracted to the promise of branching storylines that let you actually be the author of your own character. Instead of just branching stories that quickly merge into two edges of the same sword, the personality and race of your character is supposed to have varied effects on the plot. This makes it seem as if the title will have far more replay value than your average MMO. It all depends on the quality of the stories of course, and there is very little information available of these as of yet. But I hope that they will be good enough to persuade us to try out many combinations of class, race and personality to see where they lead us.