by Quinn Levandoski
previewed on PC
A Small Admission (Fee)
I have never been the biggest fan of Massively Multiplayer Online (MMOs). Itís not that they ever seemed particularly bad to me, but I always felt like I had a lot to lose by trying them. My friends never had them, so I knew I would either have to play solo or try to join up with some random people. I never had a particularly powerful PC either until recently, so I was worried that I would be stuck paying for a game that ran poorly and lagged. I knew that some people spent an extremely high percentage of their time in them, so I would be stuck in the role of ďnoobĒ for longer than I cared to. Lastly, I knew that they often boasted a monthly fee. This meant that if I really wanted to give the game an honest try, I would have to pay more than just the cover price.
Then one day my friend called me up and told me that he bought a game at Target called Guild Wars. I had heard of it, but never looked into it in depth, knowing that it was most likely more of the same. He pushed however, saying that it was great fun, easy to get into, and best of all, free of those horrible little monthly fees. I gave in, knowing that I could give it an honest try in the summer months. At worst, I would be out of 30 bucks and a handful of hours that I probably would have spent on games anyways. It was one of the best gaming decisions Iíve made.
Itís been a few years, but I still hop on to play Captain Moscow, my warrior/elementalist pain-bringer at least once a week. The original Guild Wars, created by ArenaNet, isnít like most MMOs out there. First of all, as I said, there is not monthly fee. This let me happily take a break for a month or two here or there and not feel guilty about wasting money. Secondly, I never felt like it was pressuring me to drop hundreds of hours in to reach the top level. Instead, it pushed me to find new skills for my character. Skills are something tangible that I could use in battle and show off, instead of an arbitrary number that would give me a 3% better chance of blocking enemy strikes, or something. It also let me have fun playing by myself when none of my friends were online, which was nice when I got those middle-of-the-night urges to take out some Charr scum.
That isnít to say that the game was perfect though. For one, it wasnít as true an MMO as other games like World of Warcraft or the like. Instead, there were cities and camps that acted as hubs for interacting with players, forming teams, and trading. Once you ventured out into the wilderness you were stuck with only either the people you previously partied up with, or the NPCs your recruited to aid in your cause. Now, after a long and successful run with the first game of the series, ArenaNet is looking to make huge steps forward and make Guild Wars 2 the next truly great MMO.
The Times They Are A-Changing
Guild Wars 2 will take place in the same universe as its predecessor, but a lot has changed in the 250 year gap between games. At the end of the Eye of the North expansion, players saw the Primordus, or first of the Elder Dragons, awaking from their milenia-long slumber. The rise of the dragons has had huge impacts on the land of Tyria. The human empire has been greatly shrunken and beaten down. Most great cities have fallen. Other races of beings have risen and entered the global scene. Alliances have shifted, broken, and formed anew. This is where you must come in, to combat the dragons, bring order back to the land, and show the citizens of Tyria that peace is again possible.
One immediately evident new feature in Guild Wars 2 is that players donít have to be human. This is still an option for those that so choose, but joining them will be a plant/animal hybrid called the Sylvari, the shape shifting Norn, the ferocious cat-like Charr, and the tiny-yet-brilliant Asura. This alone should add more depth and variety, as each race has its own unique set of skills and strengths to consider when making your ultimate warrior.
Picking a race wonít be the only choice you have to make. Many previously available professions are back, with the addition of a few more. So far announced are the incredibly versatile engineer, the quick and evasive thief, the support-heavy guardian, the elementalist, the necromancer, the ranger, and the warrior. So far there has been no mention of a monk or a mesmer, but there is still one blacked-out image on the official Guild Wars 2 website where the classes are displayed, meaning that there should be at least one more class announced in the coming months before the gameís release.
Whatís the story, MMOrning Glory?
The first thing that people wander about when considering if they want to play an MMO isnít typically the story, but ArenaNet is out to change that. They want the story of Guild Wars 2 to be all about choices, with it changing as the character makes decisions. This may not sound very impressive or ground-breaking in todayís gaming world, but itís uncommon in MMOs. Their goal is to make a game that not only has a good story for an MMO, but a game that has a good story period. You shouldnít feel like just one incarnation of a stock arch type, but instead a unique character that acts and things uniquely.