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Guild Wars 2 Preview – Beta Impressions

By Matthew F. Hibben

Guild Wars 2 (GW2) is a new MMO developed by ArenaNet that is slotted for a summer release.  I had the opportunity to partake in the limited Beta and got a hands on look at what is in store from this sequel.  This Game Tech article will explore this latest entry into the MMO marketplace and critique where the game is currently in its development.

Character Creation and Starting Out

GW2 currently has 5 races players can select from, although for the purposes of the beta only 3 were selectable.  Players can customize their class type, physical appearance as well as their background story and lore.  There are 8 classes players can select from, which are based on the class system that was present in GW1.  As far as character creation went I was very impressed with the rendering style of the character, one that is not too realistic or blocky, with just enough stylization to convey a fantasy atmosphere.  Once character creation is finalized the player can watch a lengthy cinematic that introduces the world torn with strife.

The world itself is well rendered and an extension of the style of the character modeling, one that conveys a polished look without striving for total realism.  The game play starts off with the player participating in a Great Hunt, allowing the player to jump right into the game by tackling the various beasts lurking around the starting zone, which is a fantasy inspired hamlet. 

General Gameplay

Gameplay in GW2 is modeled after most current MMO’s with an action bar or tray that players can click on or use key commands.  Abilities are learned as you battle more and more monsters (I learned most of my abilities through this manner), by visiting a trainer, or by purchasing abilities with talent points.  

The combat itself felt very responsive and had a nice pace to it.  New to GW2 that I have not seen in another MMO is the ability to self-resurrect. Once you run out of health a prompt occurs and the UI changes to reflect a fallen status, however players have new key command options that allow the player to attempt to ward off the killing blow called “fight to survive”.  In addition to this resurrect feature is the ability for all players to resurrect each other and fallen NPC’s.

Event System

In GW2 players have quests that they complete to progress the primary story and what are called Events.  Events are pretty unique to GW2 in that they function much like normal quests do in other games except that anyone can participate in them.  What really stood out was the amount of group play that was occurring at all level ranges because of this feature.  From experience in games like WOW or SWTOR party gameplay wouldn’t be this prevalent in early levels, and I would like to think that the accessibility of Event content is the cause.  Event content allows all players to participate in the Gameplay that is occurring around them, regardless of who might have started the Event.  Events seem to be on a timer, so for players that might miss one try at it, they can simply wait and participate in it later.

Beta Issues

With GW2 being in the Beta stage of development there are of course problems to expect.  My impression is that the gameplay itself is very polished in terms of input responsiveness and the rendering of both characters and the environment.  The real problems cropped up with general game stability, with the program crashing multiple times over the course of a few hours, crashes that required the restart of the my computer system. Now of course the game is in Beta and crashes are to be expected but it certainly provides insight into how soon, or rather how much longer the game will be delayed.

Final Thoughts

GW2 has a lot of potential to be a great fantasy entry into the marketplace, bringing new features such as the Event system as well as a wonderfully realized world. I personally am really looking forward to GW2 once it goes live. 

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    Starting Out
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    Game Play
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