Guild Wars 2 Hands-on - PAX 2011

By Alexander Bevier in Hands-on, PAX 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 3:00 pm
It seems like Guild Wars 2 has been in production for a surprisingly long time, and it appears that the game is using every available second to create an experience that's familiar, but also very different and unique. 

Guild Wars 2 is another one of those games shooting to show the world what the next generation of MMORPGs could be, and it shows off quite well. The PVP-focused MMO has streamlined the genre's process by removing quests in place of public events, and has taken every step to remove menus in place of action. 

It's kind of a foreign feeling when you start playing the game. After all, I'm really used to accepting quests after all these years, but Guild Wars 2 is doing clever things that could define new concepts for the genre.
One of these many defining aspects includes the revised ability-learning system. Players learn new skills by using the weapon affiliated with that skill. It's that simple. Pistol users who shoot a lot of things will eventually learn another pistol ability, and -- with some 20+ weapons in the game -- there are a lot of abilities to learn.

This system is very natural, and gets rid of buying abilities, thereby streamlining the MMO process.

The game is also shooting for faster, more action-based combat design. ArenaNet has created a dodge button that is mechanically paramount. Using it makes players immortal for a while. It also moves players out of the way a surprising amount. To ensure players use this skill, they have made sure the dodge buttons are always near their fingers. 

Additionally, the camera works much more cinematically. It will automatically zoom out when you're fighting giant dragons and really-tall stone monsters.

There's also no breath meter when you swim, and there is an entirely unique set of water-based skills. After all, how could someone fire a bow in water? Now they throw harpoons and stuff. Water-based combat also uses a Z axis as much as possible, like real swimming.

The most important thing in this game, however, is the quest system. It's entirely very similar to Warhammer Online's Public Quests, except there are many more of them. Like, there aren't normal quests and only these public quests. If a guy is hoping you get rid of bunnies eating his farm, you and everyone nearby are contributing to the same net pool of bunny corpses. And, everyone that contributes gets experience. 

There aren't any quest givers in real life. Only men with bunny problems.

And finally, character customization is looking fantastic. The game begins with character building. This new system is a mix of the usual pre-selected faces, but then players can scale it any way they want. They then can decide to color the character's armor. This color will be used through the entire game, unless you decide to dye it again. There are over 400 dyes in Guild Wars 2, and maybe 30 are unlocked from the get to.

After the character is built, players now go through a brief personality test to decide who their character is. Are they a noble? Maybe a fighter? What Gods do they believe in? All of these decisions were reflected in the opening cutscene, which delivers the narrative of the player's character. From there, these decisions come back when the character talks to other people. If the character is a soldier, odds are he will mention he knows the captain on the front lines. The whole thing helps make Guild War's universe a more believable feel, and it's one that doesn't happen in MMOs.

At the moment, ArenaNet is hoping to have a closed beta out by the end of the year. Guild Wars 2 is a unique game that is looking extremely polished and very unique. Keep an eye out as more news pops out. It's gonna be a really interesting experience.
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