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Anticipation,
the Mischievous Mistress of MMO Gamers

Heading into href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/events/gamescom/2010">gamescom
2010 last
week, I knew that the world premiere
for href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/gw2">Guild
Wars 2

would prove to be one of the hottest tickets at the
show. Anticipation for the live demo has been steadily building since
last spring when ArenaNet decided it was ready to begin sharing
gameplay details such as the href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/84465">dynamic
events system, href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/gw2/features/editorials/personal-story">personal
storylines
and home instances, and the
mechanics behind weapons-based skills and
href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/gw2/features/previews/traits">traits
for each profession.

It seemed as though, much like
the href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/gw2/features/previews/elder-dragons">Elder
Dragons which have forever
changed the landscape of Tyria in Guild
Wars 2
, ArenaNet left no
gameplay stone unturned and was intent on reinventing their own
masterpiece franchise. And if there’s one thing Guild
Wars

fans have learned over the years, it’s that ArenaNet has
built a reputation on never letting the proverbial gameplay cat out of
the bag before its time. ArenaNet has also taken more than a few major
leaps of faith by marching to the beat of its own drummer rather than
settling for a carbon copy of industry norms and calling it a day
– leaps that have paid off in spades as soon as gamers
realized that these weren’t simply arbitrary decisions being
made for the sake of being different.

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As summer marched on, more and
more gameplay details were revealed for
Guild Wars 2,
with even seemingly minor concepts like href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/gw2/features/editorials/death">being
defeated in
combat taking center stage and rising up to claim a more active role in
the combat experience. Fans were even given their first glimpse into
the Tyria of Guild Wars 2
through the eyes of Dougal Keane and his
companions in href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/gw2/features/reviews/ghosts-of-ascalon">Ghosts
of
Ascalon
,
the first of three
novels slated to
help transition key storyline elements between the original campaigns
and the upcoming sequel.

By this point even MMO gamers
not already intimately familiar with
Guild Wars Prophecies,
Factions, Nightfall
and Eye
of the North
had
begun to stand up and take notice. The concepts being presented by
ArenaNet were a breath of fresh air in an industry dominated by decade
old gameplay templates, but for many there remained a healthy dose of
skepticism due to the post-WoW era when AAA titles would build up
plenty of pre-launch hype only fall flat once released as soon as
players discovered that what may have sounded awesome in print and
looked to be solid in trailers didn’t necessarily translate
into an awesome gaming experience.

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A Window
into the Future

Realizing that once the doors
at gamescom opened to the public on
Thursday it would be nigh impossible to get anywhere near one of the
demo stations for Guild Wars 2
without a lengthy wait, I made a
veritable beeline to the NCsoft booth bright and early on Wednesday
morning. As luck would have it I had a short window of time before my
first appointment for the day, and I intended to fully capitalize on
the opportunity to dive directly into the demo.

A good portion of my first
steps into Tyria as a human necromancer are
chronicled in a two part video series that I was eager to share with
our readers. The href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/events/gamescom2010/gw2/necromancer-gameplay">first
provides an initial look at character creation
and the human starting area of Shaemoor located just outside of the
massive city of Divinity’s Reach, and has me rambling on
about the various UI elements. For the href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/events/gamescom/2010/gw2/extended-gameplay-feature">second,
longer look at lower
level gameplay I was joined by Game Designer Izzy Cartwright who spent
some time explaining not only the unique Death Shroud class mechanic of
the necro, but other never before seen aspects of the game such as how
skills are obtained, the ‘downed’ state in action
and a whole lot more.

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However, my experience with Guild
Wars 2
at gamescom
didn’t
end there, as there was a lot to take in when you consider that huge
chunks of the game were fully playable not only in the human starting
areas, but you could opt to experience the game as a mid-level charr
character as well. The contrasts between the two are immense, and truly
gave a sense of how just about every aspect of the game exponentially
scales as you progress.

For example, as a human just
starting your personal storyline
you’ll be tasked with helping out some of the local farmers
by completing one of numerous dynamic events scattered throughout the
area. By comparison, as a mid-level charr you were given the
opportunity to confront The Shatterer, a massive dragon found in the
Brand which has you using siege weapons and every trick in your arsenal
to bring it down.

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That fight in particular helped
illustrate just how
seamlessly the dynamic events have been integrated into the persistent
zones. As more players showed up to the party, more minions would be
summoned and the difficulty of the encounter scales accordingly. To
loosely provide a point of reference here, The Shatterer encounter
is far more epic than what you see in typical endgame raids, and while
it was a centerpiece of the charr portion of the demo it is also just
one of many such encounters you’ll discover as you progress
through the game.

A Dance
with Destiny

While there’s
currently a massive flood of new information
hitting the web on everything from gameplay mechanics, dynamic quest
locations, skill progression and everything in between, beneath the
roaring surface there remains a softly rumbling undercurrent. The game
looks spectacular by all accounts and is certainly
deserving of the
Best Online Game award from gamescom, but what is it like to actually
play? Is there a massive learning curve or any particular quirks that
left me scratching my chin with a furled brow?

At this point I believe
it’s safe to say that ArenaNet has
gone far beyond simply giving us a Tyria with updated graphics and a
few basic gimmicks, but rather has crafted an overall MMO experience
that has some serious potential to become the new king of the industry
hill. The gameplay is incredibly fluid and easy to pick up from the
word go, yet the deceptively simple skill bar also adds a layer of
complexity and depth that will no doubt put the heated debates about
personal and team builds in the original campaigns to shame.

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Perhaps the most significant
thing I took away from the demos,
presentations and interviews I was fortunate enough to experience, is
that Guild Wars 2
has managed to do one thing that no single title to
date has: it gives you a sense
that your character
is part of a truly living, breathing virtual world. Tyria reacts to
your character and the decisions you make at every turn in the road,
and is the kind of game where the journey will most likely trump the
desire of gamers to race to an endgame destination. To be honest it
blows me away that so much gameplay value is being packed into a title
that only requires a box purchase for the price of admission.

There’s still a lot
more to Guild Wars 2
waiting to be
discovered, but from what we were shown in the live demo at gamescom I
believe that by the time launch day rolls around the game will be an
unstoppable juggernaut of an MMOG. Next week I’ll be
fortunate enough to dive back into the demo headfirst at PAX Prime. In
the meantime I’ll be counting down the hours just like a kid
on Christmas Eve.


To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Guild Wars 2 Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Sardu 1
Reuben "Sardu" Waters has been writing professionally about the MMOG industry for eight years, and is the current Editor-in-Chief and Director of Development for Ten Ton Hammer.

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