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weekend at href="">PAX
Prime in Seattle, Ten Ton Hammer
was fortunate
enough to get plenty of hands-on time with the live demo for href="">Guild
In fact, we even managed to
play through full demo sessions of both
the low level human experience in and around the village of Shaemoor,
as well as the mid-level charr content including the epic Shatterer
event and a whole lot more.

Since the overall breadth of content to consume in the Guild
Wars 2

demo encompasses far more than what a single article could properly
cover, we have a two part look at the game in action. First, Ethec href="">shared
his experiences as a human
ranger, and for the second half of our two part feature Sardu gives an
in-depth look at mid-level charr necromancer gameplay.
How is the game
shaping up so far? Read on and find out!


Second Look at Guild Wars 2 Through the Eyes of a Charr Necromancer

Over the course of a major
industry event such as this
weekend’s PAX Prime in Seattle, WA, a common question
I’m asked is what was the most interesting thing
I’d seen on the show floor so far. Earlier in the event
season I honestly had a hard time pinpointing only a single title as
being the one that made my socks go up and down simply due to the ever
growing number of upcoming MMOGs that are all high on my radar.

And while a number of those
same titles were on display at PAX
End of Nations,
Torchlight II,
and LEGO Universe
to name a few – getting my href="">first
look at upcoming Guild
at gamescom last month made
the answer to that
question incredibly easy
for me. Having seen the game in action at a second event in a row only
helped solidify the fact that ArenaNet isn’t simply saying
cool things about game mechanics that only sound good in print, but
rather that those mechanics are in the game and
are far
cooler than simple text descriptions could properly describe.

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While at gamescom, I spent the
bulk of my demo time playing as a low level
human necromancer, so I knew going into PAX that I wanted to hit the
mid-level charr areas as much as our packed appointment schedule and
the equally packed booth for Guild
Wars 2
would allow. My first
appointment was spent almost exclusively speaking to Game Designer Izzy
Cartwright – an interview which proved to be so jam packed
full of details about the game that it justifies being split into a few
individual chunks which we’ll be rolling out throughout the
week. But I also wanted to be sure to get some additional hands-on time
with the game, and as luck would have it I managed to snag a second
time slot with the ArenaNet team to do exactly that on Saturday

My initial idea was to select
one of the three other available
professions this time around - href="">elementalist,
or href="">warrior
– since I’d spent the bulk of my time playing a
at gamescom. However, I also thought it would be an
excellent opportunity to compare the low and mid-level necro
experience, especially with the different racial abilities and
thrown into the mix, so that’s exactly what I did.

I didn’t spend as
much time with character creation, but did
find some of the background choices for the charr to be pretty cool. In
particular, one choice has you deciding between different members of
your warband which grants you a racial elite skill that allows you to
summon them to your current location to fight alongside you for a short
period. While obviously a very different racial choice than deciding
which of the human gods you were blessed by at birth, the 5 different
charr options fit perfectly into their background and lore.

But enough about character
creation for now – there was some
monster bashing to be done and I was more than excited to see things
like the weapon skills, Death Shroud abilities and  of course
the diverse selection of necromancer minions in action. Let me say this
much up front – the level 45 necromancer experience did not

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spoke to a number of gamers in and around the Guild Wars 2 booth
over the course of the weekend to get their impressions of the game so
far, including a GW2 fan named Tony (pictured left) that had just
completed his time with the live demo. We
asked what he thought of the dynamic
events system to which he replied, "They're Grrrrreat!"

alt="Guild Wars 2 Hands-On"

The bulk of my time was spent
exploring different parts of the
Dragonbrand which is the name for the massive scar running through the
former kingdom of Ascalon, left in the wake of the Crystal
Dragon’s flight southward into the desert. Before heading out
from the small encampment I was spawned in, I took a bit of time seeing
what the different weapon set abilities were like and formulating some
basic ideas of how to approach combat with each.

Even as a magic-using class,
necromancer is no lightweight when it comes to fighting in melee range.
Daggers and axes each offer a set of skills unique to that weapon type,
and when combined with certain skills such as Locust

(summons a swarm of locusts that steal life from nearby enemies) will
see you
standing toe to toe with your target, firing away at them with your
weapon skills while stacking plenty of AoE based and direct attack
conditions along the way.

One thing worth mentioning here
is that you won’t be doing
things like auto-attacking with a dagger or hatchet in your main hand,
but more so that you’ll be using close range spells and
abilities such as Necrotic Bite
(a slashing attack that adds to your
life force) or Unholy Feast
(damages and cripples enemies around you)
with those sets.
Don’t worry though if the idea of playing a necro more like a
close range melee class isn’t your thing – a simple
weapon swap to a scepter for your main hand weapon instantly grants you
a suite of long ranged abilities like Feast
of Corruption
(damages your
target by removing effects), Grasping
(a ground targeted attack
that causes bleed and cripple on enemies in a direct line) and Curse
poison-based DoT) instead.

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You’ll have the
ability to quickly switch between 2 weapon
sets during combat, though there will also be a short cooldown timer
before you can switch back. This is done with a quick tap of the V key,
and allows you to mix-and-match which AoE, DoT or direct damage attacks
you want to launch at your targets since each weapon set grants access
to different types of damage or conditions.

Another incredibly cool thing I
discovered is that certain skills will
even function slightly differently depending on the time of day that
they’re used. For example, using certain skills during the
day might cause your attacks to grant an extra boost to your life force
(the resource that fuels the Death Shroud state) while that same skill
when used at night might become a lifetap, stealing health from your
enemy with each attack instead. Not only that, but certain weapons will
even take on a chilling, ghostly aura when used at night which is
another one of those things that left me saying “OK, now

Armors can be fully dyed
directly in the Hero panel. Over the course of
gameplay you’ll be able to earn or discover various sets of
colors which you can then tag as “favorites”
allowing you to mix and match your own custom color set that can be
applied to just about every part of your armor. There are also 3
different areas on each piece of armor that can be dyed now, up from
the original 2 in GW1. I was also glad to hear that the days of
mobs for rare dye in Pre-Searing Ascalon are also long gone, since the
dyes function more like a learned ability now rather than a dropped
consumable. In other words, once you have access to a specific dye set,
it’s yours for good.

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One last thing I needed to do
before heading off to see what kind of
trouble I could get into in the Brand was summoning my pile of minions.
The beauty of the new take on minions in Guild
Wars 2
even so much the fact that summoning them is no longer dependent on
having a corpse nearby to exploit, nor is it the fact that you no
longer have to deal with things like health degen to keep them active.
Each type you can summon grants you a new ability to use
once they’ve been called. While these awesome little guys
were officially introduced in last week’s necromancer reveal,
here’s a quick and dirty look at how they functioned during


    This minion can be slotted in your dedicated healing skill slot, and
    saved my bacon quite a bit by the time I got the hang of combat and
    began the epic encounter with The Shatterer. While active, the
    Fiend’s attacks would steal life and help heal my character
    – kind of like a persistent, mobile heal-over-time spell.
    However, once summoned the Fiend’s icon is replaced with Taste
    of Death
    which lets you
    sacrifice it for a small direct heal.

    The cooldown timer is relatively short, so say you’re taking
    a bit too much damage while using your AoE attacks, it was fairly
    simple to switch to my scepter and its ranged attack skills and then
    sacrifice a few fiends to get my health back up in the meantime. All
    told it took me about 4 fiends to get back up to around 80 or 90%
    health, so the 5th summon I kept active to let its lifetaps and my Life
    Siphon take care of the rest.

  • BONE

    Summoning my bone minions I was pleasantly surprised to see that I
    could have 5 of the little guys out at once. The real fun begins though
    once you throw Putrid Explosion
    into the mix. For Guild Wars 1 players
    out there, this combo works somewhat similar to tossing Death Nova on
    your minions and letting them explode for some conditional AoE damage.

    However, with the new version of Putrid Explosion, you’ll get
    to use it once for each minion you have active until they’re
    all consumed. Not only is this a nice change due to being able to
    control when the explosions go off, but if you have 5 minions active,
    that’s five times the minion bombing fun.

Rounding out my look at the
skills on my bar I did also have access to one of the
necromancer’s elite skills called Plague.
This skill is
incredibly potent, as it literally turns your character into walking
death. While active, the rest of your skill slots become locked, but
you really won’t need them as simply getting close to your
enemies will stack up a massive pile
of conditions on them. I popped
this one towards the end of the encounter with The Shatterer and
watched with
glee as its remaining health drained away.

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interesting gamer we spoke to at the Guild Wars 2 demo stations named
KAM (pictured left) couldn't contain his excitement for the game. When
asked if he was enjoying his time with the live demo he responded with
a deep, bellowing, "Oh Yeah!" 

alt="Guild Wars 2 Hands-On"

Heading out into the Brand, I
never once felt myself thinking that I
needed to search around for an NPC quest giver for lack of anything
better to do. I’m sure that personal storylines will provide
plenty of overall guidance in terms of leading you towards
level-appropriate content, but it’s literally been years
since I’ve felt content to simply scamper around the
landscape in a game and see what kind of trouble I could get myself
into without feeling I’d be missing out on something cool if
I didn’t stuff a quest log full of random tasks beforehand.

The nature of the dynamic
content and events makes it so that
you’re constantly being rewarded for simply going out into
the world in whichever direction strikes your fancy that day.
It’s nice to see that the ArenaNet team understands that an
MMOG should be a doorway leading to virtual adventure rather than a
long series of scripted, linear chunks of gameplay. In a sense, you
could think of the game as having all the bells and whistles of a theme
park MMOG, but the icing on the cake is that the entire thing comes in
a seamlessly integrated sandbox wrapper.

Even without feeling as though
I had an expert’s grasp on the
intricate details of the class mechanics, weapon set skills or even the
various types of damage or conditions I could place on my target, I
still felt 100% badass the entire time. Combat is fast paced, but not
to the point where things happen on screen before you know
what’s really going on. More so in the sense that you can go
screaming headlong into a pack of mobs, and one moment you’ll
think that perhaps you’ve bitten off more than you can chew
only to turn the tide of battle executing a killer string of attacks
and learning when to take full advantage of your healing abilities.

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For example, while the Blood
Fiend summoning ability does have a short
reuse timer, once I got the hang of using it I could very easily go
from the brink of death to closer to full health by simply summoning a
minion and sacrificing it for health a few times in quick succession.
Then with one final summon I’d leave that puppy active since
it’s attacks also contained a small lifetap component that
would heal me the rest of the way so long as I didn’t allow
myself to get smacked upside the head again right away.

Don’t get me wrong
– Tyria is no Candyland full of
unicorns and fluffy bunnies by any far stretch of the imagination.
I’m fairly certain I’d have gotten my ass handed to
me far more times than I actually did were it not for the help of some
of the ArenaNet devs who were playing other charr
characters in the area and helping me through some of my first steps
into the Breach.

With right around 10 minutes
left to go in my demo time, I was given an
on-screen alert that the Shatterer had spawned, asking if I wanted to
teleport to the location of the event. Mind you this function
won’t necessarily be present in the game at launch but it was
cool that it was added for the demo because the Shatterer fight is
hands down the most epic encounter I’ve ever seen in an MMOG.
The best part? It all takes place right out in the persistent world. No
waiting to organize a giant raid, no spending thousands of gold on
potions and buffs to prepare for the fight. Like every dynamic event in
the game all it requires is a simple choice – either
participate or not.

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And perhaps that’s
the biggest takeaway for me this time
around for my hands-on time with Guild
Wars 2
. Every step of your
journey places you fully in control of your character’s fate.
Choices you make not only help decide the path that journey takes, but
rippling effects on the world around you. But even if one day you
choose to skip past a particular dynamic event, you always have the
choice to go back to it later on since the game will dynamically scale
level down to the appropriate range for the content.

While the release of Guild
Wars 2
can’t come
soon enough,
I’m also happy to patiently wait while ArenaNet continues
building one of the most compelling MMOG experiences I’ve
seen in years. It’s the kind of game many of us have
daydreamed about playing, and just as Ethec stated in his impressions
of the low level gameplay experience, I believe ArenaNet just might
have the first true contender for king of the MMOG hill on their hands
with Guild Wars 2.

href=""> alt="Guild Wars 2 at Ten Ton Hammer"

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.