by Cameron "Aelryn" Sorden
If there's one thing you can say about the guys over at ArenaNet, the makers of Guild Wars, it's that they know how to inject a lot of fun and excitement into their games. With unique holiday quests and events, loads of fun cosmetic items, and a slew of solo and easily accessible activities, Guild Wars is all about getting into the fun and staying there. This trend continues in Guild Wars: Eye of the North, the upcoming expansion to the popular game. Colin Johansen, an ArenaNet game designer who has worked on all of the holiday quests as well as the majority of the quest content for GW:EoN, took us aside at PAX and gave us an indepth preview of some of the new things you can expect to do and see in the expansion other than just fight, and also provided some hints about what's going to be in the special mission pack that's being offered in their store.
Colin started by showing me the three new mini-games that will be included with Eye of the North: Polymock, Dwarven Boxing, and the Norn Fighting Arena. All three of these games are fun diversions designed to kill some time while you wait for your friends to log on or have just enough gameplay time to goof off a bit. They each provide pre-set awards your first time through (usually new skills, xp, and maybe a cosmetic item) and give lesser rewards for subsequent victories. While none of them are currently set up for PvP action, he assured me that it's something they want to do and are looking into.
Polymock in action. Our monsters are facing off against each other in a battle to the death!
Dwarven Boxing puts you in the role of an drunken, uppity dwarf who runs around punching people. Your skill bar, health, and mana totals become replaced by a set of fixed skills and statistics, very similar to some of the holiday snowball quest events you might remember from previous years. The gameplay, however, is fresh and frenzied. Colin ran about gleefully punching people in the face, getting knocked down, and spamming the attack buttons as fast as he could. The game has an amusing backstory behind it as well, so don't worry-- it's not totally mindless violence!
Polymock has a much different feel to it-- you have to make careful decisions and wise choices to be successful. In Polymock, you and your opponent each select three different monsters that will represent you in a battle. Once the three are chosen, you each pick one to begin and you battle one another across two opposing platforms. This game encourages using a lot of strategy in your monster selection as well as careful skill use. Once one of you is defeated, another monster must be selected to continue fighting. The victor gets to stay in the game until he's defeated, and the first player to lose all three monsters is the overall winner of the match. Each opponent you face will use the same three monsters every time, though, so don't worry about getting creamed repeatedly. You'll be able to adjust to their strategy and adapt your own with practice. There will be 18 different monsters to choose from eventually, but you start with three and earn more by defeating polymock opponents.
Finally, Colin took us to the Norn Fighting Tournament. The Norn Fighting Tournament is an arena where you get to take your character and face-off against many of the characters that have been part of your travels in Guild Wars. You'll see a lot of familiar faces in the arena, and the messages you receive for victory and defeat fit with the back story of whatever character you're fighting. There are five rounds of combat to go through, ranging from easy to hard, before you get to battle the arena master-- a truly fearsome opponent. I won't spoil the fun of who he is for you, but suffice it to say he turns into a giant bear, shares his name with a Street Fighter character, and kicks some serious ass. There are also several super-rare opponents that you might end up battling. Some of these are comical well-known characters from the story that will be extremely fun for players to fight, and some are actually heroes that will join your party if you defeat them. I watched Colin defeat one of these heroes in the fifth round: Xandra, a ritualist. He was then pounded to a bloody pulp by the bear-guy in the sixth and final round... no arena crown for him.
Any achievements your character completes will be displayed in your Hall of Monuments... titles for slaying impressive monsters, for example.
After taking a look at the mini-games, I asked Colin to show me the Hall of Monuments. The Hall of Monuments is an area in Guild Wars: Eye of the North which will serve to bridge the gap between Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2. How this is going to happen hasn't quite been finalized yet, so Colin couldn't give too many details on the role the hall will play in Guild Wars 2. He did speak extensively about its role in EoN, though. There are five pedestals in the Hall of Monuments around the walls of a circular room which will each display different graphical representations of accomplishments your character has achieved. Going around the circle, the pedestals will display your mini-pets, your unlocked heroes, your titles accomplished, the full armor sets you've collected, and the rare weapons you've obtained. The hall is also intended to allow you to show off to your friends. Anyone in your group can enter your hall and view the things you have on display. The group will always be set to the group leader's hall, so if you each want to show off to one another you can just exit, switch the group leader, and re-enter.
Finally, Colin was able to give me one more juicy tidbit of info about Guild Wars: the nature of the four missions in the mission pack soon to be offered at the official Guild Wars store. Since the focus of GW: EoN is on expanding many portions of the earlier Guild Wars stories and tying up loose ends, these four missions do exactly that. Each of them allows you to discover more about aspects of the Guild Wars history that many players have been curious about. For example, Gwen, the little girl who talks to you in Pre-Searing Ascalon, makes an appearance as a hero in GW: EoN, and she is a very angry young woman. The first of the four mission packs puts you in her shoes during her escape from the Charr's destruction of her homeland and explains what exactly has put her panties in such a knot. The other three will examine Master Togo's involvement in the Tengu Wars, Saul D'Alessio's battle in Kryta against the Charr, and the Battle of Jamai-- Turai Ossa versus Palawa Joko. It will be a great chance for Guild Wars lore fans to fill in a lot of the gaps and experience some of the history firsthand.
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Also be sure to read our GW: EoN coverage from Leipzig '07.
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