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Guild Wars 2 Demo Highlights from PAX Prime

Posted Tue, Aug 30, 2011 by Sardu

I was nothing short of impressed by what I experienced in the Guild Wars 2 demo when it was first made public last year at gamescom. Being fortunate enough to attend most major industry events in the time since, it’s been an even more impressive experience to witness firsthand just how much meaningful iteration has gone into the game over the past year. This iterative approach to game design is one of the core philosophies at ArenaNet, and it is readily apparent just how much effort has been put into making GW2 the absolute best MMO experience it possibly can be.

The latest iteration on the event demo for Guild Wars 2 packed a pretty massive punch, and it came as no surprise that the moment attendees were able to enter the expo hall on the first day of PAX, there were fans literally sprinting to the GW2 booth to be first in line to play the latest demo build. Over the course of the three day event, not only was the main booth a veritable mecca for legions of gamers, but an impressive amount of people also lined up in the Logitech booth for a chance to play the game, and swarmed the Alienware booth to witness the Guild Wars 2 PvP matches.

The Guild Wars 2 booth at PAX Prime

The Guild Wars 2 booth as packed with fans for all three days of the event

While I’ve already weighed in on how PvP is shaping up in my initial impressions earlier this week, the Guild Wars 2 demo at PAX Prime included a ton of new gameplay features on the PvE front as well. We’ll take a look at some of the biggest highlights from the new demo based on my hands-on experiences below, and offer some insights as to how they factor into the overall GW2 experience.

Character Appearance Customization

The character design in Guild Wars 2 is some of the best I’ve seen in the industry and, like many hardcore fans, I’ve been itching to see what kind of appearance options we’ll have the chance to tweak in the live game. While the current customization system isn’t yet complete, it did offer enough options to get a feel for how much depth it will offer for each of the five playable races.

I was pleased to discover that you can not only create “pretty” characters, but you’ll also be able to whip up some pretty gnarly looking combos of body type, facial appearance, and racial specifics such as what kind of hair monster you’d like your charr character to be as well.

Guild Wars 2 Character Creation

Meet Sardu, the sylvari necromancer

It’s also a nice touch that players will have access to a cross-section of dyes from Kristen Perry’s excellent system to use during character creation. That way you can have a highly unique character even in the starting zones where, in most MMOs, you would normally suffer from the doppelganger effect.

During my meeting room presentation with Eric Flannum and Colin Johanson, I asked whether players will be able to save their initial dye selections as one of the custom sets players will be able to create in-game. Eric explained that, while the system will currently apply your initial selections to any armor you equip, it’s not considered one of your custom sets… yet. I say yet here because both Eric and Colin liked the suggestion and said that it’s something they would definitely consider adding as part of the iterative process with appearance customization. Hard to say if it will make it into the live game, but it would certainly be a nice option if it does.

Sylvari and Asura as Playable Race Options

Due to time constraints I was only able to play the PvE demo on one of the five available races, so I opted to go with a sylvari necromancer. I did alternate between each of the races in PvP, however, yet found myself gravitating back to the sylvari time and again. Beyond the intriguing lore of the sylvari race, their body frame hits that sweet spot of being obviously humanoid but wholly unique in the MMO space. The redesign was just what the doctor ordered here, and while the sylvari had fewer customization options available than some of the other races in the demo, the newest race on the Tyrian block left a very solid first impression.

That said, the character animations for the asura were a constant source of amusement for me, and I dug seeing the little guys and gals rip other players in two in Battle of Kyhlo matches. There is also something to be said about the fact that the asura don’t have that aura of annoyance that gnomes or other similar races evoke in more traditional fantasy MMOs.

Of the two, sylvari are my clear favorite though. So much so that I’m already plotting out which of the possible biography options I’ll want to go with for my sylvari necro in the live game. Be sure to weigh in on which race is your favorite so far in the comments below!

"There is also something to be said about the fact that the asura don’t have that aura of annoyance"


So they got rid of the asura schtick where they're always telling everyone how intelligent they are (while being too stupid to keep from insulting allies)?

I guess the main difference here is that I usually want to kick every single gnome I see just as a gut reaction to them, whereas I didn't get that at all from the asura. Don't get me wrong, they still have the thing where they consider themselves superior to the other races and will gladly tell you so, but I tend to find that to be part of their charm.

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