Hands-On with PvP in Guild Wars 2

Following a tour of the ArenaNet offices during PAX Prime, we had a golden opportunity to play the Battle of Kyhlo PvP map in multiple matches.
When it was announced that the newest event demo build for Guild Wars 2 would feature the first public look at structured PvP, I knew it was going to be a defining moment in the development cycle of the game. The Battle of Kyhlo map being featured at gamescom and PAX Prime represents one of the last major pieces of the gameplay puzzle for GW2, and I made it a personal mission this weekend to get some hands-on time with PvP to see how the Conquest game type is shaping up.

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I had a golden opportunity to do exactly that last night during a trip to the ArenaNet offices where the developer hosted a party for its fans. For those fans lucky enough to attend, it gave them a chance to spend some time talking and gaming with the GW2 team in a much more relaxed setting than the show floor could ever provide.

Since I wasn’t able to attend the open house at ArenaNet’s new offices earlier in the summer, Randall Price was awesome enough to give me a personal tour of the new space. As an audio nerd it was a definite highlight to see the on-site spaces used by the audio team, and I also learned that the announcer in the newly unveiled Battle of Kyhlo map is none other than Jon St. John, known by many as the voice of Duke Nukem.

Eventually we made our way to one of the game testing spaces where ArenaNet had set up 10 systems for fans to participate in some PvP, and I jumped at the chance to play through as many matches as I was able. Over the course of the evening I played in a good dozen matches, and walked away with a good handle on how the Conquest game type is shaping up. Given my background with the necromancer profession, it was also a great opportunity to get a feel for just how badass the necro is in PvP.

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In terms of build, I decided to change things up for each match since our demo characters had access to all available skills and weapon sets for their profession. Likewise, the overall tactics employed by the teams I played on or against as the night progressed also changed up a fair amount for each match. In some, the trebuchets factored heavily into combat, while in others they were largely ignored.

Regardless of the specific tactical approach to the map, it was clear from the outset that the pace of combat in PvP is far more active than what you’d expect from an MMO. Matches were rarely one-sided, and I could see exactly why it was said that PvP in GW2 will easily appeal to competitive gamers of all stripes, such as hardcore FPS players.

There has been some debate amongst fans about whether the trebuchets in the Battle of Khylo are over- or underpowered for the map. To be honest I truly believe it really depends on how heavily teams opt to use them, because they can certainly help or hinder your ability to capture and hold each of the three points.

For example, in one match I decided to stick to defending a single capture point. Building up a small army of minions and making active use of weapon swaps, Death Shroud, and the newly revealed necro elite skill Lich Form, I managed to fend off the opposing team for the first half of the match. Eventually one of them must have decided that they’d had enough and it became increasingly difficult to hold the point while dodging a constant stream of siege attacks.

For the necro fans out there who have been itching to learn more about Lich Form, or have begun to question the overall usefulness of the latest iteration of Death Shroud, I’ll have a full report on both points and much more this week over on NecroBator.com. One thing I will note here in the meantime, however, is that necros are one of the most resilient professions in PvP currently, and Lich Form is a perfect example of just how powerful elite skills are in GW2.

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As powerful as the necro can be, skilled players would watch for me to drop out of Death Shroud before unleashing a series of knockbacks and stuns while it was recharging. That helped illustrate that PvP in GW2 will be far more about player skill and less about creating powerful, unchanging metabuilds.

Another thing that arose to the forefront during my PvP matches is the way that cross-profession combos factor into combat. While I’ve experienced this in smaller doses during my PvE experiences with the game, the focal points created by the capture points in Conquest matches made this aspect of combat far more readily apparent.

Rezzing teammates or using finishing moves on enemies to send them directly to defeated also helps keep combat in PvP incredibly fluid. Since both abilities can be interrupted, neither one felt overpowered for the game type, and in fact added yet another layer of depth to the overall experience. Likewise, the downed state abilities can really save your bacon and help you stay in the fight rather than taking a brief dirt nap. As a balancing mechanic, I think it was a smart call to include the finishing moves because they add another tactical element into the mix.

The overall pacing and length of matches is spot on, and it will be interesting to see what kind of server and tournament types ArenaNet adds into the mix. They’ve definitely nailed the sweet spot of making PvP an exhilarating experience that leaves you itching to dive into your next match as soon as your current one comes to a close. I could have easily continued playing matches for most of the night, and as my time at the ArenaNet offices came to a close I left wanting more.

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it once again; Guild Wars 2 is shaping up to be a true industry changer. The same attention and care being put into the design of the PvE experience has gone into PvP as well, and I can easily see it developing into the next great e-sport title that competitive gamers will flock to, regardless of their genre backgrounds.

Hands-down GW2 PvP has been the high point of my PAX experience this year, and I have absolutely no doubts that GW2 is going to be a huge, huge game. Guild Wars 2 is the breath of fresh air that the MMO industry has sorely needed, and worthy of every bit of hype it receives.

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

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