Guild Wars 2 - Hands-On at PAX Prime 2010 Part 1

Hands-On with Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2 Race Selection

Guild Wars 2 Race Selection
The first of our two part look at Guild Wars 2 from PAX Prime focuses on low level human gameplay

This weekend at PAX Prime in Seattle, Ten Ton Hammer was fortunate enough to get plenty of hands-on time with the live demo for Guild Wars 2. 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 up, Ethec shares his thoughts and experiences in his first hands-on impressions of the game, specifically as a low level human ranger. How is the game shaping up so far? Read on and find out!


Ethec's Epic First Excursion into Tyria

My human ranger came to life in a flaming village beset by centaur warriors and archers. A nearby officer hurriedly explained that someone should round up the cowering villagers and see them to the easily defended Inn, so I set out on the task. The user interface prompted me with green diamonds visible through buildings to help guide me to the holed-up villagers. These diamonds, fighter pilot HUD-like diamonds in fact, were a big help, but Combat Designer Jon Peters noted that such handholding measures may only be available during the larger story missions. I appreciated the touch –finding the villagers without help would have slowed down the fun, breakneck pace of the experience, and might have been that much more frustrating to boot.

The dev diaries promised that in Guild Wars 2 enemies wouldn’t just stand around in fields waiting for you to attack them, and delivered on that particular promise about 15 seconds into the game. After receiving my marching orders, two enemy horsemen came galloping up and attacked me, and I found myself fighting alongside NPCs to quickly dispatch them both. That was just the beginning, though. I had to fight my way through several sorties on the way to distressed villagers.

After I’d completed the quest, a large green HUD star beckoned me to the Inn. With a little time to breathe, I took stock of my surroundings for a moment. The classically modeled medieval European village was in bad shape, but not without its charms. A sandwich board outside the Inn denoted the day’s specials in an unreadable script, and helped give the impression that the attack had come quite suddenly.

Guild Wars 2 Greater Earth Elemental

The greater earth elemental encounter at the end of the human tutorial is just as epic in scale as most end game raids in other MMOGs

With the villagers safely tucked into the Inn, a lieutenant asked me to head to the nearby garrison that functioned as a chokepoint into the town to try and stem the tide of enemies. Off I went, noting the green compass marker that showed me where to find my next objective.  The compass marker was miniscule, and until you’re conditioned to look for green (green for guidance?) you may not notice it.

This, and the fact that the floating combat numbers look free-to-playishly out of proportion with the rest of the game text, were my only criticisms of the interface. On the other hand, I loved the placement and size of visual markers on the screen (which were helpful without busying things overmuch) and the map view, which zooms from map view to third person view Google Worlds-style.

Arriving at the garrison, I and a few other ungrouped players found the doors wide open. This is never good standard operating procedure for a fort, and as a result we kicked off an event - a wave battle. My ranger finally came into his own now that I could put space between myself and my victims, but quirkily, enemies were immune to my attacks until inside the structure. Jon explained that this is so ranged DPS types couldn’t just mow down approaching enemies, but I’m personally all about mowing down enemies in general!

In any case, I saw how projectile damage increased with proximity, encouraging ranged units to move around and find a sweet spot between too little damage and too much aggro. The second of my two starter abilities, rapid fire, had a simple but effective mechanic of allowing me some bonus rapid fire time if I simply held down the hotkey.  That is, it sounds simple until you try to hold the number two button while WASDing around for better positioning, but happily the game automatically targets the enemy closest to your target reticule and switches targets mid-ability if you happen to kill your first target.

Hands-On with Guild Wars 2

Finally the Champion Modnir High Sage came storming into the garrison and, after taking some punishment, stormed back out again.  This time we could follow., but much to our surprise, the High Sage had summoned a hulking greater earth elemental. While not quite the size of The Shatterer, this level 1 boss was easily the size of a endgame raid boss in any typical MMORPG. Thankfully, despite a few knockbacks and easily eluded stomps, he was nothing we couldn’t handle. With the elemental down and the High Sage routed, the headless horsemen retreated, and relative peace was restored to the area.

Guild Wars 2 Shaemoor Map

I found myself in a slightly more peaceful version of the village area, but Shaemoor had no lack of adventuring tasks to accomplish. I brought up the map, and Jon noted several small, dark hearts with gilded edges around the area. ArenaNet is tentatively calling this a “scout system”, and it’s a nice alternative to the typical quest hub you’d find in most MMOs in that you’re working to improve an area through a variety of different tasks and events. As you perform these tasks, the heart fills up slightly, but events start to pop up that give you greater amounts of favor with the scout. And when the heart is filled (a heart of gold?) you’re rewarded handsomely with items and experience for your efforts.

For example, I ventured across the bridge toward one scout hub where a farmer needed help with a few random chores. I fed the cows, picked up a water bucket and watered some crops; tasks which gave me a little favor with the farmer. But as more players entered the area and chores were harder to come by, the game began to trigger events. First, a wave of bandits began to set fire to hay bales. Since I had a water bucket in hand, I extinguished the flames, then dropped the bucket to fight the bandits since we were tasked with dispatching x number of bandits before y number of bales burned.

Guild Wars 2 Shaemoor Dynamic Event

As if that weren’t enough to do, a giant boar appeared nearby, and I seamlessly got the “public encounter” notification to take it down. The boar had a charge and shockwave attack that made things difficult for meleers, but I could easily plink the boar from range, then dive out of the way of its charge by simply double tapping one of the WASD keys. Eventually the boar and bandits fell, and now that the heart bar was filled completely, I enjoyed a nice boost to experience without having to turn anything in to the farmer.

As with any show demo, we only saw what Anet wanted us to see, and the low level human experience might not have matched the high level charr demo where players found themselves in a desperate battle against a gargantuan dragon lieutenant, The Shatterer. But my experiences in Shaemoor were unmatched in variety and intensity for any level 1-5 experience I’ve had in any MMORPG, period. If ArenaNet can maintain that same level of excitement throughout the level-up experience and into endgame, we may very well have a true WoW beater on our hands with Guild Wars 2.

Guild Wars 2 at Ten Ton Hammer

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