“I am a journalist, I will venture across the country to experience the latest in video game technology. Using my notepad and pen, I will create the best articles about these video games that I can. With my Reviews Editor by my side, there is nothing we cannot review, preview or demo. There is no ‘try’ in my world, there is only success or defeat. With my language capabilities and articulate knowledge, I will speak to people directly responsible for bringing you the video games that you love.

I am a journalist, and this is my story”

If Guild Wars 2 had a Journalist profession, I’m sure that’s how the opening cinematic would sound.

Guild Wars 2

A Charr…good kitty?

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last seven years, Guild Warswas a very successful MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) for the PC created by Arenanet and published by NCSoft. Its continuing success is largely down to two things, firstly it’s Free to Play, a big selling point for many people, myself included, and secondly it was not as graphically intensive as people would expect from a PC title. It was aimed at mid to low range gaming systems. This was a massive selling point also as regardless of the subscription costs, nobody wants to spend £60-£100 on a graphics card if they don’t need to.

So with the runaway success of Guild Wars and its expansions, the development and subsequent announcement of Guild Wars 2 was only a matter of time and at the Eurogamer Expo 2011 in London’s Earls Court, I managed to sit down and play through a forty minute session of Guild Wars 2 and speak with its Lead Content Designer, Colin Johansson.

Guild Wars 2 Screen 24

I’m not certain, but I don’t think the guy on the right is playable

Loading up the demo, I was presented with the much touted and equally anticipated Character Creation screen. Choosing to play as a member of the giant cat-like Charr (you may remember these guys if you played Guild Wars) I did not expect there to be many customisation options for him but was I wrong!

During the customisation process, I found I could alter my character height, weight, fur patterns, horns, face, pretty much everything that you can normally alter during a games character customisation and then some.

As I decided to create a Charr Warrior, I chose the slightly tattered fur with the scars on his skin, might as well make him as realistic as I could. The other playable races through the demo included the Humans, Sylvari (who are a humanoid/plant hybrid) the Norn (similar to the Nords and Vikings) and the Asura (small intelligent creatures who focus on ancient technology.) Each appears to have a very different playstyle.

Guild Wars 2 Screen

Look! a game that doesn’t just use grey and brown!

After choosing the characters appearance and profession I was then asked a number of questions to define my Charr from the other Charr’s in the Guild Wars universe and subsequently shape my character personal storyline which would be available in the game, questions such as:

“Trouble may follow me, but I always use my _____ to overcome it.” You then have a selection of Charm, Ferocity, that kind of thing.
“I am most proud to be a member of the _____.” This helps define your Charr’s starting position in Charr community. The Charr being split into different clans, the Ash, Blood and Iron clans all having specialisations in stealth, attack and engineering respectively. They are currently banding together against the Fire Clan who hope to destroy the other clans and claim their land in an internal civil war which was actually completely unexpected to me.

A nice touch with the character creation process is that the much sought after Dyes from the first game are available straight away. You can colour your character’s armour, which will spawn similarly coloured armour in-game, so you don’t look like you have rolled through a cupboard full of pots and pans backwards.

Beginning the demo, I was promptly popped onto a bridge with spectral warriors fighting my Charr brethren. Moving forward, sword in hand, I started hacking my way through them. The more I used my first skill, the more my experience with that weapon increased and the closer I came to unlocking my second skill. This was a very nice touch and took away that ‘grindy’ feeling from the game which is something that, whilst satisfying in the long run, does not always classify as my idea of fun. Though Colin (the Lead Content Designer, told me that this was something that may change with the development of the game)Meeting one of my wounded squadmates on the bridge, I was presented with the game’s first ‘cutscene conversation’ where the game basically stops, the characters appear on screen and verbally converse instead of you having to read the dialogue. Again, a very nice touch, especially when it’s showcasing the character models and armour details.

Guild Wars 2 Screen 51

The Asura may look cute…because they are…

I am then informed that Rytlock Brimstone, a Charr hero needs help fighting the ghost of Duke Barradin (you may remember him from the first game) who essentially controls the ghostly warriors around the Charr home of the Black Citidel, built on the ruins of Rim, the old human city (again, from the first game)

Upon meeting Rytlock, I am informed automatically that my aid is needed in defeating the Duke and stopping the ghosts attack. I did not have to initiate any conversations for this to happen, I merely heard the NPC speak as I approached, they ran off, and a notification on my screen told me “New Event Nearby” and the event started.

Now, I can see both advantages and disadvantages to this. If you have numerous events in a close proximity then you would need to choose which one (if any) you would aid and if you did not aid them. Say for example you were running to a different objective and accidentally activated one. What ramifications would this present? Would it stop you from achieving a certain objective? Would it stop you from getting to that piece of armour you are looking for?

Video Courtesy of SoMuchMass via Youtube

Whilst fighting the humanoid ghostly spectre of Duke Barradin, he suddenly initiated a cutscene, floated into a very large stone statue in the wall and promptly brought it to life. My first reaction to this was “But I’m only level 2!” But this is where Arenanet wants to break a few MMORPG rules; they want people to have these epic large scale battles early on, their philosophy is that you shouldn’t have to work for enjoyment, it should be accessible straight away and only get better. A very commendable rule.

The combat in Guild Wars 2 feels really nice. It’s obviously got that MMO element of ‘stand there and hit something’ but you don’t really feel as though you are playing an MMO when issuing commands through the User Interface. Perhaps it’s the inclusion of a roll mechanic which allows you to dodge attacks in real time or the ability to use healing magic whilst moving.

After fighting the giant stone golem that housed the ghost of Duke Barradin, I was taken back to the Black Citidel and informed that my commanding officer wanted to see me. Unfortunately, for my commanding officer, I had other ideas. I worked my way around some of the landscape, drinking in the breathtaking scenery and enjoying the events carrying on around me. I made my way to a Fire Legion outpost and found myself embroiled in a struggle for control of this outpost. What was nice was that this quest felt important. It felt as though if I failed it would have actual ramifications. It didn’t feel like a throwaway quest like so many other MMO’s seem to pad their ‘tutorial section’ with.

Guild Wars 2 Screen 51

THAT…is not good…

They say the devil is in the detail, and this is hellishly true with Guild Wars 2. There is a great amount of detail on show in this demo. The textures of the scenery are amazing, the character details is beautifully rendered and even the little graphical details such as the plant life moving and reacting to the concussion effect from a firing gun, all adds up to create one of the best built games I have seen for a very long time. I am assured by Colin Johanson that the machines that they build Guild Wars 2with are older machines, ensuring that Arenanet can create the most accessible game they can. It is very nice to play this game on an Alienware machine, however.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Guild Wars 2. I played it for forty minutes. I enjoyed every minute of it, and I felt genuinely sad to stop playing and there wasn’t one “Go kill X amount of Y” quests anywhere to be seen!