Months behind, I know, I know, but I wanted to dedicate lots of time and effort to this article because it most certainly deserved it.
Back at Pax East 2011, I finally got a chance to try out the new re-hashed demo. After comically standing in line for a small eternity, it was like that first sip of peyote after wandering the Sahara for days. I seriously could not believe I was actually playing Guild Wars 2.
Ridiculous gloating aside… wow. Pretty much everything I have heard and read about this demo turned out to be true. At first glance, the game is visually stunning. Of course we can attribute bad-ass hardware for a lot of that, too. Like many of you out there, I am still curious to see how the game will play on older computers with less of the bells and whistles. Still, Guild Wars 2 is a feast for the eyes, combining art and immersion with gameplay in a way that echos its predecessor.
Birth of the Charrdian
Despite being watered-down for the sake of time, character creation is still in-depth and precise. Choosing who your character is going to be is pretty serious business and I think it wise for everybody to take the time to think about their answers when it comes time for them to play. It wouldn’t hurt to do a little research online to find out the options for each race. I was itching for more customization options as far as looks go, but we probably won’t be seeing that included in the demo for some time.
I went with a charr guardian since that profession definitely piqued my interest upon release. Being brave, I decided to go with the high-level areas, allowing me to get a feel for more of the skills. This is a decision I might have regretted making.
Of all the weapon skillsets available, I ended up favoring the staff most, followed by the sword/shield combo. It was probably my inner monk talking there, but I liked being able to stand back and do my thing; having a clear view of the battlefield and a little extra time to view the spells before casting them was definitely a perk to wielding the staff.
The sword set was my second favorite. Combined with the two shield skills from having one equipped, the combination makes a pretty tried and true melee feel while still offering the utility of the profession. The scepter’s Chains of Light, a skill that snares an enemy was a lot of fun and had a solid feel on the control aspect. I felt like there should have been another skill to go along with it, though, and other than spamming orbs I couldn’t really pick up on anything that would make it a golden combo alone.
Movement and Positioning
If there’s one thing I learned the hard way, it’s that positioning and movement is key in this game. It might be a little jarring to translate over from GW1 if a player hasn’t dabbled much in other MMOs, and even then there are some aspects to moving that will take getting used to. The dodging aspect is both fun and a little frustrating to get a handle on at first (it’s something that fans of console fighters may really enjoy, though!). It becomes clear very quickly, however, that the roll mechanic is here for a reason. I would definitely recommend players get used to timing and using it effectively.
Many of the skills, like the staff’s Wave of Wrath, are dependent on which direction you’re facing. Other projectile skills or weapon swings/shots will completely miss if you’re not facing the right way, or get blocked by objects or other mobs. These are all things to keep in mind as I found a lot of my actions wasted due to poor positioning.
Likewise, many of the ground-targeted skills are also heavily reliant on your position, such as Symbol of Protection. This is something that other players need to be aware of as well; too many times I was trying to help protect someone by placing a symbol and they were constantly moving out of it. Be sure to communicate!
Dynamic Events & Fights
These were essentially what I had expected. After playing RIFT prior to pax, I did get a better idea of how these sorts of things happen; they were not disappointing at all.
Of all the aspects of the demo, I found this to be the most intuitive, which I reckon is the point. As you walk about the world, a message warns that an invasion is taking place in Nebo Terrace. A quick map view and you’re darting off to help defend the town from centaurs. Once they’ve been defeated, you enjoy snagging rewards from a nearby NPC.
Even without the traditional quest-text format, there are still NPC’s scattered about who help point you in the right direction. Keep in mind these guys aren’t quest givers. They simply let you know where the action is. They’re kind of like nice helpful road signs, except they can talk.
Were there things I didn’t quite like? Not many, honestly, but there are a few things that stuck out in my mind. For one, I’m not a fan of the colored glow-effect when targeting enemies or hovering over allies. It takes away, for me, from the look of things (and I hope this is an option that can be toggled off in settings.) Some of the fights had me frustrated with mobs that moved about a lot, but that’s probably easily fixed once I get used to the new movements. Weapon swapping was also something that I didn’t quite figure out and had to do manually.
My conclusion? The experience was awesome. I really enjoyed what little time I had to spend on the game (even if I did waste too much time newbing about). Again, this game is absolutely beautiful and I have high-hopes that it will still look great on lower-specced computers. For those worried it’s going to be too casual / easy, don’t fret. From my 40 minutes alone I saw that it was going to be a challenge but equally enjoyable to learn.
As far as the Guardian goes, while I found it fun and the utility charming, it’s not for me. Perhaps I’ll give the profession another solid go at a later date. Lucky for me, I have seven other potential fits to look forward to!