The first day of the Penny Arcade Expo is winding down, and what a day it has been! ArenaNet and Guild Wars 2 are a major presence at this convention – between the panels that seem to be constantly running in room 2B, the massively popular PvP matches at the Alienware booth, the Guild Wars 2 booth itself, and the advertisements and t-shirts everywhere, it seems like one can hardly turn around without being reminded that Seattle is Arenanet’s ‘hood.
My day started at the Guild Wars 2 booth, waiting in line for the demo. I didn’t have any particular fire to get out of bed at 6 to get in line in time to be part of the first massive wave into the expo hall, but with only three people in front of me, I felt pretty good about my wait for my turn with the newest demo build. While in line I ran into a couple folks from the Guild Wars twitter community (big thanks to BigCat72 for holding my spot while I ran a couple errands!) and got to chat with a few devs. It was a really neat experience, personally, coming back to the second year of PAX and seeing devs again: PAX is such a bizarre little universe unto itself, there was an odd sense of continuity that really messed with my sense of time. Wasn’t it just a while ago that I was here, talking to these devs, wasn’t it just weeks ago that the first GW2 trailer was released? Aren’t these the same lines I waited in just a while ago?
The demo quickly debunked me of that notion: time has passed, and the ANet staff have been busy in that time!
I decided to start with a sylvari necromancer – a profession I’ve been wanting to play ever since the lovely Izari toyed with it at the Guild Wars 2 Fan Day event. I rolled a human necro at last year’s PAX, but I spent so much time running around looking at things that I didn’t really come away with much of an impression of the class in any real sense, so I wanted to give it a higher level run-through, where I had enough skills to really see how they play.
I had a blast! The GW1 necromancer isn’t really my favorite – aside from a few gimmicked builds (like the Blood Is Power support for voltaic spear farming), I don’t really touch my necro at all, so I don’t know that I was really expecting to really get into the spirit of things with the GW2 version. Golly, was I wrong! The necromancer in Guild Wars 2 is an immensely versatile and enjoyable spellcaster.
Like the other professions, each of their weapon sets has a very definite flavor of play, but they synergize very well. For example, I very quickly found myself putting a staff in one of my slots, and an axe+dagger or axe+warhorn in the other. With the staff equipped, I’d lay down the two marks on that skill bar (something of note: at the time of this demo, double-tapping on a ground-targeted skill will aim the skill at one’s present location, which is tremendously nifty) at my feet, then use my long-range spells to draw an enemy to me. After I’d laid my 1 and 3 skills down on the incoming baddy, I swapped over to the axe and offhand combo. The axe main-hand skills aren’t necessarily point-blank, so you can start doing damage on enemies a few feet away, which is nice. With the dagger equipped on the axe, I had another mark available to me, which I’d throw down, hopefully before the baddies reached me. Once they crossed over the mark and triggered its effects, I’d start dancing around, swapping between weapons occasionally to open up the other set of skills and basically just having fun keeping up with the flow of battle (and trying not to catch extra agro!).
Having enemies run up to you on top of two or three marks is super fun. For one thing, if they’re melee mobs (as they’d have to be, to be running all the way up), it starts the fight off at a bit of an advantage – you don’t have a scratch on you when they’re taking damage from your long-range skills, and then suddenly bam! they’re hit with a handful of conditions and some pretty decent damage, while you’ve suddenly been granted regeneration to help you through the first waves of the fight. The warhorn offhand is nice because it gives you the benefit of speed, which is nifty when one wants to keep a bit of extra distance between oneself and the mobs. While it’s convenient to use the warhorn for that and the life-stealing skill, I mostly played with the focus as my offhand, because…
One thing that I observed more with the necromancer than any other class I’ve gotten my paws on thus far is how nifty the F1 mechanic is. For elementalists, it’s the attunement-swapping mechanic; for warriors it’s an adrenaline-type skill that changes from weapon to weapon. For necromancers, it’s the Death Shroud. Maybe the name makes it feel more special to me than it really is, but it wasn’t until about halfway through the demo that I realized that I shouldn’t be holding my F1 in reserve like an elite. For one thing, it’s a lot easier to recharge the Death Shroud than an elite – two or three kills is normally enough to see you back to functional (if not completely restored) levels of ‘life force,’ as opposed to 6 minutes of waiting for an elite recharge. Death Shroud gives you some awesome abilities, and works pretty well as a tide-turner, though not in the same way as an elite might. For example, I found that when things were starting to look pretty sketch – for example, when I accidentally backed into an extra mob or two – it was really nice to pop F1, use Life Transfer to steal some health from all the nearby foes, and then throw down Fear to make them all flee from me for a few seconds. Those few seconds were generally enough to swap back out of DS and pop my self-heal if the Life Transfer wasn’t enough, and lay down a mark or two before the mobs were back to bother me – once I figured out what I was doing, that is. That adds a surprising amount of survivability to what could otherwise be a surprisingly squishy class. I’m sure there’s tons more fun to be had utilizing Death Shroud and it’s unique skills, and I’m excited to discover those once the game proper is out.
Towards the end of the demo while I was tooling around in a troll-infested swamp, I found a very good example of exactly how tenacious the necromancer class can be. I got myself into a bit of a tangle with multiple foes that had me staggering a bit, but managed to pull out of it pretty well because of the various ways that the necro can support itself. As I mentioned, someone was recording my demo. I’ll make that available as soon as possible for anyone who’s interested: although it’s not the highest quality recording, parts of it will, I think, help illustrate why I’m so impressed with the necro.
I didn’t spend a ton of time experimenting with utility skills, but I found myself fond of one of the wells and another mark. Coupled with the new version of Blood is Power for extra life force, they supplemented my weapon bars very well.
As I’ve said, I was very impressed by the necromancer profession. I know they aren’t the newest and juiciest profession anymore, but I was really glad to get more familiar with them, especially since it turned out to be such a positive experience. Tomorrow I’m hoping to hook my teeth into the engineer, possibly as an asura. I’d really like to see the charr starting area for myself, but given my experience last year with the starter level humans, I’m not sure that it would help me really get a feel for whatever profession I was playing. That would be more about exploration, and I imagine there are already oodles of folks’ experiences recorded of meeting the beginning charr zone.
After taking some time with the demo at the Guild Wars 2 booth I went ahead and picked up one of the totally badass Rytlock shirts. It seems like, at least for this and Gamescom, ArenaNet has chosen a different art style to represent the game, and I love it so darn much.
A little later in the day, I got to stop by the Alienware booth to watch the final three matches of the day’s PvP tournament. (ArenaNet, naturally, dominated – although the team that finally opposed them comported themselves very well!) The booth had a super cool atmosphere. For one thing, it was set up well – bright flood-lights so everything was well-lit, and arena-style bleachers for folks to sit on while observing the matches. For another, there were loads of people, all totally focused on what was going on. There were a lot of ArenaNet staff on hand, most of them on their break, from the look of it. That was a cool thing to notice – they really seemed to just want to see how fans handled this new element of the game, and to spend time with the game and the community.
The scheduled portion of my day ended with the Guild Wars 2 community management panel, where Martin Kerstein, Regina Buenaobra, and Stephane Lo Presti all talked about what it really means to be a community manager, and where they’re hoping to take the Guild Wars 2 community. I’ll address that in a later post. For those who are curious, I believe that Kaae from Guild Wars 2 Live was recording that panel and will be attempting to make it available in the very near future.
So that was day 1! After PAX is over I’ll try to marshal my thoughts to get more reflection than pure and-then-and-then-and-then reporting, but there’s so much going on that it’s hard to do more than just record it for now! Stay tuned for a big day tomorrow – ArenaNet’s big panel, an interview, and the ArenaNet party!
I apologize for not including photos, but the wifi here is being whiny, and I thought it was better to upload now and add pictures later than leave the site post-less.
Have questions for the devs? Send ’em to @elixabethclaire so she can try to get them answered throughout the rest of PAX!
About the author: Elixabeth has been a Guild Wars fan since the release of Nightfall, and is now eagerly awaiting the release of Guild Wars 2. To bide the time, she began fiddling around with the online GW community and takes great pleasure combining two of her great loves (writing and games) here at TalkTyria. Follow her on Twitter, if you like!