The GW2 Beta: A WvW Weekend with a Wild-Eyed Dolyak

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 I gave the dolyak a hearty slap on the hind quarters. The keep wouldn’t stand against another attack without these supplies. Time was of the essence: there was only so long the warriors of Kodash could nip at the heels of the invaders before they over extended and had to retreat. The castle defences need repairing before the invaders can gain the upper hand and push us back behind the walls.  

I spent the entire weekend gallivanting around the Eternal Battlegrounds. A whole weekend laying siege to keeps, escorting lonely pack animals, defending ogre tribes and mercilessly hunting down the opposing team – all in the name of journalism, of course. It’s a lot to cram into one blog-post, so, without further ado:
Step one to getting to WvW was creating my character (well, step 0.1 was getting into the game – something I didn’t achieve until the early hours of Saturday morning). I thought: who is the baddest cat in the entire world?  Clint. So I made Clint.

I asked myself, do I feel lucky? The answer being a resounding yes, I jumped into Tyria and swiftly scurried through the starter quest (a necessary PvE distraction – I wanted to get as little exp from PvE as possible before jumping to WvW). Once out of the tutorial I hit H, selected the PvP option at the bottom and whisked myself away to the Mists.

I climbed to the top of the rise, a little ahead of my shaggy companion, and scanned the horizon. Not much further, I hoped. We’d held out as long as we could – charr alongside human and norn, but eventually we’d used the last of our supply and the gate began to creak. Fireball after fireball rained down on the bolted steel and wood. If the detachment from Stonemist hadn’t arrived when it did, we’d have been overrun. Shouting slurs from the battlements is all very well and good, but once the gate falls and the flood of steel, lightning bolts and arrow heads washes through the breach, even the most stalwart warrior’s bowels turn to water.

The Eternal Battlegrounds and Coloured Borderlands

After a comprehensive training section (it involved “go here – rez this person, well done you’re fully trained; get out there soldier!”) I hopped through the portal to the Eternal Battlegrounds. This central zone is where the three opposing servers really grind up against each other – a maze of lakes, hills, cliffs and mountains housing castles, keeps, camps and numerous NPC encounters to keep the gameplay varied.  This zone differs from the outer zones in that all three servers start relatively close to each other, so players flood into the centre of the area and duke it out (it was common to come across three-way battles, which were utter chaos).

Guerrilla warfare is not your friend in this area. Traveling as a group which is smaller than about twelve but larger than three makes you noticeable enough to be a target, but not intimidating enough to retreat from. This is definitely the zergs-paradise. Moving as an amorphous blob – absorbing and destroying almost everything it comes across, the zerg-train can roll over almost everything. I say almost – and I’ll come to that in a moment.

If you are a smaller group of bandits, hoping for some quick kills and easy targets – I’d head to the Borderlands. These are more open, allowing for smaller groups of savvy players to fall upon individual players and other weak targets.  Each server has its own Borderlands to defend – but it isn’t in the average gamer’s attitude to hold out in a war of attrition when they could be off attacking a keep of their own. I generally encountered smaller groups of players and individuals exploring and gathering crafting ingredients. Moving as a fast-paced smaller group you can take supply camps and kill-off caravans with ease and then disappear into the ether just as quickly (I found diving into the nearest lake to be a very good way to lose any pursuers).

As we rounded the final rocky cliff-edge, the great cacophony of war washed over us – causing the dolyak to rear and kick. The crash of warhammers, swords and maces on stone, the constant swoosh and blast of fireballs, lightning bolts and ice shards crashing against bodies and castle walls alike and, most worryingly, the twang of ropes twisted and pulled taught, the explosion of rock against wood – a great engine of war swinging a ram as big as an ox. This is what I had feared; I had come too late

Siege Engines and Castle Upgrades

I mentioned that the zerg-train can roll pretty much anything in its path. One thing it can’t just roll over is castle walls. Even a group of 50 will struggle to break down a keep’s gate within 20 minutes through normal attacks alone – and by that time it is likely they would have been picked off by defenders on the walls and on the ground.

So, even the most accomplished of attackers should carry around some siege equipment. Siege engine blueprints can be purchased from the vendors in the main castle (and from siege-masters in keeps if you have bought one), they take about one hundred supply to build once placed on the ground. Out of all the pieces of equipment I encountered, the most effective was the ram – able to make short work of gates (doing about 8000 damage with each hit), it was also one of the cheapest. It did have one downside though – the oil barrels.

Defending players are able to buy keep upgrades from the Quartermaster to further strengthen their position in the keep. From what I saw, they were surprisingly cheap, and the most difficult part was finding the supply to build them. The most effective defense, by a long way, was the oil barrel – suspended above the castle gate, it pours burning oil on the attackers below – meaning it was the perfect counter to an enemy ram. Whenever a zerg approached a gate it was always accompanied by shouts of “destroy the oil, n0000bz!” as wave after wave of attackers charged into the gate and promptly melted.

The lesson to learn from all this is that the single most important resource in WvW is supply. You use it to build siege engines, repair walls, build cannons and oil barrels, and strengthen walls and towers. You can wear down a keep by cutting off its supply, and you can hold out for a hell of a long time if you are defending a keep with a lot of it.

Pounding hooves on cobblestone pathways, the sound of the warhorn adding pace to our flight. The invaders were so engrossed in rapping on the door that they barely noticed one ranger and a dolyak approaching from the east. One more blast of the enchanted warhorn willed the great beast into a frenzy, he reared – letting out a mighty wail – before charging through the mass of bodies, sending chainmail-clad guardians and staff-wielding elementalists flying in all directions. I hung on for dear life as he stormed through the portal and tumbled across the courtyard in a cloud of dust and fury.

Final thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend in WvW. I managed to get my human ranger to level 10, and my charr thief to level 6 – both solely through experience gained on the battlefield. I also amassed around 25 Badges of Honor through player kills. Frankly, it is difficult to class WvW as PvP – as the little player vs player you come across is usually a swift and overwhelming zerg descending on a lone player, but it is fun nonetheless. And the dynamic of capturing and protecting supply lines adds a really nice ebb and flow to the gameplay which means that momentum is everything. If you get a real good thing going, your whole server gets stat boosts – which can further cement your dominance on the battlefield.

Six months down the line I expect siege weapons  and keep upgrades to be pretty prevalent: being so cheap. I hope also, that we get some strong and tactically-minded commanders to take charge of the unruly mobs which punctuated my time in The Mists. I also anticipate people working out that the /local chat channel is cross-server, not just for your team – but that particular piece of information might take a while to sink through.

During the beta, WvW was a glorious mess – just a great swirling mass of chaos and fire. I’m not sure what it might turn into once the game begins in earnest, but I loved every single second of the terribly bloody affair.

It took three mesmers to calm the mind of the frenzied dolyak. Most of the supply had been thrown from his packs when he flew into the yard, so the workers were already hurriedly using it to repair the gate and patch the walls. “Grab a box and get up here, we are almost ready!” I heard from atop the gatehouse – the guards on the walls beckoned to me – I dragged myself out of the dirt and grabbed some supply.
At the top of the wall, the extent of the invader’s army was spread out in front of me – warriors and guardians beneath the walls operating the ram, rangers, thieves, mesmers and necromancers behind the front line; hurling arrows, spells and throwing knives at the guards on the walls. With each swing of the ram, the entire wall shook. I stood at the edge of the battlements and gaped in horror and wonderment. The workers wrenched the supply from my grasp and hurried it over to the scaffold which hung above the main gate.

The men worked with admirable fury and intense precision, fashioning the supply into a great iron cauldron which instantly filled with boiling and bubbling oil conjured out of the air by the keep necromancer. The workers stood back and admired their creation. The wall shook from the impacts below. “What do you think of that?” one said, dusting off his hands.
I was still gaping when he shook me by the arm:

“We’re doomed” I said.

The worker turned to his creation and slowly pulled the lever, releasing the torrent of boiling oil “Oh ho, We’re just getting started“.

About the author:  Distilled (Will) has been playing Guild Wars for almost 6 years, he works as a clinical researcher in the UK but has recently been accepted on a PhD place (starting in September, woo!). In his spare time he enjoys riding drunken dolyaks, slaughtering gigantic black moas and jumping whilst sleeping. He writes regularly on Guild Wars and gaming over at Distilled Willpower. You can also follow him on Twitter at @Distilledwill!

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