The Digital World with Ryan Simon: Guild Wars 2 Preview: It’s Beautiful

When it comes to PC gaming, massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) dominate the market. It’s actually a little ridiculous just how many different MMORPGs are available to play. “World of Warcraft” (WOW), “Rift,” “Star Wars: The Old Republic” (TOR) and “Aion” are just a few examples of the dozens of MMOs available to players—many of which follow a popular gameplay philosophy established by the most popular of them all: WOW. Despite their popularity, many gamers have started to become rather tired of the same old MMORPG formula; I am one of those gamers. This past weekend, however, I finally played an MMORPG that I can say not only brings fresh gameplay to the table, but also encourages players to explore a world that is unique and absolutely beautiful. “Guild Wars 2” (GW2) is that game.

Jaw-dropping Art

By far one of the most important aspects of any game is its art direction. A game’s visual eloquence or lack thereof, can greatly influence one’s perception of the game and if done right, can improve the overall immersion a player experiences. I don’t know how ArenaNet, the developers behind GW2, were able to accomplish such an expressive and divine art style, but it is darn impressive. It’s so good in fact I spent a decent portion of time exploring GW2’s land of Tyria just in search of gorgeous vistas to take screenshots. Even small details like the blur effects issued by your character’s dodging ability, or the glow of the moon and stars in the night sky really add to the artistic brilliance emanating from this game. If there’s any game worth upgrading your aging computer for it’s definitely GW2.

The beta really does look that good

Your Personal Story (Kind of)

One of the most asked for features in MMORPGs is the ability to further customize a character’s backstory. ArenaNet took this idea to heart with GW2, and added in a couple of subtle choices players can make at the beginning of character creation that will influence the story of that character for the rest of the game. Since these choices affect your character’s overall personality, story missions change depending on your character’s unique attributes. It may not be as in-depth or cinematic of a story-telling mechanism as TOR’s conversation system, but it does a good job in creating more interest in the story aspect of GW2. Key character sequences are also fully voiced and animated with great detail, further enhancing the presentation of GW2.

Truly Dynamic Gameplay

The idea of dynamic gameplay in MMORPGs has been around for a while. Some games like “Rift” say they offer players dynamic content but fail to deliver the kind of diversity and spontaneity that a truly dynamic and believable world can offer. GW2 has promised dynamic content from the day of the game’s initial unveiling, and despite all of the skepticism, my few days with the beta version of the game made me a believer.

Let’s first start with combat. One of the limiting factors for several MMORPGs is that they force players to choose certain classes of characters, of which their specialty lies in dealing damage (DPS), taking damage (Tank), or healing (Healer)—better known as the “holy trinity” system. GW2 has no such system. Instead, every character profession has the ability to deal a good dose of damage, evade and absorb attacks, and even heal themselves and others. Sure, some professions lend themselves to better perform in certain aspects, but players no longer have to worry about waiting to find a healer for their group to go finish a quest—a serious problem in traditional MMORPGs. Beyond this, players can hot swap weapon sets mid-fight, and depending on the weapon set chosen, that character’s first five of 10 skills will change accordingly. This allows for an increasing amount of strategy and complexity in what is an intuitive and fun gameplay mechanic.

The Shadow Behemoth dynamic event

The combat is surely enjoyable and a breath of fresh air from other MMORPGs, but GW2’s dynamic event system easily takes the cake as my favorite gameplay feature. The way the event system works is at random intervals, a zone quest appears and players nearby are alerted to the area. Any number of players can join in because the events scale in difficulty to compensate as more people participate. One event I encountered had me and my fellow comrades fighting off flying harpy creatures in order to save a mining facility. Had we failed to defend the facility, the harpies would have maintained a presence until the event happens again. The amazing thing about it all was that we didn’t have to group up for everyone to benefit from the event. GW2 does away with the idea of kill stealing and mob hogging. The event system also proves to players that there are consequences for failing to complete certain quests, and adds an extra layer of realism to the game.

It’s That Good

After this short, but ever so sweet experience with “Guild Wars 2,” I just have one thing to say: I want to play more! I know, my thoughts sound overly positive, so where’s the bad stuff? To be honest, I couldn’t find anything that was just so out of place that it would be detrimental to the game. I’ve played my fair share of MMOs and GW2 blows them all out of the water in nearly every aspect imaginable. Oh, and did I mention GW2 will have absolutely no subscription fee? Yeah, doesn’t get much better than that. If you’re a PC gamer who likes MMOs or just likes a beautiful and immersive game experience, GW2 is poised to deliver when it launches later this year.

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