Guild Wars 2 Early Access – OnRPG Goes Hands-on With the ‘Different’ MMO
By Nic van’t Schip (Nilax), OnRPG Journalist
One of the sad things about no longer working on the same continent as the core OnRPG team is that I get to work and talk with them a lot less. They’re based in LA and I have recently returned to The Netherlands back in Europe. But there are advantages that come from this move as well! Like for example when NCSoft organizes a hands-on Guild Wars 2 press event in a hotel in Hamburg, Germany! With most of our other writers in the States and other parts of the world I was the designated man to take the trip.
When I got the invitation I was very excited, I hadn’t played Guild Wars 2 yet and the hand-on section of the event was going to give me ample opportunity to feel with my own fingers if the game plays as well as it looks and sounds!
Without jumping straight to the conclusion of this write-up I’ll reveal one thing: Guild Wars 2 TOTALLY feels as good as it looks and sounds!
Different, no really.
A couple of months ago I mentioned how the creators behind Rift, Trion Worlds, had taken the bold move to not innovate at all. Instead they took the (rather successful) path of copying and improving all the best features from a myriad of MMOs in the market. The result is a great game… but a very predictable and comfortable one. Rift just won’t surprise you very often and as I wrote back then, that’s fine.
Guild Wars 2, in this respect, is the polar opposite of Rift. The game and the entire driving force behind it is one giant soup of innovation and new, different game mechanics and challenges. In fact the basic premise of Guild Wars 2 almost seems to be “What is wrong in today’s MMOs and how are we going to fix it in Guild Wars 2?”
Cooperative mode is ON
The first example of how Guild Wars 2 is different is the game’s emphasis on cooperation. There is no penalty whatsoever for playing together with others, only rewards. So if you see someone else beating up an NPC you can join in at your leisure. You will not be stealing their xp nor will you be locked out of any loot. Loot is another fine example as there will be NO rolling for loot. If a monster drops an item EVERYBODY who helped kill the monster will get it. Ninjas need NOT apply!
A 3rd example of how Arena Net is poised to change the MMO landscape is how they handle crafting. There are no requirements for being able to pick up, harvest, mine, pick etc crafting materials and there will be no mad dash for the mining node to steal it from your fellow players as all resources are instances. In other words: everybody gets an equal amount of resources from every gathering point.
I can’t even remember the amount of times I have cleared a path through some dangerous monsters to get to a flower in World of Warcraft only to see someone else run off with the reward!
There are many other ways Guild Wars 2 is really trying to set its own standards and not stick to the current mold but I’ll get back to them in the full preview.
This IS your story
When you create your character you will of course get to customize its looks extensively but on top of that you also get presented with a series of choices about the background and the motivations of your character. These choices will then get used to determine the path your character goes on, and they will influence the story at key points. This kind of character creation strongly reminded me of the questions asked in the beginning of games such as Ultima and other RPGs.
The game opens with a beautifully stylized opening cinematic that is strongly reminiscent of the awesome cut scenes in InFamous.
As Arena Net has stated in some of the trailers as well, they wanted to get away from a situation where an NPC tells you they are under attack and you have to rescue them only to have the “attackers” stand around in a field behind the village waiting for you go kill them to complete the quest. In Guild Wars 2 an attack actually means that the NPC will be running for his life and buildings will be set on fire. You can then choose how to help the villages. You can try to kill the attackers or go about picking up buckets of water to douse the flames. Depending on how (and if) the attack gets repelled, the continuation of the quest may differ. You’re actually shaping the story and your experience and this is very different from the static MMO worlds that we’re used to.
World of Warcraft has tried to do a better job of this in their last expansions by introducing “phasing,” allowing you to see the world differently depending on the stage of a quest… but that feels like a bit of a cheat compared to how the game world reacts to your actions or inactions in GW2!
Newbie boss fight!
Something I hadn’t seen in other games is what Arena Net calls the Scout System. When entering a new zone there will be an NPC waiting for you that tells you what you can expect. It goes into map view and takes you on a virtual tour, marking some of the zones and NPCs you can visit to help.
When entering the game for the first time as a Norn, the scout told me about the great hunt I was about to join to prove my worth to my tribe. I helped some of the Shamans in the zone out in different ways and pretty soon found myself involved in a huge scale boss fight with a giant worm. Several of my fellow journalists were in the same fight and when we got organized a bit we withered the monster down! The cheer when we defeated the beast echoed around Hamburg!
Being pulled into a multiplayer boss fight 20 minutes after starting a character isn’t entirely new (Rift did it) but Guild Wars 2 sure makes it feel epic!
In the next article I’ll tell you guys more about the Dungeons as well as the underwater experience in Guild Wars 2. We got to experience both at this event but putting so much awesome sauce in one article would probably blow your minds… and we don’t want that!
Be sure to check out the interview we had with Arena Net’s Jonathan Sharp as well!