As some of you likely already know by now, we had the first major Guild Wars 2 beta event this past weekend. Unfortunately, I was out of town for a large part of it due to required training, but I did get to take part in a few quick hours late Sunday night and I must say that so far my impressions are quite good.
If you’ve played Guild Wars 1, then you know that ArenaNet works hard on their games. This game is no exception and although it has taken many years to get to this point I believe it was worth the wait.
No longer is the game capped at level 20. Instead, you can now get up to 80 with each character. Yet, you might then worry about whether or not the game will still be largely skill-based like the first. The answer is yes. I loved the fact that GW1 relied more on how you used your abilities, how you enhanced your gears, and your actual skill as a player than it did on simply being 20 levels above a target and having it be easy prey. This is no exception in this game. In fact, GW2 is actually more action-oriented than the first game and in some ways has a play style not totally dissimilar to the online Phantasy Star games.
The world, even in this beta, is simply massive. What’s more, areas feel a lot more natural than they did in the first game. In GW2 you can go inside all sorts of buildings, which you almost never did in the first game for some reason. The towns and especially the capitals are sprawling metropolises. Do you remember how the NPCs talk when you are nearby in The Old Republic? Well, in this game they are actually all voiced! So, when you are wandering through a market place or hanging out in one of a town’s taverns, you can simply listen to the chit-chat going on. It’s not idle at all and is actually quite relevant – if you listen long enough you’ll pick up on bits of lore and even clues as to perhaps some quests you can partake in around the area. Along a similar vein, the game does retain the cinematic appeal that GW1 had for its cutscenes, but these seem higher quality. The voice-acting is very well-done and fun, and they do keep it somewhat shorter so as not to bore you with it for too long (as TOR can do in some places).
World events happen all the time, and when you are out exploring a zone you’ll receive a message about something going on 100m away from your present location. These events, as stated before by the developers, can have direct consequences on the game’s world, and that is one of the neatest things about the game.
Character customization is much deeper than in GW1 and you have most of the same options from the character creators seen in Star Trek Online and Champions Online (e.g. to directly affect facial features to the Nth degree). Also, at creation you are asked a series of questions that will affect your character’s personalized story and some of his or her personality. How cool is that?
I myself am looking very forward to the next beta event and I do think that GW2 is a game that you should definitely be looking forward to. Also, if this is any indication, I heard from a friend that the digital deluxe edition had temporarily “sold out” (due to limited numbers they were doing), so that should tell you right there this is going to be a great game!
For the next major weekend beta, I do plan to do some customized videos of the game in action, but for now you can enjoy a few screenshots: