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League of Legends

SaltyTeemo is my new favorite Twitch.tv stream


So bad, it's great
Nov 13
// Aerox
The main landing screen of League of Legends has a variety of games for you to spectate, most featuring high-level players in Diamond or Challenger tier. The client chooses which games to display by looking at the average ELO...

Review: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies

Oct 24 // Aerox
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies (3DS [eShop Only; 4432 blocks])Developer: CapcomPublisher: CapcomTo be released: October 24, 2013MSRP: $29.99 Dual Destinies takes place after the events of Apollo Justice, in a time that the game refers to (over, and over, and over) as the "Dark Age of the Law." Shortly after Phoenix's disbarment in the early events of Apollo Justice for unintentionally producing false evidence thanks to Kristoph, Simon Blackquill, a rising star of the prosecutor's office, was indicted and found guilty of murder. Because of his talents, he's still allowed to try cases while incarcerated, and is your main opponent in this installment of the series.  With two of the best attorneys on both sides of the aisle disgraced, the public loses faith in the system. Attorneys begin resorting to underhanded tactics to win cases -- if Phoenix Wright was fabricating evidence to save his clients, why shouldn't they? If defense attorneys are going to fabricate evidence, the prosecution needs to find a way to secure convictions. If the prosecution is convicting by any means necessary, defense attorneys have to fabricate evidence to defend the innocent. It becomes a vicious cycle, and gets to the point the top legal academy in the country begins training it students to win at all costs, teaching that the ends always justify the means. It's our own legal system taken to the extreme -- while nothing in American jurisprudence is as blatant or overt as what occurs in Phoenix Wright, we're reminded that we still live in a country where local prosecutors are often politicians looking to move up, and defense attorneys are paid to defend their client at all costs. It's in a similar environment Dual Destinies takes place -- Apollo, Phoenix, and new attorney Athena Cykes try cases, defend clients, and try to put an end to the Dark Age of the Law while sticking to their morals. The structure of the game will be familiar to any who have played any of the previous installments. After a short, courtroom-only introductory case, the rest of the cases play out similarly -- an anime cutscene introduces the murder, Phoenix, Apollo, and/or Athena show up on scene to investigate, and then present their findings in a courtroom sequence. For longer cases, an additional investigation/courtroom sequence or two are added, but the general structure remains the same. Investigative portions play out like they always have: you move from area to area, interrogating witnesses and presenting evidence to them, gathering ammunition for court. Certain areas, usually the actual scenes of the crime, allow you to search the whole room in a point-and-click style sequence reminiscent of classic adventure games. After you've thoroughly searched the required areas and spoken to all of the necessary witnesses, the game moves to the courtroom phase. There aren't many changes to the courtroom action either, where gameplay primarily consists of the cross-examination of witnesses. As you discover contradictions in witness testimony, you present evidence to blow their statements out of the water or, when you don't have evidence, bluff your way through the examination by selecting the appropriate responses from small dialogue prompts. It's simple, it's basic, and it works, just like it has in the four previous installments. The one significant new addition to witness examination comes from Athena Cykes, who can use her robot, Widget, and her skills in analytical psychology to read the emotions of a witness as they testify. During these sequences, you listen to a witnesses testimony while monitoring their four basic emotions -- joy, anger, sadness, and surprise, and look to find where their emotions (or lack thereof) don't match the testimony they're giving. Back on the investigative side, Apollo Justice's bracelet, which allows you to observe a witness in slow motion to look for physical tells that show they're lying. Phoenix's Magatama and the Psyche-Lock system also make a relatively brief return.  On the whole, Dual Destinies is an extremely strong addition to the series, and my favorite Ace Attorney game so far. The cohesive themes and narrative tie the game's cases together more strongly than any previous title, and I think the final case just barely beats the Case 5 of Trials and Tribulations in terms of drama and surprise. New prosecutor Simon Blackquill is a solid addition to the series, although I don't think he can stand up to Godot or Edgeworth. The real standout is Athena. Initially introduced as an assistant attorney, Athena's background and her story soon become the core focus of Dual Destinies. While the Ace Attorney series frequently slips into stereotypes and caricature, particularly with witnesses, Athena makes for a unique character who's history, motivations, behavior, and eventual story arc may be the most well rounded of any characters in the franchise. Unfortunately, Dual Destinies still occasionally suffers from the same problem all of the previous games have had -- there are times when you piece together the mystery several steps ahead of the game, and get bogged down trying to figure out what you need to do next because you can't leap straight to your conclusion. You can't present the decisive piece of evidence you know will break the witness too early, because the game's script demands that you do otherwise. Similarly, events in the investigative phase often won't trigger until one very specific piece of evidence has been shown to a certain witness, and the game isn't always clear that this needs to happen for you to move forward. However, these incidents are relatively rare, particularly compared to the previous games, and don't cause significant trouble beyond brief annoyances. Finally, those who might have gotten excited upon hearing the game had received the series' first ever M rating from the ESRB should temper their enthusiasm. Just like every other game in the Ace Attorney series, every case in Dual Destinies involves murder, but there's nothing I'd consider overly graphic. My guess is either that the ESRB is simply inconsistent in its ratings, or the M comes from the stories of two separate witnesses who for whatever reason concerned someone at the ESRB: one witness is revealed to be a different gender than initially presented (their parents forced them to live as the opposite gender and the game leaves it at that), and another character hints at a same-sex attraction. Both issues are given cursory examination, and then the cases move forward. In any event, aside from the murder present in every game in the series, there's nothing here that's inappropriate for teenagers under 17. However, even though it's not a new, gritty, ultra-violent courtroom drama, Dual Destinies delivers exactly what I wanted from a new Ace Attorney game. Interesting new cases, great new characters, lots of twists and surprises, and what is ultimately an excellent work of interactive fiction. Topped off with beautiful 3D animations, an unsurprisingly excellent soundtrack, and some great anime sequences that highlight major moments in each case, Dual Destinies is not to be missed.
Ace Attorney review photo
Court is back in session
Previous entries in the Ace Attorney series never examined the legal system beyond surface commentary. Apollo Justice came close when it examined the idea and consequences of a jurist system (something Jap...

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Impressions: Boss Monster


Retro Card-Gaming Fun
Aug 26
// Aerox
Boss Monster is a card game you likely haven’t heard of. Successfully Kickstarted back in November of last year after exceeding its requesting funding amount by almost 18 times the original goal, it’s been availab...
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Logitech G430

Impressions: Logitech G430 Surround Sound Gaming Headset


Great value for the price
Jun 18
// Aerox
My experiences with sub-$100 headphones haven't been the most positive. I've gone through quite a few pairs from a variety of manufacturers, and have generally had issues with either comfort, durability, and/or sound/micropho...

Review: StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Mar 19 // Aerox
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm (PC)Developer: Blizzard EntertainmentPublisher: Blizzard EntertainmentRelease: March 12, 2013MSRP: $39.99 Heart of the Swarm picks up right where Wings of Liberty left off -- Kerrigan has been saved and returned to a mostly-human form (shame about the hair), the Zerg threat has been diminished, and she and Raynor are free to run about curbstomping the Dominion. Or, that's the initial plan. Since Heart of the Swarm is, of course, about the Zerg, within an hour of starting the game Raynor promptly finds himself in trouble and Kerrigan once again takes control of the Swarm. This time around, the story focuses much more on Kerrigan herself -- while Raynor was the hero of Wings of Liberty, that game's story tended to focus more on the Terran army as a whole and the various mercenaries you dealt with. Heart of the Swarm shines the spotlight directly on Kerrigan. While Kerrigan can still control the Zerg, Raynor's artifact essentially restored her soul. The antagonism between Kerrigan and Arcturus Mengsk may seem like the central plot line, but in my opinion Heart of the Swarm is really about how Kerrigan comes to terms with what she did as the Queen of Blades, and the internal struggle she faces to cling to her newfound humanity as she slips deeper and deeper into the power of the Zerg. I found the story this time around to be far more engaging than the fairly standard war story of Wings of Liberty, and a huge part of that is because Heart of the Swarm feels more personal and intimate than the previous installment. When it comes to gameplay, the new missions in Heart of the Swarm don't deviate too much from the style seen in Wings of Liberty, but are unique enough that they don't come across as a simple rehash of Wings, just with the Zerg. The only real notable difference is the introduction of Kerrigan as a persistent hero unit, reminiscent of Warcraft III. In most missions Kerrigan is present on the battlefield and directly controllable, and she gets stronger and develops more powers as you level her up by completing mission objectives. Base building is still the focus of the game, but Kerrigan usually plays a major role in fights as her abilities tend to be profoundly useful. Much like Wings of Liberty, a majority of the missions generally focus on one or two types of units, and the mission is designed to teach you how to use that unit and its abilities. Sprinkled throughout the game, however, are missions that tend to focus on Kerrigan and her abilities, much like the first Zeratul mission back in Wings. I actually found these to be the most interesting, simply because of the variety they provided. My favorite mission involves Kerrigan essentially fighting three "boss monsters" as she moves through the map, with the fights feeling like a combination between playing a MOBA and battling a World of Warcraft raid boss. I like base building as much as the next StarCraft fan, but it's always nice to mix things up. As you progress through the single-player campaign, you have the opportunity to select minor and major evolutions for your units. Minor evolutions unlock as soon as you acquire the unit, and tend to be small stat boosts or a passive ability. Major evolutions see you decide between one of two new forms, and require you to complete a short "Evolution Mission" that shows you the abilities of each new form before making your selection. These missions naturally unlock as you progress through the story -- you no longer have to find out-of-the-way collectables scattered around the maps like you did in Wings. Instead,  optional mission objectives provide additional levels to Kerrigan. Multiplayer has remained essentially unchanged outside of balance tweaks and the introduction of a few new units, and it's still great if you're into competitive real time strategy games. Players who haven't hopped online since Wings of Liberty may be surprised to see how much the general skill level has risen, and can expect quite a few frustrating games if they jump into ranked, especially since this season just began and the matchmaking system is still sorting people where they belong. Don't be surprised if you run into highly skilled players in the lower tiers of play during these first few weeks. The multiplayer replay system has a couple new fun additions. You can now watch replays with your friends and, even better, pause a replay at any time and have you and your friends take control of the game at the point you paused. It's a solid tool for practicing matchups if you have friends willing to work with you, but I think the most interesting aspect will be the ability to download and mess around with pro-level tournament games, assuming they put replays up. Heart of the Swarm is a fantastic addition to the StarCraft series, and quite frankly feels on par with a $60 game. It brings almost nothing new to the table, but there's nothing wrong with sticking to a formula you know works well. If you enjoyed Wings of Liberty, or just like RTS games in general, there's no reason not to pick this one up.
StarCraft II: HOTS review photo
A solid middle entry for the series
It appears Blizzard's learned quite a bit from Diablo III's launch, as Heart of the Swarm was instantly playable on release with virtually no server problems -- a bit of a rarity, it seems, with recent PC releases. It's a goo...

Review: Razer Electra Headset

Dec 10 // Aerox
Product: Razer Electra HeadsetManufacturer: RazerInput: 3.5mm jack (inline mic requires a 3.5 combined audio/mic jack, or a separately-sold splitter)MSRP: $59.99 The most important quality in headphones, for me, is how long I can wear them comfortably. My ears are on the larger side, and I've experienced some fairly serious discomfort from other headsets after even just 45 minutes of use. Even with my big ears, I was able to wear the Electras for extended listening sessions without problems. Large, wide leather cushions around the ear cups kept things comfortable, and while I occasionally wanted to adjust them when I felt my ears getting warm, I was able to avoid the pressure I often get with other headsets. The ear cups also do fairly well in keeping out external noise. They won't completely block unwanted sound, particularly if you're out and about in the city, but typical background noise won't make it through. A close second in terms of importance, of course, is sound quality, and the Electras perform well for a $60 headset. The bass is solid, though serious dubstep fans will likely not find it powerful enough, and the treble comes through crisp and clear. While the audio won't stand up to the kind of quality you'll find in more expensive headsets, the Electras seem comparable to other headsets I own in the sub-$100 range. One disappointment is the lack of controls on the in-line mic -- surprising given that the headset is mainly designed for phones. There's no way to raise or lower volume, or to accept an incoming phone call, without reaching into your pocket. The microphone itself, however, is about what you'd expect from an in-line microphone. When I called people to test it out, they could hear and understand me fine, and felt the volume levels were appropriate, but noted that my voice sounded rather tinny, and that it was lower quality than if we were just regularly speaking on the phone. Finally, the headset itself is somewhat thick and bulky, and may not be easily transported. Given that these are designed for use with cell phones, it's a shame the Electras don't come with some sort of carrying case or bag. While the headphones themselves are certainly sturdy, I'd be wary of just tossing them into my already packed laptop bag. On the whole, it's hard to recommend the Electras for "gaming," simply because I'm of the opinion that there's not really a need for gaming audio equipment for mobile devices at this time. If you're in the market for some nicer headphones for listening to music on your phone, though, the Electras are a solid choice that are priced right, as long as you don't mind reaching into your pocket every now and then to answer calls and adjust the volume.
Razer Electra Headset photo
Decent headset, fair price
The Razer Electra is an oddity. It's billed as a "music and gaming headset," but is primarily designed for use with mobile phones -- the headset is specifically made for iPhones, HTC phones, and Blackberries (and any laptop t...

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Impressions: StarCraft Collector's Edition Risk


It's Risk, but with StarCraft pieces
Nov 06
// Aerox
[Destructoid is considering adding board games (videogame-themed or not) to what we cover. Think it's a good idea? Want us to stick to videogames only? Let us know in the comments.] Themed variants of popular games like Monop...

Review: Torchlight II

Sep 24 // Aerox
Torchlight II (PC)Developer: Runic GamesPublisher: Perfect WorldRelease: September 20, 2012 MSRP: $19.99 It's been a few years since the end of the first Torchlight, and, surprise surprise, the world is in danger again. A corrupted Alchemist (likely the playable character from the original game) has destroyed the town of Torchlight, stolen Ordrak's Heart, and it's up to you to chase him around the world and stop him before he drains the energy out of the Elemental Guardians that keep balance in the world. How will you save the world? You will click. On everything. You will click on a bunch of monsters, and you'll click on some chests and some urns, and you'll click on all the massive amount of loot that spews forth from everything you touch, and sometimes you'll even mis-click on a poorly placed UI element. You'll happily click away, you'll have a lot of fun doing it, and you'll suddenly look up and realize you've been clicking non-stop for three hours and you didn't realize how late it was and you really should go to bed but there's another dungeon you need to click your way through so maybe you'll just do one more quest and then you'll finally stop clicking and go to bed. Maybe. Your primary method of slaughtering enemies will be with your class skills, and Torchlight II's skill system will be familiar to those who've played the original game, although it's gotten some minor tweaks. Each of the four playable classes still has three skill trees, with each tree containing seven active skills and three passives. At each level, you get five attribute points to place into one of the main attributes (strength, dexterity, focus, and vitality), and one skill point to place in one of your skill trees. Unlike the original game, there are no skills shared among all the classes anymore -- each class has a unique set of 30 abilities. As long as you meet the level requirements for a skill (which naturally increase as you train a specific skill), you can put a point into it, regardless of how many previous points you have in skills that come before it or in the overall tree. It's pretty straightforward, and on the whole each class's skills seem varied and, for the most part, useful. Even the early skills can hold their own as long as you keep investing points into them (my Embermage beat the game almost entirely using Prismatic Bolt, the first skill in his Storm tree). Unfortunately, there's not a lot of room to experiment -- you can only refund the last three skill points you spent, and the cost to do so is rather high. One to three points in a skill is, I found, not enough to really get a feel for how the skill will perform at later levels. I often found myself hoarding points or just investing in passives -- I was hesitant to commit, out of a fear of having to restart my character because of bad skill choices. Another new mechanic is the addition of the Charge bar -- a meter that fills when you're murdering things and decays when you're not, conferring class-dependent bonuses. Embermages receive 12 seconds of mana-free casting and a damage burst when their bar is filled, while Outlanders receive small boosts to a variety of stats depending on how full their bar is. Engineers get charge "points" that make certain skills and abilities more powerful, and Berserkers get guaranteed critical hits for six seconds whenever their bar is maxed. It's an interesting mechanic that not only adds depth to each class, but also encourages you to move forward and keep murdering things. You'll fight your way through four acts (really three acts and a short final dungeon), each with its own feel and theme. The locales are nicely detailed and feel varied, and I never found myself getting bored of an area before I was on to the next, even when full clearing the area. Full clearing is something you'll want to do -- missing a sidequest or a dungeon can quickly put you behind the level curve, and you'll either have to go back and find what you missed or rerun previous areas to catch up before you can progress. The most notable new feature in the game is multiplayer -- something fans of the original game had been clamoring for. While the multiplayer system is primitive, consisting simply of a friends list, a list of games around your level range, and no chat lobby, it gets the job done, and as expected, Torchlight II is great to play with your friends. Any loot that drops in-game is unique to your character, so you don't have to worry about ninjalooters or fighting over the unique item that just dropped. It's a good thing, too, since you'll see a lot of uniques drop. Loot is plentiful, and as your work your way through the game you'll be showered in upgrades, which follow the standard loot rarity rating of common - magic - rare - unique - legendary. Whereas Diablo III was criticized for the scarcity of powerful items and upgrades, Torchlight II almost suffers from the opposite issue, with uniques dropping at a pace of roughly one every half-hour or so. I hesitate to call it a "problem," especially since trading is tough/non-existent given the lack of a chat lobby in multiplayer, but I will admit to being a bit annoyed after getting three of the exact same unique helmets in the span of thirty minutes. I've yet to find a legendary though -- the most powerful, rarest items that only show up starting at level 50 -- so even though I ended my first playthrough with something like 35 unique items, there's still better, more exclusive loot to aim for. And it's easy to want to aim for better loot after completing the game, since Torchlight II gives you a few options to keep things fresh. There's a standard New Game+ mode, allowing you to begin again with everything starting at Level 50, and there's also the Mapworks, which enables you to spend gold to purchase maps that allow you to enter various random dungeons, each with their own level range and special modifiers that mix things up. These complaints are relatively minor, though, especially in light of the game as a whole. It's addictive, it's got character, and it's really, really cheap for the product you're getting. I can guarantee you'll notice some problems as you play through it, and you'll probably wish the UI had a bit more polish and that the multiplayer system was a bit more robust, but you'll find these issues don't detract much from the overall experience. When you consider that the mod tools are already available, and what we saw with the first game, it's likely many of these issues will be modded out somewhere down the line. If you're a fan of hack 'n slashes, loot fests, or dungeon crawlers, definitely pick up Torchlight II. It's absolutely worth your time and money, and should hold your attention for quite a while. There are portions of the game that could certainly use a little bit of polish, but it's unlikely these problems will turn you off from the game entirely. Grab the game, grab some friends, and get to clicking. Did I mention it's only $20?
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Torchlight II was, unfortunately, subject to a number of delays. Originally set for release back in 2011, it's only now become available for purchase. I'm happy to say the wait was worth it. It's a bit rough around the edges,...

Your guide to Guild Wars 2

Aug 24 // Aerox
If you have any familiarity with other fantasy MMOs, here's the most important thing you need to know when selecting a character: the Trinity is dead. There are no "tanks," or people whose job it is to soak up damage and manage aggro and threat, no dedicated "healers," and no classes whose purpose is to dump out damage and do nothing else. This seems to be the number one biggest thing that people don't understand, even when I explain it to them, so I want to reiterate: the Trinity is dead. Everything you know about tanks, healers, and DPS is wrong. When I say that, I should be clear about what I mean. It's not that there is a "different kind of tanking." There is no tanking. Monsters can and will regularly attack everyone in the party, and everyone has a responsibility to mitigate or avoid the damage. There's not a "different kind of healing." Everyone has a self heal, and can spec to also have some weak group heals on long cooldowns, but healing is not and will not be a central focus of your gameplay, beyond your own responsibility to occasionally heal yourself. Every class is capable of dealing serious damage, and every class has the ability to act in a support capacity, throwing buffs (positive status effects) on their allies and debuffs (negative status effects) on their enemies (called "boons" and "conditions" in Guild Wars 2). And most classes have the ability to hand out some minor healing or regeneration to allies. Despite the notion of everyone being able to do "everything," each class feels quite different from one other because of the weapons they are able to use and their unique mechanics, so the best thing for you to do is read up on the classes and pick which one sounds most interesting. Don't fall into the trap of trying to pick based on archetypes. If you normally enjoy tanking in WoW, don't think you have to pick a Warrior or a Guardian -- there's no tanking because there's no reliable threat management. If you normally play a dedicated healer, you're not going to be standing back and healing anyone in Guild Wars 2, so find a profession that sounds cool and try it it out. Unlike virtually every other MMO on the market, every race can play as every class without any penalty or stat differences, so play around until you find a class that works best for you. Once you have your character created and you've moved through the very short introduction section, you're somewhat unceremoniously dumped right outside your city's starting zone with little direction. You'll see one green star on your map, indicating a portion of your story quest, and not much else. An NPC will direct you to what also appear to be quests -- different hearts on the map indicating people who need help. Your first inclination may be to run straight to your story quests or toward the heart quests -- after all, that's what we've been conditioned to do in almost every MMO since EverQuest. DON'T DO IT! One of the biggest fundamental shifts in thinking you'll have to do when playing Guild Wars 2 is to understand that the game is about exploration, not just running in a straight line. In most games, the best way to level is to do as many quests or dungeons as possible in a short amount of time. In Guild Wars 2, it's much different; the more time you spend wandering around off the beaten path, the more things you'll find to do. In this game, there are many ways to earn experience. You get experience for finding waypoints and points of interest on the map. You get experience for killing things. You get experience for reviving other players. You get experience for World vs. World PvP. You get experience for gathering crafting materials and making things out of them. You can even go back to old zones you never completed and get experience from them -- the game downlevels you to whatever zone you're in so you can do the content without blowing through it, while getting appropriate exp rewards for your actual level. These aren't just tiny amounts of experience, either -- they're significant. It won't be immediately apparent out the gate, but the best way to level in Guild Wars 2 is to do as many different things as possible as you play. In fact, to earn your first level out of the tutorial/intro mission, I recommend turning around, going back inside your race's major city, and exploring the entire thing. When it comes to actual "questing," the majority of "quests" in the game are randomly occurring events. As you walk around and explore the map, events will suddenly begin, or you'll move into range of an in-progress event. These events form what will likely be the core of your PvE experience, and you should always be looking to participate. Again, the best way to find these events is to just wander around exploring the map -- those who only run in a straight line to the heart and story quests will miss out. Events will occupy much of your time in the game, but if you ever get tired of them, or if feel like you are too under-leveled to move forward (and, if you only do story and heart quests and nothing else, you'll hit this point pretty quickly), remember all the other things you can do. Spend some time gathering materials and crafting items, go check out the World vs. World combat, or even check out the other races' starting areas. (Getting to them is simple, although not obvious. Lion's Gate has portals to all five major cities, and can be reached either through the portal in your own city, or by entering the sPvP lobby through your Hero Menu and taking the portal found there.) Remember -- don't focus just on quests, don't be afraid to aimlessly wander and explore, and don't be afraid to check out other zones. The more you explore, the better off you'll be. One of the other aspects of Guild Wars 2 that will probably take some adjusting to is the fact that it's a social game. Not "social game" in the sense that you're spamming farming invites to your friends, but social in that there's a very real incentive to work with other players, and luckily, doing so is simple and generally doesn't require any futzing with parties or raids. Hell, you don't even have to technically talk to anyone, but you will have to work with other people. Again, it's not immediately clear, but working with people in this game is ALWAYS beneficial. There's no kill stealing or even kill tagging. You can't take loot meant for someone else. Even gathering nodes will be unique to your character, meaning no one will swoop in in front of you and snag that ore chunk you had your eye on. If you come across other players, help them! Start attacking their monsters -- they won't mind, since you'll both get experience and treasure. Happen upon a downed or dying player? You'll want to try to revive them, since there's a bit of experience in it for you. If you see a group of people wandering around, follow them. You'll all help each other out, and there's a good chance you'll come across a random event together as a group. Similarly, if you see a whole bunch of players all running in one direction, definitely follow them. A major event is probably about to start or already in progress, and you won't want to miss out. Later in the game at around Level 30, when dungeons become available to you, you WILL have to start dealing with a party system. The dungeons are all five-mans, but, again, remember that the Trinity is dead. It shouldn't be super difficult to find a group, because virtually any group composition should be able to clear any dungeon in the game. You don't have to sit around waiting for a tank or a healer -- you can grab the four nearest Engineers and still have a reasonable chance of completing the dungeon. Simply put, if you're the kind of person who tries to play MMOs solo (which, I admit, often describes me), you're going to have to shift your thinking, or you're not going to have much fun in this game. All that said, my experience in the beta weekend has been that once all the barriers to co-operation are removed, people generally seem to act a whole lot nicer to each other. Now, we get to the combat itself. First off, your main skill set is tied to the weapon you're currently using -- the first five skills on your hotbar correspond directly to your equipped weapon. You start with only one skill in each useable weapon, but they quickly unlock as you kill things -- within two or three hours of play, you should have unlocked most if not all of your weapon skills. Your other five slots are a healing skill, three utility skills, and an elite skill, all of which you can choose from a set that you will unlock as you level up. When it comes to actually killing, throw everything you know about priority systems and rotations out the window. Guild Wars 2 isn't the kind of game where you stand in one place mashing buttons; you need to be moving CONSTANTLY. Almost every skill can be used while moving, even most channeled ones, and as such you should be constantly strafing and circling your target. Generally speaking, you have less skills overall than in most other MMOs, and the skills you do have come with significantly longer cooldowns. The time you're not spending mashing skill buttons instead goes to combat positioning and avoidance. In addition to just moving around your opponent, you also need to learn to dodge. The dodge skill is absolutely critical to survival in the game, and once you move past the first few areas, you'll find that even basic monsters can easily kill you if you're not careful. Many enemies have extremely powerful attacks that can one-shot you, so you need to learn the tells so that you can dodge out of the way. In the event you do go down, don't worry! The downed state, which you should be introduced to in the tutorial, is an expected and normal part of the game. Being downed doesn't necessarily mean you've done something wrong (although there's a good chance you're down because you blew a dodge), and you should quickly be revived by another player in the area. You can also come back from being downed by contributing to an enemy kill while downed, and it will be obvious how to do so when you first enter the state. If you do end up dying, you'll just respawn at a waypoint. As you move through areas, keep an eye out on your map for other downed players -- reviving them will grant you some experience, and they'll certainly appreciate the help. Finally, a few notes about loot, dungeons, and the "end-game." The "end-game" concept central to most MMOs is not present here. In Guild Wars 2, the time it takes to gain a level is designed to be roughly equal, whether you're leveling from 29 to 30 or from 79 to 80. Rather than gating content at the level cap, the content is more evenly spread throughout the entire game. When you do ultimately hit the level cap, you have an opportunity to go back to all the areas you've missed and try them out -- because of the downscaling system, you won't be just blowing through them without a challenge. Five-man dungeons are present in the game, and the first isn't available until level 30, but they don't exist to gear you up. Equivalent versions of all of the loot from dungeons can be found out in the world or crafted -- they instead serve as cosmetic rewards. Loot in general is significantly scaled back from many other games, and you'll find that you're pretty naturally upgrading your gear as you move through the game without any kind of dungeon or raid grinding. Instanced raids don't exist at all, but many will find that some of the major area events serve as de facto, non-instanced, mini-raids, and these are available as early as the starting areas of each race. As should be clear from the above, I spent a significant amount of time in most of the beta events, and had a really positive experience. I think a lot of you, even if you don't normally like MMOs, will enjoy the game as well. That said, I'm sure it won't appeal to everyone, and sadly I think a lot of people may be turned off from it simply because they try to play it like World of Warcraft or Old Republic. That's not to crap on those games (I still have an active World of Warcraft account and a great guild), but it's just to note that you really do have to change the way you think about and play MMOs to really "get" Guild Wars 2. If you read this guide the entire way through, you should have a pretty good idea of how to do so. See you in Tyria! [Jordan, Chris Carter, and I are planning on rolling on the server Ferguson's Crossing, and we expect a few other editors will be playing there as well. We don't have any kind of solid plans for a guild at this point, but if you're looking for a server, feel free to join us!]
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With the Guild Wars 2 headstart beginning tomorrow, many of you will be playing the game for the first time. Some of you may still be on the fence about whether to purchase it or not (hint: you should). If you haven't played ...

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Bloggers Wanted: Conventions


Aug 20
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs ...
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Bloggers Wanted: Next-Gen


Jul 09
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and...
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Bloggers Wanted: E3


Jun 03
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs ...

Review: Diablo III

May 24 // Aerox
Diablo III (PC, Mac)Developer: Blizzard EntertainmentPublisher: Blizzard EntertainmentRelease: May 15, 2012MSRP: $59.99 If you're coming to Diablo III as a newbie to the series or the genre, the premise is simple. Pick some skills, fight huge waves of monsters, blow the crap out of everything, get loot, and repeat -- against stronger monsters. That's the pure core of the game, and I think one of the reasons why the franchise has been so well received. It's straightforward, satisfying, and most importantly, fun. For everyone with some experience with previous Diablo games, the big question is, "How does Diablo III compare to Diablo II?" The answer is that it definitely feels like a Diablo game, but how it stacks up to its predecessor will really depend on how you remember your Diablo II experience, what your expectations are for this game, and what parts of the Diablo franchise most interest you. The actual combat of Diablo III is where the game really shines. Mowing down hordes of enemies is as satisfying as ever, and every class has a number of viable, gratifying ways to do so (unless you're on Inferno difficulty). Unique monsters and champion packs have interesting new modifiers that make combat much more dynamic and exciting. Far more so than in Diablo II, you'll find that you need to be aware of your surroundings to survive on any difficulty beyond Normal. You may find some really difficult monsters, and you may need to coordinate with the rest of your party and adjust your skill builds, but the frustration of running into one of Diablo II's lightning-immune/frost-immune champion packs as a Frost Orb/Chain Lightning sorceress is gone. It's replaced with new frustrations (jailer/desecrator/invulnerable minions?), but I've yet to run into a monster pack that I literally can't touch. On the whole, I consider Diablo III's combat to be a clear, positive evolution from what was in the previous games. By far the weakest part of Diablo III is the story, and this is mainly a problem because, unlike the previous games, Diablo III is constantly throwing narrative in your face. Diablo has never had a particularly strong story, but in previous games the story generally took a back seat. In Diablo II you would occasionally get some lore through a quest, or would watch a cutscene at the end of an act, but for the most part you could move through the entire game without engaging with the lore or narrative. Diablo III decided this was a problem, so the game is filled with cutscenes, story quests, and conversations. These cutscenes and conversations are skippable, but that doesn't prevent their appearance from being annoying, especially when you're in the middle of vendoring or crafting and are dragged into a cutscene because a party member triggered the next step in your quest. That said, the fully animated cutscenes are absolutely stunning, and I think Blizzard's cinematics team is legitimately the best in the industry. With the exception of Jennifer Hale as Leah and a few of the playable characters, the voice acting generally ranges from substandard to straight-up cringe-worthy. (Emperor Hakan is probably the most egregious offender.) After your first play-through, you'll find yourself skipping everything story-related, every time -- there's simply no reason or incentive to go back and listen to them again, and if you want to watch one of the awesome cutscenes, you can do it straight from the main menu without being annoying to your group members. The user interface also suffers from a number of problems, most noticeably that the screen simply feels cluttered for a Diablo game. Given that you will spend most of your time frantically clicking around the screen, it's all too easy to accidentally click on a party member portrait and bring up a window, or to accidentally click on an achievement notification that just popped up on your screen; on later difficulty levels, this can mean death. Having to scroll through six separate pages of skills while swapping builds gets annoying, since they can all easily fit on a single page. It can be difficult to see when certain skills like Arcane Dynamo, which allow you a damage burst once the skill has triggered five times, are active, because most of your buff icons are small and placed very low on your window and they force you to look away from the action to check their status. Some buffs, like Magic Weapon, don't even have icons at all, leaving you to either guess when it's almost up, or just make refreshing it a regular, constant habit. One positive addition to the UI has been the social features. They're easily turned off if they bother you, but I've been finding that I like them. You can easily quick-join your friends' games straight from the character select menu, they can quickly join yours, and you can all view each other's progress as you work your way through the game's hundreds of achievements. One of the exciting parts about unlocking achievements in Diablo isn't just the accomplishment, but also knowing that it's going to trigger conversation with a bunch of my friends who want to congratulate me on what I just did, or ask me how I did it. That said, the in-game chat leaves something to be desired, and Diablo II fans will likely lament the loss of private chat channels and the tragic removal of the chat gem. The gold Auction House (all references to the Auction House are to the gold Auction House; the Real Money Auction House was not live at the time of this writing) can be clunky and awkward to use -- you'll find yourself swapping tabs constantly when trying to sell things, and when buying items it seems odd that you can't sort by low bids or time remaining. Having a limit of ten items to sell at a time with no way to cancel auctions is also extremely frustrating, given the amount of loot that drops in the game. Additionally, the Auction House has been having a number of problems lately -- searches sometimes don't work, bids occasionally don't go through, or items will sometimes return an error when you attempt to list them. These are sporadic problems, but nonetheless annoyances, and I think they're a cause for concern for when the Real Money Auction House does go live. These issues certainly don't ruin the game by any means, though; they just serve as annoyances and distractions. Probably the biggest fundamental change from Diablo II to Diablo III is the revamp of the skill system. Skill points and attribute points are entirely gone -- skills, and runes that modify those skills, unlock in a set order as you level up. On the whole, I prefer the new system. I like being able to experiment with different builds on the fly, and I like not having a ruined character because I invested in the wrong skill or put too many points into the wrong attribute. So far, at least on Hell difficulty, my friends and I have found totally different, viable builds on the same classes that we're all enjoying playing -- my wizard is using a Living Lightning/Arcane Orb build that revolves around stun procs and Arcane Dynamo, while my buddy is mostly focused on Magic Missile and Disintegrate. I simply don't have the time anymore to run a brand-new character through 20 hours of leveling to try one new skill. In Diablo II, the alternative to grinding it out was just to get instantly rushed to a high level by sitting in on Baal/Cow Level runs, and I think this new system elegantly avoids that problem. That said, it is a little disappointing to lose out on those fun one-point utility skills that many builds in Diablo II had. Essentially, those who really enjoy carefully mapping out a character and making difficult, permanent decisions on how to build them (assuming you're not just following a guide) will likely find Diablo III's advancement system disappointing. If you like being able to try new skills and abilities on the fly, or want the ability to modify your character in response to specific situations, the new system should appeal to you. The way loot is handled in Diablo III also is a bit of a departure from Diablo II. On the surface it appears the same, but many character stats have been condensed (which affects what kinds of things are showing up on loot), good item drops are significantly rarer than in previous games, and legendaries and set items are currently just not that powerful. Some people may be put off by how the stats have been condensed -- damage and health are paramount, and people are generally just looking for items that boost their primary stat (which increases damage), their damage, and their health pool, and nothing else. This is essentially how itemization worked in Diablo II as well, except it was more obscured, and Lord of Destruction added a lot of variety with items and runewords that gave you other class' skills or offered unique abilities (these were almost always secondary to +skills or magic find, though). It wasn't readily apparent how, say, a plus to a skill or an increased attack speed affected your damage output, so items with those properties felt different. In Diablo III, all the calculations are done for you -- it's immediately apparent that your 10% attack speed increase will add 300 to your damage. Transparency has trade-offs, and here, having a solid sense of how items affect your character without being hidden behind complex calculations comes at the cost of feeling a sense of homogenization among items -- everything generally comes down to an increase in damage dealt, a decrease in damage taken, or your health pool, and it's right there in your face. Making gear decisions at this point (and, again, we're only a week since launch, so it's possible that builds will be discovered that stray from the stack damage/vitality formula, like the just-nerfed Wizard No-Vitality Force Armor build) seems to revolve mostly around balancing your total damage output against your health pool, with almost everything else being a complete afterthought. I've taken my wizard to right before the level cap, but I've yet to see a set or legendary item drop, although I have found a number of rares that ended up being a significant upgrade from what I'm carrying. Generally speaking, I don't find the item scarcity to be a bad thing -- the game has only been out a week, and I'm under no delusion that I should be rolling in powerful items already. (In fact, I'd be disappointed if I already had acquired the top-tier items.) I'm personally willing to deal with the scarcity if it means that the game isn't distilled down to running the same boss over and over again as fast as possible because I know they have the highest chance to drop uniques or set items. The scarcity can, however, make you feel like you're not making much progress. Almost all of the items that drop for you will be functionally worthless -- unsellable on both the Auction Houses, and unusable by you simply because the stats are bad. If you're particularly unlucky with drops, you can conceivably move through entire acts without finding any substantial upgrades for your current items outside the Auction House. It seems clear that the scarcity serves to drive people to Blizzard's Auction House. Clearly, no one is being forced to use it -- and I'm currently leveling a Barbarian who is avoiding the Auction House entirely and is still enjoyable to play -- but those who don't will likely run into problems on Hell and Inferno difficulty, unless they've been extremely lucky or spent significant time grinding for gear. For many people, including myself, playing the Auction House is something of a metagame unto itself. I personally don't mind the Auction House at all, and I'm not bothered by the fact that a lot of my gear upgrades have come from it (and they've been mostly paid for by items that I sold there). I do mind, however, the restrictions Blizzard has placed on it. Currently, you can only list a maximum of ten items, and there's no way to cancel any item you've placed unless it's a commodity. It can be really frustrating to have a great item you know you can sell, and have to wait a full two days to put it up because you've run out of auction slots. Diablo III is something of an enigma. Virtually all of my friends who have been playing it agree -- there are definitely things that could be improved. No one agrees on exactly what those improvements should be, and we're unsure if this feeling is simply a result of us misremembering fundamental aspects of what Diablo II was actually like. It just feels like Lord of Destruction added so much to the Diablo experience, with jewels, runes, charms, synergies, etc., that it's a bit of a surprise to see so much of that missing here. That's not to say the current system is bad, because I really don't think it is -- it's just different. What we all do agree on is that, while we all have things we'd like to see changed in future patches or expansions, Diablo III is fucking fun. Period. I honestly haven't had as much fun gaming in years as I've had this last week, jumping onto Skype with three of my friends and blowing demons away while we talk until the early hours of the morning. Soloing the game is fun, and I sometimes enjoy playing alone because I find it almost hypnotically relaxing, but Diablo really shines when you're playing with a group of buddies. Even if it's not a perfect game, there's something special about Diablo, and it's something that keeps people playing beyond just a basic addiction to loot. That I've already sunk over 40 hours into the game in just over a week and I'm not even close to being bored of it yet is a testament to the magic of Diablo, and something that can't be ignored. At the end of the day, fun is what gaming should be about, and Diablo III delivers.
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It took almost eleven years after Lord of Destruction, but Diablo III finally released, and it was met with immediate controversy. Always-online requirements; a rough first couple of days for the servers; a real money auction...

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Bloggers Wanted: Hype


May 14
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and...
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Bloggers Wanted: Collaboration


Apr 16
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and t...
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Amoebattle on iOS lets you divide, then conquer


Apr 09
// Aerox
I'm firmly convinced that the Retina display on the new iPad 3 is a gamechanger, but it's going to take a while for games designed to work with the new resolution to become common. Many current apps are still waiting for an u...
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Bloggers Wanted: Dreaming


Apr 02
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs ...
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Bloggers Wanted: Disappointment


Mar 19
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and...

Preview: World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria

Mar 19 // Aerox
World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria (PC [previewed], Mac)Developer: Blizzard EntertainmentPublisher: Blizzard EntertainmentRelease: 2012 The events of Cataclysm (World of Warcraft's most recent update) have caused the southern continent of Pandaria to emerge from the fog that has hidden it for the last ten thousand years. World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria tells the story of what happens when the Alliance and the Horde discover this new continent, its resources, and the people who live there. Unlike previous expansions, Mists of Pandaria will not feature a single "big bad boss" at the end of the patch cycle. As Lead Designer Cory Stockton explained, the central story arc of Mists of Pandaria concerns the tensions between the Alliance and the Horde finally coming to a head and erupting into an all-out war. Mists of Pandaria begins with the Horde and Alliance both landing on the continent of Pandaria, and conflict breaks out between the two almost immediately, as each group fights to rally the Pandaren to their side as they prepare for war. The future patches for Mists of Pandaria will be heavily story-focused, with each update being described as essentially a "story sequel" to the one before it. Instead of just introducing another dungeon that brings you one step closer to defeating the "ultimate boss," the patches will advance the story as the war moves from Pandaria to the mainland, culminating in a full-blown siege on Orgrimmar. Greg Street, Lead Systems Designer, told me that one of the major priorities for Mists of Pandaria was to provide much more end-game content for players, particularly since the primary focus of Cataclysm was revamping much of the original world and the starting areas. In addition to the seven zones on the Pandarian continent that will take players from level 85 to 90, nine new dungeons and three new raids, and multiple end-game faction quest lines, Mists of Pandaria will also feature a number of new systems designed to appeal to end-game players. To encourage players to revisit older dungeons and to increase some friendly competition within a player's own server, Mists of Pandaria is introducing a dungeon challenge mode. Essentially a timed dungeon run, the challenge mode will automatically scale players' equipment to the proper item level of the dungeon. Beating dungeons fast enough will earn players a spot on the leaderboard, and will provide cosmetic, visually impressive equipment for players to use in transmogrification. The pet battle system that was announced at BlizzCon was also shown to us in more detail, although we unfortunately were not able to get hands-on play with the system. The pet battles will be 3 vs 3, and they appear to play out like a typical turn-based fight in an RPG like, say, Pokémon. Battles will be cross-server and simple to jump in and out of, but competitive players may be disappointed -- this system is designed to be low-key and casual. You can't see the name of your opponent, you can't speak to them during the battle, and there are no rewards for winning. Mists of Pandaria is also introducing a new quest type: scenarios. Street explained that when people end up with a group quest in their quest log, they tend to skip it -- players find it too difficult to get together a proper group just to run and do a short quest. Scenarios aim to solve that problem by replacing standard group quests with short, instanced content designed for three players. Rather than spamming general chat looking for party members, you can queue up just as you would in the dungeon or raid finder. The content is specifically designed to not require the holy trinity of tank-healer-DPS; the idea is that viable groups can form quickly, and people can jump right into the content. While the examples we were shown were all combat scenarios, Cory Stockton suggested that there may be some entirely non-combat story scenarios for players more interested in Warcraft lore. And, as anyone who has been following Mists of Pandaria knows, this expansion will be introducing a new race -- the eponymous Pandaren -- and a new class, the monk. Mists of Pandaria will also include a complete overhaul of the talent system. Street told us that the original talent tree concept essentially ended up creating cookie-cutter builds, as the community identified an optimized build for each tree. Many of the previous abilities granted by talents have been rolled into the abilities themselves, and talent choices now provide smaller, situational abilities or bonuses, regardless of specialization. For example, when I made my Paladin, my first choice was choosing between one of the following three talents: a flat 10% movement speed increase in all situations, a moderate movement speed increase that lasted for eight seconds but only triggered when I used Judgement, or a significant movement speed burst that was its own ability on its own cool-down. The idea behind the new system is to make each talent choice viable and to eliminate "must-have" talents that virtually all players end up taking. There's no specific release date yet, but Blizzard says that five of the seven final zones in Pandaria are content-complete, and that they're trying to get Mists of Pandaria out as fast as possible. This expansion doesn't appear to be fundamentally altering the core of World of Warcraft -- you'll still be doing quests where you kill ten jaguars, and returning players will likely only find minor tweaks to their existing rotations -- but Blizzard is hoping that the expanded focus on end-game content and the looming war between the Horde and Alliance will keep existing players entertained and entice lapsed users to return to Azeroth.
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It's been out for a little over seven years now, but World of Warcraft is still going strong. Last week I was invited over to Blizzard to take a look at Warcraft's upcoming expansion, Mists of Pandaria, and I was able to get some playtime with the game and speak to some of the members of the development team about what's in store when Mists of Pandaria is released later this year.

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Bloggers Wanted: Browser Games


Mar 05
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and t...
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Bloggers Wanted: Promotions


Feb 27
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag ...
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Hot on the heels of last weekend's closed press beta, ArenaNet is now taking applications for all future Guild Wars 2 beta events. Sign-ups will only be open for the next 48 hours, so if you're interested, you should put your...

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Bloggers Wanted: Endings


Feb 20
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it...

Guild Wars 2 isn't like any MMO you've played before

Feb 20 // Aerox
Guild Wars 2 (PC)Developer: ArenaNetPublisher: NCsoftRelease: 2012After creating my first character of seven, a Charr Warrior, I began in the Charr tutorial area. My first glance at the screen suggested there wasn't much new going on. I saw an NPC with a glowing green star above its head standing in front of me, some combat skills down in my hotbar, and quest details in the upper right corner. After completing the area and slaughtering a giant possessed statue with the help of about ten other players, I started to see what made the game unique. I tend to be a loner in MMOs; in World of Warcraft, I usually just quest by myself. I made it to level 85 with a Paladin, and I think I did maybe two instances. In Star Wars: The Old Republic, I did one Flashpoint and then spent the rest of the game completely by myself. In Guild Wars 2, I found myself working consistently with other players, and for the first time, I didn't mind. While, as I mentioned earlier, there are still quest givers and floating green stars, that mechanic is only used for your Story Quests -- a quest chain that is personal to your character, instanced, and based on your race and the decisions you made at character creation. Every other quest and event, which will likely make up the bulk of your Player vs. Environment experience, are world events that just naturally happen. You'll hear that a farmer needs help tending his field, or will be informed that a group of harpies is launching a raid on a nearby rock quarry. And as you start running towards these battles, you'll see that most of the other players in the area are, too. When you start fighting or assisting, all you have to do is jump in and start working on quest objectives. You don't need to group up or join a party, you don't need to worry about mob tagging or kill stealing, and you won't miss out on experience or loot as long as you participate in some way. Because it's so easy to work together, and because there aren't any negative consequences, Guild Wars 2 is the first MMO I've played where I actually feel connected to the rest of the player base. Rather than hide from other players, or compete with them for quest spawns, I found myself actively looking for opportunities to help others. Instead of running the other way when I saw large groups of people, I'd start following them, since I assumed they were heading somewhere interesting. Social aspects aside, it didn't really strike me how fundamentally different Guild Wars 2's philosophy was until I ran the Ascalon Catacombs dungeon. The trinity as you know it is absent -- there are no tanks, no dedicated healers, and no classes focused entirely on DPS. Every class feels unique both in terms of weapon skills and mechanics, and every class can contribute significantly in terms of dealing damage and helping the party with support and utility. You don't need any particular party composition to complete the PvE dungeons in Guild Wars 2 -- my group was made up of two Rangers, two Guardians, and an Engineer. According to the developers, the game has been explicitly designed so that you can grab anyone around you and run a dungeon, without worrying about which classes you have in attendance. Don't mistake this design choice for a decision to make dungeons easy, though. They're not. They're actually quite difficult -- even with three developers in our group, we wiped four or five times. Not because the dungeon was unfairly difficult or because the bosses had an unfair advantage, but because we often simply weren't paying attention and/or didn't quite have a handle on our classes yet. While Guild Wars 2's combat will generally feel familiar to MMO veterans, two mechanics set it apart from most other games: the ability to move while using most attacks (even many channeled ones), and the ability to dodge. Having to maneuver during combat, while a simple addition, adds a new tactical level that requires more attention. At early levels, you can get away with standing still and rhythmically pressing your hotkeys in rotation order, but you'll quickly learn that your position in relation to your enemies is important. Knowing when to dodge and how to position your party appears to be critical to success in Guild Wars 2. Since you don't have tanks, and you don't really have healers, anyone can be attacked at any time. Monster AI goes beyond standard threat/hate generated by damage, and we were told that it also takes into account a combination of things such as position (apparently the most important determinant) as well as who's already hurting. You can't just plop a tank on a boss and consider everyone safe -- because everyone is vulnerable, everyone has to know when to advance, retreat, or dodge a massive attack that could take them down in one or two hits. Because of the limited time frame of the beta, I had to make a choice between whether I wanted to dive into the World vs. World vs. World stuff, or the more standard Structured PvP. Since the World PvP was new to me (and since it seemed that's what everyone else was doing), that's where I chose to spend my time. It was, again, unlike anything I had ever played before. Throughout the weekend, the World PvP was consistently compared to the Realm PvP system of Dark Ages of Camelot, both by multiple members of the press and even some developers. I haven't played DAoC, so I can't confirm just how similar or different it is, but the general gist is as follows. Three entire servers are pitted against each other in a two-week, persistent battle across four connected maps. Three of the maps are virtually identical, and serve as each server's starting base of operations. The fourth map is a unique one in the middle that generally serves as the central hub for the fighting. You can freely travel to any of the four maps at any time through portals, though, so raids and incursions into "home base" territory are common. The goal is to capture various structures such as supply camps, keeps, and towers, and hold them for as long as possible. The more structures you hold, the more points you earn. The server with the most points at the end of the two weeks is the victor. The basic idea may sound simple on paper, but in practice it's anything but. Keeps and towers can acquire fortifications and weapons that can be manned and fired. Players can repair gates and walls as they're attacked, and also have opportunities to purchase upgrades for the entire structure -- but only if they have the money and supply to do so. Supply camps send out supply caravans to keeps and towers, but are lightly defended. A keep that's well supplied can last for hours during a siege, as long as there is at least one player inside to initiate repairs. Cut the supply lines and blockade the entrances, and the gates will fall fairly quickly. Add another team into the mix beyond the traditional two, and you have a fluid, complex PvP system that I found to be quite enjoyable, and I normally don't participate in PvP scenarios. I tried the World PvP on Saturday afternoon, the battle having raged on for a little over a day. We were in second place: the Green team had a moderate lead on us, while the Blue team was lagging far behind. As I joined the fight, I was told we were grouping en masse to try to take back a Green keep near one of our own castles. I met up with my team at the front gate, which we were trying to batter down to no effect. Looking at the map, we realized that the Green team owned almost every supply camp across all four areas, and that the damage we were doing was quickly being repaired by someone inside the keep. Technically, with enough time, we would have eventually been able to wear it down, but a Green scout had alerted his team that we were assaulting the keep, and we ended up being driven off by a defense squad. As we tried to regroup, we realized we needed to take back the supply camps. Our commander noted that the Green team seemed to consistently travel in one single pack; because they could theoretically be attacked by two teams at once, this wasn't necessarily a bad move. We figured, though, that we could use this to our advantage. We decided to attack another Green structure -- this time a tower -- but we peeled off two small teams of four (one of which I joined) to go try to take back the supply camps while Green was distracted by this new assault. It worked. For the next hour, my small group ran across all four maps, liberating supply camps and taking down any Green caravans we saw along the way. Currently, you are only notified that one of your structures is under attack if you are near it, although you can look at the map and see who controls each point. If you watch the map carefully, you can see that you're losing ground, but you won't know anything about the size of the force or which direction they're heading in next unless you have players scouting the area. Green apparently did not do this, as we were able to take all but one supply camp for Red. With their supply lines cut off, Green had a much harder time defending their points. We all grouped back up, and went on a rampage across Green's home territory, capturing four or five towers and keeps before we were eventually located and repelled. I logged out that night in pretty good spirits, convinced that we had put ourselves in a great position, until I logged back in Sunday morning and found that Blue had mounted a huge comeback overnight, taking virtually all of the territory we had previously won. Oops. Guild Wars 2 seems to have kept many of the basic structures and tropes of the MMO genre (levels, five-man dungeons, distinct classes), but much of the core MMO gameplay has been tweaked or expanded to create a new experience. MMO fans looking for something new will, I think, enjoy how social this game is, and appreciate that ArenaNet has tried to make group questing and dungeon running smooth, painless, and natural. PvP fans, especially those looking for persistent and complex battles, should enjoy the World vs. World. vs. World gameplay. If you've never played an MMO before but are interested in the genre, the lack of a subscription fee and the accessibility of the game may make Guild Wars 2 worth checking out. In a genre that's filled with clones and rehashes, the beta of Guild Wars 2 was refreshing. While there's not necessarily anything wrong with any previous MMOs, it's nice to see that ArenaNet is taking Guild Wars 2 in a unique direction.
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This weekend, ArenaNet gave select members of the press a chance to see the current beta of Guild Wars 2. We had the opportunity to create Human, Charr, and Norn characters of any class, and play through each race's level 1-3...

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Bloggers Wanted: Beginnings


Feb 13
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it ...
 photo

Bloggers Wanted: Training


Feb 06
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it w...
 photo

Bloggers Wanted: Improvement


Jan 30
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it with...
 photo

Bloggers Wanted: Location


Jan 23
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it with t...
 photo

Bloggers Wanted: Mobility


Jan 17
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it with the ...
 photo

Bloggers Wanted: What I Want in 2012


Jan 09
// Aerox
[When we're looking for blogs on a specific topic, we'll put out a Bloggers Wanted call. Check out the blog prompt, write your own response in the Community Blogs and tag it with the ...

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