Aug 24 //
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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Players will be able to b...
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Jan 12 //
South Park: The Game (PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)Developer: Obsidian EntertainmentPublisher: THQRelease: TBA 2012
I haven't watched an episode of South Park in about a year. Outside a couple episodes, it's never held my interest (You Have 0 Friends" was the last great one). The episodes typically start off with a good premise, but then run that premise into the ground through repetition and dull writing. Yet, here I am looking forward to Obsidian's attempt to RPG-ify the beloved brats and bring new life into Matt Stone and Trey Parker's ever-aging lovechild.
The world of South Park is a fun one I'd like to explore, and with gems like Super Mario RPG and Final Fantasy as an influence on this project, I think I'll have a good time doing it. South Park: The Game is a left turn for the developer, lacking the ambition, mature themes, and sequel-driven nature of their past projects. But, maybe a focused, immature, and original RPG might be exactly what Obisidian needs to finally make a classic. Even the overlooked glitches of past Obsidian titles will feel at home in this offbeat, crass world.
Dishonored (PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)Developer: Arkane StudiosPublisher: Bethesda SoftworksRelease: TBA 2012
Arkane Studios make the type of games I like to play. It so happens that these are the type of games that rarely get made these days. Beyond Irrational Games, Bethesda, and Valve, no developer wants to take the risk of spending years crafting a rich, varied world that you can explore. It takes time, money, and a whole lot of skill. And, finally, Arkane have all three of these, which is why I think Dishonored will shape up to be one of 2012's most memorable single-player games. That, and I was blown away when I saw it in action at QuakeCon last year.
Arkane are taking lessons learned from their past games (Arx Fatalis, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic), while taking inspiration from Bioshock and '90s PC classics. With one of the strongest creative teams in the industry -- including key members of the Deus Ex and Half-Life 2 teams -- and a drive to finally prove themselves, Dishonored could be the gem that merges their Thief: The Dark Project worship with smart, approachable design that will make any Bioshock fan feel at home.
Quantum Conundrum (PC, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network)Developer: Airtight Games Publisher: Square EnixRelease: TBA 2012
The worst thing about Portal 2 is that it ends. Thankfully, we already have a promising Portal-like adventure on the horizon to fill that void in our hearts. Rather than a knock-off, Quantum Conundrum is Kim Swift's (co-creator of Portal) debut for Airtight Games. Like her previous project, Quantum Conundrum is a charming, colorful puzzle game played from first-person.
Rather than traversing obstacles with portals, the player alternates the environment's physics by swapping between four dimensions. One dimension slows time, one makes objects featherweight, and one reverses the direction of gravity. The fourth dimension hasn't been reveled yet at this time, but just thinking of the puzzle possibilities with the above abilities alone boggles the mind. After the utterly forgettable debut of Dark Void, Kim Swift's inspired puzzle adventure with Pixar-esque visuals is exactly what Airtight Games needs to win our faith back. With an entirely new rule set and environment, Quantum Conundrum could make the puzzle-platforming introduced in Portal feel fresh all over again.
Honorable Mentions: Shadowrun Online, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Natural Selection 2, Darksiders II, Brothers in Arms: Furious 4
Diablo III (PC, Mac)Developer: BlizzardPublisher: BlizzardRelease: 2012
Prior to playing the beta, I wasn't so sure about Diablo III. All these years later, could it compare to the fond memories we have of its predecessors? My doubts disappeared almost immediately. It's funny how quick I was to forget that Blizzard takes its sweet time for a reason.
The game is still very much the essence of Diablo, but that's not to say its designers locked themselves in a room and ignored the genre's steady advances. The attention to detail and seamlessness of it all is impressive in a way that's hard to describe through summary. It takes considerable development time to allow for high internal standards and iterative design, but you can't argue with the results.
Dota 2 (PC, Mac)Developer: ValvePublisher: ValveRelease: 2012
Despite having spent hundreds of hours playing Warcraft III custom games, I never got seriously hooked on "Defense of the Ancients." The same can be said of today's growing multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) scene, though that has more to do with a fear of hyper competitiveness and loss of sleep than anything else.
Why care about Dota 2, then? Love or hate Valve's games, they're always interesting -- especially for people like me who actively think about design choices that most would consider to be largely insignificant. Given the studio's brilliance when it comes to building sustainable online communities, I have high expectations of this game. Hell, even the journey to a public beta -- remember the $1,000,000 Dota 2 International? -- has been enjoyable to watch.
Guild Wars 2 (PC)Developer: ArenaNetPublisher: NCsoftRelease: 2012
I've long struggled with getting into MMOs. The promise of ever-changing worlds and the like is usually there, but boredom arrives too quickly to warrant keeping my credit card on file more often than not. Having had a decent enough time with the original Guild Wars years ago, I'm incredibly hopeful that its sequel will be the MMO to pull me back in.
Repetition, particularly when it comes to killing the same old forces of evil, has always been the deciding factor. Choices which have a noticeable and persistent impact, a focus on individual player stories, and improvisational combat are among the highlights of this game for me. Not having to pay a monthly subscription fee means I'll be there on day one rather than wait and see.
ArenaNet has a clear vision for Guild Wars 2 -- one I desperately want to see for myself in person. Even if some promises aren't fully met, I suspect they will, in part, influence the genre going forward.
Honorable mentions: Hawken, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, and Super Monday Night Combat.
Additional staff picks for PC:
Alex Bout: Guild Wars 2 Alasdair Duncan: Dishonored, Monaco, The Secret World.Jim Sterling: Firefall, The Secret World, Super Monday Night CombatJonathan Ross: Diablo III, Guild Wars 2, Mass Effect 3Jason Cabral: Metro: Last Light, Diablo III, Kingdoms of Amalur: The ReckoningJosh Derocher: Diablo III, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Guild Wars 2Kyle MacGregor: The WitnessAndrew Kauz: Diablo III, Torchlight IIJonathan Holmes: New games from Team Meat, Terry Cavanagh, and KonjakMaurice Tan: Torchlight II, King Arthur II, Wargame: European EscalationTara Long: Diablo III, Torchlight IIJosh Tolentino: XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Mass Effect 3, HawkenChad Concelmo: Diablo IIISean Daisy: The Witness, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Max Payne 3Daniel Starkey: Torchlight II, Prey 2, FirefallSterling Lyons: Blacklight: Retribution, Blade & Soul, Prey 2
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As part of Guild Wars 2's showing at PAX, we got to see a lot of new information about the game's Competitive PvP mode, as I detailed in my preview. During the presentation, Lead Content Designer Colin Johanson told us tha...
Sep 02 //
Aerox Guild Wars 2 (PC)Developer: ArenaNetPublisher: NCsoft
The first part of the presentation I saw dealt with character creation, which expanded on the information we were given last year. This PAX, we actually were able to see the Charr character creation screen, and got a better sense of how the choices you make are reflected in your character.
The creation screen has all the features you've come to expect from modern RPGs -- namely, the ability to finely tweak your character's appearance, down to details like eye angle and forehead height. You also get the chance to set a primary armor color scheme for your character, composed of three different dye colors for different parts of your armor. Once you've set your primary dyes, any armor that drops for your character will automatically have your dye scheme applied to it, ensuring not only that your equipment matches, but that, with about 200 dye colors in all, your character will look relatively unique.
Once your character is actually created, you are asked a series of questions about his or her background that seriously impact the story. The answers to these questions set you on a storyline unique to your selection -- a Charr who is a member of the Blood Legion will have a completely different starting experience from one who is part of the Ash Legion. As you progress, you'll answer more questions and have more story paths unlocked, allowing you to create multiple characters of the same race and even class that experience completely different content as they move through the game.
The same basic PvE experience appears to be the same as it was last year, in that you walk around while quests and events dynamically spawn around you. Multiple players can jump in and out of events at any time, and they are large in scope and unique. We saw a low-level event in which players fought a giant possessed statue, and a huge battle against a massive dragon that required participants to man catapults, revive fallen technicians, guard the back lines against assailants, destroy what were essentially shambling undead bombs trying to break through barricades, and, of course, attack the actual dragon itself.
We were also shown a staged event sequence that began with a large ship launching an assault on a beach. The success or failure of your defense against the attack can trigger a series of events that ultimately leads to the invading force pushing deep inland and taking out a number of critical fortifications. Particularly noteworthy about the ship battle I saw was the underwater combat that occurred when our demoer swam out to attack the ship directly. The devs told us that approximately 20% of the Guild Wars 2 content is underwater. If you had a brief panic attack and flashed back to horrible memories of the Water Temple like I did, it may not be too bad. There's no breath meter in the game at all, and the water sections are really being used for a 3D combat experience, rather than some air-hunting resource-managing nightmare.
Other, smaller changes from last year's demo include the way skills work. Your skill set is still tied to the current weapon you're using, but rather than gaining new skills through leveling, you gain them simply through use of that particular weapon. The more you fight with a weapon, the more skills you unlock on it, up to a total of five. Every character also has a healing skill, plus three non-weapon-related skills that can be swapped in and out.
Also of note is the fact that energy/mana are completely gone from the game -- the only thing that limits your use of a skill is its cooldown. Dodging, which lets you completely avoid damage from basic melee and ranged attacks and can allow you to quickly evade an AoE attack before being harmed, has been given a meter that slowly refills over time, preventing you from becoming completely invincible by mastering the timing of your dodges.
The second half of the presentation specifically concerned one of the two types of PvP, Structured PvP. World PvP, which pits three different servers against each other in a two-week battle, was mentioned, but not expanded upon.
The Guild Wars 2 devs wanted the Competitive PvP experience to be something you can easily jump in and out of. Unlike in World PvP, the skills and experience you've earned in the main game don't carry over -- every character in Competitive PvP is at max level, and all members of a class have access to the same skills and equipment. This mode will be unlocked from the moment you purchase the game, so you don't have to spend time playing through the PvE portion of the game if you don't want to. Alternatively, if you don't care about PvE but the big world battles are more your style, you'll be able to take a main-game character from starting level to the level cap solely through World PvP rewards.
Competitive PvP is essentially a 5v5 or 10v10 capture-point-style game. Each map has three capture points that provide points to the team currently holding them, and the goal is to get to 500 points before the other team. Kills also provide points, but the primary method of point gathering will be through point control.
Each individual map also has secondary objectives and obstacles unique to that particular map. In the example map we were shown, each team had a large trebuchet that could be mounted and used. The trebuchet not only dealt huge damage to opposing players, but could also actually be fired at various buildings around the map to cause structural damage. One of the capture points, a clock tower, had its roof ripped open by the trebuchet, allowing teammates to enter from the top; in addition, the falling debris formed a ramp that gave less mobile classes an easier way to get up there without entering the building. While we didn't see any other maps, we were told of one that didn't have any trebuchets, but instead had a dragon flying over the map causing problems for members of both teams.
Because of the "pickup" style of play the devs were looking for, this PvP mode actually has a server browser, similar to those in Team Fortress or Modern Warfare. In addition to the servers ArenaNet will provide, players will be able to create and host their own servers, and server owners will have the ability to tweak modes and options.
Tragically, there is still no information about the beta, but work on Guild Wars 2 is clearly progressing. The game looked great on the show floor, and it seems like all the final systems are falling into place. I'm keeping an eye out for when the beta finally does launch, because GW2 is a game I definitely want to try out.
At PAX, I got the opportunity to spend some time with the developers of Guild Wars 2, a game I've been looking forward to for quite a while. The build I saw last weekend was a bit different from what was shown last year -- t...
While Guild Wars 2 was announced at gamescom 2010, NCsoft and ArenaNet have spent this last 12 months perfecting the art of continuously releasing enough bits of information to keep fans desperately clinging to the edge of t...
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Hello MMO connoisseurs and fellow cheese enthusiasts. How goes the raiding and invading? Gamescom 2011 is underway in Germany and exciting details are streaming out of the land of the Beer Garden. Let’s drink it up!
To all you Guild Wars 2 fans, if you haven't seen this trailer for gamescom yet, crank up your speakers and start buffering this video! For those who aren't into MMOs or haven't heard of Guild Wars 2, please check it ou...