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Fayl avatar 3:49 PM on 09.08.2010  (server time)
Guild Wars 2 - PAX Demo Impressions

After trying out the demo twice over the course of PAX weekend- once as a Human(levels 1-10) and then as a Charr (level 45ish) - I'm confident in saying that GW2 is fulfilling a lot of the hype that ArenaNet's fantastic blog has created.

As expected, the art is amazing as it was in GW1, with the engine adding a few new bells and whistles to update it today's standards. Overall it feels very similar to seeing the first game when it was first released: an engine focusing on beautiful, stylized art and animations instead of a lot of polygons and video card crunching. In the end it was probably one of the most aesthetically pleasing games I saw on the show floor. Spell effects popped and it was very easy to understand roughly what it was doing and how I should react after seeing an ability used once or twice. Sound effects and music sounded nice; however it’s hard to really comment considering how loud the show floor was.

The real meat of the demo of course was the combat. I usually play casters, so I picked an Elementalist for my human play-through and a Necromancer for my Charr. When I first tried the human character I was slightly underwhelmed by how I was blowing up my opponents; it felt like the same usual spell clichés (bolt, cone, etc) from any other MMO. But after a few new abilities after leveling up, and seeing how creatures reacted to different spells it really begin to click. The lack of auto-attack was a breath of fresh air, and made every encounter feel less like a chore. I found myself actually going out of my way to pull in some mob I saw roaming around just to try out a new combination of spells on it; quite a change from how I usually play my MMOs (dodging between packs of mobs to avoid engaging them).

What really sold me on the game, however, was my time on the level 45 Charr. After getting a feel for the game on the human, playing a hero with a full set of abilities was an awesome experience. The Necromancer had a lot of the usual tropes that you would find in any other fantasy RPG; undead pets, DOTs and poisons, life steal, etc, but the game mechanics lead to the most ‘Necromancer’ feel I’ve ever played in game. Ordering pets around to blow them up in a crow of enemies, sacrificing health to deal heavy damage then moving in close to ‘bite’ a target to gain the lost health back, and turning into a ephemeral shade to fear targets and spread plagues just felt right in GW’s combat system.

After playing for a bit I also came across the weapon swap option (‘V’ if I remember correctly), which could be used in combat every x seconds (can’t remember exactly, but it wasn’t very long) to swap all my abilities. The default was a wand that focused on dots and ranged slows and damage dealing bolts. Swapping to a wicked looking dagger I was granted a number of melee based attacks, in addition to a lot of aoes and life stealing options. By the end of the demo I was sending my pets into a pack of mobs, dotting up and blasting away several targets, then swapping to my dagger as they drew close to quickly tear away the last bit of their health and heal myself back up.

Bottom Line: It was a ton of fun and despite sounding similar to other MMOs on the market, felt like nothing I have played before. I cannot wait to pick it up again.

I will probably update with some dynamic events and quest impressions later.

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