Hello, future fellow adventurer, and welcome to our multi-part preview of Guild Wars 2. Do you like MMORPGs? Great! Guild Wars 2 is for you. Do you hate MMORPGs? Great! Guild Wars 2 is for you. Taking advantage of Arenanet’s recent Open Beta and release date announcements, I’ll try to condense as much as possible of all the GW2 info we’ve been fed to this moment, without loss of quality of information. On this first part of this preview series, I’ll cover two of the biggest things about GW2: the world and the storytelling. So let’s start with the latter.
Set 250 years after the original Guild Wars games, Guild Wars 2 is set in the continent of Tyria. There, the races struggle not only with their past and present conflicts, but with a much bigger threat: the Elder Dragons have awakened. These dragons will destroy anything in sight, and only the united forces of the five main races (Humans, Charr, Norn, Asura and Sylvari) can stand a chance.
It is a time for heroes. For heroes to rise, and for heroes to claim their glory. For heroes to make a difference in this world.
Are you willing to become one?
Then join us before this thing kills everyone.
Right at the character creation screen, together with the usual stuff (race, profession, appearance, etc), you are asked a handful of questions about your past, your present, and your character as a whole. They depend on your race, as each race has different customs and some things that are normal for one race have no meaning for another. The answers to these questions are the beginning of your story in the world of Tyria.
As you play through Guild Wars 2, you will face many situations regarding your story and your influence in the world. These situations often come with choices, and these choices shape your story. And these choices might affect not only how NPCs react to you, but certain places in the world, more specifically, your home instance.
The home instance is an instanced area that you and a select group of people (like friends and party members) can enter. It is a physical manifestation of your character’s story. It can be, for example, the neighborhood your human character grew up at, mixed with childhood friends and foes, buildings like hospitals and pubs, etc. Many of the choices you make will reflect in this home instance. Choose the wrong one and an NPC might die, for example.
You had to choose between the orphanage and the hospital, and you chose the hospital.
where will the orphans live now?
Guild Wars 2 also has a unique way of presenting cutscenes. They come in two forms: One includes important dialogue, presented in a way that clears the background from the world behind so you can focus on the talking characters. The other pertains to actual cutscenes, but not in a traditional way. These cutscenes blend the characters (both player characters and NPCs) with the game’s concept art, which, with the help of special software, gains life and moves, creating a motion-comic effect. The result is stunning.
Last but not least, the old quest system MMORPG fans are used to is gone. Gone are the walls of text, in are the voice acted dialogues, in-game interaction with NPCs that progress the story, and mission objectives that make sense. It’s certainly better than “go kill X enemies that are standing there doing nothing all day”. Characters have personalities, motivations, and your actions reflect on them, like they reflect on the world.
The first Norn quest has you hunting a giant Wurm to prove your might in the hunting festival.
Alongside your own personal story, there is an entire world existing, living, breathing, happening. Your choices won’t affect just your home instance; after all, there is an entire continent to explore! Throughout your adventures you’ll visit many cities and villages crawling with content (and not only questing. For example, if you walk into a bar, you can start a bar fight or a drinking contest). Still, this is a world in conflict, and you will get to see a lot of it along the way. You’ll see centaurs seizing cities, siege weapons surrounding them and war camps mounted next to those. You’ll see the dragons’ champions infesting areas, spreading their power. You’ll see pirates pillaging and murdering. You’ll see bridges collapse if you and other players fail to protect it.
This, is the dynamic event system.
Protip: letting the giant zombie dragon have its way is a bad idea.
As you explore Tyria, a plethora of varied events happen, ranging from simple things like poisoned water rotting crops that keep the fruit stand from opening to the aforementioned centaur siege. Picking the latter as an example, this is how it starts: Centaurs attack a human village. Nearby players, if any, will be given visual cues that something is happening there, like smoke or a villager running away and screaming for help. These players can opt to save the village or let it fall to the hands of the centaurs. Should the village fall to the centaurs, they will set camp, and everything in that village will obviously be unavailable for the players (not to mention it’s a hostile area). The centaurs will then start building siege weapons and attack more and more villages, taking prisoners and expanding their influence until they are stopped. Take down a siege weapon, and a team of centaur engineers will be sent to repair it. It’s a battle of cutting resources short while taking down the men and machinery until the village is recaptured. Or, you could have just succeeded the first time.
If you had, that watchtower would still be there and we wouldn't have to rebuild it.
However, it’s not a simple matter of “let’s take 30 guys there and reclaim our turf”. No, because the more players there are in the area, the more enemies will come, and the tougher the enemies will be. In other words, the event dynamically scales and balances itself to take the player count (and power) in consideration. This in no way means that the fewer the easier. Too few players will succumb to the numbers, and only good teamwork and skilled playing will lead to a guaranteed success.
And of course, there is a reward for players that help save the day. The reward applies to all players and is determined by the player’s role in the event. Contribute greatly and you’ll be given a handsome reward. Be a bystander and you’ll be given much less. Either way, everyone that participates will be rewarded, so there’s no reason to be mad if another player is around!
Hunting in group is always more fun.
That's it for part 1! I know it sounds like a lot, but believe me, just for the parts I covered here, there are enough (official) articles for something 5 times the size of this preview. Stay tuned for part 2, where I cover the combat system, how it completely changes the usual MMORPG combat mechanics, and how different fighting underwater is!
Bruno Sampaio, NoobFeed.