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Guild Wars 2 - A Preview

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Guild Wars 2: Ascalon Ghosts
Tyria, the dragons have always been here, sleeping deep beneath the earth, beneath the sea. Waiting for the time to rise. 100 years ago the drowned empire of Orr rose from the sea at a dragon's command. A dragon whose name was written in the legends of the dwarfs. A dragon known as Zhaitan. His armies surge from the waters, hungry for destruction...
–  Guild Wars 2 Teaser Trailer

Set 250 years after the happenings of the original Guild Wars MMORPG1, Guild Wars 2 takes the players back to Tyria - but a Tyria they have not seen before. The release date of ArenaNet's newest game has not been revealed at the time of writing this Entry, but is suspected to be some time in Spring or Summer 2012. Since game development began, ArenaNet has shared information about their progress with their fans. Just like in the original game, there will be no monthly fees for playing Guild Wars 2. This time, the game is not heavily instanced but has a persistent world, meaning that it's not like in the first parts of the game where every team had their own private version of the game and never met other players except in towns and outposts.

Please note that any information in this Entry is based on what is known about the game at the time of writing. As ArenaNet constantly reviews and changes things, the information given below will not necessarily match the content in the published game.

Story

Many things have happened during the last 250 years and the continent of Tyria is not the same anymore. Not only have the civilisations of Tyria progressed in technology, but the shape of the world itself is different.

As already hinted in Eye of the North, an ancient evil has awoken in Tyria: the dragons. The first Elder Dragon to awake from his sleep was Primorus, master of the Great Destroyer and doom of the dwarfs2. Other Elder Dragons and their minions followed and brought terror to all parts of Tyria. Because Jormag rose from his frozen lake, the Norn had to flee from their home in the northern Shiverpeak Mountains and settle in the lands that once belonged to the dwarfs. Part of the continent of Kryta has been flooded, destroying the human settlements; the city of Lion's Arch was flooded and the ancient kingdom of Orr has risen from the seas together with its undead inhabitants. The ways to the human lands of Elona and Cantha are blocked and no news is coming from there. The Charr still occupy Ascalon, fighting not only against the minions of the Elder Dragon Kralkatorrik, who rose in the Charr Homelands, but also against the human Ascalonians. Now all ghosts, these have been cursed by their own king to fight an eternal battle against the Charr because he could not accept defeat.

But in this time of horror there is also new life, and a new race has set their feet on the land of Kryta. Where the wise centaur Ventari guarded a strange sapling over 250 years ago, there is now a tree, high as a mountain. Her unusual fruits are sentient beings: the Sylvari.

In an effort to fight the dragons, the races of Tyria try to stand together and save their world.

Playable Races

While only humans have been playable in Guild Wars 1, the players of Guild Wars 2 will be able to choose between five different races. Every race has its own starting area and story. Additionally, they have different options for character customisation - not only visually, but also in defining their personalities.

Humans had long been the superior race in Tyria, but after the Charr attack on Ascalon and the coming of the dragons they lost their importance. Because of the flooding of Lion's Arch, they built themselves a new capital city further to the north: Divinity's Reach. Humans are defined by their belief in their gods and the loyalty to their queen.

The Charr on the other hand fought their gods and their shamans, ridding themselves from oppression. They are a feline species, monstrous, furry, and born into a society that is defined by its military. The legion they belong to is a major factor in every Charr's life and their warband acts as their family.

Although the Asura are small and goblin-like people, their size does not lessen their pride - or even arrogance. They are scientists and inventors, building the most advanced technology in Tyria. It is their belief that everything in the world is part of what they call the Eternal Alchemy - a system in which all parts work together like clockwork.

From the icy regions of the Northern Shiverpeaks come the Norn, a tall and strong people. For them, it is most important to become a legend one day and be remembered forever in the songs of their bards. They live in tune with the spirits of the wild and can even shapeshift into the animal form of one of the spirits.

The youngest race in Tyria, as mentioned above, is the Sylvari. Their first-born have dropped off the Great Tree only 25 years ago and since then they are gradually discovering the world, which is still new to them. Sylvari are not made of flesh and bone, but have grown from plant fibres and leaves, albeit with a human appearance. They are not born as children but fall off the tree fully grown.

Professions and Skills

In Guild Wars 2, the player will be able to choose from eight professions. None of these is bound to a specific race and there are no dedicated tank, healer and damage dealer professions3 as there are in most other games. Everyone will be able to take on any of these roles at any time to make team play easier and reduce waiting times for more team members. Additionally, there are no melee (close combat) or ranged (long-distance combat) professions any more. Every profession has access to both types of weapon and every character can be equipped with two different sets of weapons that can be switched during combat.

Warriors have access to the widest selection of weapons. During battle, they build up adrenaline which is then used on the most powerful skills.

  • The Elementalist is one of the spell-casting professions in Guild Wars 2. Just like in Guild Wars 1, they can attune to one of the four elements to get different kinds of skills, but now this attunement can be changed during combat. This means that the Elementalist has access to four skillsets at any time, but is not able to change weapons during combat like other professions.

  • Necromancers can summon undead to fight for them. They steal the life force of their opponents and also collect the life force of the dead to put themselves into a Death Shroud, which gives access to powerful skills. Necromancers also use fear to make their enemies run away.

  • The most special feature of Rangers is their animal companions. Only one pet can be active at a time, but they can be switched to make use of the different skills of the different animals which are dependent on their family and species. Additionally, Rangers can lay traps and summon spirits.

  • Thieves can sneak up on their targets and steal things from them. These items replace the weapons they are equipped with and can then be used against their enemies. The Thief also has special weapon skills that depend on the combination of main-hand and off-hand weapons with which they are equipped4. Just like assassins in the original Guild Wars, Thieves can also shadow step – which means teleporting over short distances.

  • The Guardian can use three virtues that provide a passive benefit for them and, if chosen, a smaller benefit for their team. These virtues provide a blocking effect, enable attacks to cause a burning condition, and improve health regeneration. Guardians use wards to protect themselves and their allies and can summon static spirit weapons.

  • Engineer technology has been mainly developed by the Charr. The Engineer uses turrets to defend areas and has access to potions and different tool belts. These belts provide them with kits that allow special skills to be used. Backpacks and weapon kits replace the Engineer's current weapon with special weapons – for instance a flame thrower or grenades.

  • Even more than in Guild Wars 1, Mesmers are masters of illusions. Their magic creates doppelgangers of themselves which attack and distract their opponents. Furthermore, Mesmers have the ability to confuse their enemies, causing damage whenever the target uses a skill.

Just like in Guild Wars 1, every player can be equipped with only a limited number of skills at any time. The first five skills can't even be chosen freely but are determined by the type of weapon that is used at the moment and the profession of the character (for example, the axe skills of a warrior differ from the axe skills of a Necromancer). The other skills can be chosen from the profession's skills, but the character must always be equipped with one healing skill. Unlike Guild Wars 1, Guild Wars 2 will have no secondary professions.

Guild Wars 2: Charr Combat

Combat

Guild Wars 2 is not about making things too easy for the players but rather about encouraging them to pay attention and interact to make the game interesting. Combat will therefore more resemble First Person Shooters than other MMORPGs. Cover, flanking and dodging will be important in the combat system. There will also be no interface telling you about your team mates' Health Points (HP) or even the possibility of targeting team members. You will have to watch the battlefield and target manually. As there are no dedicated healers, everyone will be responsible for his own and his team mates' health and for reviving. This also means that no team will be wiped out just because a player of a certain profession is dead or has left the team.

Dodging will be done with real movements, and attacks on allies can be blocked by stepping in front of them. When people work together, they can use cross-profession combos, which means that for instance a Ranger shooting through an Elementalist's wall of fire will have burning arrows. There is also access to environmental weapons, that is, ones that are part of the environment - you can't carry them around. These include siege weapons as well as ordinary stones and wooden planks.

When a player dies, they first enter 'downed mode' which gives them a last chance to kill their opponent and this way regain health or be rescued by an ally. In downed mode, every profession has a special set of downed skills, for instance to throw dirt at the enemy. After the fight, loot and experience points are automatically distributed to players according to their contributions to the fight. There will be no stealing of loot. Experience Points (XP) will also be gained for healing and other support, not just for doing damage.

Player versus Environment

Player vs Environment (PvE) in Guild Wars 2 does not consist of the usual quests that can be found in every other Massively Multiplayer Online game. Instead, the players are meant to explore the world on their own, see things happen and react accordingly. This could for instance be a village under attack. If no player comes to interfere, other things may happen as a result, like the same enemies invading the whole area. They would then keep this place occupied until players do something about it. ArenaNet calls this a Dynamic Event System. The number of enemies in every fight is automatically adjusted based on the number of players participating in the event, in order to make the fight a reasonable challenge.

Another aspect of Guild Wars 2 PvE will be personal stories. Every character progresses through the game in a unique way, depending on the choices the player makes. This will change the course of the game and even the way some NPCs5 react to these player characters. The progress of the personal story is mirrored in a special section of the character's home town which is 'instanced' - that is, each person playing the game sees this section differently. This is an extension of the Hall of Monuments idea of Eye of the North, where statues and other things can be collected to show great achievements.

One of the choices a player has to make is joining one of three different orders that fight against the Elder Dragons: the Durmand Priory6 that gathers knowledge and searches for help in ancient texts; the Order of Whispers7 that has agents and spies everywhere and thinks the dragons can only be sent back to sleep and never defeated; and the Vigil that tries to destroy the dragons with sheer force.

Part of both exploring the world and personal stories are the eight dungeons that are planned for Guild Wars 2. When a player enters a dungeon for the first time, they play it as part of their personal story. Later, it is possible to visit again and explore the dungeon with a team of players. There are different paths through every dungeon and they are also affected by Dynamic Events, which means that every time a player visits, they can see something different.

In Guild Wars 2, combat not only takes place on solid ground but players can also dive into water to experience a new kind of combat. While under water, every profession has their own underwater weapons – like for instance a trident or a harpoon gun.

Player versus Player

No player will have to do any Player vs Player (PvP) in Guild Wars 2 to progress, but on the other hand it will also be possible to do only PvP and still advance to the highest level. Two different types of PvP will be available in Guild Wars 2:

  • Structured PvP will be played 5 against 5 players in tournaments; or on maps with team sizes depending on the number of people available. They will replay historic battles of Tyria and every map will have special features and destructible environments.

  • The second type of PvP will be World versus World versus World. Three servers will fight in an unbalanced battle with no specific number of players participating. Every battle will last 2 weeks. Objectives have to be taken, enemies killed, NPCs guarded and much more. There will be roles for players who want to be in the middle of the fight and for those who want to stay in the background.

Design

ArenaNet employs some of the best concept artists in the gaming industry. These award-winning artists, many of whom already worked on the original Guild Wars series, have again managed to give the game a very special atmosphere. They did not attempt to create a realistic look but wanted the game to look 'hand-crafted'. To honour this fantastic work, the cut scenes8 in Guild Wars 2 are not completely 3d-rendered like in the older games but tell a lot of the story in animations made from concept art.

The music of Guild Wars 2 - as in Guild Wars 1 - was composed by Jeremy Soule. It is very much like the music of the first games and even picks up some of the old themes again. The main theme of Guild Wars 2 is a variation of the old Norn theme, which is more dynamic than the main theme of the original game. Although Jeremy Soule's music is outstanding, players will be free to add their own playlist to the Game which they will then hear instead of the original game soundtrack.

In addition to the music, the whole world is filled with chatter. Many hours of voice acting have been recorded to give towns and outposts the feel of lively places where people are just talking to each other without any relation to what the players are doing. There is of course also voice acting related to dynamic events and other content, so people do not have to read the chat to know what's going on.

The artwork for this Guide Entry has been provided by ArenaNet. © 2011 ArenaNet, Inc. All rights reserved. NCsoft, the interlocking NC logo, ArenaNet, Arena.net, Guild Wars, Guild Wars Factions, Factions, Guild Wars Nightfall, Nightfall, Guild Wars: Eye of the North, Eye of the North, Guild Wars 2, and all associated logos and designs are trademarks or registered trademarks of NCsoft Corporation. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

1Massively multiplayer online role-playing game.2See Guild Wars Eye of the North.3In most games, characters specialise as 'tanks' who accept damage to protect their team mates, 'healers' who heal the injured tanks, or 'damage dealers' who inflict damage on enemies.4Main-hand and off-hand weapons are ones which must be used in a particular order to produce maximum effect.5Non-player characters - characters in the game that are controlled by the computer, rather than by a human player.6Named after a Krytan scribe from Guild Wars 1.7Known from Guild Wars Nightfall.8A cut scene is a pre-recorded video of action, in which the player has no control, but sits back and watches what is happening.

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