Hands-On Guild Wars 2 GamesCom 2011

I was quite surprised, but also honored when I received an e-mail from NCSoft last week, inviting me to a fansite pre-show on Tuesday. Since our hotel booking starts today, I made an extra daytrip to Cologne just for the pre-show.

When I arrived, somewhat earlier than I had anticipated, I ran into some Carbine Studios devs with whom I had a nice chat. After waiting on the other 5 fansites (3 German and 2 French, if I’m correct), we went, together with Martin and Stephane, into the pre-show room, which had 7 computers anxiously waiting for someone to play Guild Wars 2 on. In the room, Colin Johanson, Eric Flannum, Mike Zadorojny, Randy Price and some others were waiting for us. Rather than immediately playing the demo, we first held a question round in which they told us that they had experimented with the energy back during PAX East and found that they could do without. As you might’ve read already, previously dodging was only part of the your energy use; now after the change, this is its only function. The reason for that is that dodging now also gives you a small moment of invulnerability.

Still, they wouldn’t let us get started playing the demo, and I’m not complaining this time as we were shown a beautiful new trailer, which will probably be posted on the official Guild Wars 2 website and our own youtube channel today. The trailer showed some nice in-game footage from all of the major towns in Guild Wars 2, some combat clips mixed with both old and new scenes, and quite a few shots with airships. It also included a lot of new large bosses including: Tequatl the Sunless (the scale-like dragon, who you’ll run into during the demo in the higher-level area), presumably ‘Zhaitan’s General’ of whom we had only seen a concept art, a giant ghostly aura statue of Duke Barradin (to whom I’ll return in a new blog post soon) and last, but certainly not least, the Iron Forgeman was also prominently featured during the new trailer.

Then the real stuff started: we were treated to a demo walkthrough by Mike Z. We were first shown the wide customization options. Not every race was at the same stage of development, although you did get a great idea of what the possibilities were: there were lots of sliders to customize a certain facial feature (nose, chin, ears, eyes, horns and more) but you could also adjust your body shape from a muscular person to a rather slim guy. Also interesting was the large amount of dye options on selected facial features.

(Speaking of dye, the game will be able to remember how you’ve dyed your armor previously and whenever you swap over to another armor set, it can take those colors over so that it’s all matching your own color style. Obviously, if you don’t want this to happen you can always change it manually (I’m not certain if it’s a toggle feature or not).)

Meanwhile we were told some nice bits of information as well, like the wonderful news that there will be quivers you can wear, gaining weapon skills goes relatively fast (I’ve been there, although personally I’d love to see it a tad bit faster than it was currently), the bosses in the starting areas are all more dynamic and have new skills added to their pool, and that Sparkfly Fen is home to the hylek and lies near Orr, and also includes a group of Vigil and sylvari participating in the Wyld Hunt.

At the end of the demo tour we were shown a bit of what PvP would be like, but due to us only having access to 7 PCs we couldn’t try it out for ourselves. In this short introduction we were shown the hot-joinable selection screen which is just a pop-up screen like your inventory, hero menu and other screens. Here you can choose for yourself what server you’d like to join. The game then creates a player pool, which gets rotated after every battle to keep it fair for both sides. If you don’t like a certain server, you can just return to the PvP screen and choose a different server, just like in your average FPS.  Speaking of FPSs, you can clearly see the influence of this game-category throughout the rest of the PvP areas as well. To create a new path or create cover, you can make use of the destructible environment to easily create a new setting from a destroyed building. Like with dynamic events, siege weapons in PvP will grant you new skills and access to the rotation mechanics of your siege weapon as well. Want to try and take out an enemy nearby silently? You can even break the glass to create a new entrance into a building to ambush people who are inside. All in all, movability is the key to PvP in Guild Wars 2.

I’m sure you’re wondering what I played in the demo. I checked out the charr personal story (as a Blood Legion) and got a small introduction to Sparkfly Fen (for Guild Wars players: this is the larger area where Sparkfly Swamp is located). We’ll try and have a more detailed blog on both of these areas up soon.

The charr starter personal story questions have you choose your legion, sparring partner and more. These first two are important choices as they all, obviously, feature a part in your personal story. In a nutshell, when you’ve picked your sparring partner, the others will die in an ambush and depending on your legion, you’ll find a different effect on what will be the result of this ambush. With its darker, more industrial setting, the charr starter area, and certainly its intro video, has a certain ambience which makes you feel proud to be a charr.

Sparkfly Fen has a more diverse offering of areas as there’s the lush area up in the north and grimier area in the south. We all ended up fighting Tequatl the Sunless (who’s residing in the southern part of the area) in a not-so-successful attempt to defeat him, although we probably could have, if it was not for the next group of people anxiously waiting to use the room. While battling him, you would need to use siege weapons and ranged attacks to destroy bone walls, which he placed in front of himself to close in enemies and protect himself from ranged attacks, and weaken him. After a while a giant asura laser would stun him in which he would be vulnerable to direct attacks although I would advise not sticking around too long. Another part of this grimier area is a giant undead ship which bombards the beach when it rises and sends out waves of undead minions who will take over the beach if players fail to drive them away.

Hopefully this first article from GamesCom has given you an impression of what you can expect to see throughout the rest of the week. Be sure to follow us on twitter and check out our youtube channel. Also sound off in the comments section below as I’m quite curious what you all think of the demo so far and what you’d love to see more about!

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