August 5 2011
When the original Guild Wars launched back in 2005, it took some chances and managed to offer something quite different from the average online RPG of the day. In fact, it still stands out for its competitive PvP, its AI henchmen, its unique combat system, its lack of emphasis on gear, and the absence of a subscription fee, among other things. Arenanet is putting all their experience with this successful series into Guild Wars 2, and they're aiming for an even bigger hit this time around. Here's a primer on what they plan to achieve with this upcoming MMORPG.
Guild Wars 2 is set on the continent of Tyria about 250 years after the original game. The world will be largely persistent - a big change for this series that has always relied heavily on instancing. Naturally, there will still be instanced dungeons and PvP arenas, but there will also be large zones that are open to all explorers, bringing Guild Wars 2 much closer to its MMORPG competition.
The game offers more freedom of movement than its predecessor, such as being able to jump, fall and swim. Arenanet has also revealed plans for extensive underwater content, which will be a first for the series.
In Guild Wars everyone plays as a Human, but Guild Wars 2 has 5 playable races: Human, Charr, Asura, Norn, and Sylvari. Most of these races appeared in the original series as NPCs, and each will have its own starting area and racial abilities.
Guild Wars 2 will have 8 professions. So far we know that this includes Warrior, Ranger, Elementalist, Necromancer, Guardian, Thief, and Engineer. Note that the game will not have a dedicated healing or support class. Instead all classes will have some support abilities, and should thus be more self-sufficient than usual.
Arenanet is making every effort to move away from the traditional tank, healer, and damage roles in combat. This "holy trinity" is commonplace in RPGs, including the original Guild Wars, so it will be interesting to see if they can make this work, or if players are prepared to abandon these roles. Support abilities will still be in play, but they are aiming to make them more appealing and dynamic than typical reactionary healing seen in so many games of this kind.
As in Guild Wars, you have a limited number of skills available when you go into combat. Guild Wars 2 uses a 10-slot skill bar, 5 of which are determined by a combination of your weapon and profession, and 5 of which are determined by your profession and race. Again, in collectible card game style, you will have many skills to choose from, but you can take only a subset of those into battle at once.
For added effect, players can combine skills from different professions in combat. One example given is shooting arrows through a flaming wall created by another player to produce flaming arrows. They also intend to allow players to use various parts of the environment as weapons, which should mix things up a little.
Death is also handled unconventionally in Guild Wars 2. Instead of dying outright when you run out of health, you first enter a "downed" state, during which you are given a different set of skills that provide you with desperate, last minute attacks. You are still vulnerable while downed, so if these attacks fail and no one revives you in time, you'll die. Once dead you can either wait for a resurrection or respawn at a waypoint. They plan to have a very light death penalty: a small amount of gold and a short run from the waypoint; apparently you won't even be debuffed.
Instanced dungeons in Guild Wars 2 are designed for groups of up to 5 players and are divided into story and explorable versions. Players first must complete the story version to unlock the explorable version. Explorable versions are meant to give dungeons more replayability, so players are presented with several choices which effect the challenges they face. Subsequently, you can play through most of the dungeons 3 or 4 times with different outcomes. Exploration versions will also require more teamwork and will generally be more difficult than story versions. Guild Wars 2 is expected to launch with 8 dungeons, each with several versions.
Competitive player vs. player combat has always been a big part of Guild Wars, and that will continue to be the case in Guild Wars 2. Along with the instanced, team-based matches Guild Wars players are already familiar with, the new game will have large-scale open PvP between servers in an area called "The Mists." Players will fight over resources and objectives such as castles, mercenary camps, mines, lumber mills, and villages. These contests will continue for two weeks, after which the server rankings will be updated and new matches will be set up.
We don't yet have a release date or an official price for Guild Wars 2, but the word is that it will use the same revenue model as the original series; purchase the game client for around $50, and play as often as you like with no subscription fees.