From there we were switched over to a Charr (the ferocious feline race) Thief, a profession which was just announced on the first day of PAX East! Our thief was in somewhere around level 27 or so, so we got to see some of the later content in the game. Our Thief participated in another dynamic event while we were shown the types of things a thief could do. Due to a different mechanic than all the previously announced professions, the thief is all about slipping in, doing a ton of damage, then jumping back out again to recover and begin again. As a result, the thief is constantly in motion, and I don’t just mean running forwards and backwards. Our thief was leaping through the air, rolling to the side, springing away from combat. Thieves also have special access to a “steal” ability at all times. This allows them to steal something from an enemy. These pilferable items are part of a small pool of items specific to that type of enemy. These can be weapons or some type of consumable (for example, we were somewhat gleefully told that you can steal a branch from a tree-type mob and then beat them with it). Your stolen item swaps in different skills on your skillbar, so our thief stole an axe from an enemy, then threw it back at him.
Tally: As far as hands-on impressions go, I got to play a level 27 thief (much like our demo thief) for a good half an hour. This was my first time playing the game, and I was delighted that I was treated to an experience that somehow simultaneously felt welcomingly familiar, yet completely new at the same time. The graphics are surely updated, but they preserve the same basic aesthetic as Guild Wars. You still have a limited number of skills (10 this time instead of 8), but while some of them are completely up to your choice, others are predetermined by your weapons. Guild Wars was extremely fast-paced, and the combat in Guild Wars 2 seems fast-paced as well, but in a slightly different way. Mobs take longer to kill, but your character is harder to kill as well. Contrary to the idea that this might slow the action down, it actually seems to facilitate a more action-oriented experience. In Guild Wars people and enemies were certainly often in motion (e.g. kiting around to lessen damage, running out of aoes, etc.), but in Guild Wars 2 there are positional skills and skills that propel you out of harm’s way. The first game was certainly about reflexes and timing and the sequel shares that aspect - however, instead of it being hit X skill here, or you’re dead, it’s hit X skill here to avoid a ton of damage or hit Y skill here and do a move that does a bunch of additional damage.
Since much of the game takes place in the open world, I was worried about how long it would take to get around to do stuff. Playing the game alleviated my worries in this area, however. There are tons of points on the map that you can pay a very minimal fee to instantly port over there. I used a few in just my brief time playing to get back and forth over a small area that consisted of a couple towns and outlying plains. When you die, you can also resurrect at any of these teleport points. This makes it extremely easy and efficient to navigate a large world.
My time with Guild Wars 2 was all too brief and left me wanting more, but I was extremely happy to get a chance to play it myself. Some things were slightly different than I was expecting, but I was in no way disappointed with what I saw. As usual, I eagerly await the next piece of information on the game.
Nick: Its been a good 3 or 4 years since I touched Guild Wars, but I was anxious to get back into the game world. I chose to create a Human Warrior and found the character creation process delightfully unique. Questions like - “Did your character want to run away and join the circus growing up?” make a truly unique experience.
Once in the game it wasn’t long before I got my first taste of combat. I had a few quick attack types of skills on the left, my favorite of which was a maneuver with a hammer that launched enemies in the air. Soon I realized you can actually have two weapon sets with two completely different sets of skills. After clicking that button I began dual wielding swords and taking out enemies with a whirlwind type attack.
The battles began to feel epic as more and more folks joined into the fray. After 15 minutes I simply had to quit - not because I was bored - but because I was getting sucked in too much. Everything about Guild Wars 2 from the art style, the animations, and the overall feel hooked me. Please come out this year Guild Wars 2...please.
Mike: The first thing I actually noticed about Guild Wars 2 was that the combat felt much more visceral than your average MMO. Positioning and movement are important skills to learn right from the beginning, and leaping into and out of combat as a lithe Thief was great fun. While it doesn’t exactly feel like a standard action game, it comes about as close as anything I’ve played in this genre. I only wish I had experimented with the “steal” ability my character had.
The dynamic events feel very similar to the concept of Public Quests in Warhammer Online, but they fit much more naturally into the game world. Fighting an enormous ice wurm with an army of NPCs and other players as a level 1 character was definitely a great first impression.
The character creation took me back to ye olden days of CRPGs, and I liked how your character’s story tied into the game world. If ArenaNet can pull off the dynamic events and keep things as fresh as the starting area felt, Guild Wars 2 stands a very good chance at reshaping what we call an MMO.