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PAX 09: Guild Wars 2 Revealed
It really is going to happen. Really.
by Marissa Monera
September 8, 2009 - It's been a little over two years since ArenaNet announced Guild Wars 2 and in the interim, people have almost begun to think that it wasn't going to happen anymore. Then all of a sudden a couple of weeks ago, the game's website suddenly came alive, featuring a trailer that quite fittingly, showed the awakening of the dragons from a long sleep under the sea. There wasn't that much information there but they promised that more things would be revealed at PAX so it was with much curiosity and excitement that I sought out their booth at the show. I was a little early for my appointment, which was lucky because I managed to catch Eric Flannum, who is the lead designer of the game.
Unlike Guild Wars, which has always been considered at most a borderline MMO due to its heavy use of instances, Guild Wars 2 is going to be a fully persistent world. There will also be no separation of PvP and so-called "roleplaying" characters. In Guild Wars 2, there will be two different forms of PvP. They have something called "world-vs-world" play, which matches up entire servers against each other. Eric describes this as a more casual type of PvP with big open-world maps featuring castle sieges, siege weaponry and objectives for both solo players and big groups of like a hundred people. Competitive PvP, which was the hallmark of the original GW, will be there as well. Players will be able to level up their characters through world PvP as experience points will be granted for it. However, competitive PvP will put everyone on an even playing field so it becomes more about skill than about level.
The story in Guild Wars 2 happens two hundred fifty years after the original GW. The Charr, who used to be religious fanatics driven to conquest by their beliefs, have forsaken their false gods and magic, relying more on themselves and as a result, becoming the driving force of technological advancement. Meaning that you will see guns in the game, although they will be old-fashioned muskets rather than machine guns and such.
The Charr will also be a playable race. These big cat-like people were the main bad guys in GW so don't expect them to be peaceful and timid in the sequel. They are godless conquerors that have these technologically advanced cities and weapons and who like to win at all cost. In GW2, they are not at war with the humans anymore but that doesn't mean that they like them, and the feeling is mutual.
Humans were originally the only playable race and were once the dominant force in Tyria. With the dragons rising, beings of other races have been forced out of their homelands and into human territory. As a result, the humans have been pushed back and are not the mighty race that they once were. They are now clustered around the city of Divinity's Reach and are ruled by a Queen, a descendant of the last queen of Kryta, who is at times in conflict with the elected ministers of parliament.
The third playable race is the Norn, a race introduced in Guild Wars' Eye of the North expansion. They are giant Viking-type characters who are very individualistic. They worship four animal spirits – the bear, the raven, the wolf and the snow leopard – and they are able to shapeshift into these animals. The Norn don't have a formal government. Their religion is very shamanistic and they value strength, honesty and fair play.
The Asura, another race introduced in Eye of the North, is the fourth playable race. They are short magical creatures who have been driven from their underground homes by the dragons. They believe in the Eternal Alchemy which is their religion, a belief that everything in this world has a power running through it and that it's all part of this one big equation. The Asura are smarter than the other races and are rather proud and arrogant about it. They build golems and magical teleportation devices, objects which they like to use to insinuate themselves into the other societies as they are not very combative. As such, they have spread themselves out all over the face of Tyria.
The Sylvari is the fifth playable race. These are elf-like creatures that spring full-grown from this magical tree. As such, their physique is plant-like but their form is humanoid since a human planted the tree from whence they came. The Sylvari have only been around for twenty-five years so none of them have died of old age and they don't bear children. They're very empathetic and they have this shared dream. They are born with knowledge of the world but no experience, which makes them very childlike in their behavior. So they want to go out into the world and experience the things of which they only know about. They also have this instinctive drive to hunt and kill the dragons because they perceive them to be evil. However not all Sylvari are good. The ones who have turned against their own kind are called the Nightmare Court.
Each of these races will have their own starting cities. According to Eric, the trailer shows the Human and Asura starting cities, Divinity's Reach and Rata Sum. Perhaps the most welcome change in GW 2 is that these beautiful cities will not just be mere backdrops but vibrant places with buildings and houses that you can actually walk into. I did a double take when he mentioned houses, but unfortunately, player housing isn't something the developers are ready to discuss. Eric mentioned that they will probably reveal more about classes and gameplay early next year, so hopefully we won't have to wait too long.
In closing, Eric mentioned two philosophies behind Guild Wars 1 that will continue on to Guild Wars 2: 1) that people shouldn't have to pay a monthly fee to play the game, and 2) that a player should be able to play a game casually if he wants to and that he doesn't have to belong to a group or guild to grind his life away in order to be competitive, and 3) storytelling that will make the player feel that he is a part of the Guild Wars world.
In the meantime, "The Art of Guild Wars 2", a 128-page hardbound book filled with beautiful concept art for the game, was unveiled at PAX and all attendees who went up to the ArenaNet booth got a copy signed by some of the artists. The book is not on sale yet but will be soon after PAX.