ArenaNet appears to have kicked their PR machine into overdrive. After launching a new company blog, with accompanying Guild Wars 2 Design Manifesto, they’ve now updated the Guild Wars 2 website with a wealth of information, screenshots and gameplay videos of the Elementalist profession and Combat in general. And even more combat information is scheduled to appear on the website today!
They’ve also been interviewed on a number of major gaming websites, such as MMORPG, GameSpot and Rock Paper Shotgun. This has resulted in a veritable flood of Guild Wars 2 information, as well as a sneak-peak at what the game actually looks like – and it looks good!
Check out the sources above for the full story, gameplay videos and screenshots. If you simply want the abridged version of what’s new, then read on. Note that this will be updated after the second part of the combat feature becomes available.
I’ll quickly go over the new points. Note that unlike yesterday’s Design Manifesto, most of the information ArenaNet has now revealed is utterly new and hadn’t previously been alluded to!
- Secondary professions have been removed. A warrior character will never be able to use Elementalist skills. Racial differences and profession-specific talents are intended to replace the secondary class to an extent.
- Races differ greatly, more-so than in most other MMORPGs such as World of WarCraft. Humans gain potent skills, such as summoning hounds of Balthazar, Asura can create radiation fields, Norn transform into animal forms, etc.
- Warrior profession confirmed.
- A dedicated healing profession was hinted at. I’m not certain whether this is merely an off-profession thing, like Water Elementalists, or a genuine healing class like Guild Wars’ Monk.
- Guild Wars 2 looks a lot better than I’d expected based on the previous trailers. The environmental detail is stunning and the landscapes are wide open. Even more impressive are the character design, animation, spell effects and distant backgrounds. The Meteor Shower video of the Elementalist may very well be the most beautifully rendered scene I’ve ever seen in a RPG, despite the grim background and ugly ogres.
- Guild Wars 2’s beauty seems to stem from lighting, shadow and bloom effects, as well as a beautifully stylized rendition of a virtual world. This means it will probably scale fairly well, because it doesn’t appear to feature ridiculous polygon counts and high-resolution textures to generate its beauty, unlike an Age of Conan or Lord of the Rings Online.
- If that’s Ascalon, then it now looks grim and strangely beautiful, rather than just a grim stop on the way to better looking pastures.
- Mini games will play a much bigger role. No longer reserved for seasonal events, they’ll be a permanent part of major cities, in the form of shooting galeries, bar brawls, etc.
- A fully persistent world. So not a static world in which bandit camps magically get reformed within minutes, like in most modern MMORPGs, but one wherein your actions have an impact in the world. Destroy a bandit camp and it will be gone until bandits can rebuild it.
- PvP is not fully separate from PvP. You do not create a PvP character, but use your PvE character to compete in PvP.
- Competitive PvP has been confirmed. This will temporarily bump you up to max level with everything unlocked and PvP-standard equipment. Apparently you’ll be able to browse games and decide which PvP game to join. There is no unlocking whatsoever for PvP and automated tournaments are included. It sounds very good, especially the no-unlock, even-ground, system which reminds me of the Guild Wars beta. I’m curious to know how the game selection system will work however, can you join games in progress, or do you simply select a game type?
- The Mists functions like world PvP in other MMORPGs. You have huge server vs server PvP, where there are level, skill and equipment differences and unequal fights. This is also where castle sieges come in. Again, this mode is separate from PvE, but you use the same character as you would in PvE and competitive PvP.
- Guild Wars will first be released in the West (America, Europe, Oceania probably), before they start work on an Asian version.
- Positioning and tactical player movement are key elements of Guild Wars 2’s combat system. This is a different deal entirely from merely physically blocking opponents and dodging projectiles, which was the case in Guild Wars.
- An example of how movement and positioning comes into play is provided: one player uses his shield to deflect the fire breath of a drake, when another hits it from behind with Devastating Hammer, which launches the drake into the air. The drake is sent flying over the first player’s head, who turns and uses Savage Leap to impale and finish the drake as it hits the ground. It sounds completely implausible, until you see the Elementalist videos and realize that ArenaNet might just pull this off… again.
- Some skills gain bonus damage when hitting an opponent from the rear or sides.
- All skills are designed to be immediately visually identifiable. ArenaNet wants you to be able to determine whether it’s an AoE skill, whether it’s doing damage, what type of damage it’s doing and so on, simply by means of the skill effect.
- The skill system is very similar to Guild Wars. You still have a limited skill bar and have to pick and choose your skills to form a build entirely your own.
- The skill bar now contains ten slots. Five of these are determined by your profession and the weapon you’re using (e.g.: mace & shield vs greatsword), which you can switch on-the-fly.
- An example of how skills change by switching weapons: a warrior with a mace & shield receives defensive skills and slow damage-dealing skills (Block, Shield Bash, Obliterate), whereas a greatsword wielding warrior would receive movement-oriented skills such as Rush and quick AoE skills like 100 Blades.
- Professions are taken into account as well. A warrior wielding a sword receives different skills than another class wielding a sword.
- Two of the remaining five slots are reserved for specific types of skills. One slot is reserved for healing skills and another for elite skills, but you can choose which healing or elite skill you wish to take along.
- Despite a healing slot being standard fare for all classes, there will still be a place for dedicated healers. It’s a measure that should improve solo survivability, rather than replace healers altogether.
- Two elite skills are covered. The Elementalist can shapeshift into a Tornado that deals heavy damage and knocks enemies around. The Warrior can use Destruction which makes all of his blows deal area-of-effect damage.
- The new skill system, with five set skills determined by profession and weaponry, is intended to annihilate broken builds from the game. It does limit players marginally in their build creation, but it ensures that newer players don’t create something that simply doesn’t work, which was often the case in Guild Wars.
- Some spells are hinted at. The conjuring of fireballs, lightning bolts, giant crushing stone hands and even flocks of vicious birds of prey. Elementalists can cast Aura of Restoration to regain health on each cast, or bring Glyph of Healing along for a straight-up heal. This alongside the numerous Elementalist skills that are covered below.
- Warrior skills are also mentioned. Block and Shield Bash are mentioned as defensive skills. Obliterate and 100 Blades as offensive skills and Rush as a speed-boosting skill. Frenzy (increased attack speed) and Fear Me! (debuff nearby enemies) also make a return, whereas Banner of Courage (increases melee damage of nearby allies) appears to be new.
- There seems to be some sort of automatic taunting in place, which occurs either during casting or at the end of combat.
- Projectiles can be set on fire, reflected, bounce between enemies or even return to the caster.
- Looks to be relatively unchanged from Guild Wars. Still a long-range caster with low health and spells based around the elements of Air, Earth, Fire and Water.
- Uses a combination of element attunement and weapon usage to determine the first five skills on the skillbar. So Water attunement would presumably give you access to the Water Trident spell and a staff would result in mostly long-range spells, versus short-range for scepters.
- Attunement to an element also provides a passive bonus. Fire attunement deals flame damage to melee attackers, Air attunement pelts nearby enemies with lightning strikes, Water attunement grants continuous healing towards nearby allies and Earth attunement provides defensive bonuses to the Elementalist.
- Fire, Air, Water and Earth retain their specialized traits from Guild Wars. Air is for spike damage, Fire is for AoE damage, Water is for crowd control and Earth is for more defensive spells.
- Glyphs to enhance damage, range and duration of spells are retained from Guild Wars.
- Signets are now an Elementalist spell type that grants a constant passive bonus, but can be activated for greater effect. Signet of Earth passively provides increased damage resistance, but activating it sends out a wave of stone that stuns nearby enemies.
- The Elementalist can conjure items and weaponry. The example given is of an Elementalist using Conjure Flame to create a fiery rock that can be hurled at the enemy. An Elementalist can also conjure a fiery sword which can be used by party members.
- Five Elementalist spells are demonstrated in short gameplay segments: Meteor Shower, Phoenix, Static Field, Water Trident and Churning Earth.
- Meteor Shower is much the same as it was in Guild Wars: fiery rocks raining down from above.
- Phoenix sends out a fiery bird that shoots through nearby enemies and then returns to the caster.
- Static Field looks to be an area-of-effect spell that stuns and damages enemies.
- Water Trident is a single-target water cone that shoves enemies back and does light damage.
- Churning Earth is an area-of-effect spell that is centered around the caster. It takes a long time to cast, but does enormous damage by hurling a mass of spikes from the ground in a large radius.
- See the Guild Wars 2 Elementalist page for a full overview, screenshots and gameplay videos.
New as of this evening
- One-Handed weapons in Guild Wars 2: axe, dagger, mace, pistol, scepter and sword.
- Two-Handed weapons: greatsword, hammer, longbow, rifle, shortbow and staff.
- Offhand only: focus, shield, torch and warhorn.
- No single profession can use all of the above.
- Numerous professions can use a one-handed weapon in their offhand or dual-wield, this results in a different skillset for the first 5 skills on your skillbar. A warrior dual-wielding two swords would have three skills for his main hand and two for his offhand weapon.
- If you gain a new weapon on the battlefield, like a catapult, then your first five skills change to skills that are specific to that weapon. These skills are also profession-dependant, so where a Warrior could merely throw a boulder, an Elementalist could launch it into the air as part of a Meteor Strike spell.
- Environmental weapons can both be found, such as boulders or siege weapons, and created. If a centaur breaks down a wooden gate, then you could find a usable wooden plank in the rubble and use that to beat them back.
- Some skills create environmental weapons, such as the Elementalist’s Conjure Flame spell which creates flaming rocks that can be thrown at the enemy.
- There will be 8 professions, most of which have been retained from Guild Wars. Some of them are entirely new, so several of the original classes have been scrapped. I wouldn’t put much faith in the Ritualist, Dervish or Paragon returning, but we can’t be certain until the other 6 classes (Warrior and Elementalist are known) have been confirmed.
- The professions are categorized by the armor they wear. Scholars (Elementalists) wear light armor, adventurers (Rangers?) wear medium armor and soldiers (Warriors) wear heavy armor. There are three scholar professions, three adventurer professions and two soldier professions.
- This in turn reveals that one of the newly introduced professions will wear heavy armor. Guild Wars only knew a single heavily armored profession until now: the Warrior.
- Warriors can use ranged weaponry such as rifles. Sure, Warriors could use bows in Guild Wars, but with GW2’s new weapon-dependent skills, it is likely that they are now capable of effectively utilizing them without crossclassing into Ranger.
- ArenaNet has attempted to make teamwork a more vital component of MMORPG play by allowing for great cross-class interaction. A Warrior can use the Elementalist’s Static Field or Fire Wall spells to charge the bullets fired from his rifle with extra effects (lightning and fire respectively). Similarly, an Elementalist can drop a Fire Wall, which an axe-wielding Warrior can then propel towards the enemy with Cyclone Axe. There will be hundreds of these kinds of cross-class combination effects.
- Racial skills come both in regular and elite forms. The Norn’s ability to transform into a Wolf Form and the Human’s ability to summon two hounds of Balthazar are Elite skills and can only be slotted in your Elite skill slot.
- There has been no mention of race-dependant weaponry skills, so it would seem that all racial skills are part of the huge list that can be slotted into your five optional slots. No mention of Norn-specific tree-trunk slam skills, but maybe they just haven’t announced these yet.
- Next up on the Guild Wars 2 website will be a feature on the new dynamic event system and how this differs from traditional quest-based MMORPGs. Yes, ArenaNet seems to be sticking to the no-quests game plan.
- Guild Wars 2’s PvE design is more inspired by good co-op shooters than other MMORPGs. ArenaNet doesn’t want you to feel like you’re forced into grouping, or competing for mobs, or not working together because you’re on different quests. Rather, they give you the same goals and the same rewards as everyone else in the area, which allows you to play solo yet still co-operatively. Sort of like Left 4 Dead on a public server where no one uses voice chat: you’re working together, it’s fun and you’re rarely bothered by the fact that there’s other players that you don’t know in there with you.
- Encounters scale up automatically dependant on the amount of players participating. An example given is of how Eric Flannum (Lead Designer) ran into a situation where these water pipes were being fixed by workers after they had been trashed by some bandits, but these same bandits were assaulting the works and a couple of players defending them. Pretty soon there were dozens of players defending the area and rather than continue spawning 4 or 5 bandits, the game would spawn 20. It would really be awesome if it also scaled dependant on player performance, like Left 4 Dead’s Director system, but that wasn’t mentioned.
- This scaling system is apparently intended to work so that even if there’s only one person out there, events should still be playable. Similarly, it should still be a challenge when tackling encounters with 20 guildies.
- The initial character creation system that asks for some background decisions on the player’s part (hopes, fears, etc.) determines both your starting content and later content, much like Dragon Age: Origins’ origins system. You will actually get to access different content when making different decisions, so multiple playthroughs are required if you want to see everything.
- The current estimate is that there are 1500-1600 events in Guild Wars 2. If you were to compare this to quest counts in other MMORPGs then it is roughly equivalent to Aion’s current number of quests, and comes in at about 1/5th of WoW’s current quest totals.