Posts Tagged ‘ArenaNet’

I should have gotten this post up for you all, but I guess better late than never.  I spent the second day of the beta just running around and looking at everything.  I made a character of each race, and I have to say I’m very impressed with how each area feels different, and matches the racial history and culture that they have created for this world.  I didn’t want to play too far into the story, I’ll just have to do it again when the game releases, so I spent a lot of the time checking out the sights, looking at new features, and getting a feel for the game.

Country bumpkin in a big city
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I was blown away by the scenery from day one, but the city and its features really took my breath away.  From a game development standpoint cities are hard to do, and make to feel alive.  You want to make this big city, with a believable population of NPCs that serve no purpose other than window dressing.  You have to get in the sights and sounds of a bustling market, when most of it won’t even be used by the player or his character.  From a player standpoint, large cities in RPGs tend to disappoint, and that was true even in Guild Wars the first.  They are generally full of buildings but not enough people, or you see places that you can’t get to, that you know were thrown in there just to make the place look big.  Sometimes they get it right and the place looks alive, but feel?  You sort of feel like a stranger watching life move around you while you stand still in this river of imaginary people.

Over the rooftops of Rurikton
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With Divinity’s Reach, however, the team at ArenaNet managed to deliver a bustling city, that feels alive, explorable, and filled with purpose, but also makes you feel like you’re part of it.  Your character is greeted by strangers, for no other purpose than to greet him.  I was surprised at first, and realized I may have been missing it every time it happened, but I looked down at the chat text at one point to see “The baker waves Jondular over.”  Jondular being my character name, and the baker being the NPC (not 100% sure it was a baker, could not remember exactly who it was.)  There are NPCs going about their day, talking with each other in voice, laughing, music, all the sights and sounds one would expect in a large city like this.  I think the voice acting is what astounds me the most.  Not all of it is great voice acting, it’s the shear amount of it that will take your breath away.  I don’t remember the exact figures, but I do know that this game has more hours of voice recorded in game than several movies put together, and more than all but a couple of games.  I think it might even be topped only by LucasArts Knights of the Old Republic.  That’s not just story NPCs either, even NPCs who are there only for show, have conversations with each other that you hear when you walk by.

Divinity’s Reach from afar
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One of the things that I always loved about Guild Wars was the way the horizon, and scenery, went on for realistic distances.  A lot of games favor fog, or blurring, or simply fading it away, to save resources, but ArenaNet has manage to, yet again, deliver on a concept that makes Guild Wars relatively unique.  As you can see, when you are in game, you can see!  The scenery on your screen will be displayed realistically, for distances that you would actually be able to see in life.  The city of Divinity’s Reach in the screenshot there, is a ways away from me at that point, still on the same ‘map’ but a good distance.  You can also see, there’s a very good level of detail from such a distance.  What you can’t see, but I can assure you, is that they stuck to their promise that Guild Wars 2 would be accessible to players without killer PCs.  My PC used to be killer, say 2 years ago, but now it’s fairly average as gaming machines go.  Still got a lot of years in her but no beast compared to others.  I did not notice any lag, slowdown, framerate drop, or other problems one might expect at high settings in a game that is so graphics intensive.  The developers have done a good job making this game efficient with the resources it does use.

Can Jumpz?!
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Being able to jump and climb, not only adds a new dimension to combat and tactics in this game, but it also allows access to some pretty impressive vistas.  Here, my Char is up on a ruined wall that has fallen part-way over, leaving an inclined ramp of crumbling stone, that I could JUMP! up onto and climb to the top, giving this great view of the Char starter area.  Again, the level of detail in the distance is amazing, but at this point I’m too busy imagining all of the things that could be done with this new feature, completely absent from the first game.  Pinning enemies in a narrow passage while your allies climb up on the rocks and jump down on them?  Leaping across cat walks to attack archers that have your comrades pinned?  (I did that by the way, it was pretty epic feeling)  Needless to say, I spent a lot of the day seeing what I could climb on, which will be evidenced by a the next screenshots.

Anti-grav sidewalks?
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You can see in the Asura area, they take elevation to a while new level, which will only make the ability to jump that much more important.  A lot of the areas you see, above and below you, are accessible in some way.  These floating rocks are all over the place in the Asuran area, something that was only hinted at in the original game, but due to the limitations of the game, inaccessible.  You can barely see Peggle, my little Asuran thief there in the middle, but shows that these areas are now open to players since you can jump.  It’s amazing how much a simple little feature has completely changed the look and feel of this game.  It’s going to make exploring Tyria much more exciting, and time consuming, but not in a bad way at all.

Peggle on top of the world
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As for the Asura themselves, at first I wasn’t too sure about them.  Sure, they did a good job selling them in the previews, using Felicia Day’s voice, what geek in his right mind didn’t hear her voicing a character say “I want to tap…play that!”  (No offense Miss Day, please know that we, at Frags and Beer, admire and cherish your contribution to gaming and the entire industry.  [Think that’s good enough to ensure the above comment won’t ruin future chances at an interview for this publication?])  The Asura were annoying in the first game, not well fleshed out, and very alien.  They just didn’t seem to fit in the fantasy setting.  When they were announced as a playable race I preemptively wrote them off as something I wasn’t interested in.  To give you all a complete view of the game though, I made a character, and I have to admit I found myself impressed.  The faces, while sometimes cutesy, have serious options too.  Believable serious options at that.  It’s easy to envision a gritty, veteran asuran warrior, back from fighting in the wilds, complete with a grim expression and demeanor.  I’m sure there will be plenty of ‘cutesy’ asura running around, but it’s good to know that it’s not the default.  As you can see, they also did a much better job depicting the asuran culture with their city on the right.  It’s still somewhat ‘alien’ and all, but it fits Guild Wars now.

Spiritual norn
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Finally, I dropped in on the Norn again, making a ranger this time. This is probably going to be one of my characters for the main game.  I stumbled upon this rocky outcropping that I missed during the first beta, and found this spirit wolf up there.  I just had to get a shot of it and share.  While it doesn’t show much of the landscape, or combat, or any of the bells and whistles, I think it’s just a cool shot.  The wolf is one of the animal spirits the Norn worship, naming their clans after the beings.  As your Norn rises in level they will be able to shapeshift into one of these animals, depending on the animal clan you pick at the beginning.  I’m going to go with bear, probably influenced by the first game.  So far my only critique of this area, and the game for the most part, is the male norn forms.  To me they all look like tall dwarves (fantasy dwarves that is), too wide, legs too short, arms too long.  The female forms are much better in proportion (not that kind of proportion…though those are nice too!)!  Other than that, overall my beta experience was fun.  I’m very excited to get the game, get into it, help my wife learn the ins and outs of the game, and spend a few years exploring the world of Tyria.  I hope to see you there!

Oh, by the way, Frags and Beer, hopefully, will be making its permanent home in the world that was created by ArenaNet as a tribute to a fallen gamer.  For details check out our last post about the beta here, featuring this sad, but uplifting story.

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Frags and Beer is open to guest writers now.  If you have a geek-themed article you’d like to see published, email us at magus_taliesin@hotmail.com and we’ll take a look at it.  Look back through our posts to see what we mean by the theme.  Nothing pornographic, too adult, political, or religious please.

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Yesterday I opened my email and it was like Christmas, if the gift-giving holiday only came once every three years or so.  In my inbox sat an email I had been waiting for for about that long.  Finally, this weekend, Guild Wars 2’s first public beta!  Any Guild Wars fan knows, we’ve been waiting for this game for a long time.  I don’t begrudge Arenanet for taking their time though.  In this day and age of half-finished games, releases that aren’t complete until they patch it a dozen times, and games that get rushed to market leaving us all wondering ‘what’s the point?’  In this case, I want them to take their time, but along with that reasonable wish I am still chomping at the bit for the release of this game.

For all of you not ‘in the know’ Guild Wars 2 is an MMO style RPG, based on a unique world filled with monsters, magic, and heroes.  Unlike other RPGs the playable races do NOT include dwarves and elves, something that I like a lot, getting away from the cookie-cutter fantasy archetypes.  The story behind the world of Guild Wars is far too extensive to go into here, but rest assured, if miles of text on history, adventure, creature ecology, and just plain flavor text is something you enjoy, Guild Wars has it in spades.  I, myself, love to read history, even if it’s made up history for a made up game, and this one has tons of it.  If you really get into learning about your character, their race, their background, where they come from, who their enemies might be, fears, hopes and dreams, you definitely won’t lack for information.

One of the draws to the original Guild Wars for me were the visuals.  I’m all for great gameplay, balance, ease of use and learning and all of that, but in the end for me a game won’t hold my attention for long if the graphics are terrible.  I have to look at this game for hours, and like many fun games I’ve tried with bad graphics, I can only look at an ugly game for so long before it doesn’t matter how much fun it is.  Guild Wars, and from the looks of the sequel Guild Wars 2, does not disappoint in this department at all.  Brilliant colors, amazing visuals, breathtaking vistas, all draw you into a detailed world where every day brings some new thing you didn’t notice before.  I remember exploring every corner of the original game, not only to get the cartography title, but also to see what little visual gem was tucked away.  These guys hid little shrines, fountains, ruins, and on and on, all over the place.  In most cases they had no story attached to them, no reason for your character to go there, just something cool to stumble on as you roam the world.  So many times I’d come upon some overlook, or view of something, and have to just stop and look, like a tourist out to pictures.  Like that tourist I would take a screenshot, just so I could show Julie later.  This time around I’m excited to re-explore the world, 250 years after the original game, and do it with my wife who will be joining me for this adventure.

Along with visuals comes sound.  Nothing draws me into a game better than great music and effects, especially since I invested in a surround sound headset years ago.  The music for the original game was fantastic, and the sound effects, ambient sound, and general ‘ear candy’ was enough sometimes to make me stop and just listen.  I am confident the sequel will match, or top the original for sound design.

As I mentioned before, this game’s story happens 250 years after the original, and as one would expect in a world filled with magic, and a race so annoyingly intelligent they look down on you from their lofty height of about 2′ 5″.  The Asura is who I mean, and anyone who had the Eye of the North Expansion know who they are.  Anyway, as you can see there, firearms have entered the game.  At first, like many I’m sure, I was a bit put off.  I’m very traditional when it comes to my fantasy, and have always been one that didn’t want technology mixed with my dragons.  As I watched more and more gameplay, and saw more screenshots, I was sold.  It makes sense, first of all, and it’s not so blatant that it looks more like sci-fi than fantasy.  I’m keeping an open mind, and I am sure I will have fun with it.

There are some huge differences between the original game and this one, and the list is of course too long to go into here.  Some of the changes seem odd, but I’m sure once we get into the game and start playing it they will make sense.  The biggest change I saw, and one that I like, is no more devoted healers.  Most people will remember the hours spent trying to find one or two healers for your party, only to have one quit part way through the mission and the other not know what he’s doing.  Well in GW2 every class is going to be able to heal himself and others, and those skill slots will be devoted to healing.  No more snooty monks that think they can do everything on their own, or want to run around killing stuff when they should be in the back keeping everyone alive.

Well, you can obviously read much more information at their site, which I linked to up at the top.  The information released for this game so far is extensive.  I will also be putting a link to the blog on my main menu so you can easily go and find anything you desire there as well.  One last thought to leave you with, before I go, one key gem about this game that I can say enough.  FREE…TO…PLAY!  Best MMO out there in my opinion, yes even better than World of Warcraft, and other than buying the game, you don’t have to pay a dime to play it.  So, hope to see you there, and I’m sure I will have more to say about it in the days and weeks to come.

 

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