Posts Tagged ‘Guild Wars 2’

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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***Update:  Before we get into this post, I just saw this, very obvious reason, why ArenaNet is awesome.  See how they pay tribute to a fallen gamer.***

The long-anticipated time is almost upon us.  Guild Wars 2 has a release date, August 28th, and we are now one day into the last beta event before we get the goods.  I didn’t get a chance to play it yesterday, but now it’s Saturday morning, the house is quiet, the air is still…almost like the morning right before a huge battle…and I’m downloading the update!  Sorry, that’s not a critique on Arenanet, I’m glad it’s a lot of files, that means a lot of content to explore.  I was just trying to build up drama and all that.  Don’t mind me, I haven’t finished my coffee for the morning.  I’ve already participated in one beta and I was blown away.  Despite the bugs and problems that needed work, the game looked and felt so good.  If you were a fan of the original and you haven’t picked up your pre-order then you are simply crazy.  If you like RPGs, MMOs or online games at all you should at least be checking this out.  Find someone that owns it, get over to their house this weekend and demand they show you!  Trust me, from someone that got in on the first one late in the game, you do not want to miss out on playing this game from the moment it’s available.

All right, files are downloaded, logged in and getting into character creation.  This process is so much more complex than it was in the original game.  Not only do you get to choose the typical height, weight, hair and eyes, body type, and all the basics, they have added levels of detail to these that is just staggering.  In face details, you can change the eyes, everything from eyebrow placement, to iris size, to width.  You can change the nose in every dimension as well as that of the mouth, ears and chin.  Back when they started talking about the character creation they said this game would decrease the chances of meeting another character that looks just like yours and they were right.  Then you dye your armor, and move on to the next page of creation.

Sylvari Ranger Guild Wars 2
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I chose a ranger, so the next parts of creation deal with the class features.  As a pet my initial choices are Moa Bird, Stalker (feline creature), and a fern hound.  I’d like to see more choices, or, honestly, see them go the route the first game did and have you go find your first pet, but I am choosing the stalker.  Beggars can’t be choosers…well in this case I get to choose, but you know what I mean.  Then it’s onto backgrounds, these determine how your story goes I believe, we’ll see when things get rolling.  I chose ferocity for my character’s first background trait.  For the next trait they ask what quest your character dreamed of, I’m going with The Green Knight, it seems to hint at perseverance and fortitude.  Next it asks me what is the most important of Ventari’s teachings.  In the game Ventari is one of the fictional characters from the original game, a wise old centaur…I’m going with “Act with wisdom, but act.”  Finally it asks me when my character was born.  Sylvari are born from a being called The Pale Tree.  The time of day your Sylvari was born in determines their nature, and the ‘court’ they belong to among this culture.  I am liking Cycle of Night, secretive and cautious, and independent.

***Tiny bit of spoiler alert***

As I think I covered in the last beta discussion, Guild Wars 2 handles introduction to the game in a much different way than it’s predecessor, or really any other RPG’s that I have seen.  After your character creation, and watching the little cinematic, which was great by the way, you pop right into a living world full of people talking, sounds, sights, and immersion.  You are asked, by someone close, to come over for a chat, and away you go.  There’s no tutorial level, no floaty question marks or exclamation points, and no quest boxes asking you to accept or decline.  You listen to the story the speaker gives you and if you want to do it you go do it, if not, you don’t.  The first person you talk to, if you respond to the summons is Caithe, from the introductory movies.  I chose to follow this first path in my character’s story, going off to find some poison in the woods, but first, we had to fight some hounds.  That done we moved on, and finally came to the scene of the trouble.  Once there a small cinematic played, and a massive, tree-like dragon, pulled itself out of the forest floor, and it was time to have some fun.

Shadow of the Dragon
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What you are seeing there is a quick cap I took of the dragon after it came out of the ground.  This is actually the second one I took, in my haste to get a good shot and then get into the fight.  That thing is simply huge, much larger of scale than anything we saw in Guild Wars.  There were a lot of people around, not even a single person actually in my party!  Just people who were close enough to see the fight start and come running to help out.  It was a challenge, fun, and wow, the imagery.  I’m a big one for graphics, between that and sound, that’s all you have to immerse yourself into a video game.  Your other senses are useless in this type of experience, so I’ve never understood why people claim that graphics aren’t important.  Sure, story is too, but something can have the most amazing story, and be crap to look at.  If I want story there are hundreds of books in my library to read, I want the full package when I play a game.

On top of the great action, the ease of play, and the great interface, Guild Wars 2 has great sound.  All of the effects are great, but in the long term, music is what captures me in a game.  It’s the times where no action is going on, when you are just taking it all in, that the music matters the most.  Running through the initial areas of this game I was so engaged by the music.  So far, great fun.

Stay tuned for more updates all weekend.  I’m going to jump back in and create a different character, throw you some more screenies, and learn more about this game.  Until then, I will leave you with this show, one of my favorites so far.

Sylvari at home
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This month’s lady gamer has declined a photo, which is fine by us.  I met Rachael when we started our server project at Gray Isles, and she has been an outstanding player and member of our community.  Sadly due to my own busy schedule and off play times, I haven’t gotten to RP with her as much as I would like, but what I have been able to experience has been good.  She’s brought a couple of players to our server, and in my opinion, been a contributing factor in our success so far.  So, without further ado, ladies and gents, here is May’s gamer lady of the month.

Q. What is your Gamertag?

In NWN1, I have gone by Nakamura Sakura quite a bit in the past. In NWN2, I go by Maiden of Loss. I have played NWN1 for about five years and NWN2 for maybe about six months.

Q. Gamer guild/clan affiliation?

Oh, jeez. I would say the most recent guild/clan affiliation that my character has gotten into is the FCA on Grey Isles and maybe soon, Clan Granitefist. She’s also been in a mercenary guild that was previously run by players.

Q. Console or PC?

PC. My laptop is the only thing I have to play games on believe it or not. I have a Wii too but it doesn’t get used very often. I’m usually too plastered to the computer screen or reading on my Kindle.

Q. When did you start gaming?

If you mean RPG’s? I started gaming around the age of fourteen in that case. I haven’t been playing D&D all that long, honestly. In case of more action-type games (Stronghold, Rome: Total War, Age of Mythology just to name a few) I would say around the age of thirteen.

Q. What got you started in the world of gaming?

In terms of NWN1 (and eventually NWN2) I actually got introduced to it during my freshman year of high school. A friend installed the game on my PC for me to try out and I got pretty hooked in the matter of about a week or so. If it weren’t for him, I honestly likely would have never discovered the NWN world. In terms of other games, I’ve never been too far away from a PC so that pretty much led to my early interest in gaming. I love NWN because it allows you to step in and tell your own story. I have been fortunate enough to even discover my love for DMing and being a player both. The NWN1 community is amazing and even though the game is older, I have never met a better bunch of players. My time in NWN2 has been short so far but so far, I’ve enjoyed the experience very much.

Q. Favorite game?

As far as PC goes, NWN1 and NWN2 hands down. I would say following that would be Sims 3, Age of Mythology, Skyrim (although I need to play more of that yet) and numerous others.

Q. Currently playing?

On my PC? Currently NWN2. Plan on playing more Skyrim, though. I have also thought about reinstalling NWN1.

Q. Most anticipated future release?

Guild Wars 2! The graphics and storyline look positively gorgeous to me. I was looking forward to Neverwinter (4th Edition) but then; they turned the whole thing into a MMO. That was a complete epic fail on Cryptic’s part. I don’t like 4E myself (at all) but considering what the NWN1/2 community has done with the games in the past, I wouldn’t be surprised if the 4E elements could be taken out and eventually altered. I mean, for NWN we have PRC (in both games) and even the Community Expansion Pack for NWN1. All that work really has ended in some amazing results that just add to both games, in my opinion.

Q. Build your own or off-the-shelf PC? Any reason for preference?

Off-the-shelf laptop! Poor off-the-shelf PC’s seem to die in my hands within a matter of two years. When I was younger, I went through about four PC’s in about ten years, I think. This laptop so far has lasted for two years and is doing very well despite those previous troubles of mine. I honestly will never go back to PC again. I think laptops are the way to go; at least, for me.

Q. Favorite game type?

RPG. I enjoy an action game here and there and sometimes Sims 3 but for the most part, I usually am in NWN2. I loved my years of playing NWN1. I don’t regret a minute of it. I would say my favourite PW that I have ever played on (and made me forever addicted to the game) was Legacy of Netheril in NWN1. It was the first server I played on. The players and DM’s were wonderfully creative. My second favourite had to be Deepingdale and the Moonsea in NWN1. There I was able to discover my love for DMing.

Q. Do you think there are any issues related to being a female?

It really, really depends on where you go, I think. Have I had issues before with it? Sure. But, that’s bound to happen sometimes in multiplayer games. I would say that the NWN1 and NWN2 player bases are usually pretty good when it comes to gender and respect. I have gotten one or two odd reactions when players discover my gender but do I let it stop me from playing the game, relaxing and having fun? Hell no. I would say the best advice to other fellow gamer ladies would be to just laugh and have fun with it when you get an “odd” reaction. Then, shake it off and continue playing.

Well, there you have it folks.  Another great gamer out there that happens to be female, further casting aside the myth that they don’t exist, and showing they are just like any other gamer.  Thanks Rachael, for giving us such great responses.  If anyone knows a female gamer that deserves the spotlight, let us know.  Send me an email at magus_taliesin@hotmail.com, and give me a brief rundown of why they should be in our monthly feature.  Drop us her email or some sort of contact so we can interview her and get her featured here at Frags and Beer.  Keep gaming, and have fun.  Until next time!

Alright, this weekend was the first public beta of Guild Wars 2 for those of us who pre-purchased, or at least put money down on our copies from the local game store.  I sat at work all day, anxious to get out of there, like a kid trying to sleep on Christmas Eve.  Finally, got home, got fed, and got in game with Julie and a friend from work.  Once we finally found a home server we could connect to (it only took a couple tries) we were off and running, building our characters.

Character creation is great, lovely mix if in game graphics and concept art.  The level of detail you can use to make your character is astounding, right down to the spacing of their eyes, width of their mouth and nose, and the shape of their chin.  You set up your body type, physique and height, dye your armor, pick some basic background info and away you go.  Fans of the original game will be blown away with the options and customization.  Unless you just go with the default, you really won’t see too many people that look just like you in this game.

I started out with a norn guardian, putting me in the snow-swept mountains called the Shiverpeaks.  I was instantly reminded of Eye of the North, from Guild Wars 1, where we were first introduced to the giant-like norn.  I was also instantly aware that the feel of this game is totally different.  For those of you used to MMO’s like World of Warcraft, where hundreds of people roam the same area fighting monsters and doing whatever it is they do, you will feel right at home.  For those of us who came up from Guild Wars, it’s a bit of a shock.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing, it’s just different.  If you are like me, a former GW player, imagine all those maps with monsters, being as populous as one of the major towns.  It’s just strange.

The game is a bit overwhelming.  It is one of the first things I noticed that I would have done differently.  It doesn’t ease you into it.  While the learning curve is low, it can still be a bit chaotic.  There is so much to see and do, so many places to go, the sense of freedom is nice, but a shock if you aren’t used to it or prepared for it.  I caught hints of the craft system, gathering materials, salvaging, and trading.  I found the player auction house fairly quickly, and people already have guilds set up.  There was just a lot to take in, and unlike it’s predecessor, and many other games, there’s no tutorial stage.  You literally hit the ground running.

Despite all of that I did have a good time, and it didn’t take long to get comfortable with the world, and what the game had to offer.  The majority of the discomfort and confusion simply came from it all being new.  As I learned the area, how things worked, and how to find where I needed to be at any given time, I was more at ease.  The skills were sensible, and I was overwhelmed with choice.  The animations looked nice as did the scenery, the characters, and the armor.  The music was great, and the sound effects brought you into the world.  It was visually and audibly up to the standards I expect from a company that put out the best looking MMO years ago (GW if you weren’t sure).

Now, the two beefs I have so far were noticeable right away.  First, the minor one.  The camera needs to be able to zoom out more.  I like to see things up close from time to time, but when I’m trying to fight a battle tactically, or roam and explore the world, I like to see more of it.  My character dominated the screen, and at times I would turn the camera so much that I would get lost with no point of reference unless I went to the map.  The world of Tyria is a beautiful place, and I want to see more of it while I play please.  The second one is major and a lot of people have noticed it.  Me, Julie, and a coworker of mine got in and started playing.  Right away we started looking for each other, even put ourselves in a party, but we couldn’t find each other.  Seems that you are either in the main server, or in the overflow server, and there’s no way to switch between that we could find easily.  I would highly suggest that if people make a party, the game keep them together, whether it push them all to the overflow or whatever.  An MMO is meant to be played with friends, in groups, and they need to make it easier to do just that.

There’s more to write, and hopefully tomorrow I can give you some screenshots and touch on a couple of key features.  For now this is just my initial thoughts on the three hours or so I was able to get in.

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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