Guild Wars 2 (Pre-release Preview)
Guild Wars 2 (Pre-release Preview)
Guild Wars 2 is a sequel to a MMORPG that was released in 2005. The original Guild Wars quickly accrued a following of several million players, due largely to the fact that it was one of the first online games to not require a monthly fee (many online games are $15 a month to play). It also offers very well-balanced PvP (player vs. player) venues that were unique to the MMORPG scene, as well as a large PvE (player vs. environment) world. Guild Wars 2 will continue the no-subscription legacy of its predecessor. It has also already proven to be one of the most immersive online worlds ever created. I’ve had a chance to see this first-hand by playing the game in beta before its release. (Beta testing is the process of playing a game and making sure it is ready for release.) This is a preview of what you can expect to find in Guild Wars 2. Hopefully it will give you as parents a chance to make a decision about purchasing the game once it is released on August 28, 2012.
Guild Wars 2 is set about 250 years in the future of the original Guild Wars. During that time, many changes have taken place among the races and kingdoms of Tyria. The most notable is that dragons sleeping deep within the earth have awakened, causing cataclysmic shifts in the geography and politics of the continent. Humans, the only playable race from the original game, experienced severe losses including the loss of their former capitol and greatest city in Tyria, Lion’s Arch. Contact with the other continents (Cantha and Elona) was cut off. Human dominance over the land waned, giving other races introduced in the previous game a chance to expand. The Charr, a race of ferocious cat-like warriors, retook the land humans stole from them and have fought back against the caste of their society that tried to enslave them. They specialize in industry and weapon development. The Norn, a group of giant Nordic people, were forced out of their homeland by a dragon. They settled in a new region, establishing a foothold between humans and Charr. Norn believe in spirits of the wild who guide them and protect them. The Asura, a race of short creatures with long ears, used to dwell deep within the earth. They were forced to the surface in the first Guild Wars, and have established a thriving society aboveground. The Asura specialize in science and believe in an Eternal Alchemy that connects all things. The Sylvari are a new race of plant beings who just entered the scene. They are birthed from a great tree with their thoughts interconnected in what they call The Dream. They are breaking out into the world to learn, despite quickly learning about evil and pain. These five great races all face the threat of the dragons, their minions, and other evil forces in the world.
Gameplay in Guild Wars 2 has been designed with the idea of cutting out a lot of the “grind” and downtime found in other games. Traditionally, an MMO game involves going to a series of quest-givers, running into the world to complete your list of chores, and coming back to get rewards. Wash, rinse, repeat. In Guild Wars 2, you walk into an area where someone needs help, and help them in a variety of ways, whether it’s collecting things, defeating enemies, or doing other tasks. Once you help out enough, you receive a reward. In the past, players would need to form very specific, highly planned groups to accomplish some goals. This can lead to a lot of downtime waiting for the right player with the right class and skills to join your group. Though there are still places where you must plan in this way, most of Guild Wars 2 is designed to prevent standing around and waiting. While you’re in a given region, special events happen that any player in the area can join. Players who participate are rewarded based on their level of involvement. Traditional games do not have the ability to reward such spontaneous cooperation, and often lead to players competing to accomplish a similar goal.
Though much of the gameplay centers on fighting your enemies, there are a lot of other things to see and do. The world of Guild Wars 2 is simply stunning, whether you have a lower end computer or a gaming rig. A lot of love and care has gone into creating a beautiful, believable fantasy world. Fans of the previous Guild Wars will even see a lot of familiar landmarks from the previous game. Exploration is rewarded and encouraged in the game. There is also crafting of items and a good trading post system for buying and selling goods to other players. This beats the system in the previous Guild Wars, which involved standing in a town and spamming trade requests until someone who has what you want sees your message. As you play and make decisions with your character, you will develop your own personal story arc for your character. It could have an impact later on if you decide to show mercy to an enemy rather than killing them or choose to help a friend rather than pursue a foe. As far as I know, you cannot go back and change your decision to see a different outcome, forcing you to choose wisely.
Guild Wars 2 is set to continue its legacy of having some of the most balanced and challenging PvP options in online gaming. There is a new type of PvP being introduced called World vs. World (or WvW). In WvW, entire servers of people fight in a wide spread battleground against two other servers. You can simply jump in wherever there’s a fight, or form a squad and try to take out strategic enemy targets. You can also utilize siege tactics to take an enemy fortification. The game also has its traditional “structured” PvP matches, where organized teams of players fight other teams. All players in a PvP match are given the abilities and equipment of maximum-level characters, making skill more important than having the best gear.
What Parents Need to Know
It should come as no surprise that your character will be doing plenty of fighting in the game. Players can utilize a wide variety of weapons, including guns and explosives, to take down enemies. I do not remember seeing blood during combat, although blood splatters are seen in cutscenes. Enemies can be lit on fire, crippled, and shot with arrows or guns. Bodies of enemies generally disappear after a time. If your character loses all their health, they go into a “downed” state, where you can still do a limited amount of fighting. If you lose all of your health when downed, you become “defeated,” where you either have to wait until someone comes and revives you, or come back to a waypoint in the world. There are times when you can choose whether you will take a violent course of action, or accomplish a goal through other means.
So far, I’ve not seen any profanity in the game itself. The previous Guild Wars occasionally incorporated the words “hell” and “damn” in dialogue and cutscenes. The ESRB states that “ass” and “bastard” are found in the game. As always, watch out for player chat, which is not regulated. The game does have a chat filter with different levels of filtering for obscenities. Players who violate the game’s code of conduct can be reported.
Many human and Norn outfits can be quite revealing for either gender. When designing your character or changing out your armor, you can disrobe your character so they’re wearing nothing but underwear (in a Barbie doll sort of way, though much more realistic). So far, I have seen some minor innuendo in dialogue.
In the world of Guild Wars 2, each major race (and even some of the other lesser races in the game) have fairly comprehensive religious beliefs that are a major component of playing the various races. Humans believe in six gods, one of whom players helped to ascend to godhood in the previous game. When creating a human character, you choose which of the six gods you align with most. The Norn believe spirits of the wild guide and protect them. As a Norn character, you select which of the major spirits of the wild you choose to honor the most. The Asura believe in an Eternal Alchemy that somehow connects all things. Charr used to worship beings they later overthrew and killed. They believe that there are no deities. The Sylvari know of their Dream, and honor the teachings of a centaur and a human whose writings were absorbed into the tree that births them. These teachings promote peace and understanding.
Magic also permeates the world, but is definitely based in fantasy. There are some magical elements of note. One of the professions your character can be is Necromancer. The Necromancer in the Guild Wars universe uses dark magic to summon undead minions and utilize lost souls. The Elementalist profession uses magic to manipulate fire, water, air and earth. Though these things are based in fantasy and not reality, it would be worthwhile to discuss what the Bible has to say about magic and necromancy.
Alcohol plays a large role in the game world. The Norn are especially fond of having large Ale Moots. Bartenders in other races can be heard mumbling about Norn who drop by and drink them out of their stock. Humans and Charr are also very fond of drinking. Players can purchase or otherwise find virtual alcohol for their character of any race. There are a few mini games and competitions that involve alcohol and drunkenness. Though participation in drunken revelry is optional for progressing in the game, some side achievements require you to consume alcohol. This drunkenness, though portrayed as goofy most of the time, can also have more serious consequences. If your character becomes drunk, your screen becomes blurry. This can make playing difficult until you “sober up.” There are bits of both player stories and non-player character (NPC) dialogue where drunkenness has led to something bad happening, whether it’s passing out or losing something important.
Let me give you a glimpse of what playing Guild Wars 2 is like. At one point in the beta, I was running around in a particular area. A notice came up that an evil mage of some kind had opened portals and spawned elemental creatures that, if left unchecked, would begin to terrorize the area. I went to the area with one or two other people, who were promptly defeated by overwhelming numbers. Shortly after that, while lying defeated on the ground contemplating where I should go next, other players arrived on the scene in greater numbers. They began to fight off the evil creatures, and revived me and my fallen comrades. Together we fought off the evil creatures and defeated the mage. In other MMO games, this kind of spontaneous cooperation and team effort would not have been possible. I personally am looking forward to playing Guild Wars 2. It, so far, has been a different (and I’d say better) game experience than other online games I’ve played. Parents should take note of the violence, magic, alcohol, and skimpy outfits in the game. Also remember that online games can be hugely addictive. Kids need clear time boundaries so that the fantasy world does not overtake reality. Though the game is much more focused on cooperation, parents should expect that in-game chat among players can become vulgar and crude, even when obscenities are filtered. We’ll update this review with any additional information once the game releases and I’ve had more time to play through it.
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Bullying Breakthrough; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for parents on his website TheSource4Parents.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.