Guild Wars 2
Its 100 Years later in the world of Tyria, in the kingdoms of Ascalon and Kryta - the original Guild Wats: Prophecies setting. The same key tenets of gameplay remain in place, but much has changed alongside the ever more sparkly graphics; not least that everything seems... Well... Persistent. Up until the advent of the seguel, when you ventured outside a settlement there wasn't much chance of bumping into a mate.
No chance actually - you and your party would meet up, then fight through an instanced zone. Loads of other people could well be fighting there, but you'd be in a curtained-off, parallel dimension, and ne'er the twain would meet. Guild Wars 2, however, will take in a fully persistent world - and still won't ask you for any fees.
Everyone won't be plonked onto one gigantic playing area though, filled with exuljerant teens yelling 'WTF Laaaag!'. Much like WOW, everything will be carried out on different worlds/realms sharing the same content. However, unlike WOW, these separate worlds won't be on different servers - instead being linked through the almighty clicks and buzzes of one iiber-server. This allows for something unthinkable in something like WOW: namely, World versus World combat. Far from the isolationism shown by WOW servers, those fancying a spot of PvP can cither stick with traditional Guild on Guild action or venture into areas known as The Mists and take on representatives of other worlds - and a gigantic strategy game ensues with each parallel realm fighting for territory. In what's perhaps a push for simplification too, you'll no longer have a separate RPG and PvP avatars cither - NCsoft arc not afraid of ruffling the feathers of the hardcore with this one.
The level of interaction you have with the environment is also being notched up a fair few gears - you'll be able to jump up and down without the aid of a console command, break stuff and set things on fire - while environmental clutter will react should your weapon, intentionally or unintentionally, smash through it. The zones you fight through, meanwhile, will be made even more vivid by the interaction of the environment at largo with the entire player-base in the area.
The example given is that of a dragon that's been seen flying worryingly close in recent days - if enough players 'shoo' it away with conveniently placed catapults, they'll all be paid a reward by the local landowner. If, however, the dragon doesn't got dealt with, it'll go on a rampage - destroying a bridge perhaps, which will in turn trigger a team of NPCs rebuilding it and an envoy of wood sent from a nearby town. If, again, you choose to protect the cart from wood-hungry bandits, then you'll get a reward. It's tempting to say that Guild Wars is donning the mantle of a WOW in the hope that its subscription-free ethos will rob Blizzard of some of their impoverished minions. In another departure, meanwhile, you'll be able to play as many different races, including Humans, Chai r, Sylvari, Asura and Norn - the last of which's ability to turn into a bear creature is ably displayed above.
It's too early to tell if Guild Wars will succeed at this, but the betting is that the sheer class of ArenaNet's storytelling and game design teams should render that argument null and void.
What exactly is an 'Eye of the North'? The Eye Of The North is the name of the high-level expansion pack that's going to finish off the Guild Wors trilogy with a bang this autumn, while neatly dovetailing with the storyline and characters of the forthcoming Guild Wars 2. As for what the Eye of the North is - well, that's something players will have to find out. It's all connected to growing unrest in the bits to the north of the lands of Ascalon - the area experienced Guild Wars-ers will already know and love from Guild Wars: Prophecies - the first notch on ArenaNet's Tyrian bedpost.
What itinerant godly problem is Tyria suffering from now? It's all to do with the dwarves. "This is a dungeon exploration expansion," smiles ArenaNet co-founder Jeff Strain. "The above-ground areas will be familiar as there's a strong return-to-Ascalon theme, but after you've spent some time above ground and got the lay of the land (returning to the places you've known and loved for a long time), then we take yon underground into the dungeons and caverns below Ascalon and below the Shiverpeak mountains."
Earthquakes have ripped through all the Guild Wars lands you see, and dark fissures have opened. Players will discover an underground land where the dwarves are at war with an ancient enemy who are aptly known as 'Destroyers'. Hie leader of whom, the even more aptly titled Great Destroyer, is laying the fiery smackdown on all their big-eyed and short-of-stature neighbour races.
How will Guild Wars I33tness in Eye Of The North be transferred into Guild Wars 2?
"We have players in GW who've played the game in excess of 2,000 hours," explains Jeff Strain with assured gravitas. "They've made a substantial investment in Guild Wars and we want to reward that investment. So, while you can't just take your character and import it directly into Guild Wars 2, we'd like you to be able to bring over everything that makes your character special."
So, not only will your existing character name be reserved, but through Eye Of The North, your various successes and achievements will be filtered through the magic of time and appear as inheritance in Guild Wars 2 - as weapons, companions, mini-pets and clothing. Awards will also be displayed in your own Hall of Monuments in the expansion.
When pressed though, ArenaNet point out that it's not a 'real' inheritance - if you were really set to play as your great, great-grandchild in GW2 and had chosen to play as an Asura. then someone along the line would presumably had to have mistakenly gotten a small faeriecreature up the duff.
What kinds of places will Eye Of The North visit?
Initially, of course, you'll be in Ascalon - previously destroyed, burnt and charred by "Hie Searing - a nasty little battle ploy utilised by the Cliarr a little way into Prophecies. Then, as well as being underground in the treacherous 18 dungeons of the expansion (replete with molten lava or bitter ice, depending on their theme), three hugely different environments will be ripe for the plunder. The Charr homeland (a surprisingly lush and verdant place for such a violent bunch), the harsh wilderness of the Far Shiverpeak mountains and the rainy waterlogged barrens of the Tarnished Coast.
What kind of numbers will Guild Wats obsessives be desperate to hear?
Eighteen multi-level dungeons. Lots of new items, weapons and associated paraphernalia. 150 skills liberally sprinkled over the ten existing professions. Ten new Heroes. Forty new armour sets. Three French hens. Two turtle doves. One partridge in a fruit-bearing orchard variety of tree.
A persistent world in the sequel? That's not very Guild Wars... "Guild Wars people like the fact that they don't have to pay subscription fees." explains Jeff Strain. The refrain we've always seen is. 'Yeah well, there's no subscription fee and I enjoy the game - but it's not a real MMO'. The reason they can do that is because it's not a persistent world."
And so in Guild Wars 2. instead of the no w-traditional hubs and party-only instanced adventuring, an entire world is being mapped out for you to saunter through at the exact same time as everybody else. Persistence will be supplemented by branching chains of events throughout the game's zones.
For example, there might be a rampaging beast that needs a contingent of players to deal with it. Failure to do so will mean the destruction it leaves in its wake will need to be repaired by HPCs who. in turn, may need player protection. What's more, the levelling system of old doesn't guite fit the persistence template - so it's fair to expect more of a WOW-esgue state of affairs.
So is GW turning into a WOW clone?
"We're not interested in going out there and reinventing the game as a traditional MMO," underlines head honcho Jeff Strain sternly. "Guild Wars charted real new territory and had a unique design that really added to the strength of the game. Guild Wars 2 is not about walking away from that. We view adding a persistent world as an augmentation to the Guild Wars design that we've already got: adding liersistence around the core of Guild Wars rather than reinventing and building from the inside-out."
So consider yourselves told: there's no way your Norn half-giant is going to be? chowing down on stringy wolf meat outside the AH, so if you're an obsessive, stop your fretting.
Where's the story going to pick up?
A hundred years after the events of the original Guild Wars triptych (well, triptych, plus expansion pack). Tyria is still coming to terms with the bad stuff heralded by the close of the Eye Of The North. Uneasy truces exist between the various races that peppered Guild Wars' closing chapter, and with an ethos of team spirit and pulling socks up, a dark enemy is being faced up to.
The setting is that of Prophecies once again (suggesting perhaps that NCsoft are planning on trotting out excursions in Factions'Cantha and Nightfall's Elona as time rolls on), but don't expect to revisit exact locations. The unique GW artistic stylings will remain, but direct topographical recreations of Ascalon and Kryta won't make themselves known.
How are they upping the fun?
"One of the things we wanted to do with a persistent world is really make the environment a playground for players," says designer James Phinney. "There are a couple of different ways that we'll do this, and one is completely changing the way the controls work. Having direct controls that'll let you jump around, climb up on things, slide on things and go swimming. Players should really have a great freedom of movement and interaction with the environment. Trying to make good use of that in the world gives players the chance to have the joy of exploration.''
And so with fireballs being jettisoned in different directions, more explosions than ever before and the god-given miracle that is jumping, the Korea-friendly simple bouts of run, strafe, hack-and-slash of Guild Wars of old will be long-forgotten.
I resent human contact. Will I still have minions to bend to my whim? Whatever happened to all the heroes?
Well, they've buggered off that's what -you've got companions now. And, sadly, not companions in a sexy Firefly sexlady sense either. If you want one you'll be tied to one at any time, and if you distrust NPCs and four-legged friends, you can select buffs in exchange for their presence.
In terms of more real interaction, that oft-bemoaned problem that plagues so many MMOs, a mate being a mere two or three levels above you and therefore too almighty to fight alongside, is set to be sidestepped through a neat application of City Of Heroes' much vaunted sidekick system.
Surely the place is going to get a mite crowded?
Not so. To avoid insanely populated areas, there'll be many identikit versions of Tyria spinning in the void that's the ArenaNet server room - and should you want to join a world or realm your mates are on, then an instantaneous and free jump from globe to globe will be available.
To promote community spirit meanwhile, in addition to the more traditional guild-on-guild action, these worlds will be able to go hammer-and-tongs at each other in an area known as The Mists.
"We'll match three worlds together at a time, with the world vs world area becoming a giant strategy game," says Phinney. "Picture it as a large area, the size of multiple maps in GW1, with a number of strategic points on it to control." And so, depending on how much territory each world possesses by the end of the bout, better teams will go up the ranks to face better competition, while dour tactic-less teams will go the way of Leeds Utd.
Will it shake Azeroth down to the very ground?
Don't be silly. But with a subscription-free ethos of Guild Wars enclosed in a persistent world, GW2 is set to steal a ton of players from WOW, Warhammer and LOTRO alike. We're still looking at a distant release though - the Beta's planned for 2008 - so who knows what other MMO challengers will have stepped up bv then.
Processor: PC compatible,
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode