Cheating on WoW:
I’m sure we’ve all heard predictions that such and such game is amazing and will kill World of Warcraft. A few months ago, it was Rift. Now, it’s Star Wars: The Old Republic. I generally just scoff at such predictions, but there is one “WoW killer” that stuck out in my mind.
The more I heard about Guild Wars 2, the more it intrigued me. So one day, while feeling a little disenfranchised with Warcraft, I decided to learn more about the game, and as much as it goes against my nature as a WoW fan, I must confess that I liked what I saw.
I want to be clear that I don’t think Guild Wars will kill World of Warcraft. Nothing can kill WoW but WoW, and since Guild Wars will be a free to play game, it’s not even in direct competition with Warcraft (which is probably smart when you think about it).
But of all the “WoW killers,” Guild Wars is the first I’ve seen that strikes me as truly interesting, truly different. It’s not just WoW with a fresh coat of paint.
Breaking the trinity:
One of the first things that interested me about GW2 was learning that they intend to do away with the “holy trinity” of MMO design: no tanks, no healers, and no DPS. Supposedly, every class in Guild Wars will be capable of fulfilling any role at any time, with just a few minor adjustments to weapon and spell choice.
I’m skeptical as to whether they can really pull this off. The trinity is deeply ingrained in players, and in a game as complex as an MMO, someone will always be better at something. If it turns out elementalists are awesome at healing, it may be hard for them to find parties willing to let them use their damage skills.
But if they can succeed, we’d be seeing something very new and exciting. I’m not really a fan of the holy trinity, myself. It makes combat feel stilted and unrealistic. So I’d be happy to see it done away with.
Getting all MacGyver up in this piece:
Another very interesting thing about the combat in GW2 is the possibility for improvisation and synergy.
Picture the following: a horde of skeletons is rushing towards your party. There are too many to take on all at once. So your engineer throws down a flame turret, creating a wall of fire between you and the skeletons. They can’t get to you without taking damage.
But it gets better. Your ranger begins launching volleys of arrows through the fire, which ignites them for significant bonus damage. Soon, the skeletons are nothing but piles of ash.
Sounds cool, doesn’t it? And that’s just one example. ArenaNet, the makers of GW2, are also promising the ability to use terrain to your advantage. Imagine what would have happened if those skeletons in my earlier example had been beneath some precarious boulders…
Suck it, Rift:
Rift made a lot of noise by talking about its dynamic world filled with random invasions and events. But in the end, what we got was a generic WoW knock-off in which the rift invasions were little more than a gimmick. The world was still static, but for the occasional interruptions by Riftspawn.
Guild Wars 2 promises a truly dynamic and evolving world. If demons invade a zone, they’re not just going to run around in circles in one corner of the map. Expect them to start burning the towns and massacring the villagers. If players don’t do enough to stop them, they’ll take over the whole region and begin building fortifications of their own. Players will find themselves the invaders, taking on an entrenched enemy.
ArenaNet is out to completely revolutionize questing with its world. Instead of an NPC with an exclamation point telling you some town over yonder might come under attack soon, you’ll notice the clouds of smoke in the distance; you’ll hear the screams on the wind.
Once again, this all sounds very ambitious, and I’m quite skeptical at how well they’ll be able to pull this off. But it sure sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
Races and classes:
All right, races and classes are one area where this game doesn’t seem to offer much new. Aside from the attempt to break the “holy trinity” mentioned above, its classes (called “professions) seem quite generic. Of the five professions currently announced, engineer is the only one that doesn’t seem straight out of Warcraft. And of all the WoW races to rip off, why the hell would you pick Gnomes?
To be fair, though, execution is more important than concept, and it also occurs to me that WoW is such a big game that you’d be very hard-pressed to come up with anything they haven’t done — sort of like how The Simpsons have already used every conceivable comedy plot under the sun.
On the plus side, they also ripped off Vrykul. I wants me a giant viking — I don’t care what game it’s in.
Story is one of the main reasons I play games, so I had to learn about the story in Guild Wars 2. Oddly, their site has very little information on the larger plot, but what I saw seemed very generic. Yeah, yeah, dragons. I haven’t seen that before. But then I saw the name of one of their head story writers: Jeff Grubb.
Hold the phone, stop the presses, and several other cliches. Jeff Grubb? Author of the best ever Starcraft novel (“Liberty’s Crusade”) and the best ever Warcraft novel (“The Last Guardian”)? I’ve only read two of his books, and he’s still one of my favourite authors of all time.
Now I’m interested…
One other interesting note about the story is that there will be a strong emphasis on your own character’s personal plot. You will be given extensive backstories to choose from and an ongoing storyline just about you. I despise how faceless and irrelevant my Warcraft characters are, so I love the sound of this.
There a lot more interesting things about GW2, but these were the things that most stood out to me. It seems like a very ambitious game, and normally when a game company promises this much, they can never deliver. I am, admittedly, very suspicious of how many of these extravagant promises will come to pass.
But it’s exciting, too. It feels like the MMO industry has been afraid to break the WoW mold, but ArenaNet’s attitude seems to be “Screw WoW; we’re making the game we want to make.” And I’m curious to see the result of such a philosophy.
If you’d like to learn more, go ahead and check out their website. I’m curious to hear any comments you might have.
This is already a terribly long post, but I’d just like to mention that another of my articles has been published online: 11 Biggest Lies Told by MMO Developers.