So the big talk of the morning is Guild Wars 2, as a press preview weekend ended and reviews have gone up all willy-nilly (cough). It’s definitely inspiring, but I want to guard my heart so that I don’t completely fall into the deep end of the anticipool and drown before the game comes out. I think I always have this notion in the back of my mind that GW2 is coming, it’s going to be awesome, and I’m going to enjoy it quite nicely… but I try to keep that back there. I almost wish that it would launch small and quiet, because this seems like the sort of game that could explode just from word of mouth.
In any case, the articles I’ve read are really glowing and reinforce my feelings on the title. I’m genuinely glad that ArenaNet is trying to escape MMO tropes and try elegant improvements on gameplay. Combos, rallying, WvWvW, personal stories, skill bar setups — it’s all coming together to make a product that has a refreshingly new experience rather than just refreshingly polished approach.
What really grabs my beard and stares me in the eye are two separate elements, however. First of all, I’m just in love with the abandonment of the holy trinity. Letting everyone play together without fussing about roles so much as what you’re doing and how you’re doing it is an exciting prospect, and from what I’ve seen in these articles, it actually works. A good team in GW2 isn’t a group of lone rangers trying to out-perform each other, but is an actual team that’s interconnected through skill combos, positioning, and tactics. This is something I want to examine at length when I finally get into the game, but I’m just glad that I won’t be pigeon-holed into a role or penalized for grouping. If a game’s going to make me want to group a majority of the time, I hope it’ll be this one.
The other attention-rousing element is how ArenaNet handles character creation. Way back when, creating a character in an RPG was one of the most enjoyable aspects of it — you’d agonize over every detail, every choice, every mole and dimple. Then somewhere along the line, devs got it into their heads that the process should be boiled down to pick a race, class, and head. GW2’s approach, however, is to walk you through the steps of creating both your character and your character’s story, sort of a “choose your own adventure” that promises that affect the quests and events to come. I saw this back at PAX Prime a while ago and instantly connected with the concept, because by the time I’ve entered the game world I’ve already gotten to know who my character is and what they’re about.
It’s probably not realistic to say that ArenaNet’s in an underdog position — it’s as much of a powerhouse studio with deep publishing pockets as anything else out there — but the approach they’re going with for GW2 feels like a protagonist of a film that’s trying to fight against the status quo and will ultimately end up in a stadium where hundreds of thousands are chanting its name and the music swells and Charr burn the landscape because that’s what Charr do.
Where are the flaws in GW2’s armor? Maybe it’s too different from the current norm. Maybe it’s too mired in its own fanbase to appeal to outsiders. Maybe the dependency on dynamic events will create an uneven playing experience based on who’s around and what’s happening. I dunno. I’m not seeing a lot of negatives right now, however, and I am certainly cheering from the stands.