This year's Gamescom brought about a lot of new information regarding the gameplay mechanics of Guild Wars 2, including the long-awaited PvP aspects of the game (which you can read about here.) Of course, being told about how a game will play is not exactly the same as playing it for yourself, seeing if the promises do indeed match up to the reality. Thankfully, I was lucky to be invited to a world first hands-on with the Competative PvP portion of the game at Eurogamer Expo last month. After such a grand presentation at Gamescom, I had high expectations for the upcoming MMO.
After a short wait to get the computer stations filled with willing combatants, we were let loose into the game to pick our race and class. Much like with Guild Wars 1, PvP takes place with top level characters, but unlike its predecessor all abilities will be available to start with upon creating a PVP avatar, and not require playing through the storyline to unlock; a player could launch himself into PvP warfare right off the install if they so wished. So with everything (bar the final, unannounced class) at my disposal, I decided to make myself an Asuran Ranger for comical effect, and gave him the name of the greatest detective to ever not-live, McGarnagle.
With McGarnagle ready to unleash hell, myself and the rest of the blue team waited in a pre-match state, applying buffs and checking out our abilities, giving me a chance to check out my surroundings and the interface. The arena we were previewing, The Battle of Kyhlo, involved two teams of up to 5 players fighting across a map to capture control points which build up your team’s score, with the first to get to a set amount of points declared the winner. Standard stuff really, however ArenaNet have been working on making their PvP in GW2 a more fluid and accessible affair, which is something that really shows when the action gets going.
The UI displayed all of the information I needed; health and mana clearly indicated next to my abilities bar, the mini map pointing to all the objectives and areas of interest, and the current score of the match in plain view. This meant I was able to keep an eye on relevant information whilst raining hurt on my opponents, with the information never really cluttering the screen to distract me from the action in the match. There wasn’t much time to appreciate anything else however, as the gates of the Blue Team compound opened and the match began. Charging down with my teammates, we quickly captured the nearest control point and went onto the next located in what looked like a large tower, but before we could move upon it the Red team were waiting for us, and the combat commenced.
I was initially confused as to why I only had melee options at my disposal, forcing me to get up close and personal with my foes, but after dispatching my first enemy I soon found the swap weapons button on the toolbar. Pressing it quickly switched to my ranged weapon, and in doing so also completely changed the abilities on my toolbar to more appropriate skills. The smooth transition between both weapon sets allowed for what felt like slick gameplay, the traditional flying combat numbers looking glorious as I brought the pain to the Reds. What I also found quite impressive was the ability to designate an auto-attack. This meant whenever I selected an enemy to attack, my designated ability would automatically be unleashed upon them, allowing me to focus on which skill to use next.
As has been highlighted in many previews, the removal of the “holy trinity” of MMO roles, allowing players to take up any class without restriction, translates to PvP as well. During the first brawl with the Blue team a few of my teammates were knocked into their downed state, similar to that used in Borderlands, and required me to revive them by moving my avatar over and clicking on them, bringing them back into the fight. A similar method is also used to finish off a downed opponent, with the option to slay them in their downed state by clicking on them, forcing them to respawn back at their nearest capture point or base. Both processes take time however, so I was forced to keep a lookout for any potential interruptions as I performed said tasks, which I feel allows to keep the action flowing.
With the Red team thwarted for a moment, myself and a few other teammates quickly climbed the tower beside us to capture the next control point, a task that was completed with ease and speed thanks to there being three of us. From there we were able to break a nearby window and jump out of the tower, removing the need to climb back down the staircase to exit and allowed us to jump back down into the action. Instead of going for the third control point, I decided to disable the enemy’s trebuchet, an artillery piece given to both teams that not only destroys structures around the map (and further opening up areas for ease of movement) but suppresses opposing forces, as well as acting as an effective anti-camping tool.) With no one guarding it I managed to take it out with ease, and used my high position to provide ranged support to my team as they killed the enemy.
It wasn’t too long after this that the Blue team were declared the winners. Maybe it was my amazing abilities that won the day, or maybe it was because the other team was one player short (as we were told straight afterward, killing my smug mood) but we won regardless.
For the second round of PvP (now with equal times) I decided to switch my class to a rather intimidating Charr Warrior. The new-look McGarnagle could switch between his sword and shield combo and what looked like a blunderbuss, giving a similar choice of range and close quarter combat to my previous class. However, being a hulking figure that specialised in melee combat, I felt it was my duty this time to charge right into the middle of the conflict and defiantly cause grief for the Red team. The usual skills ranging from huge smashes to ability interrupts were there, and while I found myself going into the downed state a fair few times, I couldn’t help but feel like a powerful fighter in the middle of it all thanks to the satisfying visuals of my Charr swinging and clobbering his way through the opposition in our quest to capture the control points.
As with the previous match, I ultimately decided to run up to the enemy trebuchet, but this time there was another player using it. This ended up in a rather intense duel with Charr ranger, and one that showed that one-on-one battles could be just as enjoyable as a skirmish with other players. While my opponent managed to get me into a downed state, I had done enough damage to them that I was able to use my abilities, which were pretty much “throw rocks at the bad man”, to send them down as well, which in turn revived me. Using my new lease of life I was able to slay my opponent and begin attempting to destroy the trebuchet. Sadly for me though, still being on half health, my nemesis returned and dispatched me in an almost trivial manner. His triumph was short lived however, as shortly after I had respawned, the Blue team were once again victorious.
When I questioned the nearby developer as to when we would see the reveal for the final class, he coyly replied “when it’s ready”, stating that announced features and classes had only been revealed once ArenaNet had felt they were complete. From what I saw during my hands-on with the PvP I am happy to wait, as the multiplayer encounter was fun to play, looked fantastic with its unique art style, and more importantly felt balanced from a class and combat point of view. The Ranger felt like a skilled marksman whilst the warrior definitely felt more at home getting up close and personal. The journalist beside me, playing as a Necromancer, commented on how powerful he felt as he flung unholy spells. By mixing this illusion of power for the player along with the ease to pick up and play a class, Guild Wars 2 looks to have some mighty impressive PvP encounters to come, and we haven't even looked at the World Vs World experience yet. I'm looking forward to doing so, though.