Daily Archives: June 24, 2011

Guild Wars 2 — The Catacombs!

“I did not like doing that dungeon.  It made me sad.”

Those were my quaggan-like words to Colin at dinner last night.  Any hardcore Guild Wars fan is going to have his or her heartstrings yanked by this dungeon in a big way.  It begins with a (gorgeous) cinematic featuring Rytlock, who gives a charr’s-eye view of the history of Ascalon, then explains why we’re heading in.  In short, Eir has gone haring off into the Catacombs and is stirring up the vengeful citizens of Ascalon.  Rytlock doesn’t want to see anyone killed, so we need to go down there and haul her out. Want to see it firsthand?  I’ve got an HD video of the thing.  Go take a look, I’ll wait.

Cool, huh?  It may begin with a rescue-slash-intervention, but it wound up as an attempt to retrieve Magdaer, Adelbern’s legendary sword.  In our travels we fought a slew of ghosts, many of whom made me laugh out loud because they are true Guild Wars 1 characters.  There was a monk slinging Ray of Judgement — and I can’t really complain, I guess we sort of deserve that for the way we are currently abusing that skill.  I can confirm that there are mesmers in Guild Wars 2.  Unfortunately they’re not playable because they are dead mesmers in ghost form nailing me with Blackout.  Still.  Mesmers.

The catacombs were beautiful in the way that the current pre-Searing version is beautiful.  Grand and soaring in a sort of decaying way.  I had the same problem I did underwater earlier, in that I was so anxious to inspect every nook and cranny of the environment that I sort of got my butt kicked a lot.  The “end bosses” of this dungeon were a little heartbreaking for those who love the Guild Wars 1 lore and characters: Master Ranger Nente, Kasha Blackblood, the lovers Ralena Stormbringer and Vassar, and finally King Adelbern.  At one point in a quick cinematic Eir expressed a desire to let them just rest in peace, a suggestion that Rytlock quickly overruled.  The exchange brought a little lump to my throat, as did the later cinematics of each of the familiar enemies.

The mechanics of combat here were really interesting to me, because they emphasized two things: First, how incredibly important coordination and positioning are.  There was a lot of disorganized flailing at the start as each team member focused on his or her own combat, but as we progressed I began to notice increased organization.  The more we worked together the more smoothly it went.

Second, this was a perfect example of how versatile each class will be, and it really brought home for me what an amazing thing ArenaNet has done with their elimination of the traditional holy trinity.  This dungeon was extremely difficult.  Before we started coordinating we were dying left and right.

Here’s the thing, though. Our group of five people had four elementalists and a melee character.  Think about that for a second.  No healer. No tank. No minion master.  No Discordway, for heaven’s sake.  (I’m not knocking Discordway, don’t get me wrong.  I sort of love it.  But still.)  We kicked that dungeon’s butt thanks to the sheer versatility of the class setup.  The elementalist attunement shift has a fairly painless cooldown, allowing us to switch to a healing water focus now and again as needed, for example.

This first runthrough was in story mode.  Explorable mode, the mode that allows you to enter a dungeon repeatedly for a much tougher challenge, is one that will require some serious coordination and experience.  I look forward to taking that one soon.

For now, how about more video and screenshots?  I’ve got an eight-minute HD video of Catacombs action courtesy of ArenaNet, and a handful of screenshots that I picked up after begging Mike Z to put me in camera mode.  As with the others, there are also quite a few really beautiful shots from ArenaNet too.  Enjoy the screenshot album!

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Guild Wars 2 — ANet studio tour!

It’s nearly time to go experience more Guild Wars 2 (!!!), but I didn’t want to make you guys wait for this album.  Please pardon the occasional blurriness — there was a lot of jostling for position among the media crew, but I got some pretty good ones.  Highlights:

  • The team was extremely generous.  They actually encouraged us to walk around each development area and look at everything.
  • The art on the walls.  Wow!
  • The Orrian creature I discovered.  You’ll know the one I mean, I took a lot of pictures because he fascinated me.  I mean, come on.  His torso is a giant, roaring maw!
  • The Sylvari dungeon environment I watched being tweaked.
  • The snack dispensers, of course!

Enjoy these, and I will bring you all more soon!

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Guild Wars 2 — Underwater combat!

Welcome to my stream of consciousness ramblings! I’m heading back to the ArenaNet offices for another day of I-cannot-believe-this-is-really-happening, but for now it’s time to relive yesterday and share everything I found and enjoyed. It was incredibly hard to keep a lid on things until the designated time! I’ll jump first and foremost into what I know you guys want to hear about: Underwater combat! I’ve experienced underwater combat in two MMOs before now, and they were both fine. Dungeons and Dragons Online fits the mechanic into the lore by allowing it in a certain quest set, in which an amphibious race grants you a bubble of sort to fight in. It’s essentially regular combat slowed down and with an ability to breathe underwater. RIFT has underwater combat that I thought was fairly impressive. If you’re not familiar, it’s regular ground combat with a third plane involved. I always found the sound effect impressive, since it sounded like you were underwater. Then I jumped into underwater combat in Guild Wars 2. I wish someone had captured the expression I felt on my face when I realized that as soon as I was underwater all my skills changed. What?! As an elementalist, I gained four underwater skills:

  • Magma Orb: Shoot a blob of molten rock that explodes after a delay
  • Boil: Boil the water around your foe
  • Steam: Superheat the water around your foe, blinding and burning them
  • Lava Chains: Cripple multiple foes with lava chains

As awesome as these skills — and the entire concept of having underwater skills — was, I had a more pressing concern. All this time I’ve been dying to know one thing: How do you breathe?! Is it a breath-holding thing? Magic? Giant bubble around your head? Clever asura technology? As it happened, my last guess was the closest. As soon as you’re fully submerged, a small breathing apparatus appears over your character’s face and you can stay under indefinitely. That’s it. No muss, no fuss, no “find this potion, drink it, and you have ten minutes.” It’s remarkably simple and clean, and the breathing apparatus is — dare I say it? Sorta cute. It might be that my human ele had the typical loveliness of a Guild Wars/Guild Wars 2 character, but I found myself charmed at the image of the top half of her little face peeking over the mask.

The method of transitioning, so to speak, is interesting. When you’re on land you have your normal skills and when you are fully underwater you have your water skills, but when you’re “in-between” or swimming with your head above water, you have no skills. It’s got to be one or the other. I noticed something else when popping up and down on the surface of the water to confirm this: when you surface, the water splashes the camera, leaving drops on your screen that slide away after a moment. I loved it ; it’s those little details that are part of the greater whole that makes me so enamored of this game and its predecessor.

Once I’d gotten a good look at everything, I was ready to start exploring and fighting. It’s obvious that the ANet team has been enjoying creating this new world, because it was stunning. I honestly could not decide what to look at first, and I got really irritated with the local wildlife attacking me. “Argh, shark! Knock it OFF!” I had no interest in killing at the moment, I wanted to explore! (Kudos to my team for being so incredibly patient with me. I was so interested in admiring the environment and screenshotting every tiny thing that I was a completely useless team member. It was embarrassing.) There were shipwrecks to see, little rock overhangs to explore, plants to look at, but things wouldn’t stop trying to eat me.

I managed to get some exploring in, and as I was doing so saw something in the distance and went to investigate. Quaggan! A … herd? school? A murder of quaggan? I’m not sure what a bunch of them were called, but there they were, gathered around a sunken statue of Melaggan — the Melaggan chapel. I was thrilled and swam all around them, snapping images and greeting each one. (One of them said “Nice shell.” The greeting dialogue in this game is hilarious. Later on, a random norn kid told me I smelled funny, and then gave me finger guns.) Terribly cute little guys, but then some pirates had to come in and bust up the party. I noticed a disturbance out of the corner of my eye and turned in time to see a quaggan Pastkeeper say “Please! Please stop hurting quaggan!” Of course my heart melted for the poor little guy and I swam to the rescue. I realized after that I never saw any of them hulk out, so I’m curious as to what it takes for that to happen.

The group goal was to take on some pirates in a nearby event, and since I was holding the entire group up with my insistence on exploring, I left the quaggan to their worship and took off to join my teammates. The goal was essentially to invade a pirate camp and destroy it, so off we went. Frankly, the less said about this the better. There aren’t many screenshots of this since most of my gameplay was spent yelling ouch and learning in great detail about the downed state. And the defeated state. And why it’s a very bad idea to stand inside a red circle. This was my first experience in higher-level group gameplay for Guild Wars 2 and … well, I was pretty terrible. Once I got a feel for it things improved, but there’s a definite time period where you have to learn the rhythm of battle the hard way. I think my teammates had a similarly painful experience, but to be honest I was too busy being slaughtered to notice for sure. For the record, the elementalist downed skills are:

  • Grasping Earth: Summon hands that erupt from the ground and immobilize your foe
  • Discharge Lightning: Blast your foe with lightning
  • Vapor Form: Assume a mobile, vaporous form
  • Help me!: Call for help from allies. Makes you invulnerable for a short while

The experience was fantastic, and there was so much to take in that I’m sure I missed some things and have plenty more to discover. For now, though, it’s time to move on to a post about the dungeon! I leave you with an underwater screenshot gallery courtesy of myself and ArenaNet. It’s fairly obvious, I’m sure, but just to be clear: the ones with tons of UI, random scenery, and a redheaded elementalist photobombing every shot are taken by me. The beautifully composed scenes of aquatic wildlife and exciting battle are courtesy of ArenaNet. Enjoy them, then come along and read about the Catacombs!

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