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!