Guild Wars 2
|Guild Wars 2|
|Release date(s)||August 28, 2012|
Guild Wars 2 is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game developed by ArenaNet and published by NCSOFT. Set in the fantasy world of Tyria, the game follows the re-emergence of Destiny's Edge, a disbanded guild dedicated to fighting the Elder Dragons, a Lovecraftian species that has seized control of Tyria in the time since the original Guild Wars. The game takes place in a persistent world with a story that progresses in instanced environments.
Guild Wars 2 claims to be unique in the genre by featuring a storyline that is responsive to player actions, something which is common in single player role-playing games but rarely seen in multiplayer ones. A dynamic event system replaces traditional questing, utilising the ripple effect to allow players to approach quests in different ways as part of a persistent world. Also of note is the combat system, which aims to be more dynamic than its predecessor by promoting synergy between professions and using the environment as a weapon, as well as reducing the complexity of the Magic-style skill system of the original game.
As a sequel to Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2 features the same lack of subscription fees that distinguished its predecessor from other commercially developed online games of the time, though until August 2015 a purchase was still required to install the game. As reported by NCsoft and ArenaNet, by September 13 (about 2 weeks after launch), despite temporarily halting first-party sales, the game has sold over 2 million copies. By August 2013, the peak player concurrency had reached 460,000. By August 2015, over 5 million copies had been sold, at which point the base game became free-to-play.
Guild Wars 2 uses a heavily modified version of the proprietary game engine developed for Guild Wars by ArenaNet. The modifications to the engine include real-time 3D environments, enhanced graphics and animations and the use of the Havok physics system. The developers say the engine now does justice to the game's critically acclaimed concept art, and that concept art will be integrated into the way the story is told to the player.
Guild Wars 2 allows a player to create a character from a combination of five races and eight professions, the five races being the humans and charr, introduced in Prophecies, the asura and norn, introduced in Eye of the North, and the sylvari, a race exclusive to Guild Wars 2. The professions, three of which do not appear in Guild Wars, are divided into armor classes: "scholars" with light armor, "adventurers" with medium armor, and "soldiers" with heavy armor. There is no dedicated healing class as the developers felt that making it necessary for every party to have a healer was restrictive.
The race and profession of the player determines the skills they can access. Guild Wars 2, like Guild Wars, uses a skill-based combat system, whereby players must select only 10 skills from a much larger pool, introducing an element of strategy. However, unlike Guild Wars, skill slots have predefined roles: the first five are determined by player's weapon and profession, the sixth is for healing, the seventh through ninth will be skills with no defined roles that are unlocked as the game progresses, and the tenth slot will be for an "elite" skill, which is also initially locked. In a departure from the high number of skills present in Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2 will focus on quality of skills over quantity and will also reduce the overall number of game modes to reduce balancing complexity — one of the most common issues present in MMORPGs.
The low level cap of Guild Wars (20) has been replaced with one at 80, which the developers state strikes the correct balance between allowing for character development and avoiding forcing players into the grind-based gameplay that too often accompanies a high level cap, the elimination of which was a core design principle of the original Guild Wars. Player versus environment features a scaling system that lowers the players level and stats to reflect the levels of monsters, thereby maintaining a global level of difficulty. In player versus player, a player will have access to almost all skills and items, and compete at the fixed level 80, so that all players will be on a level playing field.
In addition to the small-scale, tactical combat described above, the game features "World versus World", large scale combat taking place in a persistent world independent of the main world. Players are able to drop in and out "on the fly" and possess the ability to construct siege weapons, with rewards commensurate with their success. Guild Wars 2 offers eight crafting disciplines, allowing the player to practice two at a time, with a fee for switching. While there are basic recipes to follow, the player can experiment with different combinations of ingredients to discover new recipes. As the game is set 250 years after its predecessor, players are unable to carry over their characters. However, the achievements and honors accumulated by all the characters on players' Guild Wars accounts. Each achievement earns points which allow confer certain bonuses in Guild Wars 2. The accounts of both games must be linked in order to acquire these bonuses.
Guild Wars 2 takes place in the high fantasy world of Tyria, 250 years after the players' defeat of the Great Destroyer in the Eye of the North expansion. Five so-called Elder Dragons sleeping beneath the continent have awoken in the time since Guild Wars, causing widespread destruction to Tyria and corrupting its inhabitants. The once dominant humans of Tyria are in decline, supplanted from most of their land by natural disasters and war with the charr, who have finally reclaimed the last vestiges of their ancestral homeland of Ascalon from the humans. To the north, the norn, a proud race of Nordic hunters, have been forced south by the rise of Jormag, the elder dragon of ice. In the west, the technologically advanced asura have been forced to establish permanent homes above-ground after the minions of the first dragon to awaken, Primordus, took control of the Depths of Tyria. Near the forests where the asura make their home are the sylvari, a new race who have appeared in Tyria in the last 25 years, unaffected by the difficulties that plague the other races but with some as yet unexplained connection to the Elder Dragons.
To the south, the continent of Cantha has been cut off by an isolationist and xenophobic political climate, which is reinforced by Zhaitan's undead navy. The continent of Elona, too, has been cut off; the only hint of its continued prosperity being the ongoing battle between the lich Palawa Joko's Mordant Crescent and Kralkatorrik, the crystal dragon in the Crystal Desert, as well as occasional reports from Order of Whispers (a secretive organization) spies. The Battle Isles have been wiped off the map entirely by the tidal wave caused by the re-emergence of the fallen kingdom of Orr, which came with the awakening of Zhaitan.
The advancement of time from Guild Wars is reflected in the changes in culture, including armor and clothing, as well as in the advancement of in-game technology and a unified common language.
The player is tasked with reuniting the members of the disbanded Destiny's Edge, a multi-racial adventuring guild whose members' struggles and eventual reunion serve as a microcosmic metaphor for the larger-scale unification of the playable races, whose combined strength is needed to effectively combat Zhaitan, the undead Elder Dragon.
After the defeat of the Elder Dragon Zhaitan in the game's "Personal Story", Season 1 of the "Living World" began. This story followed the player character joining a new group of characters to battle the enigmatic and insane Sylvari, Scarlet Briar, as she created strange enemy groups such as the Molten Alliance (a team-up between evil Charr and mole-like Dredge), the Toxic Alliance (a combination of lizard-like Krait and a spliter group from the Nightmare Court, a group of evil Sylvari), and the Aetherblades, steampunk sky pirates. As the player and their new group of heroes, made up of characters from each race, battle Scarlet, they also learn about her past and investigate what she could be searching for. The season culminated with Scarlet attacking the city of Lion's Arch, landing a giant drill known as The Breachmaker in the center of the City. The player and their fellow heroes fought back, and killed Scarlet, but not before Lion's Arch was left in ruins and the Breachmaker pierces a Ley Line, awakening a previously unknown jungle Elder Dragon, Mordremoth.
Season 2 of the "Living World" picked up where Season 1 left off, sending the player towards the Maguuma Wastes to battle Mordremoth with the help of their fellow heroes and Destiny's Edge. The season began with the crashing of the Zephyrite Sanctum, a group of airships populated by followers of the now-dead dragon, Glint, who had escaped from the control of the Elder Dragons and had tried to help Destiny's Edge kill one of the Elder Dragons before the events of the game. The player and their allies followed Scarlet Briar's path into Dry Top, a region to the west, and learned about the Elder Dragons. The player also learned of an egg laid by Glint before her death and went in search of it. Later, all of the races united against Mordemoth, and the Pact prepare once again to battle an Elder Dragon. However, while the player hunted down Glint's Egg and learned many secrets from the past, the Pact fleet was destroyed over the jungle by a devastating attack by Mordremoth.
Heart Of Thorns brings the player's attention to the shattered Pact fleet. The player has chased after Glint's egg, stolen by the Sylvari member of Destiny's Edge. Finding the remaining Pact Soldiers, the player commands the Pact to regroup and begin holding the point within the Verdant Brink, using the fallen fleet as an opportunity to begin an assault on the jungle. Mordremoth schemes to take the egg, and crush the Pact once and for all. Advancing further towards the jungle on the trail of the lost Sylvari, the player faces the loss of a member of Destiny's Edge, but in a twist of fate, is reunited with the egg. Making way through the jungle with the Pact, the player encounters the mysterious Exalted. Followers of the forgotten, and protectors of Glint's offspring, teach the player the importance of the egg, and have the player leave the egg in their golden city, so the player may advance towards the dragon. Within the jungle, an ancient Asuran city is discovered, revealing large quantities of information regarding the powers of the dragons, and vicious predators, with the Pact taking the point to break into the dragon's territory, and end the fight once and for all. After an all out assault and rescue, the player must face the dragon Mordremoth, and defeats him within the mind of the Pact Marshal, but at the cost of the Marshal's life. As Mordremoth fades, the continent of Tyria feels a massive shock as magic flows once more.
The decision to start creating Guild Wars 2 began in a design meeting for Guild Wars Utopia, back when the company was releasing campaigns on a sixth-month development cycle. The team realised that they would not be able to do everything they wanted within the constraints of the scope that they had previously defined for campaigns and the limited amount of time available to them, and at the behest of Jeff Strain, found themselves discussing how the continued addition of features and content in stand-alone campaigns was leading to more bloated tutorials and difficulty in balancing the ever-increasing number of skills. Eventually, the discussion evolved into a blueprint for an entirely new game.
Work on Guild Wars 2 began in 2007. It was announced March 27, 2007 to coincide with the announcement of the final Guild Wars expansion, which was designed to act as a bridge, in both gameplay and story terms, to Guild Wars 2. The development team abandoned the early open alpha and beta testing which they had used for the Guild Wars game. ArenaNet considered that player expectations for open beta tests of MMORPG had changed, and the beta was no longer used to test the game but to trial a nearly finished game prior to purchase. Beta tests scheduled for 2008 were cancelled to ensure Guild Wars 2 had maximum impact and appeal to these players.
In August 2009, two years after the game was first announced, ArenaNet decided the game had reached a state where they were happy to show it to the public. A trailer which mixed animated concept art and in-game footage was released at Gamescom, followed by interviews expanding on the lore of the game world and information about the player races.
In November 2009, NCsoft CEO Jaeho Lee stated the game would most likely not release until 2011, but a closed beta would be made available in 2010. The Q4 2009 shareholders notes further supported this when the CEO stated that "the current development target was the end of 2010 but, Guild Wars 2 likely won't be released until 2011." A playable demo of the game was made available at Gamescom (19–22 August 2010), Penny Arcade Expo (3–5 September 2010) and Paris Games Week (27 October-1 November 2010). The game was developed for Microsoft Windows with a "very small team" investigating the possibility of a console version.
ArenaNet conducted small closed alpha and beta tests in 2011. On 23 January 2012 it was announced that Guild Wars 2 will ship this year. In February, select press were invited to participate in beta testing. In March and April, the size of beta tests was increased significantly as the beta was made available to anyone who pre-purchased the game. On June 28, 2012, ArenaNet announced the game would be released on August 28, 2012 and those who prepurchased the game would be able to play on August 25. On September 18, 2012, a Mac OS X client for Guild Wars 2 was released; it is currently in beta testing.
Guild Wars 2 received content updates every two weeks, but now plans large releases for every few months, with smaller patches and bug fixes between these. Content updates regularly contain new items available for purchase in the gem store, as well as offering unique events for players to engage in. Some content updates introduce new mechanics to the game, such as the addition of new dungeons or the introduction of new combat options.
In the Lost Shores content updates released on November 16, 2012, a new dungeon was added to the game. Called Fractals of the Mists, the new dungeon differs from other dungeons in the game by consisting of many smaller "mini-dungeons" called Fractals. Each fractal contains its own story and environment, and must be completed in order to move on to the next randomly chosen fractal. Once three fractals are completed, a new set of fractals is unlocked that offer a greater challenge than the last. This update also introduced a new rarity level for equipment called Ascended which can be acquired through various sources, though most easily through the Fractals of the Mists dungeon.
The Flame and Frost: Prelude update released on January 28, 2013 introduced several new features to Guild Wars 2, including achievement laurels, guesting and new "living story" content. Achievement laurels are rewarded for earning daily and monthly achievements, and may be used by players to purchase items from certain vendors such as Ascended equipment and infusions for that equipment. Guesting was introduced to allow players to temporarily play on the same server as their friends, without having to transfer their home to a new server. In conjunction with this new feature, a gem fee was added for players wishing to transfer their home to another server. The final new features added during this update was the introduction of Living Story content. The living story in Guild Wars 2 consists of a series of events and other content that players must progress through within a certain amount of time. Once this time has passed, the story progresses and new content is unlocked while the previous content becomes unavailable, though the story's effect on the world remains. Living World content is intended to provide a continuing story thread for players to follow.
The two following content updates, Flame and Frost: The Gathering Storm and Flame and Frost: The Razing, released in February and March 2013 respectively added guild missions, introduced a new progression system for Guild Wars 2's WvW game mode, progressed the Flame and Frost living story narrative and introduced content that set up story elements for future living story narratives. Guild missions introduced the ability for guilds to earn guild merits by engaging in bounties and group puzzles Guild leaders can use merits to unlock rewards for their guild. The new WvW progressions system introduced World XP and new WvW ranks, which can be used to unlock new titles and abilities exclusive to WvW. New WvW achievements were also introduced.
The Flame and Frost: Retribution update released in April 2013 introduced a new limited availability dungeon, new guild missions, added new WvW abilities and added new purchasable siege weapons and guild banners for WvW play. The new dungeon, Molten Weapons Facility, coincided with the final portion of the Flame and Frost living story narrative and was only available for thirteen days. The new WvW abilities allow players to become more proficient in using the arrow cart in WvW play and allows players to progress through five new levels of the Guild Killer ability line.
Introduced in May 2013, the next content update for Guild Wars 2 began a new living story narrative called The Secret of Southsun, which would continue later in the month with a smaller update titled Last Stand at Southsun. In addition to the new living story content, the update introduced another large set of changes to WvW, including the ability for players to set traps in WvW battlegrounds, improvements to the World XP system, improved rewards and new abilities, improvements to the matchup system and the ability for players to use special Ascended and infused equipment in WvW play.
Introduction of the Living Story
In June 2013, two new content updates titled Dragon Bash and Sky Pirates of Tyria introduced a new living story narrative as well as several new features. These features included improvements to the PvP leaderboards, the introduction of the Authorized Shoutcaster Program, the ability for players to purchase items from the gem store as gifts for other players, a large balance update to the game's skills and traits, custom arenas for structure PvP, a new spectator mode and a new ability for players to master in WvW play.
The next update was released on July 9, 2013, titled Bazaar of the Four Winds. The largest new feature added in the update was an account-wide achievement system that allows players to unlock rewards based on how many achievement points have been earned. In addition, the update overhauled the achievement interface, introduced a new structured PvP map, and introduced a new WvW mastery.
Over the rest of 2013, the updates Cutthroat Politics, Queen's Jubilee, Clockwork Chaos, Super Adventure Box: Back to School. Tequatl Rising, Twilight Assault, Blood and Madness, Tower of Nightmares, The Nightmares Within, Fractured, and A Very Merry Wintersday were released, updating and changing many areas and game mechanics throughout the world. Many of these changes were permanent, leaving a mark on the world to show an event had occurred. Updates included redesigning a boss, adding new paths to Dungeons, and rebalancing playable classes over time.
2014 brought the end of "Season 1" of the Living Story content updates, The Origins of Madness, The Edge of the Mists, Escape from Lion's Arch, Battle for Lion's Arch, and the finale Battle for Lion's Arch: Aftermath . These updates released a new WvW map, and destroyed the core city of the game's world, Lion's Arch, while setting up the story for the eventual Season 2 of the Living Story.
During the down time between Seasons 1 and 2, the April 2014 Feature Pack was released, overhauling the Trait system, the Dyes system, the Cosmetic Wardrobe system, PvP equipment, and the way server load was handled via a system called Megaservers. This created world instances for all players, regardless of their home "world", to allow the game to feel more populated. The feature pack also fixed numerous bugs and offered balance tweaks to many races and classes.
On May 20, 2014, around the time of the Chinese servers release, the update Festival of the Four Winds was released, allowing players to access content from two prior patches, Queen's Jubilee and Bazaar of the Four Winds, alongside new activities.
Living World Season 2
On July 1, 2014, Season 2 of the Living World began with the Gates of Maguuma release, which added a portion of a new explorable area, Dry Top, and changed the way Living World releases worked, no longer making them time-gated to complete. This was followed by Entanglement on July 15, 2014, which added more explorable sections to Dry Top, and added more achievements, new weaponry for players, and a new story segment.
On July 29, 2014, The Dragon's Reach: Part 1 was released. This was the first in a two-part set of releases. This updated added a few more rewards to the Dry Top zone, added a few new items and achievements, and added some new events to various zones across the game's world. On August 12, 2014, the second part, The Dragon's Reach: Part 2 was released, concluding part one of the second season of the Living Story and starting a several month hiatus on Living Story content. This update added the final new section to the Dry Top map, new rewards and events, new achievements, and game balances.
On September 9, 2014, the second Feature Pack was released, significantly changing and improving the Combat Log, the Black Lion Trading Post, and the New Player Experience, while adding a new type of Achievement called collections, adding a number of changes to the World Versus World gametype, improving the Wardrobe and miniature pets displays, and making a number of rebalances and changes to the game's professions.
On October 15, 2014, the previous year's Halloween event, Blood and Madness was re-released with a few new events and rewards.
The Living World's second season continued on November 4 with the release Echoes of the Past, which included a lengthy new story segment focusing on the story of Glint and her Dragon Egg among other things, an entire brand new map called The Silverwastes which added WvW mechanics in a PvE environment and including a number of new rewards and collections included an earnable Luminescent Shoulderguard armor piece. This was followed by Tangled Paths released on November 18, 2014, which added a new story segment, a few new rewards including another Luminscent armor piece, and an underground section to the Silverwastes map.
On December 2, 2014, the seventh release in Season Two was released, called Seeds of Truth, which contained a new story instance, a large underground addition to the Silverwastes map which nearly doubled the map's size, a number of improvements to PvP and associated matchmaking, and two new Luminescent armor pieces for players to earn. This was followed on January 13, 2015 by Point of No Return, the final eighth and final episode in Season 2. This update included several new story instances, a brand new large group boss, two new Luminescent armor pieces for players to earn, and a number of new achievements, among other things. This episode serves to lead directly into the first expansion, Heart of Thorns.
Heart of Thorns
On January 24, 2015, at PAX South held in San Antonio, ArenaNet announced the first expansion for the game titled Heart of Thorns. The expansion introduced new group challenges, new profession specializations, a new profession, and an account-based "mastery" system for character progression through the new territories featured in it, as well as changes to current player versus player content. It was released on October 23, 2015 to positive reviews.
With the second of the Living World seasons over, and an expansion on the way, releases were smaller as teasers for the expansion were released. On January 27, 2015, a number of bug fixes and balance improvements were released. Following that, a small scale Festival was released on February 10, 2015 called the Lunar New Year. This update included a relaunch of an older activity called Dragon Ball, featuring reworked gameplay, as well as new Daily Lunar New Year achievements, and new rewards.
On August 29, 2015, the base game was made free to download. The free version of the game includes some restrictions over the core game, such as fewer character slots and some chat limitations.
Living World Season 3
The first episode of the 3rd season of the Living World was announced on 12 July 2016. Entitled Out of the Shadows, it was released on July 26, 2016, containing a new story instance and map with related achievements, a new PvP map with related achievements, a new fractal, some tweaks to the PvP and WvW game modes, and a number of balance changes.
PC Gamer's Chris Thursten gave the game a 94% rating, calling it "an accomplished and rewarding online RPG that does a great deal to reclaim the promise of its genre." IGN's Charles Onyett rated the game a 9/10, commenting that the game is "one of the most exhaustively detailed and rewarding MMOs in existence, one that never unfairly penalizes and fosters an incredible urge to explore through a generous reward system and achingly pretty environment design". GameSpot's Kevin VanOrd opened his review with "Guild Wars 2 is a paradise for explorers and thrill-seekers alike, and the best online role-playing game in years" and gave the game a 9.0/10. Computer and Video Games Games Editor Andy Kelly gave a verdict of 8.9/10 closing with "An entertaining MMO that combats the dreaded grind with smart design. The lack of a monthly subscription fee only sweetens the deal." GamesRadar's Hollander Cooper wrote in his review, "Everything a massively-multiplayer online RPG should be. It's original, massive in scope, and wonderfully social, removing many of the gates that held back the genre in the past. Being able to play with friends regardless of level or class is a gigantic leap forward, and one that, when mixed in with all of the other innovations in the genre, make Guild Wars 2 one of the best MMOs currently available." and giving it 4.5/5 and GameSpy's Leif Johnson wrote, "To Guild Wars 2's credit, its issues do little to detract from the immensely rewarding experience of the whole. It doesn't overthrow the conventions of the MMORPG, but it presents them in fresher and livelier packaging than its competitors."
Time listed Guild Wars 2 as the top video game of 2012. Editor Matt Peckham noted that "Guild Wars 2 is one of those rare games that unexpectedly knocks your life off-kilter, like a meteoroid banging into a satellite"... [It has] the feel of a living world, and the sort of compulsive anywhere-you-go playability other MMOs only dream of."
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