August 22, 2012

Guild Wars 2 Beta Impressions: Transitioning into an Open World

     I was lucky enough to get a beta key for one of the beta weekends. I was able to log enough time into the beta so I have a fair idea of what to expect from the game when it comes out. One thing that immediately caught my attention is how differently this game feels from the original Guild Wars. Yes you have the familiar characters and places, but somehow it does not feel the same. The reason for this is actually very simple. If you followed the development of the game, this has been discussed for quite a bit. The transition from Instanced into Open World.

     To quickly differentiate between the two, Instanced locations refer to having your own copy of the game world. Taking an example from the original Guild Wars, if you step out of town to a general PVE area with mobs and such, you are placed into your own version of that area. This means you won’t actually meet any people while you play in this area unless they were part of your group to begin with. To further illustrate this concept, another example that I can give comes from World of Warcraft, when you enter a dungeon (which are also called Instances), you enter a copy of the dungeon that is unique for your group. Even if, another group has cleared the dungeon, they only did that for their “instance” of the dungeon and what they do there doesn’t affect the one you are currently in. Instances also has a way of separating itself from open world areas such as portals or doors that bring you to loading screens once you enter.

     On the other hand, having an Open World means that there is this one huge world where every player, regardless of whether you belong to the same group or not, can quest, farm and interact.

You won't be alone this time around
     You can then very well see from my examples why this is such a huge change for the Guild Wars franchise. The gameplay of the original was tuned around the idea of instanced locations. They were able to tell a very intricate story because of this but the main downside is that you are pretty much alone in it. From my experience in the beta, I think this is their main principle in designing the world for Guild Wars 2. The team still wanted to keep telling a very focused and personal storyline but adapt this to a more open world scenario. And let me tell you, it works quite well.

     The game is now open world for the majority of content. This makes more sense in my opinion since the game now really feels like an MMO. You can step out of Divinity’s Reach (the main human city) and just explore the surrounding fields meeting other adventurers along the way and this makes the world feel much more alive than the original.

     There are still some areas that remain instanced. Your personal storyline (the main quest line) occurs in instanced versions of the open world locations. This serves the game well in keeping true to telling a focused and intricate story but you are no longer just limited to this. Dungeons, from what I hear since I wasn’t able to run one during the beta, are also instanced which makes sense since it serves as a challenge for one small group of adventurers at a time instead of every player in the server all at once.

     The transition to this combination of open world with pockets of instanced content has a large impact on the mechanics of the game as a whole and the devs at Arena Net addressed several of these concerns and quite creatively if I may add. I will be delving into more detail about these mechanics in another post. For now, this transition to more open world content is a welcome one for the Guild Wars universe and the world feels more alive than ever.

Make sure to check back tomorrow for more details around the beta, specifically, the questing experience.

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