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Guild Wars 2’s combat system : tip of the iceberg

As I mentioned before, I had access to the Guild Wars 2 beta last weekend since I pre-purchased the game. I have to say I’m quite impressed with the way the game is shaping up. Throughout the weekend I mainly played a Charr Ranger up to lvl 16, a Norn Engineer to lvl 6 and a Human Mage to lvl 7. Now today I’m mainly going to talk about the game’s combat system and what makes it different than your run of the mill MMO.

In essence the game’s combat system is about the player’s choices and skill. The player has a 10 slot skill bar that’s explained in the diagram below.

Taken from the Guild Wars 2 official wiki

The 1st five skills can be switched out in combat instantly by switching to a secondary weapon set for most classes (elementalist can also switch elements using F1-F4). Since these skills are determined by the weapon, the player’s choice becomes also about play style and not just the stats on the weapon. Some skills can be charged for more power and some skills have a chaining quality to them. Chaining is when a skill changes after you use it the first time (Ranger’s Hornet Sting leaps back away from the target after striking, it then becomes Monarch’s Leap which leaps back into combat crippling your foe when you use it the 2nd time).

Ranger in the middle of a chain attack

When you press a button on your skill bar, your character is going to swing the weapon. Whatever skill that button is, it’s going to fire off and go on cool down whether you have a target or not, and it is going to hit any viable target in its path. This means that if an enemy is standing between you and your target, that enemy will take the hit instead. Some skills’ damage is based on the distance to the target (such as a longbows long shot or point blank shot).

Some skills in the game have something called a combo-field quality to them, meaning that they can interact with other skills. The simplest example of that is a Ranger or a Warrior shooting an arrow through an elementalist’s Flame Wall, imbuing the arrows with fire as they touch it (check the video below at 1:20 to see this in action) . This emphasizes the importance of movement and positioning and adds another layer to player interaction and cooperation that goes beyond each player just doing their job in the “holy trinity”.

The game also introduces a dodge mechanic. Double tapping a direction key will cause your character to dodge roll in that direction to avoid damage. This uses up points from an endurance bar that recharges overtime, which means that you can only dodge about twice in a row before having to wait.

All these mechanics -and others that I didn’t manage to get into during my time in the beta weekend- help create a very engaging combat system that keeps you active all the time and gives a feeling of satisfaction in a good fight. My experience with the ranger left me quite satisfied when I was switching from a longbow to a sword and axe when an enemy gets close, Dodging out of strong attacks when I saw them coming, using “Hornet’s sting” to leap out of combat when things got too hot to use my heal and leap back in to finish the job. The bottom line is, it never felt stale. Like a breath of fresh air after all the “WoW clones”.

There’s a lot more to it than what I just talked about and I’ll probably return to the subject later when I’ve gotten to experience it more. I’m out!

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Diablo III Beta Impressions

I checked out the Diablo III open beta weekend last week and here are a few thoughts I’d like to share about it what I thought.

Right off the bat, it was impossible to login for the first few hours. Now I know this was the first open beta of a highly anticipated game (not to mention that it was meant as a stress test), but it made me think about Blizzard‘s decision to force online connectivity for Diablo III. This brings up the discussion about the game being mainly a single-player or multi-player game, and people usually start talking about Diablo 2, duping and so on. What people seem to miss is that while this is a sequel, it’s still a new game and blizzard is trying new things and it shows in other aspects of the game. During the beta I started playing alone but at some point I noticed I could open up my game to the public. Within a few seconds I had a bunch of  people running around in my game destroying shit as they went along. It was certainly a quick way to go through beta area, but at times I felt it didnt let me experience the game well since I didnt want to fall behind. I could definitely see myself having fun with a bunch of friends though.

Blizzard also implemented the auction house that should allow players to use real money or in game gold. Now there’s a lot to say about that and it deserves it’s own post, but I just wanted to mention it since it’s another motivation for the online decision. Without dragging this on let’s just say that while I can see this being an issue sometimes when you don’t have internet access or servers are down (knowing Blizzard this wont be too common), it probably won’t be a reason to not buy the game if you’re a fan.

On to gameplay! controls were pretty simple; click to move, right click, left click for main attack skills, 1 2 3 4 for other skills and Q for potions. You unlocked skills as you leveled up and every skill slot you have has a few possible skills you can assign it. This limits the number of skills you can use at any given time and allows for different builds and character customization. each of the skills also has runes that enhance which you also unlock as you level up which adds even more customization. I enjoyed trying out different combos and I hope that all options will be viable and that no builds emerge as the “Best” the same way it often was in WoW.

Loot was abundant. I used the stash a lot to gear up all the characters I made, and it’s obvious that this game makes it easy for someone who is usually lazy when it comes to alts. The crafting system seemed a bit too simple. one thing I didn’t like was that some classes could equip weapons that they couldn’t use, and the only benefit would be from the stats. It seems a shame to turn some cool weapons into simple stat-sticks. I mean come on, a demon hunter can’t swing a sword to save his life? not cool…

Art style is great as expected from Blizzard. Same goes for story, dialogue, music and voice overs. I saw a lot of people complain about the graphics not being that good. I thought the graphics were as good as they needed to be to support the art direction while making sure the game runs smooth on most machines.

Overall regarding the beta, I hated the lag, hated people rushing through the game, hated getting disconnected with different errors all the time. If we look past all that, Diablo III looks like a solid game as expected. Personally, playing with friends is gonna be a huge factor when it comes to when I get the game (yea I didn’t pre-order) and how much time I’ll spend playing it.

This weekend I’ll be playing the Guild Wars 2 beta with some friends on the EU-Underworld server if anyone out there cares to join us. I’ll post character names later. I’m out!