Guild Wars 2: World Builders at Work

We take a look at the changes in the second Beta Weekend Event, including the new Gendarran Fields and the Black Lion Trading Company.

While we’ve been visitors to and veterans of countless virtual worlds, it’s rare that we see one being created almost in front of us. Watching ArenaNet carefully craft the world of Tyria, and unveil it piece by piece, feels incredibly Magrathean. And yet, every so often, they fling the doors wide open, allowing us to scuttle and jape around their factory floor. 

Last weekend was marked with just such an occasion, as the second Beta Weekend Event for Guild Wars 2 saw thousands of players return to their characters and explore the game world further. The weekend also introduced the lush Gendarran Fields, linking the nautical city of Lion’s Arch to the frigid peaks of the Snowden Drifts in the north, and the rolling hills of Kessex to the west.

It’s not just new zones that were bundled in this beta weekend. Almost every aspect of Guild Wars 2, from the user interface to the slot skill system, has been tweaked and refined. Even minor areas, such as the sight and sound of melee combat, have been analyzed and adjusted.  While we’ve been looking at the game for some time now, Guild Wars 2 continues to evolve.

Under Construction

Piecing together the building blocks that make up a world as detailed as Tyria is a herculean task. Although the blueprints from the original Guild Wars already exist, the evolving landscape and updated lore have also made an impression. Cities have been demolished and new ones risen. Old armies have been defeated and new foes have emerged. All of these changes have left their mark.

One such example is Lion’s Arch. In the original MMO, the human capital city was a major trading port. Following its flooding and destruction, and largely abandoned by the human kingdom, the port was rebuilt from repurposed ships and salvaged driftwood, giving it a unique architecture. Over time, further ships have been hoisted aloft and added to the structure, linked together by a network of gantries and catwalks. It’s created a maze of a city, containing many hidden areas just waiting to be discovered. Much like Divinity’s Reach, Lion’s Arch is likely to be a boon to role players craving the social aspects of city life.

The nautical theme continues further upstream in the Gendarran Fields. Derelict galleons and trade vessels have been transformed into homes and storehouses for nearby vineyards. A giant windmill, with sails made from ship masts, stands watch over fields of corn ripe for harvest. It isn’t all country garden though; while centaurs and undead relentlessly attack the nearby human settlements, pirates seek to reclaim control of the waterway.

The Gendarran Fields are also home to an outpost of The Vigil. Along with the Order of Whispers and Durmand priory, players will be able to join one of these orders as part of their character’s personal story. Each of the three orders has a unique outlook on the world, which we’ll be able to experience as our characters develop later in the game.

Rooted In Lore

As well as developing the world of Tyria and weaving it with stories, there’s also been a drive to embed other MMO systems into the lore. The micro-transaction based Gem Store and player-driven Trading Post are now under the care of the Black Lion Trading Company, an NPC faction specializing in mercantile affairs across the continent. The Gem Store contains a number of new items, including glasses, costumes and hats! There are a bunch of other fun items, such as chests of transformation potions, along with the account upgrades we’ve seen before.

Also newly added to Lion’s Arch, the Mystic Forge provides an alternative use for all that junk that just won’t sell on the Trading Post. An enslaved djinn named Zommoros will trade four surplus weapons or items, exchanging them for a single superior item. There’s no guarantee that the new item will be of any use to you, but it’s likely to be easier to sell.

While the Gem Store has seen the most significant UI improvements, there have been a number of other tweaks and changes. The repositioned dodge bar and resizable map are the most obvious improvements, but a whole host of tooltips and popups has been added to help new players come to grips with the basics. The LCD display on Logitech keyboards has also been enhanced, to include world and zone stats (map completion, waypoints found, skill points collected, etc.), as well as simple character stats and a placeholder for World vs World information.

Slice and Dice

While there’s been substantial work enhancing the world of Tyria since we last paid a visit, it’s not all been about the lore. Character slot skills, previously a free-for-all selection, have now been separated into tiers. To buy skills from the later tiers, a minimum number of skills from earlier tiers must be bought. It makes character progression more meaningful, as skills are collected rather than being a shortlist or “favorite five”.

Combat, particularly melee combat, now feels even better. From meatier sound to better effects, the whole experience feels more involved and much more satisfying. Whether it’s knee-deep in Krytan Centaurs or running battles in World Vs World, fighting is an enjoyment you’ll want to savor regularly. And while we’ve talked about spending all our time in World Vs World, the addition of skill challenges, dynamic events and an underground dungeon make it even more rewarding.

It’s clear to see with all the changes that ArenaNet is focusing heavily on refining and improving the core gameplay experience, rather than bewildering us with swathes of new content. There’s a definite plan to have players progress deeper into the game, rather than spread thinly over a larger number of areas. Once the current content has been polished to a shine, it’s likely that we’ll see other areas introduced.

Until that happens, there’s only one question left on our minds: when’s the next Beta Weekend Event?

Gareth “Gazimoff” Harmer, Staff Writer


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