Guild Wars 2 is shaping up to be a very different experience from its predecessor. While both online role-playing games, the original Guild Wars was heavily instanced and tailored for the individual, whereas its sequel will be one giant, persistent world driven by hundreds of dynamic events. We're going to break out of the cookie-cutter formula of other MMOGs, said ArenaNet studio head Mike O'Brien during our visit to the developer's scenic Seattle-based studio. While we were there, we got our hands on the recently announced engineer profession, played through the game's first dungeon, and made waves while exploring under the sea. We've got a lot to report, so let's dive in.
A good engineer has the right tools for any job. And as we discussed in our previous coverage, Guild Wars 2's engineer does as well. Where other professions rely on swords and sorcery to get the job done, the engineer has a different set of equipment for every occasion. Most of the time, this means using a long-range rifle or shorter-range pistols to gun down foes. But when that doesn't cut it, extra firepower comes in the form of kits--unique items that temporally replace our character's existing skills with kit-specific ones. These included sets of grenades, landmines, and a flamethrower.
While playing with explosives sounds great in theory, it's even better in practice. We experienced this firsthand in the Ascalonian Catacombs dungeon. This dungeon will be the first that players encounter in the game and includes many throwbacks to the original Guild Wars. You remember King Adelbern? It turns out the past 200 years haven't been so kind, reducing the good king and his subjects to an army of angry ghosts--the most powerful of which were former skill trainers. Its layout was a (mostly) linear pathway through numerous packs of ghosts, a trio of boss encounters, and the final battle against King Adelbern.
We brought our rifle to bear against the king's spectral servants. This weapon packed plenty of punch and discharged with a satisfying crack. Its first two skills, hip shot and net shot, damaged and stunned our targets, respectively. The last three skills--blunderbuss, overcharged shot, and jump shot--could be combined to make a stylish combo attack. Using the jump shot, we propelled ourselves toward an enemy before hitting the foe with the blunderbuss skill, which does additional damage at close range. Then, we triggered the overcharged shot, which dealt high damage and blew our character back out of melee range.
After dealing with the ghosts and disabling a few traps, we ascended a stone-cut staircase into a small arena. All was calm for a moment before (you guessed it) another pack of ghosts ambushed our group. Against such overwhelming numbers, we activated our grenade kit to help even the odds. This replaced all our rifle skills with different types of grenades, including flash, freeze, poison, and shrapnel. When we selected which grenade we wanted to throw, a green circle would appear on the ground to indicate the location of our weapon's area of effect. However, we took little time to aim and instead lit up the battlefield with a variety of colored explosions. And don't worry, everything worked out in the end.
Once all the enemies were silenced, King Adelbern materialized. After a brief cinematic sequence, he challenged us to best three of his strongest (undead) warriors. Our first enemy, a ranger, fought at range with a bow and arrow, as well as in melee as a wolf. Neither worked particularly well for him, and he fell without much trouble. The second pitted our group against two lovers who grew stronger when they were together. With a bit of luck and a lot of landmines, we managed to keep them apart throughout most of the fight. Unlike the versatile grenades, the landmines come in only one variety: explosive. Each of our five skill slots represented a different mine, which we could detonate all at once or individually.
The third and (semi)final boss fought with an army of undead minions. For this fight, we went back to our old standby--the grenades--though the deadly flamethrower kit would have been a better choice. In addition to looking cool, this flamethrower can deal damage to multiple targets with the fire blast skill (which created a rolling ball of fire) or the napalm skill (which burned and blinded targets). Once this foe was blasted into ectoplasm, we returned to the arena to face King Adelbern. The king decided to forgo any fancy tactics in favor of a straight fight against our group's strongest. To help back him up, we activated our med kit, which let us drop medical kits all over the battlefield for our allies to pick up. Ultimately, not even the king could stand against our teamwork.
Our demo wasn't just dark dungeons and angry spirits. We also got our feet wet while playing with the game's underwater mechanics. Though exploring underwater can be a nightmare in some games, ArenaNet is committed to making these areas as painless as possible in Guild Wars 2. There was no oxygen meter to fuss over, and our mobility wasn't hampered just because we left the surface. In addition, our character gained a whole new set of skills while underwater. He could fire torpedoes as a standard attack, as well as deploy mines, timed charges, a giant net, and a grappling hook to drag enemies closer.
The more we see of Guild Wars 2, the more excited we are to get our hands on the final game. As we were finishing up, ArenaNet dungeon lead Kevin Millard explained the differences between a dungeon's story mode and its explorable mode. In brief, story mode is what we played today, whereas the explorable mode opens up new areas and challenges within an existing dungeon after you complete its story mode. Playing the new engineer profession was an interesting experience. With all the different kits and abilities at its disposal, this profession certainly felt like one of the most complex--and interesting--to use. We'll be sure to bring you more details on the game leading up to its release later this year.