Fasten your seatbelts, Guild Wars 2 fans, because whatever you've been waiting to see is probably on the to-be-unveiled list for Gamescom this year. Sylvari, Asura, PvP, mid-level play, character customization -- you name it and it's there.
While exciting, all of this upcoming news has the potential to be really confusing, particularly if you haven't been following Guild Wars 2 news closely for the past year or two. This week I've put together a little primer to help explain the history and basics of each of the big reveals coming to Gamescom. Follow along after the jump to make sure you're up to speed!
Charr Starting area
Most people know that the Charr race is a huge part of the Guild Wars/Guild Wars 2 world. I talked pretty extensively about the race during Charr week, so if you want a thorough overview of the Charr past, present, and future before Gamescom, I definitely suggest you take a look.
Gamescom will feature our first look at the Charr starting area, a village called Smokestead in the Plains of Ashford. This is exciting because it's the first time anyone's ever seen it, but it holds further interest for anyone who played Guild Wars 1 as well. This area was human territory in the game, the place where players started their journey. It's a huge part of the game lore and it will be interesting to see exactly how the Charr have changed things in the past 250 years.
While beginning Humans had a city block with houses and shops, and Norn had the upper level of an enormous hunting lodge, a Charr character's home instance will be barracks, well-suited to the Charr race's militaristic lifestyle. How can you have anything resembling privacy in barracks? What sort of NPCs and furnishings will be there? How can you personalize it to make it your own? We'll be able to look for those answers in just a few more weeks.
That doesn't sound like such a big deal until you know about the foes mentioned. As with so much of Guild Wars 2 gameplay, the Orrian undead have a history that goes all the way back to Guild Wars 1. The very short version is that the Orrian undead were once inhabitants of the prosperous kingdom of Orr, which sank into the ocean as part of an enormous magical explosion known as The Cataclysm. (No, not that one.)
The victims now serve as the army of the Zhaitan, the big baddie of Guild Wars 2. There are multiple elder dragons, but Zhaitan is the only one players will encounter directly. We know the Orrian undead are a formidable group of foes, thanks to some unsettling battle scenes in Edge of Destiny, but this will be the first look at them in game.
Martin teased a "new boss" coming in this part of the Gamescom demo, and while it would be pretty cool to get a first look at Zhaitan, I seriously doubt it would appear as part of a mid-level experience. Gamescom 2010 introduced The Shatterer, a lieutenant of another elder dragon, so maybe we'll bump into one of Zhaitan's high-ranking underlings.
New foes, a new boss, and a new zone to see -- the mid-level demo is going to hold a lot of interest and new details for fans.
Character customization in Guild Wars 2 has been a heavily guarded secret, with the exception of a single screenshot nabbed during the recent media open house at ArenaNet. Anyone playing the demo was given a character with a randomized appearance. We know the other aspects of character creation: answering questions regarding your character's race, class, and personal background, but this will be the first time we've been able to see how we will create our character's appearance. Until now, we've only known that appearance customization will be more extensive than that of Guild Wars 1 -- which, granted, isn't very difficult to do.
Big questions remain, though. How extensive will this get? Will there be things like sliders, or just a bigger selection of multiple-choice options? We know that there are race-specific choices; there has to be, since the races are so vastly different. Choosing fur patterns isn't exactly applicable to a Human or an Asura, so what will they have instead? Is there a basic feature list for every race plus racial add-ons, or is each race's customization completely unique?
There's a lot to see here, all for the first time.
The vast majority of Guild Wars 2 news over the past two years has been PvE-oriented. Lore, zone information, NPCs, armor and clothing, lesser races, all with a focus on PvE. It wasn't a slight to PvP players, it's just that PvP information wasn't ready.
The developers have been hard at work behind the scenes though, and in the past few months, we've received PvP details bit by bit. It might not seem like much at a glance, but what we've learned sets us up nicely to dive in at Gamescom.
In short, there are two flavors of Guild Wars 2 PvP: Structured and WvWvW. Structured PvP will have a familiar feel to FPS players in that there's a hot joinable system in place, player rankings, tournament play, and so on.
WvWvW is an all-out battle between the three Guild Wars 2 servers, on a much larger scale. Although bigger, it's more casual, with a setup that allows players of any PvP experience to join. Each server fights to dominate the battlefield and earn server-wide rewards.
Which version will be shown at Gamescom? It's anyone's guess, but both are a possibility. In either case, this is the first time players will be getting their hands on Guild Wars 2 PvP, so the competition won't be lacking in enthusiasm!
Playable Sylvari and Asura
Finally, playable Sylvari and Asura. These are familiar races to those who know Guild Wars 1, particularly the Asura. These diminutive, highly-intelligent, arrogant creatures were introduced in the Eye of the North expansion, and they've always been known for their technical prowess. We know from Ghosts of Ascalon and Edge of Destiny that they've come a long way since EotN, but how will it incorporate into gameplay? We'll find out soon enough.
The Sylvari are a bigger mystery -- everything from what they look like to how they'll play has been kept under wraps. The Sylvari were pulled from the shelves, so to speak, last year for a complete visual redesign. (A good thing, in my opinion, since the previous iteration reminded me of some knockoff Strawberry Shortcake dolls I had when I was a kid.) Gamescom will be the first appearance of the new look.
Looks aside, playable Sylvari will be just as interesting. Will we be playing in some of the Sylvari lands? If so, it's our first peek at this area as well. The Sylvari are the first truly new race in Guild Wars 2 -- the other four were introduced in Guild Wars 1 and we're pretty familiar with them, but the Sylvari were only hinted at. The race's origins were barely beginning at the time, so there's a wealth of information to be had there, especially for lore fanatics.
There you have it: A (very brief) recap of why the impending information avalanche is so exciting to the Guild Wars 2 fanbase. Gamescom is just over two weeks away, and hopefully this provides a foundation for you to make the most of what we're about to see!
Rubi is a longtime Guild Wars player and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column keeps a close eye on all the events in Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. Email Rubi at firstname.lastname@example.org.