Guild Wars 2: Keep Calm And Stay Alive

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When your interest in the personal storyline missions and dynamic world events of Guild Wars 2's roleplaying content starts to wane (ha! not likely), an entire other half of the game awaits your pleasure: World versus World. For two weeks, three servers/worlds/teams of roughly 2,000+ players strong compete across an immense battlefield to accumulate points by holding various camps, towers and keeps.

ArenaNet designed World versus World (WvW) with the casual player in mind. Just like the Alliance Battles from Guild Wars: Factions, WvW is busy, chaotic fun and there's no imperative for players to be the most skilled, or have the best builds. (Don't fret if you're a hardcore PvPer, though. Guild Wars 2 retains more structured 5 on 5 matches called "Conquest.") Participating in WvW leads to PvE rewards in the form of health, experience and crafting bonuses.

Players can jump into World versus World at any time, either by warping to their side's base or into the Eternal Battlegrounds, the always contested central map. After you arrive in the mists, the smart move is to find a group of strangers and run together because there's little a player can do solo except kill a stray monster or intercept an unguarded supply caravan.

This image is not from WvW. This is, however, an example of "combo fields."

Camps are the easiest locations to capture, although four to six people are still required to vanquish the handful of enemy NPCs. When scores are tallied every five minutes, camps are worth the fewest points (5 points, every five minutes). Taking camps is key, though, because they generate supplies. These supplies are transported by Dolyaks (large, horned bovines) to towers and keeps where they are spent to fortify defenses (cannons, mortars and boiling oil).

A team of a dozen ought to be able to capture a Tower (10 pts), particularly if that team has purchased a costly blueprint for a siege weapon and has the supplies to build it. Siege weapons include ballista, catapults, trebuchets and golems. Keeps (25 pts), the biggest of which is Stonemist Castle (50 pts) located in the center of the Eternal Battlegrounds, can only be conquered by dozens of players working in tandem.

Another element of World versus World is the Orbs of Power. If you can steal an Orb from an enemy's alter—first, you must defeat their Keeper of the Orb—and bring to your own alter your team will receive a health bonus. There's also a subterranean dungeon that contains treasure, but also traps opposing teams can trigger. Of special note is the very nearly pitch-black "Dark Room," traversable by only the most agile adventurers.

My experience with World versus World during the last beta weekend was mostly positive. When my team was working as a unit, we annihilated players and NPCs, captured camps, battered down tower gates, and stopped caravans (literally) dead in their tracks. But when we were outnumbered, which was the case more often than not, things became a frustrating mess. It wasn't fair that Team Red ("Crystal Desert") had a predominantly PvP-oriented population. By the end of the weekend, we (and the third-place team) had about 10,000 points each to Red's 100,000. When Guild Wars 2 is eventually released, I suspect these imbalances won't be a problem as every two weeks servers are re-matched according to rank. In other words, poorly-performing servers will only play against each other.

And now, onto combat.

With the release of En Masse’s Tera, MMO gamers around the world have proclaimed “tab targeting” dead and “aim targeting” its successor. If those terms mean nothing to you, you’re about where I was a few weeks ago.

Basically, “tab targeting” works like this: Click your target. Click your skill. If you’re a ranged attacker, your attack is like a “homing missile” that always hits. Press the Tab key on your keyboard to cycle through more targets. Keep clicking skills on your skill bar.

Tera embraces the “aim targeting” philosophy. (Note: people will rush to tell you it’s not the first game to do so; another game is called Vindictus.) With “aim” your mouse controls a reticule on the screen similar to a FPS, and if you’re not aiming at your target when you fire, you miss. This is theoretically more fun and challenging, because you can’t click to “lock” and if the target is moving you have to move your reticule along with it.

Guild Wars 2 is closer to “tab” but that doesn’t make its combat shallow or derivative. I want to dispel that notion right here. For starters, clicking a target doesn’t lock it. If you fire at your foe, and something comes between you and it, that something absorbs the blow. If you fire at your foe, and your foe dodges away, that attack is “evaded.” If you’re a melee character, you don’t need to click to target at all. Your weapons will hit whatever is within range.

Movement is a huge part of combat in Guild Wars 2. Skills like the ranger’s Long Range Shot do more damage the farther away you are. The engineer’s Blusterbuss does more damage up close. The assassin’s Tactical Strike inflicts Daze, but only if you hit from behind. Some skills push your opponent away from you, some pull them toward you, and some do both. As the engineer, I used my flamethrower to put down a wall of fire (Napalm), pulled my foe across it (Backdraft), and then pushed him back across the flames (Air Blast). I toyed with him like a Charr might toy with a Whiptail Devourer.

There’s also “combo fields,” which create fun dynamics. The easiest example I can give: a player, like an engineer using Napalm, puts down a wall of flame, and a ranger fires arrows through it. The arrows are set afire and the ranger’s attacks now inflict Burning condition. A warrior using Cyclone Axe spins and attacks multiple foes, but he also throws fire out all in directions because he’s standing in the combo field.

The combat of Guild Wars 2, which rewards movement over simple stand-and-click, feels plenty active even though it’s not “aim targeting” like Tera. And unlike Tera, which plants your character in place every time you activate a skill, Guild Wars 2 lets you move and attack simultaneously (i.e. strafe) so you can pepper your target with arrows as you move to flank.

And did I mention: underwater combat?

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