Guild Wars 2 vs. the icon avalanche

, | Games

One of the tough things about jumping back into an MMO after being away for a while is re-acquainting yourself with those rows and rows of icons. Every time I try to get back into Lord of the Rings Online, it’s a whole learning curve all over again. What a fantastically tedious chore it is to piece dozens of spells, skills, and abilities with their tiny and often inscrutable icons.

When I visited ArenaNet yesterday, they showed us some early game content, which was manageable enough. Then they threatened to jump us ahead to level 30 content, which would includ some underwater adventuring and a dungeon stocked with the equivalent of elite creatures in Lord of the Rings Online. Who wants to be fast-forwarded and dropped into something like that?

But one of the many nifty things ArenaNet is doing in Guild Wars 2 is arranging skills into “packages”, for lack of a better word. Half of your skills are dependent on your choice of weapons. When you go underwater, it gives you a whole new set of skills. When you’re reduced to a downed state (known as incapacitated or “incapped” in shooters), you have a different set of skills. Elementalists have different skills based on their choice of element. Engineers have skills based on their choice of kits. As a thief, I could steal a skill from an opponent and use it immediately against him. The slot for hotkey 6 is always your healing skill. Slots 7-9 are your choice of three class skills. Slot 0 is your ultimate. Actually, I think ArenaNet calls it your legendary, but I couldn’t help but think of League of Legends as I considered the relative elegance of Guild Wars 2 in comparison to other MMOs. This is a game where the developers help you choose and arrange skills into sets rather than ringing the screen with a hundred tiny icons. Jumping ahead to a level 30 character was only slightly more daunting than jumping into a level 1 character.

For other reasons I want to play Guild Wars 2, check out my coverage on GamePro.