ArenaNet is very visual company. Guild Wars Prophecies (or just Guild Wars originally) was a game very ahead of its time graphically, and many say it still holds up pretty well to this day. The company always took pride on their artistry, and with Guild Wars 2 they took this style to a whole different level. This is also reflected on their cinematics and trailers.
Let’s take a look into the trailers they have shown us throughout their history.
The original game cinematic trailer/intro was a reflection of its time. Every great game came with a 3D pre-rendered cinematic, and Guild Wars was no exception. The movie is a little cheesy and doesn’t have exactly… Blizzard-like quality, but ArenaNet was a company launching their first game, so this was actually a pretty good trailer for those days.
For Guild Wars Factions, the second stand-alone campaign on the series, the cinematic trailer, also a 3D pre-rendered movie shows a great increase in quality (sadly not reflected on this Youtube video, but you can download it directly on the game website).
A few other campaigns later with trailers that used only the usual in-game vistas, and after deciding to cancel their plans for another expansion package, ArenaNet was ready to announce their plans for the follow-up game, Guild Wars 2. What they did here was to break all expectations, and deliver a show of concept art that was not completely new, but so perfectly executed that we could just stand in awe at the style they were setting for the game.
This teaser trailer was a stroke of genius, and I still love watching it to this day. The transition between the concept art of Divinity’s Reach, and the in-game scenario is particularly striking. Abandoning the use of pre-rendered 3D animations in the name of in-engine models and animated concept art broke the mold for MMO cinematic trailers and makes these trailers stand out completely from the crowd.
From this point on, every trailer came to amaze us with the in-game visuals and the amazing use of animated concept art, something only later we would discover would have greater importance on the game.
With the release of the video manifesto, we were also presented with the most chilling moment on any of the trailers: the landing of The Shatterer, the crystal dragon by the end of the video.
The next trailer solidified this style with the best use so far of concept art animation, something that by that point was announced to be also made in-engine, and allows for the mix of 3D models with 2D imagery. The effect is amazing, and gives Guild Wars 2 a completely different style from any other game before it.
This mixture of 2D with 3D can be best appreciated on one of the in-game cinematics, this one the introduction of the first dungeon players can face, Ascalonian Catacombs.
Where am I going with all of this? Today ArenaNet has released the final release trailer for Guild Wars 2, and it is… strange. This trailer treats us with contemporary live-action scenes on an art-theater style, showing young people breaking from the bonds of society, or something along those lines, and transforming into the game’s characters. It looks a little pretentious, and completely disconnected from everything the company had done so far, and most importantly, from what the game actually IS. Watch it, and judge by yourself.
My personal take is that the in-house team have produced some of the most compelling content I have seen in a long time, and it was what made me interested on the game in the first place. I applaud the use of in-engine but heavily post-produced 3D animations at the end, but that is the only thing going for this trailer.
By taking a trailer of this importance and putting it on the hands of “celebrity” director James McTeigue, ArenaNet made a big disservice to their fans, to their hard-working cinematics team, and I’m not sure if this trailer is good enough to connect to the new audience they probably aimed it to, since it doesn’t say anything about the game itself, which is only shown for 30 seconds of the 2.25 minute-long movie. Not to mention that they spoiled the visual of the final boss of the game, one unique enough they should have let players discover it on their own time.
I’m disappointed that ArenaNet decided to take this route for their release trailer. They have the artists and the tech to make amazing and original trailers. They could have done better than go “Hollywood” on us.
To me, this is the best trailer made for the game… and it was edited by a fan. The music, timing, everything is made to make this game look awesome.