Guild Wars Review

Developer: ArenaNet Publisher: NCsoft
Release Date: April 26, 2005 Also On: None

It seems every now and then I’m drawn into something new, something that I am very thankful that I had a chance to play. Guild Wars is one of those games. Unlike most online role-playing games, Guild Wars tries to do something new and is very successful. On a side note, I consider myself very cheap (I’m that guy who stocks up on McDonald’s ketchup for the next three years when he orders a milkshake). I’ll tell you this right now: there are absolutely no monthly fees in Guild Wars. Praise whatever deity you worship!

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While I initially thought that Guild Wars’ only positive feature would be the lack of any monetary fees, it surprised me on so many levels. First of all, the graphics were amazing on any high-end computer. And surprisingly enough, it can even run on many low-end computers (though the quality of the graphics, of course, decreases as the computer gets worse). Second of all, the frame rate is always good, even on the low-end computers and even the computers that use a 56k line. NCsoft seems to have thought of everything when it came to the technical aspects of the game. Also, the audio is amazing with the music tracks being award-worthy.

Now onto the artistic elements; believe it or not, there is a storyline in the world (as opposed to the vast number of other story-less MMORPGs). While it still is primarily a good vs. evil world, Guild Wars has a vast, complicated and rich history. When you progress and get to harder areas, you move onto bigger concepts (such as your people’s gods, your enemies’ gods, etc). There are even prominent heroes and warriors that you will see throughout the game. For 30 hours, you’ll only see one warrior fleshed out as the rest of the NPCs lack any personality. While NCsoft stumbled across a brilliant concept, I’d like to see them to create more popular NPC warrior that have more personality, but the history of this universe is so amazing, I give major kudos to the creativity involved in this game.

Aside from the storyline and technical aspects, the game’s gameplay is by far the best that I have ever played in an MMORPG. The game works like this: There are various towns, which are hosted on NCsoft’s servers and when you leave town (you could leave with your friends if you want), the game will be hosted on either your computer or one of your friends’ computers. While this is a little bit unorthodox and a little unattractive at first, the advantages clearly outweigh the disadvantages.

First off, NCsoft saves a good amount of money by not always hosting the game, thus the reason why you don’t pay any monthly fees. Second of all, the missions are a lot more enjoyable. Any sane MMORPG fan knows the annoyances of the people who just camp out and kill various players when they pass or loot them when they die. It’s also very annoying competing against a thousand other players for resources. By allowing the games to be hosted on your computer, the mission is a lot more fun and a lot less annoying (and a lot more cinematic, because you and your friends are the only ones doing the mission).

Unlike many MMO’s, Guild Wars has a level cap at 20, meaning once you reach level 20, you can’t go any further. Like with the fact of the games not being hosted on NCsoft’s servers, most see this as annoying and unorthodox. But again, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Yes, while this means that the player who played for 3 years will be just as strong as the player who played 2 months, this completely gets rid of the policy of the older players abusing newcomers.

Instead of focusing on mindless leveling up (a terrible plague for the MMORPG genre), the guy who has maybe 20 minutes to play a week will be benefited. Being reasonable, who would/could/should play for 20 hours a week (if you do, I suggest doing something else, like get a job). By instituting a level cap, you are creating a policy in which the smart or the ones who use strategy dominate the ones who use brute force.

I briefly just implied that you could use strategy in this game. Oh boy, you sure can. There are 6 classes, and you have the choice of choosing two classes: one as your main profession, and the other as your secondary profession. Anyone who knows anything about combinatorics knows that it leaves you with 14 completely different possibilities. The different professions are: Elementalist, Mesmer, Monk, Necromancer, Warrior, and Ranger.

The Elementalist can control the element. Mesmers really focus on slowing down the enemy and weakening it. Monks heal. Necromancers can raise any dead corpse and use it to fight for you, stealing vast amounts of health points from your enemy, and can just deal cold damage. Warriors fight up close. Finally, Ranger can set up traps, summon spirits to help your party out a little, tame a wild animal and make it fight for you, and shoot arrows. Like I said, you could only choose two professions and some don’t match well. For example, being a Necromancer Ranger isn’t the best combination, while an Elementalist Mesmer is quite a powerful combination. When you start out, you can switch around, but after you progress and complete a couple of missions, you can’t go back.

Aside from the fact you can get multiple professions, you always have on hold up to 8 skills in combat. You can acquire 75 skills per profession (60 being common, 15 being elite), thus the maximum number of skills you can acquire is 150. So choosing 8 out of 150 is a hard and exigent decision, because your skills could determine how well you fare against your enemies. You can’t switch your skills outside of town, but once you are in town, switch and optimize away.

Another way NCsoft adds even more strategy to the game is by giving the player attribute points. Every profession has different categories someone could major in, like a college degree. Take for example the Necromancer. He can either focus on Death Magic (animating corpses), Blood Magic (stealing health points from others), and Cold Magic (just attacking them with curses). When you level up, you get attribute points. You spend attribute points to level up certain sections. Say you want to focus on Death Magic, spend your attribute points to level up your Death Magic power. You could choose to major a certain area, or you could choose to level up everything equally.

NCsoft tries to get rid of the minor annoyances. Hate backtracking? Guild Wars has instant teleporting to any town once you’ve been there at least once. Hate constantly healing your health? Guild Wars has an automatic health recharging system when you aren’t being hit. The same goes for skill points.

There is also a huge emphasis on other modes of gameplay, most notably the PvP battles (where you are given a level 20 character and can only use skills where you have unlocked in the normal mode of gameplay against other gamers across the world). There are also Guild v Guild battles, where a guild fights another guild. Finally, there are world championships for guilds, which add a lot of length to the game.

Expect many hours of gameplay out of this game; I have already clocked over 120 hours. From what I’ve seen, the player base is MUCH friendlier as opposed to something like Everquest. Also, you get four accounts which you can constantly delete and create new ones free of charge, if you feel like it, meaning you get to experiment and play with different professions easily.

What can I say: my choice for Game of the Year? Of course. Unlike almost every MMORPG, this game is free. Unlike most MMORPG, it has a story. Unlike nearly every MMORPG, most annoyances have been wiped away and the player base is much more enjoyable. Unlike most MMORPGs, this game focuses on strategy as opposed to brute force and leveling up. This game is for people with good computers and bad, pros and newbs, and people who love story and people who love games. Don’t miss this game.

Graphics: 10
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 10
Creativity: 10
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 9.8
Written by Simon Review Guide

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