Review by Peacemaker75
Being a long time RPG veteran, news of Guild Wars impending arrival peaked my interest. After playing it semi-religiously, I decided to drop my own review on this great title to add to my library and possibly yours.
Guild Wars is from ArenaNet, formed from the original developers behind Diablo, Warcraft and Starcraft. Though often misunderstood, this is NOT a MMORPG. Though it does indeed borrow elements from them, this is an action RPG more along the lines of Diablo. The most notable difference is the absence of any monthly fee! That means you get an extra pizza a month..or DVD or set of underwear and socks. You decide. I'll describe the game further from creation and so forth.
Character creation is simplistic. You are allowed up to four characters per account and only one account per CD key. You pick if you want to start in RP (Role-Playing) or PVP (Player-versus-player). I'll get to PVP later on. Choosing RP, you decide which of the classes you wish to be, which are the following:
Warrior: Meat shield, heavy armor, skilled in hand-to-hand weapons.
Ranger: Distance fighter, trap setter, pet handler, skilled with bows.
Monk: Healing, smiting, protection for self and party.
Necromancer: Curses, summoning undead, anti-tanker.
Elemenatlist: The nuker.
Mesmer: The other caster class good at stopping other casters.
Creating your character is simple, unless you are gawking at the graphics. Keep your hands off the screen and on the keyboard! You get to choose your gender, hair style and color, face, and height. Then, you get to name your character with 2-3 words. That's right, full names are welcome though one word names are not allowed. After that, off you go to start your adventuring.
When you begin the game, you start in Ascalon before the Searing, an event that was evident in beta. This area was never shown in beta, so it shocked even testers. No, I won't ruin any of the storyline, which are well written. Basically, it's the training grounds where you'll be given quests and tasks to get a feel for your class. Teams are limited to a maximum of 2 here, but for each area you reach, the team sizes get larger.
When you step outside of a town or fort, you go out into the wilderness which is exactly like the instances of World of Warcraft. Only you (and your team) are there. There are no other players to kill your targets or steal your loot. Loot rules are purely random. There's no rolling, free loot or need-before-greed. Everyone will walk away from a quest or mission with a fair share of the drops.
When in a town or fort, you're basically in a chat channel, broken up in Districts. There are different Districts for each real-world country. If your online friends are from all parts of the world, there are also International Districts for players across the world to meet and team together in.
During your early adventuring, you will be asked to choose a subclass a la Final Fantasy. This is what makes the game very unique even more so than Square's legacy works. You can have any subclass you want and there is potential for all classes to potentially use all subclasses. Even two characters have the same ones can differ greatly. One Ranger/Monk can choose to be a pure distance/pet spec while another could be a trapper/backup healer. Customization of your character is grand and will take some trial and error, combing forums for others' views and plain personal taste. Again, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of possible character types. Take note that once you choose a subclass, you cannot choose another. Fortunately, the beginning quests let you try all the subclasses via quests temporarily to test these out. Kudos, ArenaNet.
Role-playing involves three aspects: Quests, missions and "other". Quests are given all over, even at the beginning. To gain new skills for your class and subclass, questing is an absolute must, though you can seek a skill trainer and spend gold and a skill point, which are also earned from questing. Missions are done with teams only, though you can also hire henchmen (NPCs) to accompany you for free. Missions will help you unlock new areas to explore. Though, if you take henchmen, you will share gold and drops even with them in the interests of fairness. Somewhere, the loot whores are screaming "Bull****!"
I say "Other" as it means that you'll go out to explore, grind experience and farm loot. Again, with the instance-style, this is pretty simple, though you'll probably still want a partner or henchman with you at the very least. Even half a dozen Level 3-4 mobs can own a soloing Level 12 with ease.
Unlike most games, leveling doesn't mean as much as other RPGs. Your talents and expertise determine your success or failure rather than having the phat loot and lots of money. Sure, you want to level up, get the best gear, but if your talents or your teamwork are lacking, you will not progress. Though Level 20 is the cap, reaching it is by far not the end of the game. Some veteran testers will tell you that it's the beginning.
Another interest to some is the crafting. There is no trade skills in the game. Rather, you'll seek an armorer or weapon maker NPC to craft new items for you. Looted from monsters or purchased from a vendor, ingredients must be salvaged while some are converted thru help from a trade vendor to higher levels of materials. Also, you cannot trade armor in this game. Only weapons and shields can be traded amongst the players along with some other items. You also will gain Storage for stashing your materials and other looted items, and it is shared between your characters. Sadly, you cannot transfer currency without help from another player.
Traveling between distant areas is simplistic. First, you must locate a new town or fortress via trekking. Once you do, using the game's map screen, you can instantly transport between these areas. However, if you are a member of a party, you'll have to disband from them to do this. Also, there are no mounts..yet (bug the devs).
Game patching is quite painless. When the game gets an update, a server message will notify you to restart the game and it is not forced. Once you do, all patch data is downloaded and you go back into the game immediately. Even those who haven't logged out yet will still be in the area you're in. There is no scheduled maintenance issues that will ever force you to stop playing anytime during the week. So far, there has only been two instances of downtime that I've experienced, one being an hour and the other about a minute. So again, on the maintenance side, Guild Wars does marvelous.
Guilds are cheap to start but a bit pricey to get the good stuff. It's 100 gold (the lowest denomination of currency) to start a guild. No more than 100 players may be a part of a guild. For 2 platinum (or 2000g), you can give your guild a cape, which are customizable and wearable by guild members. There is also guild halls to be earned or purchased later on thru acquiring a certain item in-game. This item can either be looted or bought from another player and will not be cheap. Having a guild hall means that members will see it on the world map and can meet there for whatever events are planned.
Now for PVP. You can either start off as a PVP character using templates that ArenaNet has available or customizing your own. Take note that customizing your own means you can only use Skills you've earned with your other characters. You can also do PVP in RP. There are Arenas in various areas where you'll be randomly put into teams to battle with no real reward or penalty. Near the end game, there the true team battles, PVP of guilds facing each other. Players from different continents battle it out regularly for keeping favor of the Gods to their country. What does this mean? I'll hold that back intentionally..OK I don't have a freaking clue, but it sounds cool! Anyway, for those with the PVP itch, this game remedies very well. You're as good as your team, so don't forget to blame them all when you lose.
One of the plus sides of Guild Wars is that it caters to both the short and long session players. Those only having an hour to kill will get as much enjoyment as hardcore gamers who glues themselves to the action every waking moment of the day. Groups are not too hard to form for tasks needed, even those simply just wanting to explore new areas.
A couple of extras to speak of are the Pre-Order offers and the Collector's Edition. The Pre-Order Program involved special weapons to be given to accounts who purchased at various retailers. Right before the game launched, the stats of these weapons changed. Mind you, from all I've spoken with, though they are nice, they are not the most elite weapons in-game, so don't lose sleep if you missed out. Yes, you missed out, unless you got a friend employed at a store with leftovers.
As for the Collector's Edition, which retailers have recently raised in price from $70USD to $80USD witnessed at a several retailers, you get a few nice bonuses. First off is the Logitech Headset. My only grief is that the sound isn't really "loud" even with the handy volume control on the set on high. Next, there's a hardback art book with various works from the artists of Guild wars. There's also a CD Soundtrack of the game's music. It's not Metallica, but it's nice to have. You also get 3 free months of hosting from SpeakEasy using TeamSpeak (installation CD included). Yes, it's the same version Guardians uses now in WoW. Finally, there's the bonus ability, Divine Aura. To clear up what this is, every time you do an /emote, your hands sparkle. Though that does seem lame, when you do air guitar or dance, it can make nice effects. To sum up, if you don't need all of this extra stuff, just get the regular version.
The developers have promised roughly two expansion packs a year. In the tradition of other MMORPGs, there will be holiday events as well. There are a few minor bugs. Pathing issues of pets and henchmen do needs a little refinement. There are some areas where a simple running downward climb would seem reasonable but the game will not let this as pathing is set in an area. Overall, the bugs are minor and hopefully fixed soon.
One major pain is that the Ignore feature to protect from pests, such as spammers, doesn't work as believed. After filing a bug report, I was contacted by Becky of ArenaNet who told me via e-mail that Ignore only blocks private messages. During peak hours, you will see the immature players come out in droves and spam constantly. The devs are now aware of this problem, and hopefully, the feature will be expanded.
My conclusion is that this is an excellent RPG with tons of potential. It doesn't require me to put in hours of time to get a good game session, which is a plus on busy days. Grouping is simple with the henchmen system or having a guild. The storyline and elements of the game are capturing. Technical support is stronger than most. Zero monthly fees makes me a happy guy. Bugs are indeed livable. Overall, this is a strong RPG right out of the gate!
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/05/05
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