Review by DarthMuffin

"Good, but not for everyone"

Introduction

Guild Wars is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, or MMORPG for short. Most of these games, like EverQuest, require the player to pay a monthly fee to play the game. That's not the case with Guild Wars, and it's the game's saving grace.

Gameplay 7

The game is like a cross between MMORPGs and "normal" RPGs like Diablo II. There's no single player (though nothing stops you from completing the game with henchmen; you just have to have an Internet connection), and there's loads of people in every town, with loads of districts and International Districts so you can meat players from all over the world. But when you exit a town, you and your party get your own private copy of the map. This has both good and bad sides. The good side is that you will never ever be bothered by anyone except your party members. So you can technically play through the game without ever being scammed by one of the many stupid people that usually lurk in online RPGs. The bad side is that it really gives the game a less MMORPG feel, since you will never meet other players outside of towns. I personally don't mind much about that. The single fact that I can go about my business without being harassed by people who keep spamming the channels with names of the human anatomy is enough for me. Because yes, Guild Wars is indeed full of these people. Fortunately, there's both a friend and ignore list, so you can draw the line yourself as to who you want to listen to.

Speaking about friend lists, the heart of Guild Wars is, as you would have imagined, guilds. Guilds are basically a regroupement of players who share a private chat channel, a cloak and, eventually, a Guild Hall. In short, they are much like clans that you will find in other games. As far as I'm concerned, I have been lucky as far as Guilds are concerned. I had a couple of "real life" friends playing the game, so we created our own guild. If you are alone in the cold, you will have to praise for some luck to find a decent guild. I heard that some people even invite new players to join their guild, take their money as an "entrance fee", and kick them out. Your best bet will be to look on the Internet and forums first, and find a guild that appeals to you there.

The gameplay itself is fairly simple. As in Diablo II and NeverWinter Nights, your character is always "selected", and you click to move, attack, open, pick up, et cetera. Nice and easy. You can also zoom and rotate the camera any way you want by using right-click, which makes it easy to scan the area around you in a fight to spot your targets. You can also use keyboard shortcuts to do most of these things.

The game features six unique classes, each with a different set of attributes. The classes are Warrior (stuff bashing), Ranger (archer/traps/animal companion), Monk (healer), Mesmer (counter -spelling), Necromancer (summoning and curses) and Elementalist (your usual wizard). Most importantly, you character will have two classes. His primary will determine his armour, look and primary attribute (out of the different attributes, each class gets one that can exclusively be used if the class is primary). This way, you can create many different skill combinations, which add both to the strategic elements of the game and the replay value.

The attributes I was referring to earlier are not strength, dexterity, intelligence, etc. that you will find in other RPGs. They represent a character's affinity with a certain set of skills. For example, Rangers get an attribute called "Wilderness Survival", which governs skills such as traps. The higher the amount of points in the attribute, the better the related skills will be.

The level cap is 20. Not much, and you'll reach it way before the end of the game. It's not that bad though. An expansion will probably make this higher (just like in NeverWinter Nights). Your character does not gain skill and spells by leveling however, you get them by completing quests (as rewards) or buying them from trainers at a gold cost and one skill point. Skill points can be earned by leveling and doing missions. So in a way, the higher your level, the more powerful you will be; which makes ArenaNet's initial statement (that one did not need to play a lot to have a powerful character) false, in my opinion. Don't get me wrong though; it's not as bad as in, say, Diablo II, where you need to play hours and days to have a powerful character.

A small note about gold : it is important in this game, since better armours cost a lot. Unlike in Diablo II, gold has a part in the trading economy. Also unlike it's cousin Diablo, Guild Wars is not focused at all on items. The only armours you can wear are those you buy, and those are all the same regardless of the player (each class has a specific armour though). Weapons all have a maximum damage possible, you can get one quite easily.

Travelling between cities is fast and easy. Once you entered a city once, you can travel back there instantly through the map. No cost, no wait. Click, and bam you're there.

There is one major problem with the classes. For the Player versus Environment (PvE) part of the game, Rangers, Mesmers and Necromancers are often ignored. People want a tank (warrior), a healer (monk) and a blaster (elementalist) in their parties, and the three un-popular classes really do have a hard time finding parties. In Player versus Player (PvP), all classes are generally tolerated, though the Ranger or Necromancer tend to be kicked out if another monk or elementalist shows his head and asks if he can join. Mesmers have an easier time, since they are very useful in PvP with their counter-spelling abilities. There's one place in the PvE game where every party wants a Ranger, and it's the last mission. I ended up playing most of the PvE game with Henchmen when playing with my Ranger. Fortunately, the game is not that hard, and it is possible to complete it with henchmen with most, if not all, of the classes.

Speaking about PvE and PvP, you have to understand one thing : the game is all about PvP. Like it or not, but it's true. Fame and recognition from others comes from playing PvP. Playing the PvE portion of the game has one goal : unlock the skills and items you need for doing some PvP. Anyway, the PvE is not that great in this game, so if you don't like PvP, then this might not be a good buy.

A bad point is that you can only have 4 characters per account, i.e. per CD key, i.e. per game bought. Six would have been a more reasonable amount, in my opinion.

Why a 7? Firstly because the class imbalance I was referring to earlier is a bugger. Second, the game will not appeal to PvE fans, or anyone who doesn't like PvP. And I'm not saying that because I like PvE better; my "review philosophy" is that you have to take into accounts the playing style of everyone, and I seriously think that PvE is flawed in this game.

Story 8

I found the story to be perfectly fine. Sure, it's nothing like Baldur's Gate or Knights of the Old Republic, but given the game's focus on PvP, I was surprised. I will only add one more thing, just so that you don't freak out if you buy the game : the starting area (known as pre- searing) is only a fraction of the real world. It's just a big prologue. Anything else would be spoilers, so I'll pass.

I will cover here the PvE portion of the game, however. There are two kinds of quests : Missions and Quests. Quests are given to you by Non-player characters (NPC), and they usually revolve around finding/killing something. Report back to the NPC to have a small reward. Missions are started in specific towns, and advance the story. For completing a mission, you get 1000 experience points and a skill point. Missions also have a bonus objective, which you can complete for an additional thousand experience. Even though this brings some continuity problems, I think it's a fine system. Even though you can just breeze through the game only by doing the missions, you would end up missing important and useful skills and spells by doing so.

The world is quite huge, and it does take quite some time to complete the PvE portion. There are also many "optional areas" that you can explore for possible sidequests and experience points to make your character stronger. This is quite good, if you ask me; I personally like to explore and find optional towns and the like.

The PvE suffers from replay value problems, though that will be covered later.

Video 9

I must say that the graphics look excellent. The environment is especially well done. Characters look great too, though their lips are not moving when they speak. That's not much, I know. Perhaps some more spell animations would have been great. If you have a low-end computer, however, you will most likely not be able to get the most of this. Can't think of anything else here.

Sounds 6

Oh my. The music was done by Jeremy Soule, who produced the best music ever for computer games (including NeverWinter Nights and Knights of the Old Republic). In Guild Wars, his music is completely boring. No special themes, just a small "hum" in the background. You could turn it off and you will not even notice.

The sounds are great though. But when reviewing "Sounds" for a game, I prefer to rate the music instead of the usual sword and shield bashing sounds. I was extremely disappointed by the music, and I seriously doubt that anyone could not agree with me here.

Replay Value 8 (PvE only 5)

First off, if you only plan on playing PvE, you have my word that you will get bored eventually. The missions are kind of repetitive by themselves, and doing them over and over again with different characters doesn't quite cut it. The designers made the assumption that the PvP part would make up for this. It's true, and we can't really blame them.

Overall however, if you plan only on doing PvP or a mix of the two, the game will last for a long time, mostly due to PvP. After all, you will, most likely, never fight the same battle twice in PvP.

Conclusion

Pros
-Interesting an unique classes
-Many class and skill combos possible
-Fast travelling between cities
-Gameplay is not focused on items
-The ability to change the points you assign in each attribute
Cons
-Entirely focused on PvP
-Only four character slots, unless you like to throw your money out of the window
-Repetitive missions
-Underrated and ignored classes

**That's all I can think of right now. I will probably update the review when I think of more pros and cons.**

I quite like this game myself. I bought it because some of my friends had it, and recommended it to me. In turn, I recommend it to anyone who likes PvP action. For casual players and PvE fans, this is certainly not the best buy.

Like I said earlier, the fact that there's no monthly fee really does save this game from a slow and painful death. The way I see it, there would be no reason to choose this over World of Warcraft if there was a fee.

However, if there's one thing I've learned from writing reviews, it's that everyone has their own opinion. Countless of times, I was just mad after reading someone else's review because he was obviously biased or did not read the booklet before playing the game. I do believe that I am not biased, and that my arguments are founded and true. If you don't agree, then you may close your browser or hit the back button; no harm done. For those who are still here, I'll do my usual game recommendation :
If you like PvP, go for it.
For PvE and role-playing, I'd recommend something more like NeverWinter Nights.
If the monthly fee does not bother you, then, by all means, go for World of Warcraft.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 07/18/05


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