Review by Frowdo
"GW: Needs More Cowbell"
Why do we play video games? For the very few and the very fortunate it's a job whether it be Beta Testers or Programmers, but for the majority it's not work. The main reason why many people seem to enjoy video games is because it's fun, it's competitive, and it can give a sense of accomplishment. For years our forefathers have taken the children with the best genes and put a ball in their hands then told them to run. Since the days of cavemen competition has been a driving force of humanity. It's a way for us to always seek something better and drive to improve ourselves and our surroundings. In current days no longer are the less gifted without a means of competition or of an outside source of accomplishment. Now, they have video games. Now given the three key elements of games; sense of accomplishment, competition, and fun; I wonder why you would play this game.
This game I refer to is called Guild Wars a game from A.net the makers of several other MMORPG's, but wait this is no MMORPG, but a CPORPG. Well no matter what acronym they choose to use it plays mostly the same. In Guild Wars (GW), you play the role of an everyday person and like everyone else you need a job. There are several jobs to choose from. The warrior uses his strong armor and powerful weapons to bash enemies, the Ranger sends his pet to cause pain as he showers the battle ground with arrows, the Elementalist that uses the elements to burn, freeze, zap or crush the enemies, the Necromancer whom sends his undead minions to do his bidding, the Monk that heals the fallen, and finally the Mesmer who uses spells to cause general havoc. However GW throws a monkey wrench into the traditional class system as the game gives you the ability to choose a second class. This is where the game truly shines as now you can not only be a warrior whom simply whacks things but now you can also heal as well with a Monk secondary. The choices are endless ..
The choices that you must make though before any of this comes to fruition is what kind of character you wish to create. Do I create a Role playing character and play through the story, unlocking skills and finding treasure or do I create a Player Vs Player (PvP) character and take on the best that Tyria has to offer? Understanding the difference is quite important to knowing what to do. A PvP character instantly is given the max level and all skill points. These skill points are used in your profession's attributes that determine what spells and abilities you can and cannot use. A PvP player is given the choice of several premade characters and PvP only items. These items are the best in the game. However a PvP character may only be allowed to play in PvP arenas and do not have access to any skills not unlocked through roleplaying characters.. There are three types of arenas; Team Arenas, Tournament, and Guild. Team Arenas are 4vs4 that are only for pick up and play type battles. Guild Battles are where you and 7 other members of your guild, known as a clan in other games, battle other guilds for standing on a guild ladder. Finally the Tournament is an 8v8v8v8v8v8 arena that allows you to take on various teams across different continents. Winning in the Tournament will open your way to the Hall of Heroes, the pinnacle of PvP combat. Winning here will give your continent Favor of the God's as well as great loot. Favor of the God's is then used to access high level playfields for roleplaying characters.
As for Roleplaying characters they start out at level 1 and must complete quest and missions to advance the story and gain skills. As you gain skills and collect loot you'll unlock these skills and special items for PvP characters. Thus it is mostly symbiotic relationship between the two. However this causes some issues as well. What if a player doesn't want to play through the story to unlock their abilities or what if a Role playing character doesn't want to PvP? These issues are but a trickle of Guild Wars' flood of issues.
So, how does a PvP player unlock skills without playing through the story? Well a VERY dedicated player can spend hours and hours battling their human counterparts in the quest to earn faction. Faction points are gained from killing opposing foes and winning matches then these points are refunded to unlock skills, item mods, and runes. Each of these items costs 1,000 points minimum and faction gained from the quick 4vs4 arena is only about 20 points, Guild vs Guild and Tournament is a bit more. Obviously this hardly seems fair to a PvP player that must spend hours fighting to unlock a skill or two while a role playing char can unlock up to four skills in a single quest. So now we have a rift forming in our symbiotic relationship.
Now, even if a PvP player wants to play through the story there is some issues. First, it'll take around 40 hours to play through the entire story as well as unlocking most of the skills for the two professions that were chosen. Now after you've played through the game with your character and unlocked those skills you'll need to make another character. Why? Well simply because now you'll need to unlock skills for another two professions and then repeat that process at least once more to unlock all the skills.
This leads us to the next problem, the story. The story is completely worthless. Yes, a bit harsh but it seems so very rushed. One minute you are aligned with this group and the next you aren't while nothing is flushed out. You are given no reason why you are doing anything you are doing it's just part of the plot and remember you have to do this at least three times. Well at least you have something to work for, unlocking hundreds of skills that only either of which you can use at any given time.
This finally brings us to life after level 20. After you've beaten the game as many times as you've felt you could, after you've reached the max level of 20 that each character can obtain, and after you've filled up your four character slots what's there to do? Well in all honesty not a whole lot. In most RPG's the drive is to get better and better loot, but alas in this game that is not the case. A.net decided they wanted a fair battle ground where one character does not have a huge advantage over another so items are very generic. Each type of item has only a hand full of stats and most of those stats are useless anyways. Let me ask you, would a sword which does extra damage vs plants be useful in PvP no it's not. Between the friction of PvE and PvP, the lack of a decent story, and nothing to work for GW falls nearly on it's face.
Yet, it's only close to failing there are some saving graces. First off all due to how it was created it has a free streaming updates. In most other games the company would pack all the updates into one large patch and bring down the game for several hours. GW on the other hand can simply update your client on the fly and the most mundane of items can easily be updated. With the ability for easy streaming it will allow A.Net to stream in new content and areas easily when they are ready to be put in with absolutely no down time. Packaged with the fact that there is no Monthly Subscription this makes GW a great substation from the pay to play titans of Everquest 2 and World of Warcraft.
With the ability to stream new content and tweak features on demand this allows GW to have a promising future, but with a rocky base game this may hamper current play as well as drive current players away. If you are looking for a game you can pick up and play without being overmatched this is your game, but if you're looking for accomplishments or even sustained fun look elsewhere.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 08/17/05, Updated 09/15/05
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