Fantasy roleplaying with deep character customization and a lengthy story campaign.
The continent Tyria is a place of myth and wonder. The ancient legends speak of serpent gods visiting the world and Bloodstones that would bestow ultimate magic power to those who control them all. People hungry for this power started wars and built armies to fight for these mystical stones. Many guilds of warriors fought for their nations’ pride and many good men and women fell in prolonged conflicts.
Now, an external threat from the north has swept over all kingdoms – the Charr, the tribal beast-folk who furiously attacked all civilization. The guild wars came to an end, and instead attention was turned to the Charr’s ruthless assaults. Now is the time for champions to unite and step up to defend their homes and families.
Guild Wars is a fantasy roleplaying game played online. The game differs greatly from other typical online roleplaying games in that it has a central PvP (player vs player) nature along its extensive story campaign which is either played alone or together with other players.
The game takes place in a fantasy world with lots of magic, monsters, myths and wonders. The game world is strictly divided into separate areas called instances. That is to say that when you exit a town for example, you’ll come to a wilderness area that is instanced for you and your party, meaning that you won’t see other players there. Towns and outposts are places where you form parties with other players or CPU controlled allies before you head out, and those areas are shared with all players. In this way, you can play with anyone in the world and that is quite a unique feature.
The controls are fluid and flawless. You walk around by using the standard W, A, S and D keys like in many other games. You can also move around by clicking the desired location with the mouse cursor if you prefer that. You use skills by pressing the corresponding numbers on the keyboard – you can only equip eight skills at a time from all the skills that you have available on your character. You can customize controls freely and even the user interface can be customized right from the game client which is a neat feature. Even during high network latencies, the game does an admirable job at keeping the game running smoothly.
You can use the world map to travel around the various locations that you have previously visited. This means that you can instantly get to the location where you need to be to start off a new quest, or if you just want to backtrack and explore an area that you previously skipped.
When you start the game you will need to create a character. First, you must choose if you want to play the roleplaying campaign or if you just want to battle in player vs player battles. If you choose the latter, you will start off with a max level character that you can choose skills and equipment for from a predetermined set. With this character you will only be able to do PvP arena battles. I wouldn’t recommend you to do this if you are new to the game though, because you need to unlock some more skills before you can fight other people properly and competently. The game has a huge number of unique skills (around 300?) spread out over the game’s six character classes and you can unlock these in a few different ways; either you fight in PvP battles, or you can unlock skills through the story campaign. Arguably, for newcomers the easiest way is to just play the campaign. That way you’ll have ample time to learn the game in your own time and get used to the skills and how they can be used. You could also buy the service to unlock all skills in the Guild Wars official shop, but that would cost you real world money.
There are six different professions you can play in Guild Wars: Prophecies. They are; Warrior, Ranger, Monk, Elementalist, Necromancer and Mesmer. They all use different skills and can be customized in two basic ways; skill point allocation and what skills to use. On top of the main profession, you will get to choose a secondary profession. This will allow you to learn skills from another profession to further let you experiment and discover new ways to optimize or complement your chosen play style. Guild Wars will let you replace your current skills every time you visit a town, which encourages constantly improving and changing your skills. This will let you try different strategies and assume different roles in your party from quest to quest.
The story campaign is what reminds the most about other online roleplaying games. You start in a town, talk to people and accept some quests. You then head out in the world to complete the tasks at hand and get rewarded. Most quests will be about delivering messages, defeating monsters or getting to a certain place. You can play the campaign alone, but if you do you will need to accept CPU controlled henchmen into your party. They suffice for the most part, but there’s always the risk that their artificial intelligence will make mistakes – for example they aren’t very strategic when it comes to deciding where to stand, or rather where to avoid standing which gets them killed some times.
Guild Wars isn’t really enjoyable to play alone though, but with a friend or two it’s a blast. You’ll discover new strategies, skills and parts of the story as you go. Hopefully you’ll also meet new friends, and probably join a guild. When you feel ready to battle against other players you can enter the PvP arenas.
Another aspect where Guild Wars takes steps away from the typical massively multiplayer online games is the fact that the game doesn’t require you to play for hours on end to fully gear up your character. Instead, the thing that differ the equipment are mostly the looks. Sure, there are some variations to the weapons and armor but they mostly maintain a careful balance. Reaching max level is more akin to a tutorial process than actually powering up a character through experience points. This is done so that PvP battles always will be -at least fundamentally- balanced and a matter of skill and strategy rather than time spent playing which is the case in many competitive online games. It works very well and it’s a nice experience overall. It really encourages people to pick the game up and play.
When you play the story campaign you will notice that every enemy you meet will use skills similar to your own and other players. In fact, they use the very same skills that players have access to (with a few surprise exceptions). All profession skills are color coded so they are quite easy to recognize when you are familiar with the various professions. Different monsters will use different skills of course. For example there could be scorpion beasts that use ranger skills and dinosaur type monsters that use warrior skills. This means that fighting monsters will be much like playing PvP against CPU controlled opponents – only that these opponents are in the shape of monsters and creatures.The campaign gets harder and harder the further you get. The story has its twists and turns, and all in all it’s a great adventure. You can’t hope to succeed every mission and quest you accept on the first try, but that’s part of the game. You will always have the chance to try again.
The adventure will take you to many different locations like snowy mountains, deep jungles, open deserts, spider infested forests, magical places, secret underground temples, volcanic ash lands, ice caves and so on. There’s a lot to discover and the game looks and plays beautifully.
Guild Wars is a game that is jam-packed with neat little features. You can color your weapons and armor, collect rare materials, trade items, craft weapons, collect pets, collect weapon and armor sets, create guilds, build up guild halls, battle against guilds in their guild halls, join tournaments, explore high level dungeons and so on. I encourage you to explore these more advanced aspects of the game in your own pace, and that’s what makes this game so unique – it keeps growing the more you play and the more progress you make, offering sky high replay value.
As mentioned above, the story campaign can be played alone or with up to eight other players cooperatively, and the only PvP scenarios in the game are encompassed within the PvP arenas.
The PvP battles come in different types. There are so called “random arenas” where you will be placed in a team comprised of random people or you can sign up with a predetermined party. There are also team based annihilation type of battles and other kinds of objective based scenarios, as well as an observer mode where you can observe ongoing battles.
You will have to play the different type of battles on a “learning by doing” basis in order to understand how they work, but that’s alright because you must train a lot anyway if you want to stand a chance in the very competitive world of Guild Wars. You will encounter many veteran players who expect you to play in a certain way, use certain skills etc. But don’t let that discourage you – it’s your game and your time. Use it in the way you like.
The graphics are just gorgeous and lush. The game uses an advanced technique to render the landscape you walk in, making it look like you can see very far ahead. There’s also glow effects that will give that specific lush and cozy look. This is almost over done – even the war torn and miserable places look kind of cozy and warm because of it. Even on low end computers the game runs incredibly well and manages to look great, so it does scale very well to the hardware available.
The characters all look like photo models – the chicks are nifty looking and the guys are all teenage girl crushes. The armors are generally very well done and have some really good designs – it’s quite strange to live in a world where everyone is so well dressed all the time, but hey – this is a fantasy game isn’t it?
The soundtrack is composed by Jeremy Soule who is an award winning composer and has composed music to many huge games and movies. The soundtrack is very much in the line of the theme; fantasy, mysticism and battle and it’s pure gold in audio form. The sound effects are not as good though, but certainly not bad either. While there are numerous different sounds to the various spells and abilities, it all kind of sounds similar. There also isn’t much voice acting in the game.
Guild Wars is a game with many faces. You can play it casually or go hardcore, focus on the story campaign or go straight into the competitive arenas – it’s up to you and it’s amazing to see a game that can accomplish that. If you like strategic battles set in a high fantasy setting and like to experiment with different skills, abilities and tactics, then this game is too good to miss. If you have a friend to play with or if you happen to meet some new friends in the game, then Guild Wars is sure to offer many unforgettable battles that you’ll be telling tales about for some time to come.
This is a game that you’ll keep coming back to once you have acquired taste for it. As if the game wasn’t huge enough as it is, there are three expansions available – each expanding the game with loads of new content, new professions, more monsters, new areas to explore and new stories to follow.