Guild Wars Review (PC)

Lately we've seen allot of MMORPG-s hitting the market, in the franchise caused by World of Warcraft. Many of those games went completely unnoticed, or have even been shut down (as we've seen with The Matrix Online and Asheron's Call 2). Guild Wars is not one of them. What the crew at Arenanet has to offer was fresh, and not just "another game in the line", but something quite different... read on, you'll find out what.

A fire elementalist in all her glory (well most of her glory anyway)

A necromancer, looking spooky and gruesome as always

In a game such as this, one might ask: "where to begin?" And there's always some smart-mouth saying "at the beginning". So I guess that's where I should start; with the basics. First of all, Guild Wars is not and MMORPG, it's what the developers like to call a "CORPG" or "Competitive Online Role Playing Game". Which means that even though GW has a PvE part of the game (more on that later on), it's mostly based on PvP (or player vs. player) gameplay. In the starting screen, after you create your account, you get a choice weather you want to create a Role-playing character and start from scratch, or create a level 20 (maximum level) character for PvP only. Creating a PvP character is basically choosing how you want your character to look, choosing his skills and attributes, and slapping on the finest armor and some pretty good weapons. Or at least that's the impression you get the first time you run the game. And with that last sentence we get to the PvE (player vs. environment) part of the game. Unlike other MMO's, GW has a main quest, a pretty decent story line, and a well made system of missions which slowly guides you through the game. Another thing that's different from other MMO's is the fact that each time you exit a city, you get your own instance of the game, which means that there wont be any other players where you are at the moment. Unless of course you join a party, in that case you and your party are in the same instance. One more thing that separates GW from other MMO's is the monthly fee, or lack of the same; in other words, once you buy the game, itís all the money you have to spend on playing it.

The story line is very good, but contains nothing revolutionary, it's pretty much your basic story; humans on the brink of annihilation, being attacked by beasts (called the Charr) and running over the mountains and far away. Of course, the story gets more interesting the closer you get to the end, and there are a few good twists and turns, but still, as I've said before, nothing revolutionary. But since the game isn't about PvE so much as it is about PvP, the story isn't really that important, it's basically used to learn how to function in a group of people, how to use your skills to benefit the one's of other players, and to give you some basic idea how important teamwork is in this game (later on in the game, all the creatures you fight are much more powerful than you, so the right usage of skills at the right time is crucial for survival).

A team of rangers wreaking havoc in the Underworld
GW is one of the rare games where even the desert looks beutiful

The PvE part of the game is directly connected to the PvP part, since during your travels and adventures in the pretty vast world of GW, you find items, item upgrades, and runes which you can later use on your PvP character. The PvP system is just plain excellent, the balance between characters and skills is incredible, almost perfect, and depended solely on the skill of a player and how well his team functions, and not on the time you spend playing the game and the items you have in your possession. For example, a level 15 character that is skilled in PvP combat should have no problem defeating a level 20 character that is not that skilled.
Of course, you can use your PvE characters in PvP gameplay by entering one of the arenas spread around the world. What's very surprising for a game based on PvP, the amount of role playing and PvE is enormous, and promises hundreds of hours of PvE for all those role playing fans out there (including myself). I apologize if I've given you the wrong idea of the game, it's pretty much half PvE and half PvP. An example if I may, I have around 320 hours of gameplay, and of those 320 hours, perhaps 20 of them were spent in PvP arenas, and the other 300 hours on pure role playing.

As far as characters go, each character in the game is a combination of 2 classes, one primary and one secondary, and yes I'm about to describe all the classes now, so here goes:

The Warrior is Big, strong, he protects the weak, and is a natural born tank. The warrior uses axes, swords and hammers as weapons to bash any who would oppose him, and a shield as defense. His skills range from various shouts to attack skills with various effects, from knocking a foe down to slashing his veins and causing damage over time.

The Elementalist is Your basic mage, using the elements so singe, freeze, shock or smash his foes, or even as a means of defending himself and others. He uses wands and staves as primary weapons, and artifacts to boost his energy supply and add all sorts of bonuses. His skills range from massive damage fire skills to the incredibly annoying slow effect of almost all of the cold skills. He also uses energy storage, an attribute that adds to his total energy supply, and that boosts various skills.

The Monk is schooled in healing powers, smiting prayers and protection spells, he is the most wanted character in PvP arenas or any group for that matter. Using everything from simple healing, to smiting his enemies with powerful smiting skills, he is a formidable force and should not be underestimated because of his frail appearance. His weapons are much like the elementalist's, he uses staves, wands and holy artifacts.

The Ranger uses the bow as a primary weapon and, if used properly, can deal devastating blows to any hostile force. He also uses traps to lure the unsuspecting into their demise, and with the aid of his animal companion, he is a true force to be reckoned with. Well versed in all things natural, he can also heal himself and all his allies.

The Mesmer is an illusionist, gaining access to the very dreams of an enemy, and using them against him. Probably the most feared character in PvP. A true anti-caster and an anti pretty much everything for that matter. Dominating his foes, stealing their energy supply, making them weak and unwilling, and causing illusionary pain and burdens are his specialties. As with all other casters, the mesmer uses wands, staves and artifacts.

The Necromancer commands the forces beyond this world. He utilizes blood sacrifice, disease, parasites that gnaw on the flesh of the unfortunate foe, and can quickly summon an entire army of undead minions. In the right hands, a necromancer could raise an army of servants, curse his enemies making them weak and diseased, and ensure a constant flow of blood between himself and the unsuspecting enemy (thus healing the necromancer) before the enemy could even see what was happening.

Brings tears to you eyes, doesn't it?
Grenth's footprint, a recently added area in the game

That pretty much sums up the gameplay part of the game, now come the obligatory technical issues. The game has none, simple as that... or at least none that I can think of, the graphics are stunning, and the environments astonishing, forcing you to free up disk space just so that you could save screenshots, and the best part is that the requirements are extremely low for such scenery. The sound is pretty average, nothing that would stick out in one way or another. One more thing is the internet connection required, the game works perfectly on 56K modems, as it does on faster connections.

Top game moment: Carefully planning an attack on an enemy outpost, and then leveling it to the ground.

The conclusion. GW offers a fine balance between PvP and PvE gameplay, allowing all sorts of players to fully enjoy the game. Weather you're looking for a vast world just waiting for you to make the first step in exploring it, or the chance to try your guile against other players, you wont be disappointed. Simply put, a must-have for anyone who thinks of himself as a role playing fan.