Product Type: Ncsoft PC games
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No Monthly Fee, Yet As Good As Those That Charge
Guild Wars (PC)
Member Name: thanatoszane
Guild Wars (PC)
Date: 10/09/05, updated on 10/09/05 (2788 review reads)
Advantages: no monthly fee, polished
Disadvantages: not much depth
For the price of the box (I paid £20, although I've seen it for less since then) you get unlimited free online play, and free updates (although there may be expansions that cost money in the future.)
Guild Wars is different from most MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Games) in that you only see large amounts of other players when you are in safe town areas. The rest of the time the game takes place in 'instances' that are generated only for you and your group of players. If you don't like playing with strangers, you can choose to take some computer controlled characters out with you. They aren't the most intelligent things in the world, but the majority of missions can be done using these computer characters, and they have probably the best AI I've seen in an online game.
The game starts off in a tutorial area, with several missions aimed at teaching the basic parts of the game, and allowing you to swap your skills around until you find professions that you like. You can take one main profession, which is the skill you will specialise in, and be able to take a wide range of abilities from, and one secondary profession - that you get a smaller selection of abilities from. The professions are the kind you would expect in your average RPG - Priests, Necromancers, Rangers, Warriors, etc.
Once you are ready to leave the tutorial area, you can choose, either by yourself, or with a group of other players, to exit the area. You will be taken (either with computer controlled henchmen, or with your party) on a scripted encounter which will end in a player vs player fight in an arena.
If you leave with only one player friend, your party will be fleshed out with some computer characters to make up the numbers - the sides will always be even.
Once the arena battle is finished, you can move on to the main game.
The game itself is split up into scripted missions which give large rewards and make up the most interesting parts of the game in my opinion, and smaller quests that are shorter, not compulsory, and tend to give items or gold as rewards.
The game has a strong focus on PVP, with arenas for different levels, and the option to create PVP only characters which start automatically at the highest level and can only be used for special events.
The graphics in Guild Wars are of a high standard, and it runs well even on machines that would be considered low end by todays standards.
The controls are very easy to pick up and are similar to games such as Dark Age of Camelot and Star Wars Galaxies. The combat involes actions that have cool-down timers - you target the enemy and press a key to perform the action. In other ways the game reminds me of Diablo II, but the combat is in normal MMO style.
There are a number of nice touches, too - I found it amusing that some spells, such as area affect heals, actually heal the enemy as well as your frieds.
I found very little lag when playing online - probably due to the instancing of the missions.
This game has a good back story to follow through, if you manage to not get side-tracked by doing all the little, but not all that relevant quests. I found myself getting impatient to get on with the missions to see what would happen next, and found the cutscenes for completing the missions very rewarding.
The crafting system is rather annoying however, requiring you to hunt constantly for items to salvage to get the resources you need. Some things that you will want to make early on in the game require items that are quite difficult to get hold of in the starting areas, causing a lot of frustration!
My main criticism of the game however, would be that if you are not interested in the player vs player combat side of things, then you can reach the final level very quickly.
You are allowed several characters however, so you could play through the game with each of the professions to extend its life.
NCSoft are doing a good job of looking after this game - releasing patches and updates, and listening to the feedback of players. They recently ran a PVP weekend to celebrate the launch of a free expansion called 'Sorrows Furnace'. As part of the weekend they increased the rewards for PVP combat. Players liked this change a lot, and they have made the increase in rewards permanent.
If you are a fan of Diablo II, or a fan of more traditional MMOs I think you will like this game. It does not have the depth of a subscription based MMO, but it is free to play, and relatively cheap to buy. Even if you only play it for a little while I think you will get your moneys worth from it, and you are always free to drop back in after a few months and see what has changed in the game.
Personally, I don't play every day the way I do with games I pay a fee for, but I do like knowing I have it installed, and enjoy dropping in from time to time.
Summary: worth a look, you have little to loose