Guild Wars is a casual non-gear-oriented PvE MMO with some good PvP to do as well. Some devs from Blizzard wanted to try something new, left Blizzard and created ArenaNet, and they came up with Guild Wars. Considering Guild Wars has sold over 5 millions boxes, we can say with certainty that venture is a great success. Do not let yourself fool by the title that the game is fully PvP, the Guild Wars title actually refers to a certain period of time called Guild Wars in the history of the world of Tyria.
The devs wanted to try many new things and one of them is the settings of the game. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth and creatures have been overused to death during the last decades in novels and games of all sort (D&D to videogames) so for those who want fantasy without having to deal with yet another Tolkien’s inspired world… again, then Guild Wars is your answer. The only remnant of Tolkien in Guild Wars is the Dwarves that we get to interact with, the only playable race in Guild Wars is Human. So the first Guild Wars, called Prophecies, is based on a fantasy medieval europe with its characters (white caucasians) to architecture to armors. The graphics are superb and the art style oh so beautiful, the devs have decided to go toward realism of graphics instead of cartoonish for World of Warcraft. Even though the game has awesome graphics, the game can be played on very low computers and be played as well on dial-up connection, the game was made to be playable for everyone and to look way better than World of Warcraft in term of graphics. The devs have worked very hard on the lore and history of Tyria, fleshing out their world and there is a great variety of different environments from jungles to desert to snowy areas to explore. Even better, the devs have come up with a good storyline in Guild Wars that makes us the heroes and they use well instances, missions and cinematics (voiced videos) to fulfill this. The day you see your own alt in those cinematics, you’re hooked.
Each campaign adds a new area and a new type of people with their own history, you do not need the first game to buy a campaign. In Factions, the game is inspired highly by Asia and the devs have created a fantasy asian game with Asians everywhere, you even get to create your own asian alt. In Nightfall, the devs have inspired themselves from Middle-Orient and Africa to make it, so there are indeed Black and Oriental NPCs everywhere and you get to create your own too. Each campaign has its own storyline similar to the first Guild Wars and each adds two new classes as well as two new slots to play them. In Factions comes the Assassin and the Ritualist and from Nightfall the Paragon and the Dervish. The other playable classes are Warrior, Monk, Elementalist, Necromancer, Mesmer and Ranger. One fascinating aspect of the classes in Guild Wars is that each class has its own unique look and its own unique set of armors that the other classes cannot wear so it really sets them apart. If you want more slots you can now buy them on the online store. The beautiful music in Guild Wars was composed by Jeremy Soule who has previously won prizes for his music in other videogames, and in each campaign the music is different and suits well the different settings.
Guild Wars is a team-based game and you have to team up most of the time in order to do quests and missions. There are Henchmen that can be hired if you cannot find people to play with at that moment, but be aware that the Henchmen take their part of the drops like golds and items and that their AI is so so. In Nightfall, you get better, you get customizable heroes and you can choose which skills they will use and which weapons too, their AI is superior to the regular henchmen but just like them they take their part of the loot too.
The game is mostly instanced so you are alone with your team. It allows for scripted quests, you also don’t have to deal with bad players and you don’t have to wait in line for anything. Once the mobs are killed, they do not respawn. The maps are really good, the small one shows you exactly where you’ve been walking and exactly where you should go for the quest, and the top map at the right, you can also write on it with your mouse if you want to show the strategy you want to use to your teammates more clearly. The game makes it easy to do quests by showing you where to go, that doesn’t mean it will be a one minute trip though. You can only use eight skills at once on your bar so you have to make that decision before leaving town because once you are outside you cannot change your skills.
Talking about skills, it’s pretty much what Guild Wars is about. Each class gets tons of skills (I think each class has over 100 skills now, including elite skills) in different trees and in town you can switch around your points in the trees you want without having to pay a fee. In Guild Wars, each player gets to have as well a second class and everything you’ve unlocked on a class (skills and pet) is kept forever even if you switch around your second class many times (because you can switch too anytime your second class without having to pay a fee). So, the number of possible combinations with the first and second class and the amount of skills available, it makes you think a lot when it’s time to choose which eight skills you will bring with you this time. As I said, the game is pretty much about skills and the storyline, since the max level is 20 and easily reachable, you keep playing the game to follow the storyline but as well to acquire more skills including elite skills only obtainable by killing a certain elite boss.
Maybe it could be time I talk about PvP. The PvP in Guild Wars is fair and square since the game is non-gear-oriented which means anyone with so so armor and weapons can compete with the others in PvP. PvE and PvP are completely separated in Guild Wars which means that PvE players can happily do nothing but PvE and never touch to PvP, also your chance to get ganked is none in Guild Wars, and it’s true the other way around as well since you can create a full PvP alt at max level but you cannot do PvE with that PvP alt. There are many different forms of PvP available in Guild Wars: Guild versus Guild, Random Arena (2 teams of 4 put randomly), Team Arena (2 teams of 4), International PvP (Hall of Monument), some PvP with the Kurzicks and the Luxons and the last PvP Alliance Battle which is my favorite form of PvP. Most players in Guild Wars actually do not PvP or rarely. The devs behind Guild Wars, in order to satisfy the demands of the PvE players, have decided to put aside Guild Wars because the devs are limited with its engine and have decided to restart anew, build a new engine, and make Guild Wars 2 which happens around 250 years after the last expansion (Eyes of the North).
ArenaNet have recently put on sale a Guild Wars Trilogy that contains all three campaigns for a very good price, 50$ USD, which is very good for anyone who has wanted to try out the game but was overwhelmed at the thought of having to buy all three campaigns at 40-45$ USD each.
Nothing is perfect in this world, except for cats of course, so Guild Wars has to have flaws. I think the most important is the constant fights between the PvE players and the PvP players, and for a game where PvE and PvP was supposed to be separated, too many PvP elements was ruining PvE: balancing the skills in term of PvP and ignoring its impact in PvE was one, the Underworld (a dungeon) was only accessible if your country had won x times in the International PvP form, etc. On this matter, 3 years later, ArenaNet has finally fully separated these two but it’s too little too late. Some may find the instances and the absence of jumping a complete turnoff. Also, while at first there was sometimes a class discrimination when it was time to make a team, now it’s builds discrimination where players are not admitted in a team because they do have the "right" build (the set of eight skills on the skill bar). The community is so so and some places are filled with teenagers, or so it seems, but that doesn’t mean it’s all bad, there are plenty of nice people but unlike the bad ones they are less vocal. Guild Wars at first was all about fun and no grind, now it’s more about grind and it’s very sad indeed to see. It’s hard to find people to do missions but that is partly because people are spread out through the three campaigns so it makes grouping harder, the other reason is that Guild Wars will not get more content like a new expansion or campaign so some people have burned the game a while ago and have stopped playing the game, awaiting patiently for Guild Wars 2 (or not).
The game is perfect for casual players who love flexibility and who want to play a genuine fantasy game that is in no way related to Tolkien, where they get to be involved in many storylines where they are the heroes and have fun exploring beautiful fantasy worlds, where they can as well play a fair PvP when they want to. They will have to accept though that no new addition will be made to Guild Wars since the devs are focusing solely on Guild Wars 2.
The official website: http://www.guildwars.com/
This is a past blog entry from my gaming blog on Multiply.