For all of the accolades that online RPGs have gotten over the years, there has always been a chorus of gamers who say, ďWell, thatís cool and all, but Iím not paying a monthly fee for one of these things.Ē Enter Guild Wars, which takes this whole pay-to-play concept and tosses it out the window. This in and of itself is a pretty neat approach an online role-playing, but it doesnít mean a whole lot if the rest of the game isnít very good. Thankfully that isnít the case here, as Guild Wars provides wonderful visuals, well-paced battles, a story that players actually want to learn more about, and a very strong player versus player component, all of which can be enjoyed with others, or all by your lonesome if youíre so inclined.
from the start, it quickly becomes apparent that a lot of work went into
the Guild Warsí graphics, as the landscapes that can be explored are
absolutely breathtaking. There
are mountain ranges, valleys, forests, creepy dungeons, and everything
in between. All of these
have a ton of detail, and are bathed in some of the most impressive
lighting one will come across in quite some time.
Beyond this, the gameís characters, monsters, and various other
creatures are equally easy on the eyes.
What is nice about them, though, is that their animations are all
very smooth. There are
plenty of different animations to see with the various attacks at
oneís disposal, though this is far more the case for melee types since
the attacks differ depending on whether one is using an axe, hammer, or
sword, in contrast to magic-users who are busy casting spells which
donít require quite such grandiose movements in order to be performed. What is really amazing about Guild Warsí visuals is that
players donít need a ridiculously powerful PC in order for the game to
run. Usually when someone
sees a game as gorgeous as this, they suddenly breakdown in tears
because they know theyíll have to blow several hundred dollars on
high-end videocards, processors, and so forth just to get the thing
running. This just isnít
so with Guild Wars. My
PCís strength barely qualifies as being ďso-soĒ, and the game has
worked marvellously for me so far.
Hopefully PC game developers will take notes about what ArenaNet
has done with Guild Warsí because the sheer level of visual quality
the game can achieve on mid-range computers is really something.
But Guild Wars is more than a pretty face, as the game is also extremely fun to play. From very early on, players will find themselves being swarmed by enemies as they fight their way through quests. In a lot of similar online RPGs, this just isnít the case. In fact, any additional enemies that join a battle, often referred to as ďaddsĒ, can doom a party since they need to focus so much of their attention on defeating enemies one monster at a time. Guild Wars goes in the complete opposite direction, often times throwing monsters at players six to ten at a time. Because of this, the level of intensity in Guild Warsí combat is quite high. When rounding a corner and suddenly having to face a dozen enemies the initial feeling leans more toward dread simply from the intimidating numbers coming down on the player, but thereís always a sense that victory is possible if everyone in the party plays their cards right, and when the enemies are finally defeated the sense of
difficult to beat. You and your
party really feel good about the win, and happily pat each other on the
back. Usually such strong
sentiments of ďYay us!Ē can only be found when tackling notoriously
strong end game bosses in an MMORPG, but just from the way that Guild
Wars sends wave after wave of enemies at players itís quite possible
to feel this good right from level one to the gameís level cap at
oneís character in combat, or even just while wandering around, is
very straightforward. Players
can either move around via the keyboard with the a, s, d, and w,
keys just like in World of WarCraft, or one can simply go with a
point-and-click approach a la Diablo.
Either is very simple, and the camera manages to behave itself,
ensuring that players can see what they are doing in battle.
There are also a number of special skills that players can use
while adventuring. These
are assigned to eight slots toward the bottom of the screen, and players
need to do this before leaving town, because it isnít possible to swap
out skills while out in the frontiers, beating down monsters.
The skills in and of themselves are cool and generally useful, but the problem comes
in that there arenít enough slots to really get the most out of
oneís character. Ten
slots would be perfect, as eight of them are cutting things a little
tight. It wouldnít be so
bad if there were no sub-classes, but as it stands players are stuck
using the majority of their skill slots for their main class, and maybe a
couple others for their sub-class.
It really canít be stressed enough that while this game is an online RPG, it isnít exactly like an MMORPG like World of Warcraft, or Everquest. While in a city or outpost there are indeed dozens of other players roaming about to get new quests, sell things, and get new gear, but once one steps out into the wilderness the game is instanced. As such, only the player and his or her party are in the game world, fighting off the bad guys, and trying to complete whatever quest they are on. If anything, it makes questing a lot more convenient over the course of the game. In your standard, run of the mill MMORPG, there are plenty of times when a quest asks for a certain NPC to be killed, but when you get to where this character is supposed to be it almost feels like youíre in a deli and have to take a number, then wait your turn to kill the thing because there are three other parties already there waiting for the thing to re-spawn. Since the game world is constantly being instanced outside of the safety of the cities in Guild Wars, players donít need to worry about this sort of thing.
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