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Watch out Blizzard, Guild Wars is a worthy contender to WoW's throne...
Surely but slowly UK gamers are beginning to take to online games and MMORPGâ??s; itâ??s needed the clout of Blizzardâ??s Warcraft license to do so, however we can now assume that the floodgates have well and truly been opened for others to follow.
First up is ArenaNetâ??s Guild Wars, boastfully claiming to leave the â??grinding to Starbucksâ? and the complete eradication of so-called â??Fed-Ex questsâ?, hopefully resulting in an experience devoid of tasks to burn time instead of having fun.
Before the game has even begun there are a lot of things to like about Guild Wars, most notably the lack of a subscription fee is likely to initially appeal. Instead players are presented the choice as the game develops to purchase new chapters; there is no obligation to buy these and you can carry on the game without, however itâ??s refreshing to notice another option being explored and perhaps revolutionizing the traditional model.
On initial inspection everything looks as youâ??d expect, the traditional RPG offering with the standard repertoire of classes, attributes, professions, and so forth... The game is set within the fantasy world of Tyria, a time-honoured style yet nonetheless visually appealing world that shares the same strengthâ??s in exploration as Blizzardâ??s World of Warcraft.
Exploring the home region of Ascalon is a daunting task given its overwhelming size, however stray beyond the borders and the true magnitude of Guild Wars is slowly revealed â?“ this game is absolutely gargantuan and if youâ??re so inclined could easily last a lifetime! The game shares the common quest structure that has become synonymous with the genre, while the take on PvP pits players against each other in various arena battles that are fun, engaging, strategic and arguably more enjoyable then anything thatâ??s come before. Guild Wars successfully integrates both modes, allowing players of all types to enjoy the experience regardless of whether you prefer the RPG side of things or just the combative PvP. Players are presented with the option during character creation, with those choosing the PvP option receiving a significantly experienced character instead of the level one granted to those who choose the RPG campaign. Naturally a lot of stuff is locked out, so those who do try out both aspects will be rewarded with new skills and items to collect.
Guild Wars strikes a very similar balance to previous titles in the genre, so if youâ??ve found yourself absorbed by WoW, youâ??ll have no problems getting into Guild Wars. Once again a Hotbar features providing easy access to a range of abilities, with the standard mouse/keyboard providing access to character/camera movement and the various techniques. With over 150 unique skills available to each of the six professions (Warrior, Ranger, Monk, Elementalist, Mesmer, Necromancer) and the ability to choose a second profession as well, thereâ??s a great sense of evolving and developing into a unique persona throughout Guild Wars â?“ the game really does seem to present each player as the right piece in a jigsaw.
A theme of â??user friendlessnessâ? runs throughout Guild Wars, unlike many in the genre you can easily play the game in both short bouts and marathon sessions. The balance between satisfying, visceral, action-packed PvP and absorbing, immersive RPG dynamics has arguably been taken to the next level, usurping the mighty World of Warcraft in many ways and setting a benchmark for others to follow. More importantly the most contentious issues thrown up my MMORPGs to frustrate the player have been largely removed - logging out simply requires a click of a button and not having to reach a town first of all, while the issue of death is handled relatively painlessly via a slight knock to the playerâ??s health and energy resources. Another aspect designed to reduce frustrations and â??filler gameplayâ? is the ability to instantly transport to areas youâ??ve already been to before, significantly tightening the overall experience and negating the need for alternative forms of transport.
The structure of Guild Wars is significantly different to those that have come before it, various towns and cities provide the access point for the social side of the game while various missions spawn randomly for individuals or groups of players. Stumbling across a town can be a confusing situation to begin with, particularly when dozens of players attempt to speak at the same time in different languages; while the age-old dilemma of finding players with similar quest objectives has yet to be solved in any truly refined manner. Some could argue against this structure to the game, particularly in the sense of the overall continuity of the game, however thereâ??s no denying that the result is a streamlined experience that rewards play across the board rather then just based upon how many hours youâ??ve logged. The overall illusion presented by Guild Wars is significantly different to others with the experience coming across as far more personal then the â??clonedâ? approach in others; most significantly the vast amount of time-consuming and levelling-up gameplay is all but a thing of the past.
Naturally with a name such as Guild Wars, the game places significant emphasis on establishing and maintaining a guild. The standard repertoire of Guild features are all apparent, however this aspect takes on increasing prominence in the PvP modes where various factions from across the globe are placed together in heated combat to the final death.
Given that many of ArenaNet members had worked previously on Blizzardâ??s Battle.net technology, itâ??s probably not surprising that this side of the game is beyond comparison - seamlessly downloading new code in the background and switching between territories with little fuss or load times. Although itâ??s early days yet, ArenaNet have made boastful comments regarding the security measures to prevent cheaters within Guild Wars, but weâ??ll have to wait awhile before realising whether theyâ??ll face the similar day-to-day struggle that others are currently engaged with.
Guild Wars is also an exceptionally beautiful game to behold, with many varied fantasy styles and startling technology coming together to wonderful effect. The game features a striking saturated effect and brings the world of Tyria to life with thoughtful character designs and imaginative environments. Sadly the overall gloss afforded to the gameâ??s visuals doesnâ??t carry across to the sonic qualities, suffering from an overly underwhelming approach, repetition and a general lack of thought â?“ thankfully ArenaNet have contracted an external firm to handle the sound for future chapters.
Despite this however there’s a lot to like with Guild Wars, even for those that wouldn't normally consider picking a MMORPG from the shelf; the lack of a subscription fee coupled with the streamlined experience and the balance between PvP and RPG creates an enthralling prospect that will entertain anybody interested in a strong and enjoyable online title.
Given the unstoppable triumph of Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, Guild Wars certainly deserves its fair share of the success – we imagine you’ll be hearing a lot about ArenaNet in the next few months...
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