I’m an old Neverwinter Nights fan-in fact, I’m still working on modules and such for that game using the excellent tool set that comes with it. So I was a little leery about giving up my free time to take on another RPG. But after seeing some reviews, and seeing an online clip showing the incredible graphics, I decided it was time to put aside
Neverwinter, at least for awhile, and give Guild Wars a try.
Your first clue that this game is way above average quality is during the character creation phase-the interface here and the character models and faces are just beautiful, and it’s kind of fun figuring out what your character is going to look like and actually quite important-after all, you’ll be using that character for weeks if not months or longer.
Race through the character creation phase, and you’ll be stuck looking at a character you may not like a week from now.
You can have up to 4 characters on your user account, so you can try out a Monk first, for example, or maybe a Warrior or Necromancer.
Each class (Warrior, Ranger, Necromancer, Monk, Elementalist, Mesmer) has it’s own strengths, but eventually you get to try out a secondary class, so you can then be a Warrior/Monk or Elementalist/Mesmer for example, getting most of the benefits of that class added to your primary class.
Cut Above the Rest
The graphics in Guild Wars are jaw dropping; character, architecture and terrain modeling are some of the best I’ve seen, and as a bonus, some of the character animations you can perform while standing around are simply amazing and great fun (try the dance animation-each character class has a different dance-Necromancers, being associated with the dead, for example, do the Michael Jackson Thriller dance.
You can also play air guitar, play air drums, wave, cheer, pout, taunt, jump, sit, play rock, paper, scissors and many other activities. These are all just for fun while you’re standing around in a city waiting for the next mission or quest.
The next thing that screams great quality here are the terrains and environments-I’ve never seen such quality in wide-open landscapes such as this, and the architecture in cities and towns a joy to look at. Combine that with beautiful atmospheric effects which enhance the “being there” experience, and you really want to play to the next area just to see what’s next.
An early example of this is when you’re heading towards Ashford to talk to a quest character named Devona. If you look in the distance while still near Ascalon looking toward Ashford, you’ll see waterfalls in the distance, softened and faded by the atmospheric effects and simulation of distance. Very convincing overall.
Another place where details make the grade is when you’re crossing a stream or body of water. Where the water washes upon the shore, you get some very realistic wash effects. The water is some of the best I’ve seen.
But my favorite town so far has to be Beacon’s Perch. The buildings, colors, and surrounding environment are stunning. Plus, if you explore a little, you’ll find some winding paths that take you all the way up the mountain where you can view the whole town and surrounding forest. Combined with great ambient sound and a gentle snowfall, this one town
stands out as one of the best in the game so far (though Lions Arch makes a very close second).
Be sure to take some time to just look around after killing whatever creature is in an area-the graphics are pure eye candy!
The gameplay itself is what you’d expect from an RPG-you perform quests for items and experience, find merchants to buy needed supplies, and later in the game you can bank your items and money so you don’t have to carry them around with you everywhere.
For those who are concerned about story, I felt that Guild War’s story was quite good, and the missions and characters add to the story well. It’s not high art, but the story and the action carried my interest well enough.
Two Distinct Parts to the Story
After some initial character building missions in your peaceful beautiful kingdom (and the graphics really are some of the best I’ve seen-the Catacombs are amazing!), evil northern creatures not only attack your peaceful kingdom, they destroy it! No “let’s stop the invading hordes” here-it’s a done deal.
So you’re stuck in a post-holocaust wasteland you formerly knew as your beautiful home and which you hope to liberate someday.
A huge part of the game after the “Searing” (name given to the destruction of your world by the Charr) is teaming up with other players or working with henchmen you meet in the cities and towns (or at least what’s left of them). In fact, many of the missions after the holocaust would be impossible without a party of players hitting it together. Even with 3 henchmen by my side, I had to do a couple of missions over because the Charr can be pretty determined not to let you retake your homeland.
If there’s any negative aspect to Guild Wars, it would be the repetition of creatures available to fight early on in the game. Not until you’ve advanced a few levels do you start seeing a variety, but this is only a minor gripe.
Also, and this can be quite frustrating at times, if you don’t complete a mission, no matter how far you get into it, you have to start that mission over if you die (unless there are resurrect portals in the area). There’s nothing like fighting impossible odds for 3 hours, get to the end, and get killed, only to have to go through every square inch one more time. This has happened a couple of times to me so far. Is it so hard to have save checkpoints or add a save game button?
Finally, in cut scenes, the main characters that you converse with never move their mouths. It’s a minor complaint, but I think it would add much to the illusion if their mouths even just opened and closed.
Free Online Play
Guild Wars is an amazing game, and one of the best aspects of it is that online multiplayer is FREE! No monthly subscription or fees beyond purchasing the game. That aspect, combined with the amazing animations, graphics, good story, excellent terrain modeling, and overall feel of the game gives it a notch above other games in the genre.
Review Score: 9.5 out of 10