Genre : MMORPG
Developer : ArenaNet
Publisher : NCSoft
Release Date : November, 2004
Guild Wars, developed by ArenaNet, is a radical departure from your current MMOG offerings. First and foremost, there’s no subscription fee, so Junior doesn’t have to keep bugging Mommy and Daddy for their credit card to play; instead, the company is planning on delivering an expansion every six months in the hopes that players will keep the development process going by purchasing the expansions.
The other way it differentiates itself from current games is by having competitive PvP, similar to Dark Age of Camelot, but their focus is on making player skill, not player level, the deciding factor in resolving combat. In Camelot, a level 50 player can easily wipe a level 30, but in Guild Wars they want the level 30 to stand a chance.
The way they’ve done this is by making the game system akin to Magic the Gathering. You’ll adventure through the lands collecting spells and spell gems; once you level, these can be used to get extra abilities. Before you enter a combat area, you decide what spells you want in your hot-bars and load them. That’s where the similarity to MtG lies, in creating a balanced deck that gives you the most options. A higher level character might have more options, but they can only go into combat with the same number of spells loaded as you can.
To paraphrase Henry Ford, you can play any race you want, as long as it is human. The story is that humans have been enslaved and are doing battle with the slavers and the monsters surrounding them. Since the game has a PvP component as well, it’s a safe bet that humankind hasn’t changed much and still likes to fight other humans.
The graphics, from the player and monster models, to the vast terrain and particle effects, is impressive. They are so impressive that ArenaNet has been accused of Photoshoping their screenshots. I can confirm from what we saw at E3 that’s not the case – these are the real deal, and are as impressive as their competition’s.
One of their goals is to reduce what they term to be the “boring stuff” in the current MMOG offerings: grinding to get levels, long transportation times and camping. They are attempting to reduce the treadmill by making the combat strategically challenging and interesting – easier said than done – and travel times are eliminated by giving you the ability to teleport yourself to the beginning of any quest you’ve unlocked. I’m a little leery of this myself – part of the immersion is the sense of scale traveling across the world brings.
They are designing the game for both solo and team play, with mission areas for each type of player. I’m pleased to see solo content going into what could be taken as group only game. A lot of people just want to play for an hour or so before they need to run, and having content people can solo is great. You’ll be grouping during the bulk of the game though, which is fine as the point to these games is the social aspect.
The underlying technology is interesting as well. Firstly, you don't have to worry about what server all your friends are on, as all of the servers work together to create a single, virtual world. The content is also streamed – the initial install is quite small and the additional content is then streamed down when you access it. While you might get a hit when you first download it, but it’s then cached for the next time you need it.
While the E3 demo was short, what I saw impressed me. Guild Wars looks like it will do an excellent job at catering to the fans of BlizzardNet, where you could play Diablo 2 for free. The lack of a subscription fee is a huge bonus, as people who already play MMOGs may be more willing to try it. This is a game to watch, and I look forward trying it out when it gets released later this year.
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