Convention is the hobgoblin of the mundane, I was once told.
Though the PC platform has often been the launching pad of many unique ideas,
most are still the same mold. Choose a quest, find the item, put it
here, and you may level up inbetween all of this. That is, if you can
avoid those that come and rudely interrupt your monster killing fun.
Guild Wars is a game that not only puts an end to those annoying
conventions, but it also does so in a unique and fresh way.
Although ArenaNet has held other beta events, few seemed on the scale
of the latest event beginning on February 18th and ending on the 20th.
This event included not only new interfaces and ideas, but an entirely
new world to explore on top of the already beautifully destroyed world
of previous betas.
"Every single graphic in Guild Wars shows ... attention to finer details."
To start to explain this beta, you must know the story of the world
and the city of Ascalon. Once a beautiful land of lush wildlife, it
was home to many people from the annoyingly cute Gwen to trainers of
skill and even bandits. In one day, all of it came to an end when the
underrated, but powerful Charr attacked. Having left the kingdom in
ruins the day of your arrival, you're thrust into a war some time
after your home and friends were killed.
Starting this weekend event, players were treated with a new map that
acted like a tutorial section as well. Instead of starting off in the
new "post-Charr" Ascalon, players were greeted with a "pre-Charr"
Ascalon to explore. This old world also included a new NPC named Gwen, who
would act as an annoying sidekick with countless stories and
occasional helpfulness. The graphics for Guild Wars are easily termed:
Every texture looks realistic from beautiful forests, eerie caves,
green-toned dungeons, and even the characters look unique to their
class. Every single graphic in Guild Wars shows not only hard work,
but also an attention to finer details such as shadows under eyes or
strands of hair. Every surrounding is just as unique as those in it,
you'll probably never see a repeated "zone" unless you visit a place
The meat of the game comes from its highly original execution of
character development and dungeon generation. Characters choosing to
start over in beta were placed into the "pre-Charr" Ascalon to build
their characters to level 3, at least. Characters that wanted to go the
PVP route were given builds from which to choose. Each build was given
a weapon, a set of armor, a chosen set of spells, and automatic level
20. Those that chose to enter PVP immediately could not go into quests
of the normal game.
Having chosen the second route, I started to create my character from a
standard list with custom options like a choice of multiple hair
styles, colors, as well as skin color, height, and sex. The choices of
clases ranged to the typical classes of Necromancer, Warrior,
Elementalist, Ranger, Monk, and the not so typical Mesmer. On top of
choosing your first main class, you can also choose to go into a
second class or profession, bringing the total of combinations to 24
different character build combinations. Each profession also has 3
different skill trees in which the player can specialize. On top of
that come the three different trees from your second profession chosen
before entering "post-Charr" Ascalon. That makes over 144 different
possible character profession and skill combination builds. Throw in
many different types of armor, armor dyes, weapon choices, and
character routes, and you have endless ways to individualize your
Battles are equally as exciting, but far more challenging than
deciding what you want to do. Before you decide to run out and battle
in the "post-Charr" world, you have to decide what you want to do.
First come the solo quests much like the ones played in the
"pre-Charr" Ascalon which deal with killing certain monsters, finding
certain enemies, and being a general errand runner. The alternatives
are co-operative missions that will take you throughout
the entire world defeating forces with either a player group, of the
use of profession-specific henchmen that can accompany you either on the solo
quests or the co-operative missions.
If you're worried about solo missions and problems with rude players,
don't fret any longer. ArenaNet has answered the prayers of countless
aggravated kill-stolen players and given everyone their own "instance" on the
server once they leave the main cities. These "instances" are special
only to the player or party that just left their previous city. Although this hurts in terms
of emergency help, it also seemed to promote a community through
parties for tougher missions. Also solved are the days of stealing
monster item drops thanks to this new "instance" handling of content.
To keep things fresh, ArenaNet has also made content dynamic so you
receive updates to the maps instantly instead of one large download
upon starting up the game.
To further keep stealing down, ArenaNet has also put in a system of
drop reservations. When the item is dropped, the item is reserved for
you. If you happen to be on a co-operative mission that means you will
be sharing drops with everyone else in your party. Gone are the days
of first-see-first-grab; instead Guild Wars promotes less clamoring
for items and more attention to strategic battles. Battles are
often difficult and require not only teamwork, but also a degree of luck
and the right balance of partymates.
Co-Operative missions are often longer with multiple objectives,
sometimes taking up into a few hours to complete. However, you are
almost guaranteed 1,000 experience points for every co-operative
mission you complete. Additionally, if you plan on being able to craft
your own armor, you'll need to complete many co-operative missions as
they are the best source for many of the rarer items needed. Even some
of the better weapons, shields, and artifacts are found from the
longer missions. Furthermore, all gold is shared among the members of
the party so every member gets at least some gold.
After you've gained your experience, you'll eventually level up. Each
level gives you a skill point and every co-operative mission also
gives you a skill point. Then you get to buy skills from one of the
few skill trainers in the world. Each skill costs 1 skill point and an
amount of gold proportionate to the amount of skills you've already
purchased. Don't expect to use all of them at once, though. You'll
only be allowed to choose up to 8 skills to take out into the missions
with you, and you cannot switch skills once you leave the safety of a
town or fort.
Movement can be a challenge for those used to mouse movements, as the
movement is controlled by the classic W, A, S, and D keys. The arrows
keys have also been mapped for movement in an attempt to give multiple
forms of movement. Looking around maps is accomplished by pressing and
holding the right mouse button. However if you still wish to use left
clicking movements, you may still do so.
When it's all said and done, Guild Wars doesn't disappoint and shows
its progress in spades. It's come from a mediocre third-party title to
a respectable, beautiful, first-tier MMORPG that could give the likes
of Diablo, Final Fantasy XI, and World of Warcraft a run for their
money. With beautiful graphics, a unique server-side dungeon plan,
involved quest system, and oodles of customization, Guild Wars shows
that pre-ordering a game from someone other than Blizzard is a good
thing. Stay tuned to RPGamer for later impressions on the remaining two Guild Wars
weekend beta events.