Guild Wars is pretty special to me. It must be one of my most played games having staying in the world for almost six years from the 2006 release of the campaign “Factions” to the release of the sequel Guild Wars 2 in 2012. I’m very thankful that it doesn’t have a monthly subscription like other MMO rivals such as World of Warcraft – so it luckily didn’t bankrupt my younger self!
The Guild Wars series features three campaigns, “Prophecies”, “Factions”, “Nightfall”, and one expansion called “Eye of the North”. They each have their own engaging story and vast maps to explore. When creating your character you have to choose which campaign you wish to start in. Each campaign has a different story and is set on a different continents. This therefore impacts the background of your character with each continent having their own ethnic feel. Your choice also decides the first starting steps and early quests before you are free to travel among the continents.
The expansion is different as it is simply more of an add-on. It complements the existing content with new skills, weapons, armour, and the Hall of Monuments (a place to show off all your achievements). Eye of the North seemed the perfect way to end the series giving players the chance to prepare for the upcoming sequel by filling your Hall of Monuments with collectibles and titles, providing points towards unlockables that can be redeemed in the sequel.
A massive plus for me in Guild Wars is the level cap of 20. This is something they decided to scrap in the sequel but I think it was a real strength. Having a level cap which you can reach relatively early means you don’t have a grindy feel associated with the game, so you are more focused on the story as you are progressing along with the plot, instead of stopping to kill X enemies in order to continue.
You must be wondering how on earth an MMO with a low level cap and a strong focus on the story would cause me to return regularly for almost six years?! I found there was so much to do – and I only played PvE!
Well here goes, this is a quick overview:
Obviously each campaign release (of which there were three) brought masses of new content to playthrough, the Eye of the North expansion introduced the Hall of Monuments that provided a place to fill your deeds and show off your wealth, the missions (which are required to continue the story) are a good length each with plenty to complete and are often timed to give greater rewards for completion, amazing replay-value to try out all the many classes, lots of saving required up for the awesome armour (which has a quite incredible amount of variety for each gender and class), improving skill builds and collecting elite skills from bosses throughout the game, and many titles which gave targets and objectives to attempt. Plus a very well praised PvP which many enjoyed.
The name “Guild Wars ” is actually very misleading. While there are wars between guilds as a form of PvP, it’s only a small optional aspect of the game. There are ten classes in total to choose from and you combine another as a “secondary profession” (which can be freely changed). This allows the creation of some very interesting builds using skills from their pool in addition to your primary class, meaning with the thousands of skills available, there are endless build possibilities for you to create with the 8 skill slot available.
The core professions are Warrior, Ranger, Monk, Necromancer, Mesmer and Elementalist. Each campaign after Prophecies adds two new classes to play around with. Factions adds the Assassin class who use daggers and the Ritualist who can summon spirits. Nightfall introduces the spear throwing Paragon and the scythe slashing Dervish.
Having a great variety of classes is pretty essential for an MMO. It should mean that there should be something for everyone. There are also plenty of character slots to help you find a class you can settle on, with an option to purchase more if required.
The PvE gameplay is quite unique for an MMO in the sense that most of the world, apart from certain areas like cities, guild halls and outposts, is instanced. This means that you’ll only see other real people in these locations. While this may seem odd in this genre, it really did work for me and obviously the many other players who stuck with it.
You can invite other players to your party (or npc followers) in these outposts and cities, and then head out together to do quests or exploration in your own “instance”. The instances are directly affected by your questing and the stage in your story so it is very personalised and cool, just like single player RPGs.
It’s easy to try to compare Guild Wars with other MMOs such as World of Warcraft, but I feel this is harsh since they are very different in many ways, especially in terms of gameplay. Nevertheless, if you do draw comparisons then you could argue that Guild Wars has its limitations with no mounts available, only the human race to play as and being unable to jump – very crucial I know!
While these features are indeed all available in WoW, Guild Wars does have many great strengths that make these limitations forgivable for me, leaving you oblivious to what you’re missing as you are too busy enjoying the story, graphics and the incredible music too much to notice. Not having a monthly subscription is also great as it means you can return to the game at will, at any time, something that I’ve never done with World of Warcraft.
It is difficult to think of any negative aspects, although I am slightly biased… Well since I have to!
The pricing of the end-game gear could be argued to be a bit steep for how the amount much gold you accumulate through the storyline and side quests. However the endgame armour is purely cosmetic so isn’t required for getting the maximum stats, it gets saved in the Hall of Monuments and looks pretty awesome as an always welcome bonus. I’d argue here that the amount of time required to save up for these cool endgame armour sets and weapons obviously helps you stay interested with something to aim for, and adds a sense of real achievement once you’ve acquired it.
Aside from gear pricing I’m really struggling to find further criticism.
My praise towards Guild Wars is certainly influenced by my love of the game, but I feel it deserves it for the amount of time it kept me hooked. It has left me deeply saddened at the (expected) empty worlds left by the movement to Guild Wars 2 when I was taking these screenshots. Memories of the game when it was buzzing with players makes me wish I hadn’t have come back to see it so quiet -although I’m sure there are communities and guilds left out there to look out for.
Guild Wars 2 is a worthy sequel but there are elements of this great original series that I do hugely miss, making me want to go back in time to freshly relive my experiences when it was back in its prime. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do the game justice for how perfect it was.