By Steel and Spell...
The combat in Guild Wars starts out somewhat pedestrian, as many games do, but this changes at a steady pace as the game progresses forward and a character becomes more powerful and gains access to more skills, gear and attribute points. Nevertheless, combat is fast paced with very little downtime between battles. Guild Wars enjoys a tempo of constant excitement coupled with little tedium.
As a character's access to a wider variety of skills and increased attribute levels grows so too do the choices of how a character can take on the battles that they find themselves embroiled in Tyria. As I played my character through the quests that Guild Wars had to offer I often found many skills of limited use when I first acquired them. However, many skills I once thought would sit in my tome gathering dust eventually found the light of day when I encountered a new creature or situation where the viability of a skill, once thought useless, became apparent. Be certain to look over those old skills from time to time, particularly when you end up in a new area fraught with new perils and foes.
I've also succeeded in combats that I've lost previously by using the exact same skills in different, yet subtle, ways. Guild Wars rewards players who apply the right ability at the right time. Many of the skills have multiple effects, some of which are much more powerful when applied in a certain order or at a certain point in the battle. For instance, the Phoenix spell does both damage directly around the caster in addition to damaging the target and a small area encompassing it. If a character casts the spell when in melee range both damages are applied to all the creatures in close proximity to the caster. Read the skills carefully and experiment with their use, it can make the difference between a successful battle or a quick dirt nap.
One of the most well wrought features of Guild Wars is the mini-map. ArenaNet has once again made improvements to the world of online gaming through simplicity and common sense. The mini map in Guild Wars offers two features that see great use throughout a character's adventures in Tyria.
The first is the "Danger Zone" marked on the mini map. All creatures and NPCs within a large radius can be seen on the mini map as either red (enemy) or green (friendly) dots. A smaller circle, which Guild Wars has dubbed the Danger Zone, is centered on the character as they move shows the absolute range at which any hostiles will attack the character. This is very useful for alerting a character when they are getting close enough to an NPC and need to prepare for battle. One of the few exceptions to this are creatures which burrow beneath the ground, which cannot be seen on the mini map until they are already hostile and moving to attack.
The second mini map feature in Guild Wars is the ability to draw lines upon the mini map that all the players in the party can see. These lines allow party members to show movement, attack strategies, etc. The lines quickly fade so they do not impede the viewing of the map; they serve as a quick indication of orders and battle tactics for groups who like to use teamwork to tackle a situation.
Of course I would be remiss if I didn't make mention of the death system in Guild Wars. In staying with the simple theme that seems to permeate the game the death system holds true to it's course. When a character dies they receive a 15% statistic penalty upon returning to life, which can happen either through another character's resurrection skill or the entire group being resurrected at a nearby resurrection shrine following the lose of the entire party. This penalty affects a character's health and energy stats directly. As a character fights on through the zone and kills enemies the penalty slowly dissipates. Additional deaths will accrue another 15% penalty which is cumulative with any current penalty the character has. Returning to a town or outpost wipes out all death penalties.
Just as death can reduce a character's effectiveness so can victory increase their determination. Whenever a character defeats a particularly powerful foe, often with a unique name and a glowing aura about them, they receive a morale bonus in the amount of 2%. Like the death penalty this directly affects a character's stats until they return to a town or outpost and is cumulative with all morale and death bonuses and penalties.
The party system in Guild Wars is a prime example of the best the game has to offer. By keeping things simple and small scale ArenaNet has managed to combine the best party elements available in most MMOs.
There are several factors that contribute to the quality of group play in Guild Wars. The first is the simplicity of finding a group. The game offers many centralized outposts and mission areas where players can congregate to meet up and party. Such areas include cities, towns, monasteries and the like. These areas are all-in-one staging grounds for the gameplay of Guild Wars.
Within each such area a character will find many other characters to interact with, as well as NPC merchants, quest givers and henchmen. Travel is made simple to such areas, as once a character has visited such an area once they can travel to it instantly anytime after that point by simply using the world map. A character may open their world map at anytime and select any area they've visited in the past, and viola, they're transported there in the blink of an eye.
Partying is a simple proposition in Guild Wars and there are several ways to go about putting together a group. A character can invite any other characters in the same zone to form an adventuring party. In addition a group with less than a full retinue of members will show up with a number over the head of the leader indicating how many members are currently in the party. Any character can then target that group's leader and simply request an invitation. The request will show up on the party tab for the leader and they will then have the option to choose whether or not to add the character to their group.