Rounding out a party is simple with another system Guild Wars has implemented to keep players having fun instead sitting around waiting for the perfect group; henchmen. Though a few other MMOs have touched upon henchmen Guild Wars has taken it to a whole new level. In fact henchmen are, in many ways, integral to the gameplay of Guild Wars.
Henchmen are NPC characters that are available in all the towns and outposts. They can be added to any group to round out the party. To this end all the major professions are available as henchmen. If a party is set to go but can't find a monk to heal, they can simply hire a henchmen monk to do the job for them. No warrior to run up front and take the abuse? Hire on a warrior henchmen to take the beating.
Perhaps the best feature of henchmen is the fact that a character can fill out their entire group with them. This allows for players who can't find a group or those who simply want some "solo" playtime to do so at a whim. This also caters well to those who enjoy getting the feel for their characters before grouping with other players as well. As would be expected, henchmen take an equal share of loot and gold during the course of adventuring in a character's employ.
The only caveat to this play style is the limitations that the A.I. places upon the player. While the henchmen A.I. is solid it still falls well short in comparison to playing with other people. The henchmen perform their core tasks admirably but, as would be expected, don't adapt well when situations become overly complex. One thing I would like to see added is a simple set of behavior controls that would allow a player to give henchmen simple standing orders, such as standing ground, defending certain party members, etc. Right now there is nothing that a player can do to direct his henchmen. If they are in combat range they will fight to the death, and that's that. Many a battle I would have loved to perform a fighting retreat, only to find that my henchmen would have none of it. In the end I still don't expect the computer to be better than a person at the game...otherwise; what would be the point of playing in the first place?
Quests, What Are They Good For?
In Guild Wars quests are the bread and butter of the game. While a player can play a character and level without questing many areas the game are inaccessible without performing the quests that carpet the towns and outposts throughout the world of Tyria. In fact, to progress farther through the game world there are primary quests, which are labeled as such, that the player must complete before new zones are unlocked. Quests range in length from ten minutes to an hour or so to complete. I've yet to come across a quest that took more than two hours to complete barring failing the quest and having to begin anew.
It's important to note that all quest and adventure zones in the game are instanced for each party. That means that the only player characters in each zone are those that are grouped with each other. This makes each quest a small, private, adventure game of sorts. The only zones that are not instanced in such a manner are the towns and outpost zones. They, however, have multiple instances based on how many players are online, but a player can simply choose which "copy" of a town or outpost they travel to by selecting the number from a drop down menu at the top of the screen. This allows friends and guildmates to easily meet each other in whichever copy of the town or outpost they wish.
Quests are easy to find and almost all towns and outposts offer multiple quests. While a character could level through fighting creatures experience is gained much more quickly through questing. Players often find that their characters gain significantly more experience at the end of a quest than they gained fighting the creatures during the quest itself. This is somewhat different for an MMO, but it's a welcome change and it seems to promote staying with the storyline and the direction of the game world as opposed to simple "grinding" for character levels.
Many class skills can only be gained through questing as well. Several of the side quests give smaller amounts of experience but reward the character with a couple new skills based on one or both of their classes. Quest rewards also often include simple weapons, armor and items as rewards which can be sold for gold if the character has no need of the rewards in question.
Quests which are central to the storyline are called Missions in Guild Wars. Missions are shown on the map with a much larger symbol and are often more difficult than other quests. These quests are particularly more challenging with just henchmen but can still be overcome with some tenacity and careful playing. Missions are all central to the plot of Tyria and feature beautiful cuts scenes with well acted voice-overs.
Build Me Up
Like everything else in Guild Wars the crafting system is simple and straight forward. Players must collect raw materials that can be acquired through salvaging items found while adventuring, buying or trading with NPC merchants or dealing directly with other players. These raw materials are then used at special merchants to craft special goods. The merchant usually demands a cost in gold for their services in addition to the required crafting materials. Many of the best items in Guild Wars are gained through the crafting system.
Player can also salvage upgrade items from loot they find while adventuring in the wilds of Tyria. From time to time an otherwise average salvageable item will be of finer quality. By using expert salvage kits players can glean valuable items that can be attached to armor or weapons to increase their powers and statistics. Upgrade items can even increase the power of a character's attributes.
There are also NPCs found all throughout the game world that offer specific items in exchange for items that can be found randomly off of creatures throughout the world. These NPCs, called collectors, can be found in towns, outposts and even in the wilds of Tyria. Some offer only a single item while others offer many different items to choose from. A character may return to a collector to exchange items as often as they like provided, of course, they have the items the collector wants in trade.