Want to Fight? Fight Me!
Unlike many games which focus on either a PvE or PvP aspect of game play Guild Wars endeavors to excel in both arenas. The game offers competitive PvP play right from the start in fact. Players may create a PvP character that begins the game at maximum character level, though such characters can only be used for battle in the PvP arenas. A normal roleplaying character can engage in PvP in any of the arenas that they encounter as they level through the game. As a player unlocks more skills and items on their roleplaying characters more skills and items are unlocked when creating PvP only characters.
Guild Wars tracks the ranks of those who engage in arena combat and keep a running tally of the score and fame of both individuals and guilds. The highest arena in the Tyria, known as the Hall of Heroes, has its winners and losers broadcast throughout the game world as the fierce competition rages on. Many players play Guild Wars expressly for the competitive team versus team play offered by the tournament ladder, and the competition between guilds is fierce indeed.
With all the pressure from competitors in the gaming market these days even the best games are often found to be lacking somewhere. How often do you hear people say, "The gameplay is great, too bad the graphics are so terrible," or, "The game is beautiful but every time I play for ten minutes the combat puts me to sleep?" Concerns such as these have no place in Guild Wars.
Graphically the game is beautiful, even stunning. While it's true I found the characters a bit cardboard in variety and movement, the character models are still gorgeously rendered. They pale in comparison to the landscapes of the game. The game offers mist covered swamps, snow and ice-covered mountain passes and verdant green forests and they are all breathtaking. In many games with appealing graphics I often find myself slowly getting used to the grandiose scenes as I continue the game, slowly becoming indifferent to the wonderful graphics of the new areas as I explore them. Not so in Guild Wars.
The more I travel through the game the more I am impressed by the look and feel of the world. I can easily identify most areas of the world simply from looking at the landscape and that immediately gives me a feeling of where I am and what sorts of perils await me. Every time I think I've seen the greatest that Tyria has to offer I pass through a valley or come out of a long cave complex and find something that's new and exciting.
The quality of artwork carries over into the creatures in the game as well. Whether you are going head to head with a stone elemental, fighting centaurs in the snowy mountains or fighting rotting undead in the noxious swamps each creature is done with great precision and detail. The same holds true for the creature animations, with ponderous creatures moving with plodding movements and sleeker creatures moving with grace.
No great game is complete without sound. Guild Wars delivers here as well, though not quite on par with it's graphics. The sound of the game is good and solid. It has a simple yet well done music score and all creatures and effects make the types of sounds you would expect from them. Guild Wars delivers well in the sound department, but offers no great achievements in the sound department.
Technically, the game is solid. The folks over at ArenaNet really got their code down before they started filing off the rough edges of the game. I've encountered almost no lag in the game, and when I have it's been a span of seconds, not minutes or hours. The fact that they are running everyone on one, large consistent world is very impressive. When half of the games that launch today are plagued by network problems of every sort seeing a company launch a huge game with thousands of players this smoothly is inspirational.
I have encountered some minor bugs in the game, but they've been few and far between. I've had an occasional character warp over small distances, seen creatures at full hit points with empty life bars and have had an NPC refuse to speak to me even though I was supposed to return a quest to her. The only bug I encountered that even came close to being game-breaking was when I endeavored to take on a mission with only NPC henchmen. At one point in the mission they all got stuck behind a barrel in the pathing and I had to redo the mission and steer very wide on my second go round. Even then the worst that would have happened is I would have been forced to do that mission with an all player party instead of with henchmen.
The manner in which Guild Wars patches is brilliant plain and simple. The game never needs to go down to patch, it simply patches whenever there is an update. If you log in and there is new game information it will download it quickly and you'll be able to jump right into the game. If you are currently playing the game you will see a simple message that there is new content to download and that you can update by simply logging off and back on your account. At no time do the servers actually go down for patching.
Can't We All Just Get Along?
ArenaNet had a brilliant epiphany when they decided to make the entire Guild Wars universe one contiguous world. This solves many problems, not the last which being gameplay with friends and family. How often have you been playing a new MMO for a month or two only to get a call from your old college roommate saying, "Yeah, I've been playing that game too, it's great! So, what server are you on?" This isn't a problem in Guild Wars.
The single world of Tyria lends itself well to strong guilds, lasting friendships and lays the groundwork for a sense of longstanding community. That guild of heroes who defeated all others to rise to prominence isn't in some distant world...they are in yours.
Of course, potential and reality are often at odds. While I wouldn't say I've found the community poor in the game, I find many players' social skills luke warm at best. I have had a few great parties with other players, but more often than not I end up partying with henchmen after trying to group for long periods of time and finding many people simply unresponsive. It's not so much that the player base is standoffish as they simply seem to often be AFK.
The Customer Support in the game seems up to par. I say this for two reasons. First of all the game seems to have very few bugs and problems are rare. I've yet to speak to a friend or acquaintance who play the game that have had any need to contact customer support for any reason. The Guild Wars site also has a great knowledge base and support site that covers many of the problems that players may encounter during gameplay.
Let's Wrap This Up
In the end Guild Wars is one of the best games, MMO or otherwise, to hit the shelves in a long while. It provides gripping combat, artfully told story and brilliant visuals as only a top notch contender can do. It's few minor shortcomings have little effect on the game as a whole and ArenaNet's dedication to the game, considering the lack of a subscription fee, is a bright star in the world of online gaming. Look for Guild Wars to be around...and be popular...for a long time to come.