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Free War? Where Do I Sign Up?

DATE: -0/5-/2004
PRODUCT: Guild Wars

At first look, Guild Wars is a bit of an anomaly. While it retains many of the aspects of MMORPGs, it is unlike any you have ever experienced. The difference is all in the approach. Living up to its name, Guild Wars isn't about the individual player, but rather it is based around group tactics and team-oriented activities. Sure, you still develop your character as you see fit, but the game's focus lies more in building your character towards the benefit of your group rather than yourself.

Part of the game?s unique approach lies in its setup. Guild Wars is split up into three distinct zones where you can meet and interact with other players. The more familiar of the three zones is the city zone, where you talk to other players, trade items and handle any business you might need to. Trainers and shops will also be located here.

One of the hardest things about any MMORPG (at least to those not affiliated with a guild) is to find a group to play with since there is always that certain area you want to explore or enemy you want to kill. This is where the staging zone comes into play. Here you can find people to group up with or, if you desire, PvP with. If you already have an established party, you can also set this zone as a meeting area.

Most of the action in Guild Wars takes place in gameplay zones. Here you can go on quests with other members of your party or choose to PvP with people. Missions can vary from simple fetch quests to full-out attacks on camps or castles. PvP missions will also bring some interesting new elements to the table. Straight out deathmatch-style missions are always available, but a few missions will also contain competitive elements as two teams of players try to accomplish the same goal. To the victor goes the spoils, while the others can warp back to the staging zone and try again.

Gameplay is where Guild Wars really becomes interesting. One of the core principles behind the entire game is to reduce downtime. In the past, it was "cool" to be able to traverse the countryside from city to city but, as any MMORPG player can tell you, it's a real pain in the ass. This "feature" found in other games has been remedied with the use of a map that players can open at any time which allows them to warp to different areas instantly.

Then, of course, there is combat. This typically takes the form of you clicking on an enemy and watching combat unfold as you sit and wait. This is boring.

Guild Wars takes an entirely different route. Depending on which character class you choose to play as, you'll have a selection of around 400 skills to choose from. Obviously, some will only be available to certain classes. You will also be able to access other spells and skills by completing quests and collecting skill gems. Once you have your skills and spells, combat plays out similar to Magic: The Gathering. Although you can select from hundreds of spells, you can only choose to use 8 during any given mission. This selection acts as your "deck" and can't be changed once a mission has begun. Other than your auto-attack, which is always armed, all of your attacks will come from this "deck". This forces players to have to think carefully about which spells they'll take on a mission based on the area they're venturing into and the monsters they expect to come across, bringing a strategic element to the game. From here, combat plays out with characters quickly doling out spells and skills while enemies (or other players) counter and cast their own skills and spells.

With a game like Guild Wars, you just know that there is going to be some type of support for players who want to create and join guilds. Support will take the form of ladder tournaments that will pit guilds against each other for rewards and prestige. What these rewards will be hasn't been disclosed, but they are sure to be worthwhile.

The best part of Guild Wars is that it is free. In yet another departure from the norm, Guild Wars has no monthly access fee. Instead, the game will ship in the form of expansion packs. After the game's initial release, new expansion packs will ship every six months, giving players more areas to explore, new skills to learn and new challenges to face. However, the decision to purchase new expansions is completely up to the player. If you would rather not buy them, you don't have to. The trade off is that you won't be able to explore new areas or access any new items or spells.

Guild Wars is anything but your conventional MMORPG. It is fast-paced, competitive and free. What more could you want?

GameVortex :: PSIllustrated :: TeamPS2