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Guild Wars Preview for PC
Posted on Wednesday, November 24, 2004 @ 01:54:36 pm E.S.T

Monthly fees are the devil. Long have they been the bane of the MMO genre. Common knowledge says that most Massively Multiplayer Online games would be far more massive if the companies did not require these “server fees.” Common sense says that an MMO game without these extra costs could be huge.

Enter Guild Wars. This is the first effort by ArenaNet, a new development studio that consists of many team members from Battle.net, which, as some of you may already know, is the online community from WarCraft, StarCraft, and Diablo by Blizzard.

The game recently concluded its “World Preview Event,” which allowed the entire world to log on for one weekend and check out the game first hand. Those who were interested in the game could preorder it and would be allowed to participate in the closed beta. Over 400,000 people participated in this event, which was basically a huge server stress test.

The game itself is much like Dungeon Siege or Neverwinter Nights, in that you and a group of six to eight other people battle your way through a series of large worlds in the interest of progressing the story and developing your characters. The world is NOT persistent, as it is in most MMORPGs; it is broken up into a number of different sectors, all of which contain an atrium, an explorable realm and a mission realm. Another way Guild Wars strays from the norm is the fact that there are no separate “worlds;” that is to say that all players are on the same server that is divided into “districts.” Any given player can travel between these districts as he or she pleases. This means that there will be no more “Oh man, I wish we could PT, but you are on Shiva and I am on Odin!” This approach is called “streaming”, a practice that allows for fantastic graphics and sound in minimal space; and the presentation is damn good. The graphics are some of the best you could expect from an MMO, and the sounds are light and airy or strong and intense, matching your situation. The character designs are a bit run-of-the-mill, but that is acceptable when a company is making a game as large and as ambitious as this one is. For this to run well your system must have at least 256 MB of RAM, and it is recommended by ArenaNet that you have 512. Other than that, the required system specifications are surprisingly modest for this game: you will need only an 800 MHz processor, a 32 MB Graphics card (preferably ATI or GeForce), a 16-bit sound card, 500 MB of free space on your HDD and Windows XP. If you want to turn on all the bells and whistles, you should have a 1 GHz processor, and a 64 MB graphics card (again preferably ATI or GeForce).

To play the game you install a “Game Client,” which is the sign-in module, basic game engine, a link directory that tells the game what worlds to download and when, and the first area “Lion’s Arch.” As I mentioned before, this world is NOT persistent, every time you leave an area you must download the one that you are entering. This eliminates the major problem of server strain that forces companies to have monthly fees in the first place, as well as more minor problems such as mission and rare item camping.

The game offers six jobs at this point. There is the Elementalist, which resembles a Black Mage from most other games, a wizard with the power to control the elements. A Mesmer is also in the line-up, a beast-master capable of “Charm”-ing enemies into benefiting or becoming your allies. The healer of the group is the Monk, proficient at defense and the guy you will go to for “resurrection.” An interesting twist on the Mesmer, the Necromancer is able to manipulate dead enemies into health or zombie allies. There are also your RPG staples, the Ranger and the Warrior, one being quick and agile, proficient with a bow, the other being sturdy and strong, a sword master, respectively. Each job has specific “advanced skills” and a special attribute that sets it apart from the others, but the Preview Event was far too limited to really analyze these traits effectively.

Guild Wars caters highly to the RTS crowd. Combat is, on the surface, mainly your standard point-and-click fare; however, underneath lies a quite intuitive magic/skill system. Before each mission you choose 8 spells or abilities that your character will be able to use. You are forced into strategy, which is good for some gamers, and bad for others. Will you use water because there are fire enemies, or use defense and area spells because there are hoards of them? If you enjoy these kinds of decisions, this game is for you.

The PVP elements seem well integrated, with 3 separate arenas. The first is for you to jump right into; the game chooses a team for you and you fight until you lose in a battle royale. The second arena allows you to build your own team and likewise fight until you are defeated. The most common arena and the one with the most familiar type of team gameplay is the Guild Arena, which allows you to make a team of Guild Members and play a single game of Capture the Flag against an opponent clan.

The community aspects of Guild Wars are awesome - instead of a huge world that could take hours to traverse for most characters, you can teleport to any sector of the world instantly in this game, allowing you to meet your friends in a matter of seconds instead of waiting days until travel becomes convenient. This is but one of the many balancing aspects of GW, which aims to pit level “Dur” and level “Kickass” on an even playing field. Essentially, a level 10 wizard will kill a level 30 warrior if said wizard uses the correct spells to exploit said warrior’s main weaknesses, e.g. range and agility.

The next great ambition in GW is its namesake, the Guilds. Anyone can start a guild, but only crafty leaders and politicians can build one. For example, you may join a guild with a couple of cool guys you played through a mission with, and the guild would be just that, you and a couple guys you played a mission with once. Another player of decent strength and a silver tongue will woo a group of well tuned soldiers who each has a skill to complement another’s weakness. The latter will annihilate the former 80% of the time, regardless of level.

However, the game could stand a bit of improvement in a few key areas. Crafting is far too expensive and “common” items are way too hard to find to be “common.” Many items that shops value at 5-10 gold can sell for up to 50 gold because they are too damn hard to find in bulk. This is due in part because the environments, while diverse in style, contain about 3 different basic enemy types and variations there upon. The biggest concern here is lag. The game’s “streaming” set-up means that many, many players will be downloading the same data at the same time which, as most of you already know, that equates to slow loading. This set-up also means that dail-up, while allowed, will probably not be welcome and if you are one of the few who are still using it look forward to MAJOR lag.

Beyond these easy to iron out wrinkles in the game, GW looks and plays impressively and will be welcome to those in the community who want to play in a world of thousands but don’t want to pay ungodly amounts for the experience. The game is slated to release in February of 2005, retailing for around fifty USD.


Preview By: David Onstott - 2720 Reads


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