Guild Wars: Prophecies - game review

Date: 2005-06-17 06:57:00
The review was based on the PC version.

Arena.Net - a company that until recently hardly heard of, was founded on the basis of former Blizzard Entertainment employees who have had such hits as Warcraft , Starcraft , Diablo and creating Battle.Net online games - entered the developers market with a powerful blow knocking out the competition . Having extensive experience in creating online games and following a voice of reason, they created a game that, despite many attempts, could not be pigeonholed into a particular genre. Of course, I 'm talking about Guild Wars , a game that is at least controversial in the MMORPG players environment. Guild Wars innovation is primarily about trying to eliminate the least pleasant part of online RPGs, namely "grind". Of course, it's about killing monsters for hours just to go to the next level (otherwise we will be too easy loot). The ability to attack / kill players was also abandoned (or rather limited to special arenas and tournaments) and the classic model of using skills was completely changed - instead of having several dozen of them, a player on a mission / tournament can take only 8 of about 150 available to his characters. This approach introduced an element of tactics, and thanks to a good balance of skills of individual classes, the possibility of creating an "over-character" that could kill everything in its path was eliminated.

Trying to escape the classic MMORPG model, the developers from Arena.Net have created some interesting solutions and, unfortunately, also new models of "drudgery". Interesting things are quests and missions, minimizing traditional "fed-ex" tasks (bring / bring) and "for 5 xxx I will give you yyy and experience." The missions themselves form the core of an interesting story, and side quests complement it perfectly. Because the system of quests is dynamic, our actions and the way in which certain quests are completed affect subsequent tasks. An example given by Gaile Gray - Community Relations Manager: if a given quest is to save a group of NPCs, then in later tasks this group may reappear in numbers depending on the results of our past actions. This element, unfortunately, is not yet very noticeable, but I hope that subsequent updates and extensions will use it.

By repairing the classic model of gaining experience and escaping the grudge, delevopers limited the maximum level of characters to 20. Many network discussions (to put it mildly) have already taken place and nobody could prove the superiority of setting the maximum level at 100 from the version from Guild Wars . The advantage is definitely one - you do not have to play for months to have a character at the maximum level, and what's more, the real game only starts then. A significant part of the areas and missions in terms of difficulty is intended for 6-8 person teams of 20-level characters. Most riders will ask, why go through missions when you already have the maximum level? Well, the experience of the character increases further, but instead of getting level 21 we gain a skill point. For this point (and some money) we can learn one skill from the trainer. Another method of expanding the range of skills available to us is by performing side quests (initially skills, as well as other things such as runes or weapon components are blocked and we unlock them during the game - more specifically in a moment). In turn, to acquire elite skills, we must first kill the boss, and only from his corpse extract this skill. And this brings us to another aspect of Guild Wars , rare in other games ... updates.

Updates are very frequent. As of today, from the day of the world premiere (i.e. for less than two months) there were nine of them. And they don't just concern minor errors like "boss in xxx should be green and it's blue". Developers have designed the entire game so flexibly that they are able to change even very complex elements, e.g. the previously mentioned elite skills acquisition. Until the update, to acquire such a skill had to be in the fight, immediately after the boss used it, use the signet ring to "catch" it. This was troublesome (sometimes even very much, and in the case of several skills even prevented them from being acquired). The change, suggested by the players, had a very positive impact on this aspect of the game, eliminating most of the drudgery from it. Arena.Net listens to players' opinions with admirable enthusiasm and prepares new corrections. What's more, the updates are completely trouble-free - after starting the game checks if there is a newer version and possibly downloads sensitive files. The rest is downloaded as needed while playing.

I have not mentioned yet one very important feature of Guild Wars , namely Player versus Player competitions. Some players decided to buy the game only because of it. There are several duel modes available: four-in-four arenas, the tournament system of eight-member teams with the main Hall of Heroes arena, and the title guild duels (eight out of eight). When creating characters for PvP (RPG characters also have access to games between players, PvP characters are limited only to them) we can use ready-made templates presenting the entire cross-section of possible characters or create your character based on the skills unlocked in the RPG part. And here there are negative voices (and rightly so) from players expecting "immediate action" that Arena.Net has changed the classic drudgery to a version of unlocking more things to have complete freedom in creating the character. It was under the influence of such votes that the system for acquiring elite skills was changed and the ever-growing demand for experience was blocked (now, to reach the next skill point, after reaching level 20, you need a maximum of 20 thousand experience points). The system of unlocking normal skills and runes will probably also change, but it's hard to predict when and what form it will take. An interesting, already announced option will be the ability to watch duels of the top 10 guilds.

Another unusual feature for online games that has found its way into Guild Wars is the toll system. The cost is one-off (when buying a game), and the game itself is unlimited in time and monthly fees. The creators have already announced systematic (every 6-9 months, the first planned for mid-2006) additions called chapters, expanding the list of skills, adding new regions and new history, new PvP gameplay options. More importantly, their purchase will be optional. This means that we will not be forced to buy them to continue playing, we will simply be able to play in the area available in the chapters we previously purchased.

From the technical side, Arena.Net has set the bar very high. Both graphics and sound are at the highest level, to the extent that we leave the game turned on just to listen to the soundtrack, or make screenshots that look like photos. The variety of regions found in the game (from ice lands, through the jungle, deserts to infernal islands) pleases the eye all the time and encourages you to continue exploring the world of Guild Wars . Owners of weaker equipment have not been forgotten either. After limiting the graphics options, we can enjoy a smooth game also on equipment from the lower market segment.

In my opinion, the most interesting part of the game are the previously mentioned Player versus Player games in both the tournament and guild against guild. They require team mapping, tactical thinking skills, division into roles in the team (most of the best guilds use voice contact with other players) and strategic planning of the whole team's capabilities, not just "maxing" their character. Of course, this is not enough, you also need reflexes and the ability to react quickly to changes and adapt to your opponent's tactics. Adding to the fact that the ladder of tournament duels also include games of six teams of eight, we have a picture of the fun that awaits us in PvP mode. To fully understand this, you need to get to the Hall of Heroes and win them several times in a row. Then at the thought of it being three at night and in a few hours you have to go to work, only one sentence appears in the mind: "if I play one more round, nothing will happen" :).

I am happy to finish this review with the thought that I will immerse myself in the fantastic world of Guild Wars . What do I wish you?

Andrzej "Makonde" Fediuk

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