April 28th, 2005. Guild Wars launches, to a pretty positive critical reaction, and sells a bunch of copies. Two stand-alone campaigns and an expansion pack follow, and a loyal fanbase is established.
June 3rd, 2011. After hearing people say "you know, this game is pretty good" for more than six years, I play Guild Wars for the first time.
A bit of LOTRO ennui and a couple of disappointing free-to-play titles, combined with a rising tide of hype about the upcoming Guild Wars 2, led to me finally succumbing to the ever-present background buzz of Guild Wars fans and installing the free trial. It's quite a limited trial - I thought it was a traditional "two weeks" but it actually also has a 10 hour playtime limit. Luckily for them, 10 hours was more than enough to persuade me to open my wallet.
And for the two months since then, I've been well and truly hooked and playing quite heavily, as well as browsing the forums and blogs, theorycrafting, doing all the stuff you do when you get hooked on a game. There's a lot to like about Guild Wars, here are some of the main things that have kept me happy.
It's cheap as
Guild Wars, not exactly being new anymore, is now pretty damn cheap. And if you have a currency as strong as the Australian dollar, it's even cheaper. The Trilogy pack and the Eye Of The North expansion, all up, cost me the princely sum of A$34.47. And of course, as the fans will constantly remind you, Guild Wars is B2P - "buy to play." Once you've bought it, there is no ongoing subscription. There is a cash shop with some conveniences like increased storage space and more character slots, plus cosmetic outfits, but it's not something I feel pressured to spend money on.
I love the solo player plus team game style
One of the things I really liked about Atlantica Online was the concept of controlling your main character, plus a team of NPCs. And I really like running a team of eight, myself plus seven heroes, in Guild Wars as well. Apparently being able to fully customize your team was a fairly recent addition to the game, previously you could only have three heroes and four "henchmen", whose gear and skills you could not customize. So I'm glad I came along when I did.
Like Atlantica, the strategy of team building is a huge part of the game. Picking your heroes, collecting the necessary skills to give each of them a good build, arming them - it's a great meta-game. And given the quickly-reached level cap and deliberate lack of any real gear curve, this strategy is by far the main determinant of how powerful you are, making for a very skill-based rather than grind-based progression model.
I love the fact that there's actual difficulty for the solo player
In far too many MMOs, solo play is simply a "time invested = rewards" formula, while actually difficult content, where you will fail if you're not good enough, is reserved for group play. When I was last playing WoW, my guild was progressing through the tier 11 raid content, which was sweetly tuned and really chafed our asses to the point where our final victory over Nef, after a number of weeks of attempts, was delicious. At the same time, I was levelling a worgen alt - going through Kalimdor from level 1 to 60, my only two deaths were both from falling when I over-enthusiastically took shortcuts down cliffs. At no point in those 60 levels was I ever in the remotest danger of dying due to enemy action.
Playing through Guild Wars, currently I have completed the Prophecies and EOTN storylines in normal mode, along with most of Factions, and done some missions and vanquishes in hardmode. There have been missions that I wiped and failed. There have been dungeons that reduced me to graveyard-zerging with maximum death penalty. There have been vanquishes that ended in tears as I hit max death penalty and got kicked out.
I have a list of things that I have tried and failed, that I am mulling over tactics for, ready for fresh attempts.
This is awesome. Especially since, as I said earlier, there is no real gear curve - if you fail, you need to adjust your build, adjust your tactics, and try again. Can't outlevel and outgear the challenge.
It's an achiever's paradise
I've definitely got a bit of an achiever-type personality, and Guild Wars offers an enormous amount of achievements to pursue. Complete every mission. With bonus objectives. In hard mode. Vanquish every zone. Map every zone. Collect every skill. Open vast numbers of chests. Max out reputations. Collect prestige armour and rare weapons. Collect miniatures. It's crazy! And the Hall of Monuments is a genius idea to get current players excited about doing all this stuff, in order to earn cosmetic rewards for Guild Wars 2 (I'm up to 10 points out of a possible 50 now).
I can see that it would take a long time to get to a point where you'd say "I have nothing to do." And if you stop playing for a while to play something else, no big deal, since it's buy-to-play, you can come back whenever and there's still an endless list of things to achieve!
Yep, I'm more pleased with this purchase than any game in quite a while, and definitely foresee myself playing for a fair while. And Guild Wars 2 is definitely now top of my list of upcoming titles I'm following with interest.