Guild Wars:

By Shamus Posted Friday Jun 20, 2008

Filed under: Game Reviews 42 comments

Let’s break Guild Wars (Prophesies) down into its distinct player goals and activities. You know how we do.


What really sets Guild Wars apart from other MMO games (or whatever we’re calling this thing) is the fact that it even has a story at all. Most MMOs don’t have stories, they have settings. They have an initial state or premise that provides conflict, and you participate in that conflict, forever. (Or until you cancel.) But here we have a story that allows player actions to impact the world itself. The world undergoes drastic changes as the player moves forward, and they are a major part of those changes.

The story here is surprising in how conventional it is. This is a world of fantastic magic, but the conflict portrayed isn’t against some extra-dimensional evil from beyond the nether that threatens the very fabric of reality. It’s pretty much just a war. It’s a war that goes quite badly for the good guys at first, but in the mid stages of the game they aren’t telegraphing a coming conflict with one guy who is behind the whole thing. There doesn’t seem to be a rift that needs closing by a lone hero. No gathering up of the seven shards of awesome holy problem-fixing. No necromancer to kill so that his whole army will collapse into dust and then daises and sunshine appear. No chosen one. And strangely enough, no Prophesies. (Yet.) It’s just a war where the enemy got hold of a tactical advantage (a new magic that lets them fireball a city at a distance) and the good guys are forced to take a beating until they can come up with a way to counter it. Perhaps the story will pick up on one of the more familiar tropes once things get a little further (I’m nowhere near done with the game, and it is called prophesies after all) but for now I’m enjoying the novelty of a story that doesn’t start with the chosen one and end with the defeat of Baron Von Badass.


I’m not at all happy with the leveling system in this game. This seems to be a game for people who dislike leveling. Going up in level provides a very modest boost to power, and there aren’t very many such small steps to take. My own preference is for a system which is the direct opposite of this. I like leveling to be rewarding and meaningful, and I like those rewards to come often.

You can’t get the visceral thrill of running into an early-game foe and nuking him in a single hit, because even those foes can still put up a decent fight. You can’t get the satisfaction of at last overcoming a previously insurmountable foe, because the game is so linear that you don’t run into foes until you’re ready for them.

Gaining a level is such a small reward that it’s just nothing to get excited about.


This is where a large portion of your power comes from. Find somebody who will teach you “Improved fireballing of awesomeness” and do whatever quest they want in exchange for teaching it to you. But the problem here is that you don’t know the abilities are there or that you need them. They aren’t goals you can work for. They’re just stuff you find.

There are a lot of skills, and I never felt like the game gave me a good indication of which skills were good, how to get them, and how to use them. I don’t mind a little discovery in a game, but this was a bit much. Most players use one of the pre-made “builds” posted online. Some munchkin min-maxer has done the math, worked out the ideal array of skills, and written down where to find them and how many points to invest in each one.

Fumbling around in the dark, wondering what I’m doing wrong doesn’t appeal to me. But neither does following a pre-made recipe.

I just couldn’t get into this aspect of the game.


What the game calls crafting isn’t really. It’s just a very complicated system of purchase. You tear apart items looted from monsters to get their raw materials. (Leather, cloth, iron, etc.) You then take these raw materials to the armor smith and choose the item you want to buy. If you have the raw materials required, he’ll forge a set of armor made just for you. Nobody else can wear it, which means there are never hand-me-downs in this game. Your old armor is pretty much worthless.

I’m actually one of those players who likes playing dress-up with his avatar. Even in a single player game, I’ll sometimes discard a stronger piece of armor for the one with the more impressive appearance. To the game’s credit, they let you make some fantastic characters. This is where the strong art direction of the game really shines, because the people and the costumes start out looking good and continue to improve as you advance through the game.

On the other hand, there is a pervasive feeling that everyone kind of looks like the same few people with different haircuts. (This is especially bad with the women, since they all have the same supermodel physique.) It’s not all that exciting to be a beautiful person in a world where everyone is gorgeous. Every character in the game looks like a professional model in their mid-twenties with perfect bodies and perfect skin and flawless hair. Even the NPCs seem young and hale. Nobody is ugly, elderly, heavy, scrawny, balding, blotchy skin, or suffering from bad posture or a dumb haircut. (Although most of the haircuts are exceptionally impractical.) The parade of magazine models gets monotonous after a while, and I find myself wishing I could look dumpy just so I could be different in some way.

The armor looks cool, but the items are designed around sets made to look good together, so you see the same few outfits a lot. You’re free to mix the chestplate from set A with the leggings of set B if you want to be different, but it’s usually like wearing a leather jacket with a tuxedo. Both look great, but they lose their charm when combined.

Still, I admit I do see the level 20 players knocking around town in their 30%-better-looking-than-mine outfits and find myself looking forward to when I can get my hands on that.

I also think the game should let you see more choices in the merchant window, even if you can’t obtain them yet. For the last several sessions I’ve had the best outfit currently available, and no indication as to when more might apear. Seeing the next tier of armor would help in creating short-term goals. Just one more level and I can get the glittering armor with those awesome shoulderpads.

So there isn’t a crafting system per se, it’s just a very complex system for buying armor.


The foes in the game don’t drop loot very often (aside from money) and the loot they do drop is very rarely useful. This isn’t bad. A game doesn’t need to be an exercise in pià±ata-smashing to be fun, although since the shopping / crafting is so one-dimensional it would be good if the looting was more interesting. When you find an item it will either be crap (break it down into raw materials) or good (haul it back to town and sell it for gold towards something you really want.

There is nothing wrong with the looting in the game, it’s just something that could be a compelling activity but isn’t.


I mostly covered this in my previous post. The gamespace, like everything else in Guild Wars, is gorgeous to look at. Individual areas of the world drag on for longer than I think they need to, and the narrow paths can make exploration frustrating at times, but I still love reaching new areas and looking them over.

Guild Wars is a very focused game. It doesn’t strive to do a lot of things, but the things it does do are polished to a high-gloss shine. I’m not sure how much further I’ll go with it.

It’s so different from other games that it really needs a demo. I wish I could point you at one, because a lot of my gripes with the game might be seen as advantages for people who dislike the traditional RPG / MMO recipe.


From The Archives:

42 thoughts on “Guild Wars:

  1. David V.S. says:

    The skills in Guild Wars are all about multiplayer. Sadly, trying the game solo means you do not get to experience this.

    For example, the character I played most was a Ranger/x. Rangers specialize in different ways to interrupt and cripple.

    Solo, these tricks are mildly useful. If my enemy is about to do Big Slow Blast I can interrupt him. I can cripple a foe and “kite” him for a few seconds. Other than that, so what? If I use an interrupt to cancel a foe’s quicker attack, we are both back to where we started.

    However with a group, I have teammates that know I will be interrupting the foe, and with either planning or voice chat know when. And they will have all sorts of potent surprises ready for the foe while he is momentarily doing nothing. A foe who cannot move quickly for a few moments is almost as much at the mercy of a well-planned group.

    My other character was a Monk/x, a healer. Healing yourself is just math — big or small heal at this moment? However if you are the healer for a group you need to a lot more strategizing about what kinds of attacks the foes will do and when and to whom, and what is the most energy-efficient way to heal those attacks.

    On another note, the further along in the game you get, the more varied and interesting the foes could become as the range of skills “in play” by characters and enemies increases. Early on a player usually only notices which scorpion-things are rangers or warriors by whether they have a ranged attack or a lot of armor; later on the difference becomes much more extreme, and fighting small “parties” of the equivalent late-game scorpion-things is much more interesting.

    Finally, playing solo means you are not chatting in-game with friends about what goals to pursue next. Were you in a worthwhile guild, those friends would have much advice about what skills and loot is fun and/or potent for an E/Mo of your level to pursue.

  2. Gary says:

    Regarding the armor. There are different capitol cities that you will encounter throughout the game, each one has either different armor style or higher quality armor protection in the same style as before (or both).

    Also, there is a way to get to get to the harder monsters without working your way up to them. It is called Running. It is not easy, but many people spend a lot of time earning money by Running people to the harder areas.

    As far as exploration, once you get past the snowy mountains the game opens up a LOT. You get more choices of where to go, how to get there etc. I do agree that the brown blasted lands of Ascalon take a bit too long to wade through, buit once you break through the mountains you should really enjoy the scope and variety. :)

  3. ngthagg says:

    The comparison with HGL is quite drastic. HGL was a game designed around a very loose concept (or two): Diablo 3!!! With guns!!! The end result really shows that lack of focus.

    GW on the other hand has some very specific design concepts: MMO style play, but with a story. Smarter use of skills making the difference in combat, not time spent grinding. And again, it shows. The game obviously doesn’t appeal to everyone, but the people who like, love it.

    The most frustrating thing about the character designs is how they have a sliding scale for size, but it only lets you choose between a short muscular man and tall muscular man, and short curvy womand and tall curvy woman. HGL and LOTRO both have a choice to adjust a person’s build, which I find a lot more interesting. Especially since camera negates the size difference anyways.

    Oddly enough, WoW is the least customizable game in terms of body type, but I like it the best because of the wide variety of equipment.

  4. Danel says:

    Hmm. From all of your impressions of Guild Wars, I’d definitely consider trying a demo if one was available. It sounds interesting, but at the same time many of your problems are things that would be dealbreakers for me as well.

    Are you planning to try out other MMOs after this? I can’t help but feel that you trying out a great many demos would be a wonderful thing for all of us watching at home…

  5. Karl says:

    Hmm. I think if you’re not getting into the skill system then you may be playing the wrong game. I love it; I generally don’t see the point of levelling as that means your power in-game is based on how long you’ve been playing, as opposed to how skilfully you perform. So I think it’s a great idea to have character development based on skill acquisition rather than just watching numbers get bigger.

    From what you said it sounds like you may be thinking that the later skills are basically more powerful versions of the early ones. That’s not the case; not counting PvE-only skills found in GW:EN and to a very limited extent in Nightfall, all non-Elite skills are roughly equal in power, and all Elite skills are roughly equal in power. A lot of powerful builds used in endgame include skills available in pre-searing Ascalon. The skills vary in their costs and effects and get quite complicated in many cases. You can make pretty effective builds with only early-game skills too; the point of collecting skills is that it enables you to perform different jobs and keep changing your play style, either according to the task ahead, or just for a change.

    I wouldn’t get too hung-up on using cookie-cutter builds all the time from pvxwiki or wherever. Use what you like. Builds found online can give you ideas, that’s all.

    I hope you do get used to the skill system, for me that’s what really makes the game. Have you ever played Magic: The Gathering? GW (to me) is basically M:TG, realtime, with swords. Uh, and a campaign mode.

  6. Zukhramm says:

    As said above, all skills are roughly equal in power. And finding out wich one to use? Each skills says exactly what it does, so trying to find a couple of ones that work well together and don’t spread out over too many attributes is where to start.

    And yes, it’s for those who dislike leveling, like me.

    Actually, I don’t dislike it, it can be fun, but it can also be boring, and after WoW, I had had enough boring leveling and Guild Wars was a very nice option.

  7. Factoid says:

    I think someone mentioned this previously, but I was recently offered a 14-day trial promo-code for Guild Wars. Not my thing, so i passed on it, but that’s basically their system of dishing up demos. Boxed copies come with some tear-off codes good for 14-days up to 10 hours of playtime.

    It was the 10 hours thing that got me. The only MMOs I’ve ever played are Ultima Online and Eve Online (during beta). I didn’t really get that into either one and didn’t stick with them, but when I played I was usually playing for 3 or 4 hours at a time, so 10 hours would only get me through 3 sessions. It took me a month of playing the Eve Online beta before I decided it wasn’t for me.

    I gave up on UO after about 2 weeks, but in retrospect it wasn’t really the game I didn’t like, but the fact that the server was massively overpopulated. I was trying to grind on my Lumberjack skill, and every tree I clicked on told me it was out of wood. Same with mining. I could never find an ore vein that lasted more than 5 clicks.

  8. Ron says:

    I believe this is the only Trial they have:

    Basically you have to buy it for $2 at a store. Which is kinda lame. I couldn’t find anything online. I guess someone could email the Marketing Department.

  9. Zukhramm says:

    The 10 hour limit is really bad I believe. In no way are you able to form much of an opinion in 10 hours, however, if anyone is interested I do believe I have a trial key or two.

  10. Paramnesia says:

    Regarding crafting, have you investigated insignias and runes and enhancement items for your weapons?

    Sometimes items drop that have colored names that you can identify and salvage. These may yield armor insignias or runes or weapon enhancements such as staff wrappings, sword pommels, inscriptions, etc. The former may do things like, up your health, increase mana, or increase resistance to a particular attack. The later may grant your weapon a particular elemental attribute, increase resistance to things like poison or bleeding, etc. They don’t alter the appearance of your gear, but people do spend time trying to create the “perfect” armor or weapon(s). Dyes may also be used on gear and weapons; one combination that sticks in my head is a ranger who had pink armor. it was the Pink Ranger!

    As for the comments on the trial, I agree 10 hours isn’t near enough time, especially considering it include all three campaigns. How can anyone properly get a feel for all 3 in 10 hours? I wish they’d just turn it into a 14 day trial with no hour limit.

  11. Cineris says:

    Point by point:

    Story – I like that there’s a story, but, generally speaking, I don’t think it’s all that well done. I don’t really know what sort of constraints the writer(s) were working under, but I can’t help feeling that I could do a better job here. This also might be a case of a reasonably well-written story just being poorly executed because a game is made by a bunch of programmers and other techies, not people with the know-how of making a story come to life on a screen.

    Leveling – I’ll agree, I pretty much dislike levelling. Sure, it’s addictive to a certain extent. But it’s also usually the case of running just to stay in the same place. But, you do advance in Guild Wars, and actually rather substantially. From your posts so far I don’t think you’ve covered even 1/5 of the game yet. By the time you reach the end game your character can steamroll the early areas. Enemies will do no damage to you, and you’ll kill them in one or two hits, en mass if you have AOE attacks. The thing is, you never get a big jolt of power from any one thing, but a 20% here and a faster cooldown there do end up adding up to substantial differences in effectiveness.

    For me, the huge gaps in power typically created by levelling systems (e.g. A 1st level Commoner has 3 HP on average, and a 3rd level Barbarian has 18 HP) always strain world credibility. Levelling isn’t the whole story in Guild Wars, so it’s credible to think of your character as a hero even though every other major NPC is also level 20. Even so it’s credible to think those massing hordes of enemies may actually pose a threat (and they are – getting swarmed is a big problem if your party lacks crowd control!) and that maybe those level 20 soldiers you see walking around town might actually be useful for something in a fight.

    Skills – Depends. Capturing many of the Elite Skills is often a goal, and something you may also have to go out of your way to do (an impromptu quest, as it were).
    I think you’re also mistaken thinking that most people use pre-made builds, or that the pre-made builds on the Wiki are anything other than something someone put together from playing and thinking, “Hey, this works well for me.”
    Unless I am doing PvP with a specific team build, I run what I think works well for me, and will work well against the enemies in the area. For example, I will rarely ever run a build with any interrupt skills for the simple fact that my ping is often 300ms or more, and so interrupting an enemy’s skill that takes 1s to cast is more a matter of predicting than reacting (300ms x 2 + 250ms casting time leaves very little room for error). It’s a bit of a shame since those skills can be some of the most effective, but I’m not going to fight that fight.

    Crafting – I agree, crafting is kind of underdeveloped. At the same time, I’m not sure it’s really all that different in any other game. Isn’t crafting usually about taking trade items and converting them into money/weapons/armor?
    I think the biggest real problem here is that Guild Wars doesn’t have anything like potions or any other consumable items that you could make that would be potentially useful to “craft.” One thing that is very nice though is that Guild Wars doesn’t penalize you for “crafting.” I have not played WoW myself, but I have watched it, and I am not sure sitting in my chair while my character rubs his hands together and a progress bar goes across my screen counts as “crafting” either.

    Looting – You can definitely tell that you’ve been playing with a lot of henchmen. In human groups or solos it seems like the drop rate is 25-50% (of course, the items get reserved for party members a lot of the time, but you can always negotiate with humans if something you really want drops). Nightfall improves the crafting/looting experience a bit with insignias that you salvage from loot and can use to customize other items. So all you need to make your ideal sword is the insignia you want, not the rarer combination of perfect sword + the sword model you want + the magic modifiers you want.

    Exploration – I agree, the areas drag on a bit too much. In Prophecies especially, there is a huge amount of landmass if you choose to explore it all, and not enough done to make each area distinctive. One of my favorite areas in Prophecies was the Pre-Searing Catacombs, not only because of the pure dungeon-crawl nature and the distinct visuals, but because it’s this complete break from the rest of the Pre-Searing world. There are a couple of things like this throughout the campaign, but it could have been done more to better effect.
    That said, if you’re willing to purposefully explore, there really are some neat things in the game world that you’ll never come across in normal play.

  12. bargamer says:

    I second Karl: Discovering and experimenting with skill combos is my favorite part of the game. A certain “web” of skill combos is a build. Once you figure out what your favorite play style or build is, the game REALLY takes off. Monsters become easier to kill, scenery goes by faster, and more people will invite you to their groups. It’s in your own best interest to discover what your general play style is, whether it’s dealing lots of DPS, spreading around the AOE, the various kinds of support, healing, “I like minions,” or some hybrid of these. Once you have that, there are many many builds out there that demonstrate to varying degrees that play style. Builds are not static objects either. Oftentimes, you need to adapt for the mission, general area, specific bosses, or change of activity. “Ok, I think I’d like to PVP now. Or grind for faction/reputation.”

    Your personal dislikes of slotting someone else’s builds or experimenting with skills on your own is to your disadvantage: Prophesies has been out for 3 years now. Everything that could have been done has likely already been done, at least once. With that said, GW is more creative about pigeon-holing people, in that you can customize your own Insignia, Runes, skills, and weapons; there are an exponentially greater number of pigeon holes. That grows at an even greater exponential factor once you get into the other Campaigns, and their treasure trove of skills, including PVE-only skills.

    With all that said, if you need a stress-free environment to experiment with builds, you need to at least have gotten to Lion’s Arch in Prophesies, and go down to the docks. From there, you can get on a ship to the Great Temple of Balthazar, and from there, to the Training Arena. Once you’ve done this once, you can then get there at any time by going to the World Map and selecting the Ship icon. Other campaigns have other requirements to gain access to the Battle Isles, which is pretty much PVP territory. Unless, that is, you make a PVP-ONLY character, then you get there right away, but it can’t do the PVE Campaign or Missions.

  13. Vao Ki says:

    I agree with Karl above that GW has elements similar to MTG. What kept me playing, and will bring me back when I find time again, is the sheer range of customibility and the fact that you can change your character’s skills/stat points between missions and quests in any town. Finding a set of skills (cards) that combine well together is fun, but difficult at the early stages. Finding a few sets that work well for different things and swapping them around depending upon what you are doing is very useful.

    As an Elementalist/Mesmer I have a few builds I use. One has AE and direct fire damage mostly, for general use. One is Earth heavy, for solo (no henchies/heroes) play and was adapted (admittedly) from a skill set I found online, yet another uses mostly Mesmer skills with the Elementalist’s large mana pool to be a main interrupter in groups. Lastly, one of my earliest builds used fire and air for damage and knockdowns.

    Upon making your way to Lion’s Arch, sometime after the mountains, the game does indeed open up and you find you have many more options for skills to choose from. Also…if you’ve ever bought any skills from a trainer you may have noticed each skill costs an increasing amount of money AND a skill point. Each level you gain grants you a skill point. Once you reach level 20 you still gain XP, so every time you would level again you gain another skill point (as if you had leveled) and the XP bar resets. So…technically you continue to level indefinitely.

    Also many players claim that the game doesn’t really start until you reach level 20. There is a lot of high-end content, as opposed to most other MMO style games upon release.

    In response to your complaint on leveling and slapping around low level critters I’ll say two things:

    First I don’t agree that you should always be able to step on (much) lower level critters, because imo it keeps the danger in the game. Although I do believe that anything that can still kill me should be worth even a small amount of XP.

    Secondly, you can indeed do just that in this game, once you get the right skills and learn to use them effectively. It’s not quite as easy as in other games but there are skills that will allow you to 1-shot or 2-shot some lower level mobs, or make them fairly ineffective.

    As for armors, I love the dye system (you can mix dyes to make different colors). Also some of the armor pieces are interchangeable. Anything that goes on your head, esp. as a caster, works with anything. Also arms/wrists tend to work regardless of the outfit in my experience. I will agree however that chest and legs were made to fit together and are more difficult to split into something new.

    Old armor can be salvaged to get some of the crafting components back. If you want to get sticker shock and really see what armors are up ahead you can always do a search on Elementalist Armor in guildwiki, though much of the later armor (which I’ve yet to even get to) is very expensive.

  14. Jeffrey says:

    GW being a game for people who don’t like leveling is pretty much spot on. ANet likes (liked?) to market that it is skill rather than hours played that matters. While not strictly true, this is much more true than with many other MMORPGs. I like that I can just hit level 20, get max equipment and never have to worry about “keeping up” again. Leveling in MMORPGs is very much a Red Queen’s race.

    Skills make the build. More skills do not translate directly to more power, they translate to more options, more flexibility and more potentially abusable combinations.

    To extend the M:tG comparison, many (or most) of the powerful cards are commons instead of rares–they must be if the game is to be accessible. Rares instead generally are more complex or more niche skills. You can build around a rare, but commons will likely still be the majority in such a deck. Same with GW builds. Elites are interesting enough to build around, but the other 7 skills are still commons.

    Look up “Illusionary Weaponry” on GW Wiki for such a niche elite. Good fun. Definitely gimmicky. And one of my favorite elites.

  15. The Lone Duck says:

    One interesting quirk I remember from Guild Wars. When I played, there was one bank per account. That is to say, if I have two characters, the higher leveled character could put stuff in the bank for the lower leveled character. It’s been years since I played, so they might have changed it. All the same though, I had good times with Guild Wars. I had a Warrior/Mesmer. I liked the Warrior class because they had the Run ability. I think the intent was that warriors would run to the enemies, but I used it to run away when battles went awry. Also, if you have the money, you can pay higher leveled players (usually warriors or rangers) to run you through to a higher leveled city, where you can buy cooler armor. Again, this was when I used to play, which was years ago.

  16. Jeffrey says:

    @The Lone Duck: The bank is still communal. It now has additional “tabs” of storage depending on how many campaigns you own.

    There exists a market of runners, players who use builds specifically designed to run through an area and survive attacks and snares from the enemy mobs. Usually they act as taxi services, getting new characters to outposts for a fee.

    However, as a “sport”, running is a combination exercise of skill selection, knowledge of mob composition and behavior as well as good old reflexes.

    Usually these are warriors, rangers, assassins or dervishes, but a few niche runners exist as elementalists and mesmers. I remember a skilled runner remarking that anyone */A can run (assassin secondary).

    Personally, I don’t do it for the money: I’m out of practice (i.e. I still die at times) and only really run myself and friends. But I really enjoyed seeing the scenery go by. In Prophecies especially, there are a lot of sections where the landscape is not so cramped with mobs. You can just walk to the edge of a cliff and enjoy the view. I always thought of running from Ascalon to Sanctum Cay (a full continental tour) to be a game version of Forrest Gump’s running across America. To me, it captured the same feeling in the quiet stretches.

  17. Derek K says:

    “You tear apart items looted from monsters to get their raw materials. (Lather, cloth, iron, etc.)”

    Stupid shampoo demons.

    I too agree about the skills. I remember, from my trial weekends, looking at the skills and going “Uh, guh? That looks useful. But people mocked me for having it. Those 12 all seem nice. And what about the 10 over here from my secondary? Erg.”

    Also: Zak: Oooh ooooh! I’d like a trial….

    My last name is Kupper. My email is my first name . last name @

    If you’d like to share.

  18. Paramnesia says:

    @The Lone Duck:

    It’s still a shared bank/warehouse, although each character must pay to access for a small fee of 50 gold.

    Not too long ago, they added the ability to activate a raw materials tab in your warehouse that can store up to 250 of every type of common and rare crafting materials. Additionally, for each campaign (except for Eye of the North) you buy and add to your account you get an additional “tab” in your warehouse. Despite that, I still run out of room regularly, and I know several people who create extra characters just to use as storage mules.

    @ Derek K:

    I’m sure some of my builds and skill choices would get me laughed at by the PvP and solo farmers. I’ve purchased skills from the trainers that sounded interesting but ended up never using, but since you get skill points even past 20, the only thing limiting me is money, so I don’t mind the trial and error method.

  19. Vao Ki says:

    With the multitude of skills it’s all about trial and error, finding what works with what and what works for you and your style of play.

    At least when you err and play around with new skills there is no lasting penalty that sets you back 3 hours of playtime.

    And yes, the storage in GW makes it easy for you to share weapons and items with other characters on the same account.

  20. Alexis says:

    “Most MMOs don't have stories, they have settings. They have an initial state or premise that provides conflict, and you participate in that conflict, forever”

    [:citation needed:]

    WoW has a pretty strong story. Things change. Slowly, patch by patch, but they do. Banishing Ragnaros, thwarting Nefarian, seeing the Scarab Gate open and fighting towards C’thun… these are proud moments for me.

    Even outside the raid game, there are strong storylines. Eg the Defias line, which starts at human L1, continues to about L40 or so. It seems it will be picked up again for L70-80 too, I can’t wait. The Silver Hand/Scarlet Crusade arc is enormous as well.

    A lot of people slate WoW for the levelling grind… imho, these are people who don’t read quest text. If you get into the lore, a lot of it is very exciting. Coming into WoW from playing WC 3, there’s an unmistakable “OMG! I’m actually /wave’ing at Tyrande Whisperwind! IN MOUNT HYJAL!!!”. Watching Tirion Fordring lay the smackdown on the man who killed his son. The franchise has been going so long, the big names have genuine history behind them.

    Ahem. I mean, big numbers! Mechanics! Whee! You no take munchkin club card!

  21. Derek K says:

    I know there’s not a penalty, but I think going to the PVP area too early spoiled me.

    I was clearly in battles with people that knew what they were doing. I always started off with “I just started playing, sorry in advance.” But I typically got no input, and just sort of flailed about while the other 3 members died, and got angry….

    Course, this was all before I found Planetside, and Arathi Basin, and learned that really, what is best in life *is* to drive your enemies before you. And it’s better when they know it’s happening.

    @alexis: “”OMG! I'm actually /wave'ing at Tyrande Whisperwind! IN MOUNT HYJAL!!!””

    I have *so* many screenshots from my early WoW days that are boring to people now. “Here’s me, standing near Thrall. Here’s me waving at Thrall. Here’s me standing next to a barracks. Look! Can you see the spiky bits? Here’s me next to a protector. Look! Here’s the protector moving! Here’s a guard with a glaive! Here’s me next to an abomination!”

    Etc. ;) So I certainly getcha.

  22. Cineris says:


    One of the things that gets on my nerve the most is the way World of Warcraft destroys the Warcraft storyline. I mean, Illidan, Arthas, Kelthuzad, etc. are all major characters in the Warcraft setting and story. Do we really need to have major characters acting as raid bosses so they can get killed over and over by some random schmoes for loot?

  23. Ron says:

    Shamus if your intersted in seeing the other campaigns email Regina @ [email protected]

    from ArenaNet Community Team
    date Fri, Jun 20, 2008 at 11:41 AM
    subject RE: Trial Keys for Review

    hide details 11:41 AM (2 hours ago)


    Hi, Ron:

    Could you have Shamus contact me directly so we can discuss it?


    Regina Buenaobra

    Community Manager

    ArenaNet, Inc.

  24. Rick says:

    You can see all the armor sets in the game here.

    Regarding online trial codes: ANet stopped distributing them a couple months ago due to massive exploitation by RMTers.

  25. Tryss says:

    Seeing the next tier of armor would help in creating short-term goals. Just one more level and I can get the glittering armor with those awesome shoulderpads.

    I remember when I was playing wow and they have a changing room where you can select to see what a certain piece of clothing would look on your before buying it.

    Even though I was level “newbie” I’d put on the level 60 (then) stuff and look at what my character MIGHT look like with some awesome gear on. hehe.

  26. HGL, GW and WoW are the three successors to the DII design group. It is interesting to compare where each went, what they did right, what they did wrong.

    I’ve been enjoying this, btw, and appreciate both your write-up and the comments.

  27. Aaron Nowack says:

    Another thing that bugged me about Guild Wars was the armor, but you seem to describe something different than I recall from my playtime with that, so maybe someone will be able to set me straight.

    So, over the course of the pre-Searing stuff I slowly replaced my armor with better armor. Then, in the first post-Searing area, I replaced my armor with armor that… looked like the batch of armor that I didn’t get all of in the pre-Searing area because it was no easier to get than the armor I did get but had slightly worse stats. Then, in the next area, I slowly got slightly better armor that… looked just like first set of “better armor”. (All this is from memory, so the details may be inexact, but the gist should be correct,)

    So far as I could tell from the wikis and so forth (for some reason I was never really able to quite comprehend the details of Guild Wars’ gear system) there were no “tiers” of armor. There were a handful of armor skins that were reused at almost every level range, and then a double handful of harder to get “elite” armor skins that I wouldn’t be able to grind for until the endgame, and that was it.

    This was also a part of my losing interest. Seeing my character’s progression in the visual look has always been part of the thrill of this style of game for me, and the dissociation of look from character progression (barring the “elite” armors that were still far off) killed that for me.

  28. Ben says:

    One of the best “character customization” features I’ve ever seen was in Phantasy Star Online.

    There were only four character types, if I remember, and you couldn’t really change anything fundamental; the skins were preset choices. There were two sliders that adjusted the height and width of your character in a fairly reasonable manner. The end result was that two identical characters actually looked different from each other. The sliders adjusted in small increments, and slight tweaks could make enough of a change to be noticeable.

    I wish they would have added customizable skins as well.

  29. AndrewNZachsDad says:

    Well, Derek K beat me to it in comment #17. His take on your typo was funnier than mine, also. Originally, I took it (literally) to refer to the foamy build up from a rabid animal or overworked horse. It took my parser a minute to realize that you meant “leather”. I’m not sure I want you to change it, even though you likely will. Those few seconds of confusion left me with such glee that I would want others to enjoy. :)

    Shampoo demons *snort*

  30. Rick says:

    Armor in Guild Wars works pretty much as Aaron describes. Elementalists in Ascalon City (Post-Searing) can buy Flameforged or Tyrian armor. Elementalists in Droknar’s Forge can buy Flameforged, Iceforged, Stoneforged, Stormforged, or Tyrian armor. The only difference between Tyrian armor made in Ascalon City and Tyrian Armor made in Droknar’s Forge is cost and armor rating; the skin is exactly the same. Personally, I like this ““ if I discover a look I like early in the game, I don’t have to decide between functionality and aesthetics later. YMMV.

    And every now and then I’ve found mixing and matching works nicely. Other times… no.

  31. Luvian says:

    I haven’t read most of the comments so maybe this was mentioned before, but the core of the engine is what I would call “Magic: The Gathering” powered.

    As you noticed the game is skill focused. It’s not about items, it’s not really about levels, it’s about skills.

    A big part of the gameplay is about finding those skills and finding strategies to use them in. Some of these skills are really rare, and later on “Elite Skills” are introduced, which you most capture off unique bosses. These are your rare cards in M:TG. Just like in card games you’re not meant to easily acquire or even necessarily know about most skills, but doing so will make you a more strategic player.

    Couple that with limited number of skills you can take at one time, and the fact you have two classes at one time, and there is lots of strategies to be had in choosing which skills you want to take with you. In choosing what your “deck” will be. This can be a lot of fun if you’re willing to take the time to learn the system. Many skills have counter skills and some have good synergies going with other skills etc. Coming up with your own strategies is where the fun is at.

    Arena Net’s business model and source of revenue was even based on the card game business. Each campaign has it’s fair share of new gameplay features as well as a whole new storyline, but they also have a whole net set of unique skills as well as two new classes each, each specialized in a different way so you can further build your deck of skills. They were planning on releasing about two expansions packs a years until they realized coming up with new skills and rule sets eventually gets really hard.

    So yes Guild Wars is different from other MMORPGS. It’s free to play, it has a story, and it a 3d collectible cards RPG.

  32. Jeromai says:

    For me, Guild Wars improved with time. It’s “casual hardcore,” an easy to pick up and put down game, which only developed serious depth when I put in effort to complete various story missions, read third-party sites and most importantly, understand the skill system.

    I picked GW up when it first came out, joined the masses running across the land, exploring the areas and story, and mostly treated my ranger as an arrow chucking machine, with little appreciation of what maximizing DPS or interrupts was, let alone how to go about specing my skills for it.

    I loved the graphics, enjoyed the story cutscenes (fairly innovative at the time) and so on, but never really dug in deep. The crazy people ‘running’ lower levels to advanced towns were playing a completely different game from me, which I was happy to ignore.

    I amazingly still got through a good part of the storyline missions up to Thunderhead Keep, with mostly henchmen (and the occassional scary PUG) before running aground and putting the game aside.

    Years later, after a long stint in City of Heroes which gradually deepened my appreciation of the numbers behind skills and re-specing characters for better play effectiveness (and sidelong reading of such things in WoW and how they do it), the flexibility of the skill system of Guild Wars really appeals.

    It’s a game all by itself, to fiddle with a build that does something really well. But it does take a more hardcore perspective to appreciate. Or at least, an understanding of things like tank, DPS, healing, buffing/debuffing, crowd control, regen/degen and the unique spin GW has on these concepts.

    The beauty of the GW payment model is that I could do so, letting Prophecies sit untouched for ages, with no subscription to worry me, and come back to it later to rediscover it. (And promptly got the other campaigns once I realized I enjoyed it.)

  33. Kurayamino says:


    Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  34. DGM says:

    Typo under Looting: you are missing a closing parenthesis at the end of

    “or good (haul it back to town and sell it for gold towards something you really want.”

  35. sleepyfoo says:

    an excellent example of guild wars dancing, visuals, and model styles can be found here

  36. Stuart says:

    I would love to see the following things in a fantasy MMO (all related to appearance)

    1) The kind of customizability available in City of Heroes (I love that character editor.)

    2) Some kind of level based scaling – stronger characters are bigger or taller? (of course this might not be appropriate for all classes… maybe warriors get bulkier, mages get an aura – that type of thing)

    3) Something akin to Fable’s “decrepid, old Hero” look. If you take some hits in battle then maybe the character would get some bruises or scratches that wear off over time.

  37. jdelcom says:

    I played GW for a couple of months. I moved, I lost my inet connection, didn’t play for a couple of weeks, my friends moved over to LOTRO, I never played it again.
    But damn, you made me want to play again. :P

  38. Jeff says:

    I’m suffering from constantly wanting to restart a new class combo. It’s terrible, I tell you.

  39. Stranger says:

    If you haven’t hit the “Prophecy” bit yet then you need to get over the mountains and complete the first mission in Kryta. I’m sorry to report after a while a big bad does reveal himself, an evil force DOES appear but it’s far from “destroy him and his creations fall”.

  40. Gildan Bladeborn says:

    Several things to point out:

    1) Armor is location based, not level based. If you try to make armor in Ascalon City when you are level 20 it will still be the same crappy armor that it was when you were level 8. Likewise, if you somehow end up much farther along in the game then you normally would be, nothing is stopping you from making the very best armor available.

    Starting the game now (as opposed to 3 years ago) with respect to armor has some definite changes from back when I started playing. In ye olden days, armor appearance was linked to stats, so wyvern armor always had more protection and gladiator armor always gave more energy, etc. When Factions came along, they separated functionality from looks, by giving each armor style a version with every possible configuration, so you could mix and match the stats without resorting to mixing and matching armor art (they also added new stats).

    When Nightfall came they changed the armor system again, and then retroactively changed it for the previous 2 campaigns as well. The Nightfall system (which is what you see now) has the armor “prefix” as a separate mod you can purchase from the rune trader or salvage from monster armor. Rather then multiple versions of a given armor style like in Factions, all armor is now identical, apart from the earlier lower armor rating sets, with every other armor style. This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on your perspective. On the one hand, certain mods are more expensive then others because now they’re a commodity like rare materials or runes, and the market has just raised the cost of certain armor stats beyond what you would have originally paid for it. On the other hand[, realizing you want to change your armor’s stats after you crafted it now only requires you to overwrite the insignia, which is quite often WAY cheaper then a new piece (it always is with the prestige (ridiculously expensive) armor).

    Looking at it from the perspective of a new player who doesn’t have any other campaign though, just consider everything you make to be “trial armor”, and don’t bother too much with worrying about dye and the like just yet. Save that sort of concern for when you get armor with maxed stats (Droknar’s Forge in other words).

    2) Character appearances have no “ugly” options. I can’t vouch for the entire range of Tyrian faces, but as anyone who has looked through the facial choices for male necromancers in Nightfall can tell you, ugly is definitely an option. Plus male monks in Nightfall seem to be fatter then other monks, though that might just be the Nightfall armor.

    3) There ARE consumables you can craft that do quite useful things, and they see a lot of use in our various alliance PvE romps. They just aren’t in Prophecies, unless somebody brings them there from Eye of the North. Craftable consumables are the reason Glittering Dust is so blasted expensive right now, heh.

    4) The game beginning at level 20: Technically you aren’t even finished leveling up when you hit 20, as you have a possible 200 points to allocate to skills (with additional ranks in skills costing more points, which I’m sure you’ll notice if you fiddle around with them) but just leveling to 20 only gives you 170 points. Factions and Nightfall, with their vastly accelerated “get new players up to speed zones” give you the quests to acquire the missing 30 points on the starter island (you can leave the beginning zones and be level 20 with maxed out armor), but Prophecies makes you work for it.

    Both quests require you to have reached the desert, as the one is the second part of a 2 part chain from an entirely optional outpost involving very dangerous areas and out of the way exploration, and the second requires you to have ascended, visited all the profession changers, done at least 1 of the quests to change your secondary profession, and then trek through entirely optional parts of the southern Shiverpeaks.

    5) The addition of Hard Mode transforms even the newbie zones into nightmarish battlefields of death and glory, though you won’t see anything about it until you’ve finished a campaign once. After that you can switch to Hard Mode at any time on subsequent characters, provided they are level 20. I won’t go into more details about it though, as it involves game mechanics I’m not sure you’ve experienced yet.

  41. Kristin says:

    I have 12 characters on Guild Wars. I don’t think a single one of them wears a complete set of the same armor, except for the two I’ve created but not done anything with beyond basic setup.

    Heck, my elementalist combines armor from Cantha and Tyria (Flameforged and Canthan), and I like the look a lot better that if she were wearing one or the other.

  42. Kizer says:

    I have a simple solution to your leveling woes: Golden Sun. That game has an intuitive turn-based combat system with interesting and useful innovations, relatively frequent level-ups, and a great story. The dialog is a bit inane occaisionally, but Golden Sun 2 fixes this for the most part. And the best part is: the Bad Guys don’t always seem that bad . . .

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