Monday, 16 August 2010

GW: Fulfilling Prophecies

Post soundtrack: “I Don’t Care” by Shakespears Sister

I have to say, Guild Wars is probably the most single-player-friendly MMO I’ve come across.  When you’re the single human in a party with 6 computer-controlled NPCs, one player-controlled hero NPC, and an idiot pet, it’s actually surprisingly reminiscent of Dungeon Siege (the stupidly fun first one, not the beaten-with-the-idiot-stick sequel).

Ringle and her band of merry NPCs.

The change of focus from traditional MMO epic-loot-centric play to the much more skill-centric mechanics of GW is a curious one to work through.  My ranger/monk is sitting on level 15 at the moment, and is working on some of the side-quests around Kryta (around #3 on the primary quest chain list here – which puts my progression at around 10 of the 25 co-operative missions in the Prophecies campaign), and is getting pretty close to the level 20 cap.  At 20, further progression comes in the form of acquiring additional skills and working through the campaigns.  While there are some further armor and weapon upgrades (at least, as far as I can see in the GW wiki), they’re not exponentially stronger in the manner WoW endgame gear is.

While the items don’t approach the degree of aesthetic variation that WoW offers (you really have to admire the sheer volume of different armor designs that Blizzard’s art team has come up with over the years), they offer sufficient variation to allow you to personalise your character quite nicely – I don’t think I’ve seen many people identically dressed in the crowds I’ve seen in Kryta so far.  (I’m quite fond of the long-coat look of the Ranger Monument armor, although the Deldrimor armor has a certain charm as well)

I’ve also invested $10 into purchasing the Bonus Mission pack; after completing the missions it’s possible to turn in the verified quest item for some nice weapons - I chose a nice Charr shortbow for Ringle to replace the Nevermore Flatbow bonus that came (along with a handful of other weapons for other classes) with the Guild Wars Trilogy pack.

The mechanic of co-operative missions is also quite interesting to work with.  The entrance is essentially an outpost (where you have access to a merchant and the bank), and from there you can form a party (either with NPCs, Heroes that you’ve unlocked, or other players) and then attempt the mission for that outpost.  The biggest downside is if you fail the mission (you all die, or a key NPC is killed) you’re returned to the entrance zone, and have to restart the mission.  Needless to say, if it’s a long mission, it can get frustrating.  But with the ability to work through the missions single-handed (well, with henchmen) makes it a good fit for my anti-social nature.

The two styles of computer-controlled adventurers are also a nice touch.  The original variety are Henchmen: they’re essentially computer-controlled NPCs, which you have pretty much minimal control over (you can set a waypoint for them to move to and stay at, but that’s about it).  With the Nightfall expansion came Heroes: think of them as Henchmen v2.  Unlike henchmen, heroes can have their skills and equipment changed like those of your player character (although only at a town or outpost).

Heroes, along with Ranger pets, are also subject to slightly more player control than henchmen: they have a control panel that gives you about as much control over them as an old-school WoW hunter had of their pets, which can be summed up pretty much as “Attack, Defend, Passive”.  Needless to say, don’t expect to have any fine-grain control over your computerised party members.

All in all, I’m enjoying my time in GW – indeed, it’s quite possible I’d be subscribing if it had been a subscription MMO.  And having seen the GW2 Manifesto video, I’m very much looking forward to ArenaNet’s next move.

But I’m not sure they can top this:

Words fail me...