John Murphy looks back fondly at AreaNet’s MMO, Guild Wars
Back in the early 2000s, there were a lot of MMORPGs on the market, and for the decade that followed, they all copied aspects of Blizzard’s baby, World of Warcraft. However, there was one MMO that was not interested in copying anything, instead their goal was to lead by innovation: AreaNet’s Guild Wars. Before we get into the nitty gritty of that, let's ask whether or not that worked. By numbers alone, it would be easy to say that it failed to capture a market share of the space, and yet it's exactly that uniqueness that has allowed it to stay relevant for so long.
Now some may argue that Guild Wars was more RPG than MMO, but that is irrelevant when you enter the world of Tyria. Each town acts like a central hub to group-up with players and make new friends. When you enter the world, it becomes your private instance that you can explore at your leisure, unlike most MMOs.
ArenaNet created a product that was unlike other games in the genre. It incorporated a buy-to-play price model, meaning no monthly fees so once you own it, you own it forever. There is also very little worry of that changing as ArenaNet have stated that the server costs to host Guild Wars are so low that the company would need to go under completely before they took them down.
So, what does it play like? Well for one thing, there is no jumping, only old-school mouse clicks and WASD to get around. Another aspect to the game is the skills you use; when you are in town you pick eight skills and you are stuck with them in the field until you re-enter town. How many skills are there to choose from though? A few thousand.
you can create a mashup of spells to clobber the bad guys
The classes in the game sound generic at first, but they are so unique in the way that you play them that it caters to many different types of players. As you progress through the game you can choose a secondary class, and now have access to those skills, so you can create a mashup of spells to clobber the bad guys. It's unbelievable how many options are open to you as a player, yet without making you feel overwhelmed, which is the definition of a great game.
Not only that but you can acquire 'hero' characters who are AI party members controlled by you. Gear them, set their skills, and also play them alongside your own character. It all flows together so well.
The design of the game truly stands out, but what about the story? Well, depending on which of the stand-alone campaigns you buy the story changes, however once you own all three it comes together into this amazing world full of character and depth. It doesn't matter where you begin your journey as it all converges spectacularly. They had one expansion that sets up the story to continue in Guild Wars 2 but that is its own monster for another day.