Monday, May 30, 2005

Guild Wars

Several years ago, I played an MMORPG/MMOG named Asheron's Call. There was a fancy back story and in-game lore, but basically this was an online game where you killed monsters to earn experience and money, repeat. I burned out after a while, and went back to playing offline games on the PC and PS2.

One thing that bugged me slightly was the monthly fee. It wasn't much, $10 or $12 a month, and for the hours I played, that worked out to far less than the cost of going to the theater, for instance. Still, there are so many computer games to play that don't charge a fee, it seems like a ripoff. Plus, by paying a monthly fee it always made me feel like I had to play to get my money's worth.

When I heard the Guild Wars wasn't going to charge a monthly fee, I was intrigued. It seems they plan to make their money by releasing expansion packs every six months or so.

So I bought a copy and started up. These kinds of games can be major time sinks, which is a concern. However, I am positive I can resist. And, I am happy to say after having the game for 15 days, I've only played a total of 12 hours total.

The general setting is some mythical kingdom, which is under attack - the ongoing story will involve heroes (i.e. people playing the game) getting strong enough to repulse the alien invaders.

The setup is very quick - you choose a profession from among six choices that boil down to 2 fighter classes, 1 healer class, and 3 spell caster classes. A few tweaks to your appearance (hair color, skin color, etc.) and then you name yourself and appear in the game. I mulled it over for a bit and decided to play a female ranger (fighter that uses bows and ranged weapons) and started up.

You begin the game in the days before the attack, which is known as "The Searing" in the game. Pre-searing, there are several starter quests meant to familiarize yourself with moving around, grouping with other players, and questing. Quests are easy to find, because the game puts a large floating exclamation point above people who can give you one. After talking to them, the quest shows up in your journal, with a checklist of things to do. Even better, the in game map shows you where you have to go in order to complete it!

He's got a quest!

Through various quests and item hunting, I managed to upgrade all my armor and bow, and stash some money which I know will come in handy. One fun thing about the ranger is they can tame a pet - I managed to charm a lynx (in game they are called "Melandru's Stalkers") and named it "Kitty", so now I have a faithful companion that follows me around and helps me fight.

Me and My Pet Kitty

I've pretty much exhausted all the Pre-Searing content and am ready to move onto the rest of the game. Post-Searing, even more quests will become available, with harder monsters and better rewards.

A Little More Info For RPG Fans

In Guild Wars, each class has attributes and skills. Every time you level, you get attribute points to spend which improve your general abilities. For instance, as a ranger, one of my attributes is Marksmanship. Putting points into this makes all my shots do more damage. Under Marksmanship are various skills, such as "Power Shot", which does even more damage. Skills cost energy and time to use, which limit how often they can be used. For Power Shot, it is once every 6 seconds, if I have the energy, which naturally recharges. Skills can be bought from certain merchants, or gained through various quests.

All quests areas are "instanced", meaning a private copy of the quest world is created for your party. This solves a lot of problems: camping (other groups waiting for quest monsters to appear), griefing (other players interfering with your group), and game balance (the challenge and difficulty can be set by the game designers, based on a maximum number of players).

The extra twist in Guild Wars is while there are dozens of skills, you can only select eight for usage during a quest, and you can only change them out in cities (i.e. when you aren't on a quest). So you need to choose carefully and make sure what skills you bring meshes well with what the rest of your group is bringing.

In the Pre-Searing game, you have a chance to try every class out - the game makes available starter quests for everyone. In fact, you have to, as you must pick a secondary class before moving onto the Post-Searing game. I chose Mesmer as my secondary class, which is basically a spell-caster that casts illusion-type spells.

Taking in the sights

Wait, is that the Loch Ness Monster in the water?

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