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I know that opening up a title like that screams of troll and fanboy, but I will try to give my personal thoughts about it. I hope we can have a mature discussion about if it(GW) deserves to be in the realm of possibilities, and I am looking forward to hear what other games you guys think deserves the spot.
To be fair, I will start out by listing some of the big problems I think Guild Wars have had over the last 4 years. Despite being(in my opinion) the best Online RPG, probably ever(I would rank it higher than Diablo, personally), I feel that there has been things with it that has been poor. Some I think was due to the games pricing, others because it was a new developer making their first game, others because it was a new IP, and others just for flawed gameplay design.
The big problems with Guild Wars:
1)Guild Wars despite offering, decent character customization, has had problems with the players being able to be uniqe. It's true that there is a great Dye system, and plenty of Hairstyles, faces and skin color combos across the three campaigns, but in terms of particularly armor variations, GW has always been lacking.
2)A sense of community has always been a problem. Emotes have been there, and a basic chat, but the lack of auction housing, not that great trading capabillities and party search functions, as well as no in-game Mail system, have all been helping in the community not being as good as it could have been. GW does not have Inn's or Taverns for Role players to enjoy themselfs in, and the simply because the way the game was build, it was not very easy to make Machinema videos or other community related things. Furthermore, the lack of subscription fee, made it so that people always(and still to this day) jump in and out. This is good in many ways, but a bad thing is that it makes it harder for an active guild, since GW players probably are more inactive than "traditional" MMORPG players who are "forced" or "encouraged" to get their money worth. so commitment has been less.
3)Despite preaching casual gameplay for people who don't have lots of time, to really do good in PvP you need to play with a cordinated team, or you simply won't be able to muster in the long run, and it won't be fun. This is where the time dependency came in Guild Wars. It was not a long grind... But this was the bad side of having such a hardcore balanced mathmathically balanced system... You really needed other people to rely on. In other MMOs it's possible to somehow have a good PvP skirmish either in the form of Arena or Duels or just as a lone wolf on a big battleground, without being with a cordinated team. For some players this is a great thing, but it's a contradiction for those players who have 5-10 minutes before dinner. They cant pvp effectively, no matter how good they are.
In my opinion it's a big flaw of Guild Wars. ArenaNets stubboness have still refused to acknowledge any sort of PvP duel system in towns.
4)Restrictions. While it's of no great importance on the gameplay, small things have always bugged players about guild wars, like Invisible Walls, the lack of a ability to swim or jump, no mounts, no way to have weapons on your back, no auction house. They were small nit picks, that many people were just annoyed at. Nothing big, but little annoyances, that grew bigger during the course of the game. Other things was stuff like no, actual day and night cycle and no weather effects... and of course skill attacks looking similiar and doing almost the same made for some boring skills...
5)Instancing - Depending on who you are, this is a big or a small thing. For me, I am not bothered by it. To be completely honest, if you look at games like Wow, Conan and Warhammer, so many of them use such a heavy use of instancing(particularly during their end-game) that it has almost reached hypocracy levels to badmouth GW for it's use of it.
Personally I don't really need to see people out of town. It fits my normal MMO habits. players are usually a nusance for me outside of town.. I dont think they add to the immersion as its often some lame players bunny jumping somewhere, or people griefing or zerging or campigng.. I actually like that I have people in town, so I can go to them when I need them. no disturbances during missions. but I know this is a big thing for some players, so i will leave it on the list...
I think these five things are the biggest I can think off. Thinking about them, I have lot of problems with this Guild Wars and always had. But I still think, when everything is said and done, that this game is so much more impressive and fun than any other in the past. I also think this game is incredible misunderstood and misread by so many players. Maybe it's a stiff learning curve, bad torturial or not that helpful of a community, but many people I have talked to about the game have such a wrong idea about it.
My points of positivity in Guild Wars:
1)Guild Wars is the most challening Online RPG I have tried, and the hardest and the most rewarding. The AI in Guild Wars is more aggressive than any other I have seen in other games. It reminds me Ninja Gaiden. the harder enemies in Guild Wars, just don't charge you. They ambush you, flank you and outmanuvre you. The level cap of 20 makes sure that no players become divine and just plow through everything like it was easy mode.
The later introduced hard mode was a great introduction and challenge to the game as well. Beating the missions solo with the Heroes and Henchmen, is incredible difficult, and almost impossible for the average gamer, as it requires lots of knowledge of which skills to bring.
2)Guild Wars is not a second job. Elements like Fast travel(press M and instantly travel to the town you want to go to) makes Guild Wars less of a chore than so many other MMOs. Guild Wars has a big advantage because since there is no monthly fee, ArenaNet has no initiative to slow players down by having them level slow and filling them up with time sinks and money sinks so they will pay for more months of gameplay before eventually nerd rage quitting in despair and frustration of the repetition and catch 22.
3)the lack of monthly fee have been a god send over these last 4 years. purchased the game once, and no more fees. if one should choose to be interested in their new content, they could buy the other guild wars games, but they didnt have to. they were not forced to. they lvl cap remainded 20, so they were not forced if they wanted to remain competitive to go out and buy.
thats the power of the consumer. we can vote with our wallets. but if you play a MMO you cant really vote with your wallet. you cant choose to keep playing the MMORPG that you are playing, and still say no to keep funding them in their updates, expansions and the ways the game is headed in.
If I play World of Warcraft and I love the game and wanna keep playing it, but I dislike the new expansion I cant say no. I can.. but the consequences will be that my monthly fee will help finanse content that I don't want and that I think will ruin the game for me. furthermore I will be cut off from main elements in the game like end game because the catch 22 carrot on a stick never ending gameplay is maintained... no more end game pvp for me, unless i accept the new expansion and its new quests. I have no choice.
The lack of fee have allowed me in Guild Wars to play without having a guilty conscience for when I needed a break from it. I had it as my main game, I took a break from it, I played it as my side MMORPG while I was playing others. GW was just always there.
you can find threads this forum about people here who claimed that guild wars would shut down after a month. that it was impossible and a scam and that they would start forcing a monthly fee or the company would go bankrupt, or that the game would be unplayable due to bad servers and lag and that the launch of the game would be a disaster.
it was not just the payment model. Guild Wars was a post-WoW game. There was not a single online RPG released post November 2004 that was not marked and affected and measured against WoW. When WoW came out, Warcraft series had already been running for over 10 years, since the original Warcraft was released in 1994. Warcraft had gotten 10 years to build a fanbase, and Blizzard who were Gaming legends and celebrated as perhaps the best developer in the world had hordes of buying their product just because their name was on it.
ArenaNet was a new company. Guild Wars was a new IP with a risky business model. No elves and Orcs, and focus on PvP.. Many people doubted that a pvp focused game could be a success. everyone predicted that the PvE would suck and be an afterthought.
And here they were... Jeff Strain was originally the lead designer on WoW back in the late 90s. There was a splitting of opinions within Blizzard. Some wanted to do the Diablo sequel with a larger online focus, and others wanted to a traditional Everquest style MMO.
Jeff Strain left Blizzard when they shifted focus on to the EQ model. So yes... one of the fathers of Guild Wars, was actually one of the main guys responsible for World of Warcraft in the 1999. Jeff leaves, Mike O'Brian joins. They had lots of experience with creating Battle.Net. They had seen the troubles that had come with Diablo 2, and wanted to try new things. ArenaNet is created in 2000, and for the next 5 years they would plan their strategy to make a different kind of RPG....
4)outstanding support. for the 4 years I have played this game, I have seen one single server downtime. otherwhise this game has been up and running all the time. no half day long patching bullcrap.. no stupid server restarts. even patching happens in the background while I am playing, and just requires me to log out and log in again. for a game without a fee, this is absolutely fantastic record.
5) great optimization. this game ran on well on my 800 mhz with a freaking geforce mx 400 back in 2004 at the october event(the threads we made here from back then are still here).
6)the art design is fantastic, some of the best video game art I have seen in my life.
7)outstanding music - probably jeremy soules best score of all time, perhaps outside of KOTOR and Morrowinds main-theme.
8)great interface. the way you can manipulate, alter, hide, remove, re-size and move every single piece of UI is fantastic.
9)Balance. This is perhaps the most drastic thing about Guild Wars of everything. Everything is toned down. no high damage numbers, no massive overpowered godly weapons or armor that takes ten million years to obtain for the elitistic people who play 15 hours a day. no... a max damage sword in guild wars can be found 2-3 hours into the game. from there it's only tiny modifers that still help, but, its clear that spending time on getting gear is not what will make you good at guild wars.
the cleaver and uniqe design philosophy with only taking 8 skills to battle at a time, combined with the dual class system, gave truth to the saying: "less is more". by restraining players, they were allowed to make any sort of archertype character they ever wanted. any combination of crowd control, tank, dps, aoe, healer, support, debuffer, buffer, or melee variations or ranged variations of all these combined or mingled were possible.
the amount of skills was impressive and became the collecting element of the game. almost like how in pokemon you run around and collect all the pokemon(if you want to), so in guild wars you would run around for hundreds of hours and unlocking the skills for your characters.
10)great PvE - Besides the challening PvE with fun engaging and truly hardcore AI, guild wars also had actual in-game cinematics, many which had voice acting with the players own characters speaking and supporting party in the background. several players could even vote to skip the cinematic had they seen it before. besides offering normal standard quests like other mmos, guild wars also had many large several hour epic missions that could either be done co-op or with henchmen/heroes.. these had stories, and any varied objectives. there was even secondary optional objectives should the players choose, and a ranking at the end of each mission, allowing people to aim for expert completion.
the pve was also longer and more consistent than anyone could have predicted from the pvp focused nature of the game. all the games litterly have thousands of hours worth of gameplay should the players choose or want to aim for getting all the skills for their characters, or aiming for completing hard mode or getting titles. missions were also always short enough not to force players to spend many hours at a time playing.
to this day GW is still practical to play for me, because it can even run on my netbook when I am at work and have a break, I can quickly do some missions or some quick pvp. I cant think of another MMO that allows me to this accesable drop-in drop-out gamestyle.
11)Great support from the developer. ArenaNet have to be the best developer I have seen on the planet. I am amazed that they still have community managers engaging with the players in the game, and still doing skill balancing and adding stuff to the game and revising.
12)support with the sequel, guild wars 2. it really shows that they care about the product and the continued life of guild wars, for when Guild Wars 2 comes out, stuff and accomplishments from Guild Wars 1 will be unlocked, creating a permenent initiative for gw2 players to go back and play Guild Wars 1. It's a great way to keep a healthy population in both games.
13)guild wars run on one big shard, meaning that everybody is playing in the same world. no seperate servers, with different ladders.. if your the best guild, then your the best guild in the entire world. nobody has your name on a different server either, and you can go to europe, or america to play with whoever you want to. its nice to see that some developers still believe in mmos being global instead of forcing players to play with people from their own region.
I could go on and on with why I love this game. I think the design is genius and outstanding. there is room here for improvement, and maybe GW2 will fix some of those things, maybe it won't. All I know is that I keep coming back to Guild Wars, and that I have never ever had gotten so much worth out of my money as I have spent on the guild wars games. I love them. Outstanding, and I recommend everyone to give them a shot.
they take a while to get under your skin. it all is monotone in the first couple of hours. but once you get the hang out of great skill combos and making your own uniqe build and your very own class.. then it really takes off.
if you have friends to play with, then that's a great starting point, or to be able to find a good guild.
At the end of the day I think the game is a big success. 6 million copies sold for a new franchise, from a new ip, for a new company with a risky business model in a post WoW world, is great.
But I also think that at the end of the day GW is still in the shadow of WoW. I also think that the e-sport element of GW never really took off like something like Starcraft did. Everything considered GW has done great, but I think the misconception and stereotype of the game is that it's a poor mans MMORPG and that it's simple.
Which I think is nonsense. It's true that it doesnt have the social features or the crafting, but the game is honest about being hardcore 100% combat focused, and it truly excells at that across its teamplay foundation and balance and PvE and massive long story mode and optional solo/group play all the way through. it really also has the best balanced and most rewarding combat system out of any online rpg I have tried. Its so much more than many MMORPGs were you just use a few buttons during the end game.
I have been playing MMOs for a long time now(first one I tried was M59) and while I have never been addicted to any of them, I regret how much time I spent on many of them. Because 95% of them are just time consuming just for the sake giving the developers more monthly fee.. not great games. great single player games wouldnt be fun if the gameplay was copy-pasted for hundreds of hours. could you imagine if half-life took 800 hours to complete? if each section had just copy pasted layers of enemies and similiar looking coridors sprinkled on top of each other...? i think many MMOs would be much better had they been faster and streamlined.
I dont see the reward or good feeling in passing on through a big grind. I think its a waste of time, and not worthy feat of skill. its hard to beat a hard game that takes brains, eye cordination or teamwork.. but just something that just takes a long time for the sake of taking long time? I call that a waste of time, and I regret wasting my time.
That's why I feel so strongly for guild wars. perhaps I love the ideology and design behind Guild Wars more than the game itself even. there is no doubt in my mind that it's the right solution to go about it. life is simply to short.. and there are lots of other great games out there.
I don't personally buy the argument that it justifies playing a meaningless grind game because it takes out from the time they would watch TV. I don't watch tv myself, as I find it boring, and I cant tell other people how to live their lives, but thats just my regret. As I said.. I was never addicted. these games never consumed my life. and yes.. i HAD FANTASTIC times in many of the games I played(UO, SWG, Planetside, WoW, LOTRO, DaOC, Conan and more I dont remember) but I also acknowledge that I also had allot of time when I was just playing through grind, frustration and time sinks and money sinks. the fun is in there.. but its surrounded by not so fun parts.. but the good parts mask it.. its particularly dangerous for optimistic people who focus on the positive. "well its not so fun for the next four hours, but then I will lvl and it will be really fun because i get that new skill and can use that cool helmet i got".
Guild Wars has grind objectives too, in terms of collecting faction standing points and completing for titles.. but the great thing is that these things are optional and wont hinder your progress through to becoming as character stat wise as powerful as you can be.
the rest of it is learning to be good player. actually learning what the over 1000 skills do and how to counter each one of them, and each combination to use them.. thats player skill and tactics and I find that much more interesting, soothing and stimulating to focus on rather than math statistics on the character sheet.