Guild Wars is the little MMO that keeps going, bucking the trend of the other models. We will start off with the obvious feature of the game, no monthly fees. Buy one of the three available campaigns (Prophecies, Nightfall, and Factions), create a character and play! I’ve been a long standing player of the game having played through most of Prophecies and Factions at this point. When Nightfall hit, I was very happy. More content for my friends and I to adventure through. But does it stand up to the previous two campaigns? Before I start, here are the system specs of my review PC:
- Athlon 3000XP
- 2 gigbytes of Corsair Value Select RAM
- ASUS A8N-SLI Premium Motherboard
- Nvidia Geforce 7900GT video card
- AC97 Sound
- Logitech MX1000 mouse
The graphics for Guild Wars: Nightfall have changed very little from what we saw when Factions hit store shelves and introduced a DirectX 9 renderer. The game uses a realistic fantasy style that is softened using various post-process effects. Nightfall with all the options turned on looks stunningly beautiful. For those of you running on low end video cards, I can report that the game scales well. If you really must turn down the video options to maximize your framerate, do everything possible to not skimp on the texture detail. That is the one feature that makes the game look the best overall. The other options just enhance the effect greatly, but the texture detail contains the majority of the beautiful artwork for the game. While the graphics are well done, NC Soft took no extra risks with the engine. Because of this, the game doesn’t justify a higher score. Much like the previous titles, Arena.net and NC Soft did an amazing job with the music for this campaign. The music meshes perfectly with the African/Middle Eastern setting of the game, and I found myself booting up the game just to listen to the music. The main instrument used in this title are tribal drums of various timbres. The majority of the music is low stringed instruments and drums all used to support the setting of the game. For missions and other more upbeat events in the game, the music will pick up considerably. Music is one of those things that can make or break the setting of a game, and the designers for Guild Wars: Nightfall did their homework here. For the most part, the controls are the same as the previous two titles. The designers brought to the table several new features that really make this title stand out. With the new Hero features, you now have the ability to adjust their skill setup (as well as your own) in one simple screen. It is very easy to examine the settings for each character in your party (sans henchmen) and make sure you are using a complimentary skill setup. In the same vein, inventory management has been expanded in the exact same manner, making it very easy to adjust the weapon and off hand item that each controllable character has.
Along with the previous Hero controls, you now have small control panels that you can bring up on screen, one for each Hero you control. You can use this panel to watch their energy usage and health levels and even determine which skills each Hero can and can’t use. You can set them to attack a particular target, or use the skill buttons to trigger a skill you need right then. Aside from movement, you have pretty much the same control you have over your own character in this screen. This allows for some detailed skill coordination, such as ‘spiking’ (defined as the group all casting high damage spells or skills at the same time) or enchanting a creature before attacking it with one of your own skills.
Did I complain you couldn’t move the characters where you wanted to? Well, I can’t really, as it is possible to place flags on the ground that define where a Hero (or Henchmen) are allowed to move. This feature lets you lay ambushes for various creatures or keep your fragile second rank characters out of harms way. You can place a general flag that all Heroes and Henchment will stand at, as well as place a flag for each Hero (1,2, and 3). The henchmen will only respond to the first flag, and the Heroes will return to the first flag if their individual flag is cancelled. All Heroes/Henchment return to your side when all flags are cancelled. It goes a long way to allowing you to control the other NPCs in your party.
The gameplay in Guild Wars: Nightfall is virtually unchanged from the previous two installments. The high score primarily goes to the fact that Arena.net and NC Soft seem to have found the balance between Prophecies and Factions campaigns. There are 17 missions and over 250 quests for players to adventure on, earning experience, gold, and skill points as you travel. An important feature to many of the quests for this campaign is the Sunspear Promotion points that are earned on quests and on bounties. Various scouts and priests in each zone now offer XP and Sunspear points for various creatures in the same zone. The bounty appears on your screen much like other buffs/debuffs, staying there until you return to town or travel to another zone. They typically ask you to kill giant creatures, or insects, or various enemy Elonians who wander the zone. Earning these points will advance you along the track to being a Sunspear General and opening up new quests along the way.
The development team has also gotten much more intelligent in their use of instances and zones to present dynamic content. I found several areas set up as non-town zones that would change as I rescued people, completed major quests, and earned Sunspear Points. (I can’t stress this enough…earn Sunspear points at EVERY opportunity. It will make play through the later campaign go much faster.) Also, they have worked hard on making missions fun to complete by changing up goals and providing new ways to earn bonus mission points (typically there will be three *somethings* you have to protect, defeat or find.) This is a nice change from Prophecies much simpler bonus mission setup, and Factions’ timed mission setup. All in all, Nightfall really brought me back to Guild Wars after being somewhat disappointed in Factions’ campaign.
Guild Wars: Nightfall has a fair amount of content for the package. Much like the campaign, the overall game falls right between Prophecies and Factions in terms of new skills, new classes, and the Hero content. With 350 campaign specific skills, Nightfall provides new ways to enjoy the PvP content currently in the game by giving you new ways to fight your opponents. In terms of overall value, this is a solid game and has a lot to play whether you own the previous two titles in the series, or are just starting out.