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An MMORPG Without The Extra Green
Published on January 14, 2006 By mittens In MMORPG
Yes, yes, I'm only six days late on this. And it'll probably be significantly shorter than the previous ones, but, hey. Gift horse, baby.

Guild Wars -- Publisher: NCSoft, Developer: ArenaNet
Back in the days of yore, when MMORPG gamers were regarded with a kind of label best defined as "Oh my God, I can't believe you're paying extra-per-month to play a silly number game -- nerd," there were a select few MMORPGs that were actually worth paying for. And, to this particular guy, there still are a select few MMORPGs that are actually worth paying for, and by that, I mean none. Sure, World of Warcraft has hit my fancy "occasionally" (read here, here, and here), but that's about it. Star Wars Galaxies was fun for a couple days as well, though now it's just... Hahaha. Oh, man, that was one hell of a joke if I do say so myself.

Anyway, following the previous logic, I figured it to be only natural that a game like Guild Wars would hit my fancy. No pay-per-month fees, a focus on skill-based gaming, and a fairly fast-paced combat system. I got on a beta -- betas, actually, as by the time the game was released I had participated in, roughly, five or six beta "sessions." Some public, some not. The game was a lot of fun, but as the beta sessions progressed, I gradually lost interest in playing the game. Sure, it was fun, but the beta sessions were the same fun. Over, and over, and over.

Come release day, and I do mean release day, I held a nice, purty little copy of the game in my hands and I hurried home to enjoy this much-hyped anti-MMORPG MMORPG (with no monthly fees, yaytastic). And enjoy it I did, immensely. The game, to this day, reigns supreme as the game with the most hours sunk into it, or so dictates the mighty Xfire. The game, on its own, was a lot of fun, but the main reason I'd say I got so much fun and joy out of it can be attributed entirely to the fact that I played the game with a very hefty amount of friends. I think every Internet Friend (not to be confused with a real friend) I had ever known was playing under the veil of one sacred guild known as the "Order of Serenity" (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) -- with me at the helm.

And so we played together, died together, and rejoiced in numerous victories together for about a solid month and a half. And this is when it dawned upon us all (roughly) that the game just wasn't really meant to be a major timesink like every other MMORPG ever created. There were a lot of fun items, a lot of skills to earn, find, and steal, a couple really tough "zones" (Underworld and The Fissure, or some such), and a fairly hefty campaign (a series of missions which could be played with 4-8 people, if memory serves)... But it was quite clear to who all who played the game that the player-vs-player (PvP) was the meat and 'taters of the game.

And, don't get me wrong, the PvP in Guild Wars is unmatched in its visceral, frantic nature. It's an incredibly fun experience going into a few PvP matches with seven of your bestest buddies to back you up in your journey to the "Hall of Heroes," a multi-layered series of battles against numerous other teams with the same goal. In fact, I can safely say that we had a great deal of exciting battles throughout the history of our guild's endeavors... But eventually we all got discourages due to the fact that the other people playing the game were simply so good that unless we devoted ourselves to being a fairly specialized team, we didn't really have a chance after the first two or three matches.

It was a discouraging discovery, to be sure, but we then turned our heads to doing some of the ridiculously hard open segments of the game, namely the Underworld and The Fissure (I can't remember if these are the actual names). And while these areas were difficult, as well as providing us with some really awesome battles against the game's AI monsterthingies, they were just too long a commitment for a majority of us to endure. We're talking a good four to five hours in these areas if you wanted to beat them to completion, and it's really hard to keep eight casual players focused for that length of time.

Though Guild Wars is still the most fun I've had in an MMORPG, even if it is a quasi-MMORPG. The "campaign" is some of the most fun I've had in online gaming in recent years, but the rest of the game just required too much dedication for me to really enjoy. So, once I had gone through the campaign missions a number of times on one character, and half of them with another character, I was just burnt out and have yet to pick up the game again. Although with the upcoming stand-alone expansion, Guild Wars: Factions, I may think about getting back into the game.

In closing, I would also like to say that ArenaNet has really gone above-and-beyond with support and upgrades to Guild Wars since the games release. They have patched the game with so many upgraded and new features since the launch that it's amazing they have the resources to do all this, despite the lack of monthly fees imposed on players. They have also gone quite crazy with a number of holiday seasons, throwing in things like pumpkin helmets and gingerbread shields. Kudos to you, ArenaNet.

Now... Only three more games to go and I can get back to being the emo blogboy that I am.
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