Updated on 13 April, 2012.
When I was a young girl, my father fought in the guild wars. He gave up his life keeping our home safe. Because of his sacrifice I grew up to know the meaning of the word peace. But now a new threat rises from the west, a malevolence that seeks to destroy all my father fought for...
– Guild Wars trailer
Guild Wars is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Play Game (MMORPG) produced by ArenaNet, the North American company owned by NCsoft. There are no monthly fees, so once you have bought the game you can play until the server is shut down.
The story of Guild Wars takes place in a fantasy setting with many different landscapes and cultures. The only playable race is human, but other races play an important part in the story of the game.
Many modern online games split players between different servers - a player can only interact with other players on the same server and cannot change server. Guild Wars, on the other hand, does not have different servers. Players meet in towns and outposts; new districts or dimensions of these outposts are automatically created if too many people are there, but unless one dimension is completely full, a player can switch between them and meet friends at any time. Once an outpost has been visited, it is possible to travel there from any other place in the game within seconds.
All outdoor areas are completely instanced, which means that every time you enter an area, your team will be the only one there and all monsters are reset. On the other hand, there is usually no respawn1 either, so if you have killed one monster, it will not come back unless you enter the same area from outside again. This also gives players the option to choose if they want to see an area in normal mode or hard mode, with tougher enemies and better rewards.
Like in most online RPGs, death is not permanent. Unlike others, though, rather than evoking a penalty in experience, forcing you to earn it back, you get a 'death penalty'. While this may sound like your character is being executed, it is not. They simply have their maximum Health and Energy reduced temporarily. This can be worked off by gaining experience (EXP), but the effects go away completely if you go to a city, or town, or complete the mission.
Guild Wars has three different campaigns: Prophecies, Factions and Nightfall; and the add-on Eye of the North. All campaigns can be bought and played individually, but Eye of the North needs one of the campaigns already installed. They all play in different areas of the world map, but it is possible to travel from one part of the game to the capital city of any other part.
The main story of every part of Guild Wars is told in a Primary Questline which includes some repeatable missions that usually mark important points in the story. Many rendered cut scenes2 make it unnecessary to read long quest texts to understand what is going on and add personality to the different characters.
In addition to the campaigns and the add-on, there is also the Bonus Mission Pack which lets the player take on the personality of some important heroes in the world of Guild Wars and see their story. During these missions, the character has the appearance and skills of these heroes.
Design and Music
The design of Guild Wars does not try to make the game look as realistic as possible but more like a painting – not a comic or a crude painting style but very detailed and aesthetic. The whole game environment is like a garden in which every tree is planted for a purpose, to make a specific impression on the viewer. Although Guild Wars is a 3d game, it is not possible to jump. This lack of the ability to jump or even fly allows the designers to 'force' players to run certain ways and see certain things from the perspective that is intended. This way the game has impressive and unexpected views, making the player feel like they are walking through a painting. Parts of the landscape can never be reached and only serve as scenery.
Jeremy Soule's epic orchestral music underlines the diversity of the landscapes and cultures in the game3. Every landscape and every important character in the story has their own music theme which shows their personality. Often these themes are interwoven with the main theme of Guild Wars, which is calm and heavy on stringed instruments.
Core Professions and Skills
Two monk-warriors meet. One heals, the other doesn't do any damage either.
– found on wartower.de
Professions are what other games often call classes: specific roles that players choose to take on in the game. Guild Wars has six core professions which are available in every campaign.
Warriors are melee fighters with heavy armour but little healing. They can use three different weapons: swords, axes and hammers. The first two can be combined with a shield for extra defense.
Rangers are the only profession that can charm animals which will then help them in battle. The Rangers themselves stay at a distance, using bows to attack and traps to keep their enemies away. They can also summon nature spirits to enhance allies and hinder their foes.
Monks are the main healer profession in the game. They support their party with protection and health and can reflect damage.
Elementalists are spellcasters that use the four elemental forces in combat; every element has unique effects on enemies and friends. Fire does area damage and inflicts burning, earth also inflicts damage on an area but also protects, water slows down enemies and lightning penetrates armour and inflicts most damage on a single target.
Necromancers curse enemies to make them less effective in battle and to steal their health. Once the opponent is dead Necromancers can order their corpse to fight for them. Up to ten undead minions of a single Necromancer can swarm over a battlefield under their command. Additionally, Necromancers can give energy to their allies.
Mesmers are masters of illusion, domination and inspiration. They are not specialised in directly dealing damage but in ensuring that their enemies won't do any damage themselves. They turn their targets' attacks against them, interrupt their skills and remove their energy and health.
Every character has one primary and one secondary profession. The primary profession is chosen at character creation and cannot be changed. It determines which weapons, armour and runes (armour upgrade components) a character can use and also their primary attribute. The secondary profession is chosen later in the game and can be changed so the character can fulfil whatever role is necessary at the time.
A warrior, for instance, has the attributes strength (primary), hammer mastery, axe mastery, swordsmanship and tactics. A monk has the attributes divine favour (primary), healing prayers, smiting prayers and protection prayers. If you choose to make your character a warrior with a secondary profession of monk, then the character will have have both primary and secondary attributes of the warrior and the secondary attributes of the monk, but not divine favour, because it's the monk's primary and only 'real' monks can have that.
The 'skill system' itself is a bit more complex than is customary. As you gain experience and progress in the game, you earn attribute points and skill points - a sort of money to 'buy' skills with. The easiest way to get those skills is to find a skill trainer. One skill point lets you learn one skill.
The player chooses skills from both primary and secondary professions of his character and can have one primary and seven secondary skills. The effectiveness of each skill is determined by the level the user has in the attribute associated with it. To increase these levels, one must spend attribute points. Each profession has hundreds of unique skills, but the character can only have eight of them at the same time.
One of these skills can be an elite skill that is acquired by killing an enemy who has this skill. In towns and outposts it is possible to change the skills, but not during combat, which means a player has to choose carefully which skills he wants to use for which purpose and in which team of characters.
This system of primary and secondary professions is of course very hard to balance, as every combination of two professions should be equally good. In reality this does not work; there are always better and worse combinations, which is especially a problem in PvP (playing against other people).
Levels and Titles
I don't know how to put this but I'm kind of a big deal... I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.
– Ron Burgundy in the movie Anchorman, 2004
The maximum level in Guild Wars is only 20, but levels are not as important as in other games. Almost all of the game content is designed for level 20 characters and reaching that level is only the start. From then on, it's not the character that has to grow, but the player that has to improve their playing style and skill sets.
So what else is there to achieve when the maximum level is reached? First of all there is the fun of playing the whole story and seeing how it progresses, and then there are titles.
Titles are the true levels of Guild Wars; they can be visually displayed as statues in the Hall of Monuments of every player. Titles can be earned for simple but expensive things like consuming an unimaginably big number of sweets or amount of alcohol, but also for great achievements such as killing all monsters in all areas of a campaign, unlocking 100% of the map or conquering elite areas.
Earning the maximum level of a title counts toward yet another title which players can show off to their friends. Five maximum titles, for instance, makes you 'Kind Of A Big Deal' 4.
Armour and Weapons
In Guild Wars, armour cannot be looted from monsters but has always to be bought from shop NPCs5 or traded for bounties. Every profession has their own types of armour with a special design that usually makes the profession of a character recognisable immediately. Standard armour is available at different character levels at reasonable prices which makes it easy to get. There is also elite armour which has the same stats as the highest standard armour but is much, much more expensive and usually looks more impressive.
All armour pieces can be dyed and improved individually with Runes and Insignias that for instance add attribute points or health.
Weapons come in different qualities and shapes. Every profession can use all types of weapons which can be looted, found in chests, gained as rewards at the end of a campaign or bought at a weapon smith. Weapon stats are customisable in a trade-skill process.
Henchmen, Heroes and Mercenary Heroes
If you can't beat them... arrange to have them beaten.
– Vekk, Asura hero
Although Guild Wars is an MMORPG, it is possible to play most of the campaigns alone, without other players. This can be done by using Henchmen and Heroes.
Henchmen are NPCs that can be found in all towns and outposts of the game. They can be invited to join a group in the same way as players and will fight alongside the player once the group leaves the outpost. Their level depends on the location of the outpost and the player only has limited control over what the henchmen do.
During their journey, characters meet NPCs that become their friends and are then available as Heroes who help them on their adventures. Just like henchmen, heroes can be invited in every outpost, but the player himself can choose their skills, weapons and armour and change everything just like he does with his own player character. In combat, the player also has more control over heroes than over henchmen; he can for instance choose the skill he wants a hero to use at any time and individually move them to different places. Heroes also gain levels at the same pace as player characters. A total of 27 heroes of all professions are available in Guild Wars and the maximum number of people in a group is eight, which means that there is plenty of choice. Heroes require at least either Nightfall or Eye of the North to be bought.
Mercenary Heroes can be bought for real money and behave like normal heroes but have the appearance and armour of other characters on a player's account.
Do you seek to serve the God of Death? The challenges you shall face in the Underworld are far greater than any you have experienced in the mortal realm.
– The Voice of Grenth
Some areas of Guild Wars can almost only be played completely with other real players. These elite areas are used to get end game equipment and crafting materials for the most expensive armours.
Each of these areas has its own questline that leads the players through them. At the end waits a chest that drops high quality items that are usually unique to the area. Additionally the players gain a title by playing through the whole questline of one area.
The core elite areas are the Underworld and the Fissure of Woe, which can be reached from every campaign. In the Underworld, players help Grenth, the current god of death, to fight against his evil predecessor Dhuum. Balthazar, the god of war, is engaged in battle with his half-brother Menzies. Here players can get the most expensive and prestigious armour in Guild Wars - but not necessarily the most beautiful.
Guilds and Player versus Player
Balthazar, The Blade of Conflict, offers mortals many ways to prove our valor.
– High Priest Zhang
Guilds are formed by players coming together in a formal group for a longer period of time. If one character on an account joins a Guild, all other characters are automatically part of this Guild too. Every guild has its own chat channel and can buy one of 16 available guild halls and a special customisable cape for their members to wear. Up to ten guilds can form an alliance together.
While Guilds are helpful in Player versus Environmnet (PvE) games6, they are essential for Guild vs Guild Player versus Player (PvP) mode7. In this kind of PvP, two guilds fight against each other in their guild halls. The top 1,000 guilds are tracked by the Guild Wars website.
Another type of PvP in Guild Wars is Random Arenas and the Codex Arena. In Random Arenas, two random teams of four players fight against each other on 13 different maps, which are also chosen randomly. Every map has its own objectives. The Codex Arena also has fights which pit four against four, but players have to form their teams in advance. Each team can have only one character from each profession and the skills of every player have to be chosen from a list - the so called Codex - which changes daily.
One of the most important places for PvP is Heroes' Ascent. Here, teams of eight players fight a continuous tournament on 11 different maps. Up to 24 players can be on any one map at the same time. Winning teams proceed to the next round, losing teams have to go back to the start. At the end, the best two or three teams meet in the Hall of Heroes, where they have their final fight. Only one Hall of Heroes fight can take place at a time. The winning team gets reward points and items from a chest.
PvP is an important aspect of Guild Wars, but it is also a very different experience and almost a different game from the PvE content. It is even possible to play only the PvP content of the game, by creating a PvP character. This character is level 20 from the start and is not able to play PvE content.
In PvP, the skills a character is equipped with change. Not all skills can be used in PvP and some have different stats, for instance the duration time of a spell can be different in PvE and PvP. This is to ensure a balanced game.
Guild Wars Beyond
To make everyone ready for the new game Guild Wars 2, the Guild Wars Beyond content was introduced to the original Guild Wars game. This content tells stories that happen after the story-lines of the original campaigns and helps to explain how the world will change during the 250 years that lie between Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2.
Reach Out and Take Hold of Your Destiny
People often think that Guild Wars is a PvP-only game, which is very far from the truth. Guild Wars is a game for players who like PvP, but at the same time it is also a game for PvE players and people who just enjoy a good story. It can be played by casual gamers, who will appreciate the lack of monthly fees, but also by very experienced gamers who will have fun with the complexity. Players who like the community side of a game will find many guilds, while lone wolves can play most of the content without the help of others and at their own pace. The graphics are absolutely stunning if one takes into account that the first part of the game was published in 2005. Although it does not cost any more money than the initial joining fee, features and quests are added on a regular basis.
The artwork for this Guide Entry has been provided by ArenaNet. © 2011 ArenaNet, Inc. All rights reserved. NCsoft, the interlocking NC logo, ArenaNet, Arena.net, Guild Wars, Guild Wars Factions, Factions, Guild Wars Nightfall, Nightfall, Guild Wars: Eye of the North, Eye of the North, Guild Wars 2, and all associated logos and designs are trademarks or registered trademarks of NCsoft Corporation. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.