Zoe’s MMO Corner: Guild Wars

Hi guys, I’m Zoe, an old friend of your normal blog writer.  Since we like very different kinds of games, I’m popping in probably once a month to review a different MMORPG to get some other types of games up here.  Enjoy!

Guild Wars is a one time payment swords-and-sorcery RPG following the journey of the heroic PC out of Ascalon after a great disaster has befallen its people, forcing them to find a new home.

History and Development

Guild Wars was developed by ArenaNet, who basically only makes Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 stuff because, I don’t know, commitment?  Some of the staff came from Blizzard originally and were involved in World of Warcraft development but left to pursue games that “took more risks” whatever that meant (ostensibly not price gouging or something).  Guild Wars was on the leading edge of the whole one time payment method of MMOs which made them pretty damn popular among my gang when I first started playing, let me tell you.

Guild Wars focuses a lot of its PvP (which I can’t really speak to because I don’t like PvP, sue me) but also on the environment of the whole thing.  Let me tell you, for its time, this game was frakkin’ gorgeous.  I mean, it’s still not bad (I logged in a few weeks ago just to look around and yeah, it holds up) but its nothing compared to what ANet is doing now (Coming soon: Guild Wars 2 review, you’ll see what I mean).  But Guild Wars set down a lot of what people now expect out of games visually.  I mean, let me show you some screenshots here:

This is from 2005, guys, and if you’re not impressed by that, you probably shouldn’t be using the internet.

I played Guild Wars in high school.  As in before all the expansions came out. Yes, I’m old, get over it.  But for me, Guild Wars would forever shape what I looked for in an MMO–namely, no other people.  See, Guild Wars uses this sort of odd multiplayer system (more on this later) that basically means that you don’t have to see anyone for most of the game.  And as someone who has always been absolutely TERRIBLE at making online friends, probably because I’m convinced they’re all going to either turn out to be 60 year old dudes or middle school boys, neither of which is a demographic I particularly like, Guild Wars made it easy for me to play an MMO like a single player game.

This later bit me in the ass.

Confession time, I have never finished the Guild Wars Prophecies campaign despite having played it for about eight years.  This is one of my greatest shames.

Character Creation

One race–human, obviously, let’s be boring–and six classes: Warrior, Monk (healer), Ranger, Elementalist (mage), Mesmer (illusionist), Necromancer.  Decent customization, but pretty stock.  At the time, the height slider was pretty new to MMOs and it was super fun because I have a thing for playing massively tall lady characters (more on this in the future).

At character creation you chose one class and then a couple of levels in you got a second one so you could sort of specialize to a certain extent, which was fun.  I liked to play Warrior/Monks which was basically the tankiest tank to ever tank–I have a fondness for tanks, I’m sure this’ll come up again–but there was a lot of possibility and that was pretty neat.


The story of Guild Wars Prophecies–the first campaign–is huge.  Yesterday I tried to explain it and found out what a mess it is.  I started with “These giant cat things blow up your country with fire magic…” and sixty million steps later found myself saying “…and then you have to go out to the desert and go through these trials so you ascend or something” and realized that I had to stop.  And that was only half way through.  The story is vast.  It just keeps going.  When I was playing it, I remember being like, “Oh, yeah, of course this makes total sense,” but looking back on it, it kind of doesn’t.  It feels a little like stuff doesn’t build on itself, it just happens.  There is a LOT of plot.  Like, soap opera levels of plot.


Here’s the weird thing about Guild Wars: when you leave a town, it becomes a single player game.  No, seriously, you enter your own instance that’s just you and your party, should you chose to have one.  On the one hand, this is super cool because it cut out the PvE player competition for quest goals, but on the other, it was a sort of isolating experience and, for people like me, it made it even more difficult to be invested in the player base.  They did give you henchmen, but once you hit the level cap (which was 20, can you believe that?) the henchmen were shit.

The PvE storyline ran through missions, which were basically a series of dungeons spread out across the world map that filled in every player in a solo format–you would go to the mission location, enter the instance alone or with your party, complete the story, and pop out the other side with a new objective and the feeling that you were pretty awesome and the hero of Tyria or whatever.

Yeah, I wasn’t kidding about how massive this game is.

The level cap though was a problem because you hit that about half way through the game.  And there wasn’t a whole lot more you could do.  Armor and weaponry only did so much.  So they had this system in place where you could kill bosses and farm their skills, if you were of the same class, but let me tell you THAT PART SUCKED.  A lot.  Because you couldn’t choose what you got, oh no, and there were a lot of skills and so you’d just have to run around murdering things to steal their abilities in hopes that you’d get the right thing.  Unless you looked that stuff up.  Which I didn’t, on principle.

THAT is the reason I never finished it.  I got to this one place out in the desert where I could never complete the mission (I tried for a month, yes, A MONTH) and it was isolating so I didn’t have anyone to help me and I died a lot and my skills weren’t good enough and I was level twenty and everything around me was level twenty-seven and it was…frustrating.



The Good

I always really liked the story and that kept me coming back for a long time, even though it is kind of rambling and confused and just keeps going.  The combat itself wasn’t half bad and the quests were relatively interesting, though still very MMO (fetch and gather, mass murder, escort, the usual).  The design and aesthetic were great (except for the female elementalists, someone need to get those ladies some clothing, poor things) and the world felt massive, which was super freakin’ cool.

Why do games do this?  I honestly do not understand.

The Bad

At the time I thought the open world all alone thing was awesome but now as someone who knows some of the benefits of having people, I’m willing to say that was a weak point of the game.  The community was also pretty iffy–I mean, there was a reason I avoided them.  Also, part of the way through you sort of lost any side quests and it turned into a massive hellish grindfest.

The Ugly

Stupid skill farming.  Stupid bosses.  Stupid stupid stupid.

From here…?

I don’t know.  I honestly want to finish this game and it’s on my list of shit I have to do before I die, but on the other hand, there’s not a whole lot that makes me want to go back and play it.  It’s not because it’s not good, because it is, because it’s fantastic and it did a lot for me and still does, but I have some serious trauma involving the Crystal Desert and it’s hard for me to get past that.

I’ve been looking at this view for literally three years and I never want to do it again.

Besides–and here’s what this comes down to–ANet did something that makes me not want to play Guild Wars again.  And that thing is…

Guild Wars 2.

Next Month: Guild Wars 2 and a lot of ranting about nine-foot-tall viking ladies.


One thought on “Zoe’s MMO Corner: Guild Wars

  1. Lukas Kenison

    I swear, I feel like I am the only person who likes the first Guild Wars more than Guild Wars 2. I just don’t like the lack of quests in Guild Wars 2, it feels more like grinding than anything I have ever done (Okay that’s not true, Runescape is much grindier) becuase its literally just “do stuff to fill up hearts” with the occasionaly random event. I prefer my MMO’s to be guided along a rail as it were, being able to take quests at my pace, and feeling like I’ve accomplished something awesome when I complete the main quests. All of that was missing from Guild Wars 2, also my favorite class – the Dervish – was not in Guild Wars 2 which made me sad.


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