Guild Wars Nightfall Hands-On - Playing With Heroes, the New Classes, and Controlling a Giant Worm

The next chapter in the Guild Wars saga is almost complete, and we got our hands on it to check out the new gameplay features.

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Guild Wars is a game that falls into a niche of its own. It's not a massively multiplayer online game, nor does it charge a subscription fee, though you will play it online with other players and you'll explore and fight in a fantasy world that continues to grow with the release of stand-alone chapters. The next of these chapters, Guild Wars Nightfall, is almost upon us. Nightfall follows developer ArenaNet's philosophy of adding new gameplay features with each major release of Guild Wars, and we had a chance to get our hands on the almost-finished version of Nightfall to engage in some epic new hero battles.

Welcome to Elona, the setting of Guild Wars Nightfall, the newest entry in the ongoing Guild Wars saga.

The big new feature in Nightfall is the addition of heroes, unique characters that play significant roles in the campaign's storyline. And yes, we did say "storyline." That's because ArenaNet is looking to deliver a more comprehensive narrative than in earlier Guild Wars games. The story has you starting Nightfall as a new member of Order of the Sunspears, the military order that protects the subcontinent of Elona, an arid and dry land that's the setting of the new campaign. After the Sunspears are defeated in battle at the beginning of the game, you have to help rebuild the order, and this will allow you to gain ranks and titles as you move up the promotion ladder. Your ultimate goal will be to find out what evil is threatening Elona and take it down, and that promises to be quite an adventure.

There are approximately 20 missions in the game, and each has opening and end cinematics complete with voice-overs to advance the story. The opening mission, for instance, explains the tactical situation after the defeat of the Sunspears. Trapped behind enemy lines, you must help the survivors escape by eliminating enemy patrols and sentry posts. From there, the story will deepen, as you discover things about the world and the forces at work in it. Meanwhile, there are 12 heroes in the game, and they're tightly woven into the story. Some missions require the presence of certain heroes, and other heroes will be available at the completion of other missions. In fact, you may have to choose between two different heroes to accompany you, which means the one that you don't choose won't be available until you beat the story and unlock everything in the game. Heroes are far more powerful and customizable than the henchmen you might have traveled with in Guild Wars or Guild Wars Factions. You can customize a hero, all the way down to the skills the hero uses, or the hero's inventory.

The dervish is one of the two new classes in Nightfall, and it's designed for those who like to get close in a fight.

The advantages of heroes are numerous. If you're playing as a role-playing character and just want to battle creatures and chase quests, you can use heroes to flesh out your party, so you don't have to find other players to adventure with you. You can have up to three heroes with you at any one time, but you can also fill out the rest of an eight-man party with henchmen. This will let you explore much of the game by yourself, though the optimal party will have two players. With two players with three heroes each, you have a full eight-member party that consists of powerful characters. And if you want to battle against other players directly, the new hero mode lets you go head-to-head against another player, where you get to pit your characters and heroes against one another. The battles in hero mode aren't simple team deathmatches; rather, there are objectives in the game that force you to think. For instance, you might have to seize certain spots on the map, and you can deploy your heroes around or keep them concentrated together.

Giving orders to your heroes is easy. A set of buttons tucked under the minimap lets you give orders to the group as a whole, or to each individual hero. Simply select a button and then click anywhere on the map to place a flag down. The hero or heroes will move to that flag. To rally everyone together, simply get rid of the flag and they'll all come back to you. Other controls on the interface let you adjust each hero's skills. Each hero has a small set of starting skills that are unlocked when you get that hero. Heroes will also have access to whatever skills you've unlocked on your account. The customization options are such that you can specialize each hero to fill any kind of need. "So if you want to make a protection monk, or a healing monk, or a smiting monk...you can do that," said lead designer James Phinney, giving an example of how you can take a regular monk and give it a valuable specialty. You'll also be able to teach heroes new unique skills, thanks to hero trainers. As you rise in rank, you get hero skill points that you can use to unlock hero-specific skills. Simply find one of the new hero trailers. These differ from regular trainers in that they specialize only in hero skills, and they don't charge gold for them, just hero skill points.

(On a cool note, while you don't need to own Guild Wars or Guild Wars Factions to play Nightfall, there is a neat reward if you do. There's a unique hero based on each of those two campaigns, and you can travel back to Tyria and Cantha and unlock them. Not only that, but you can also adventure around the original campaign settings with your heroes.)

Heroes will let you adventure with a tough party, even if you're playing by yourself.

Aside from heroes, the other major new feature in Nightfall are the two new classes: the paragon and the dervish. The paragon has been described as sort of a battle commander, and we certainly found that to be the case. This class doesn't dish out quite the same amount of damage as the other classes, but the key is to not get into the fight directly, but to support your teammates in battle using the paragon's skills. A paragon can boost the fighting abilities of a party so that it inflicts more damage quickly. The dervish, on the other hand, is perfect for getting in the midst of a fight, as the class' trademark scythe can inflict damage on up to three opponents with each swing. Many of the dervishes' abilities are geared toward being able to inflict large amounts of damage on multiple enemies simultaneously. And the dervish can also shape shift into the shape of one of the gods in Guild Wars. This is an incredibly powerful ability, but it leaves the dervish vulnerable afterwards, and it can't be used all that often.

The mix of heroes and missions seems interesting, and Nightfall is able to go into territory that the previous two Guild Wars could not. For example, one mission requires you to navigate through a region so toxic that your character will die if he or she is caught in the middle of it. The solution is to accomplish a series of quests that eventually lead you to defeating the queen of a race of wurms, gigantic sand worms that can move through the toxic region. If you gain the queen's respect by proving you can stand up to her in a fight, you'll be able to enlist her offspring. Basically, a wurm will come out of the sand and "swallow" your character. Don't worry, your character is actually being carried in the wurm's maw. But you'll now control the wurm directly and have access to many wurm-specific skills, such as being able to rear the wurm's body out of the ground and body slam an opponent for massive amounts of damage. It's a very cool sight to see, and a very different experience from anything you might have seen in earlier Guild Wars games. Nightfall seems to have something new for every type of Guild Wars player, from the role-playing fans to the player-versus-player fans, and it'll launch October 27.

Discussion

54 comments
DRUNK_CANADIAN
DRUNK_CANADIAN

Something tells me the dervish is going to be imbalanced as #*@& I am totally buying this, but can you travel to past areas if you dont have the 2 original versions, I love GW but i dont got me CDs

SoberWarock
SoberWarock

Oh I hope the original Guildwars is still good for a few more years, because I just bought the game.

Darkstar_Sinada
Darkstar_Sinada

I for one liked Factions just as much as Prophecies, it just took a different approach. And for those saying they only spend 6 months on each expansion, they have two teams, so each expansion is in development for about a year.

rong626
rong626

Nightfall will offically PWN world of warcraft!

sarevoc1
sarevoc1

Heroes sound like a micromanagement nightmare... but then again Anet usually has a way of surprising me. I've already pre-ordered the expansion. Guild Wars in general wipes the floor with anything else in the market... If you like on-line RPGs, you can't go wrong with any of the GW titles.

2ndproof
2ndproof

MAn im behhind in guildwars as it is i still neeto get factions but who cares this ones guna be wiked

_Sam_
_Sam_

I'll probably check this out when it's released

LuffyTubby
LuffyTubby

this game will be the best game of all time!

igl
igl

factions was kindo lame but still worth getting it, but this one rocked at the preview weekend, lots of cool stuff and explore and play with

WisdomLink
WisdomLink

I would never would have thought that being wurm food would benefit me...

SaintIy
SaintIy

wub wub wub wub --- Zoidberg

bobreturns
bobreturns

i was gonna get this but then i lost interest in the GW series

Mkherkzen
Mkherkzen

Wurm riding seems cool for me ;) Other features are also interesting. I need to check the Dervish - it looks like I'm going to love that profession :D

Vlad_md
Vlad_md

Have you played the preview, Lazy_Marine? There was one mission with time bonus (the first one) and another with classic bonus. I like the luxon vs. kurziks thing in factions, makes up for the lost pve feel. I think nightfall will have new features as well, besides heroes and wurms; and it unites two distinct types of gameplay, as i noticed.

Merl57
Merl57

WOW lol. They should have wurm rodeo mingames. And Wurm pvp.

fish_food
fish_food

This game will be the best online RPG of all time. I played the beta. I swear.. nightfall kills the two other games!!! you HAVE TO TRY THIS. OMFG...

Staryoshi87
Staryoshi87

Factions was alright, i didn't like the turbo charged pve, though, but nightfall looks to be a good balance of the two....if i can't reserve a wii by the 27th i'll have to pick this up =P

pashark
pashark

Great game GW, but Factions ruined the pve gameplay to power the pvp.. Now Nightfall is promising to draw the two type of gp.

cjcr_alexandru
cjcr_alexandru

An expansion to a free MMO RPG... Sounds good... if you have become bored of WoW.

Lazy_Marine
Lazy_Marine

Although GW is one of the best mmo's/rpg i've played, Factions really made me lost my trust in ArenaNET, they really ruined the game with that expansion in many aspects, anyone who played factions after prohecies knows what i'm refering to. Unfortunately nightfall STILL has the "time" bonus in missions, and from beta testers i hear hero system basically destroyed what's left of teamplay in GW (and you thought getting a grp in factions was hard). ArenaNET need to work on their expansion packs longer instead of rushing them every 6 moths to meet their "policy"

Glordit
Glordit

I just got Factions, so I am definately gona get this!

danyjr
danyjr

looks promising :)

djbeast
djbeast

I just cant wait for this game!!! ... Soon,very soon!

Rock915
Rock915

Do we get to body slam the weak points of giant crabs? If so this game is sooo next gen...atleast according to sony. Hope this expansion is good i was very disappointed with Factions.

nitrog
nitrog

hmm until i read this i wasn't quite sure i was going to get this expansion but it sounds like i am going to want to be a paragon and also sounds like it's gonna be excelent addition to the team. can't wait to go get my special cantha and ascalon heros.

AL13NK1LL3R
AL13NK1LL3R

whhaattt... another chapter.. but i just got fractions haha.. dam.. this game is very fun and i'm ready for another chapter woot woot...

Dezuria
Dezuria

We can body slam for MASSIVE DAMAGE

Fig_The_Second
Fig_The_Second

I would like to see the Guild wars game be longer, because factions seemed way to short, but I did like the kurzicks vs. luxons scenario. that kept that game going for a little bit longer.

Whytewulv
Whytewulv

In the preview I made one of the Mink heroes Minion Master... I had to control him a bit so he didnt keep making a Flesh golem, but besides that, he really was a better MM than many players Ive seen! haha Flip side.. he was a losy monk to begin with ;) Kailin Aer

Kh1ndjal
Kh1ndjal

cool! boy, these worm riders were out of business since EMperor: battle for dune glad they got a job again ^^

Cerberussian
Cerberussian

Soon.... soon it will be mine! Got the pre-release pack already for about month.

barnibus0
barnibus0

Wurms? I like how they spelled it..... God, I need this game! .....Good thing I preordered it! (Victory gloating dance) This game seems to be getting a (albeit,optional) tune up to small Real Time Strategy elements. God bless you, Arena Net. God bless you, too, Gamespot, for providing insight on this Awesome series! Wurms=Olde' European way of saying 'Dragons', learned from some Dragon book. Just a thought.

Zweihanderhero
Zweihanderhero

Only wish they'd release a box set for Guild Wars. I've always wanted to play the game but finding Factions and the original game is a pain in the ass since all the shops i go to don't have them in stock anymore...

MrDouglas
MrDouglas

Love the idea of being a battle commander, ordering my computer-controlled heroes and henchmen about in combat sounds like a lot of fun!

Iroquois1
Iroquois1

Another thing they dont mention about the Heroes. When you start dancing in the wilderness, they either dance with you or start playing instruments. Now that's fun!

radiocreed
radiocreed

Sounds, looks like I'll be getting it.

WisdomLink
WisdomLink

Hmmm, there's an addition of hero trainers which weren't available in the preview event and hero only skills, missions that require you to do certain quests to explore certain areas of the mission, and quests that gives you the ability to command wurms to swallow you and control them to attack foes. This is going to be a great GW game. :D 8)

Poki3
Poki3

I don't know, but in the Preview Event there where no Skill rewards for quests, Though each hero comes with some basic skills and all of them are unlocked for you when you recruit him/her. There is also a Training mission, and the Job change mission, and those offer you extra skills, much like those in Factions.

weaponx4
weaponx4

i like this more than plywood

teebeenz
teebeenz

Just a note, that preview has spoliers and its not released next month but this month.

Not-Quite-Dumb
Not-Quite-Dumb

This looks totally freakin awesome! I pre-ordered ot EB the other day and can't wait for it, just a little more than a week. However i host one question-Will this be like the first game where some quests give you skills, or like Factions where the only way you can obtain skills is to buy them from a vendor?

Darkstar_Sinada
Darkstar_Sinada

Agreed. This is definately going to be the best of the three installments so far.

Poki3
Poki3

I played in the Preview Event, and I can assure you all that the Missions are really great, especially the Primary Quests that push the story forward. In one, you where in Court and had to convince the jury to your rights! Heroes where also very interesting. Finlay Computer controlled party members will be customizable and a valid alternative for real humans. The previews henchmen offered some help, but where a lot worse then humans and doing missions with them was unlikely in some places. Hero's will close the gap a bit (but of course I'm not expecting any of them to outclass normal players :o) This is going to be a GREAT game. I have my preorder already ^^