I feel I overuse the 'Just plain fun' classification too much, but hell, that's what I'm looking for in a game.
It is mostly due to the fact Guild Wars just *feels* different than other games. By this I mean, in most ARPGs now, the game play is little different from any other game in the genre. I must say it's encouraging to see a game developer take a seemingly overused formula and somehow come out with something different.
I suppose I should actually explain what the game play *is*, though as I mentioned before, it is pretty much the same formula. I must mention that while I have put some hours into the game, I still only play casually and was thus not too interested in Guilds / PvP / Grouping. You'll have to read other reviews for any information on those aspects.
A short description: In Guild Wars, you take a band of either other players or computer controlled henchmen / heroes, and adventure together taking on quests and finding a variety of items, gaining experience to raise your character's level along the way. Again, a very familiar formula.
One of the first, and best, differences is leveling itself; Guild Wars keeps it short. The highest level you can achieve is level 20, which takes comparatively little time to other games of its kind. It is great for when you just do not feel that spending a week gaining one level is an enjoyable use of your time.
The second big difference is Guild War's character development. Players can choose among 10 character classes for their primary profession and any of the others for their secondary. For instance, you can select Warrior as your primary and Elementalist for your secondary. This allows you to use both class' skills for your character. The difference from a War/Ele and Ele/War being that each class has one special 'attribute' which you only get when that class is your primary.
'Attributes' are areas where your character can specialize. An Elementalist may choose to specialize in Air, Water, Fire, Earth magic, or Energy Storage for example. A secondary class adds even more areas. So, an Elementalist may choose to specialize in Air Magic in the Elementalist skill sets, and Death Magic from the Necromancer class should they choose it as their secondary class. You raise attributes by spending attribute points, which you gain when you level. You'll accumulate enough points to raise two attributes to their highest level, or (since attributes cost more as you raise them) spread them out among three or four skills.
Before leaving to adventure, you can freely change any of your skills as well as your attributes, and even your secondary class. A deciding factor in what you choose in all this is that you can only use eight skills at a time. This forces you to think about what you'll need for a mission, as well as requiring a little trial and error to find a build that will allow you to complete some mission or area. The downside is that this often takes... a little trial and error. It can get frustrating having to repeat an area multiple times, especially if you get a decent way through just to find out your current build simply can not defeat a boss. This is most prevalent when you first start but does diminish as you get more familiar with the game.
As you complete quests and missions, you'll gain heroes to add to your party. While you have a party limit of eight, you may only fill that with three heroes, henchmen must fill the other four. Heroes have a predetermined primary profession, but you can select any class for their secondary. You may also customize their weapons, armor, attributes, and skills in the very same way you can for your own character. There are hundreds of skills so there is plenty of customization options for those who enjoy building their own party.
AI is not brilliant, but workable. I have completed the entire Nightfall campaign with henchmen and heroes, and am still working on the other three. At times you can clearly see some missions are meant for groups, but overall I have not had much trouble completing everything with henchmen / heroes. Unfortunately there are some skills the AI simply can not use which limits builds (and is why an organized group is always superior), though there are some instances the AI can outshine human players. Interrupts, for example, require a quick reaction to stop an enemies spell, and this the AI does well. Prioritizing which spell to interrupt though... not so much. A Necromancer minion master the AI also handles well as it can select his / her minions much faster and smarter than a human can.
Enemies are also a bit smarter than compared to other games. They will not just focus on the 'tank', nor will they happily stand in Area of Effect spells. This somewhat effectively forces players away from the whole tank / heal / damage mindset. You really must form a party that works together, not individually. This is also helped by the skills of different classes often complementing each other (synergy), which is a nice way of not forcing your characters to work together, but allowing you to enjoy working together.
Generally I do not care much for graphics because in most games they are merely a waste. Guild Wars is an exception, the artists who created these graphics have done an amazing job. The game is absolutely beautiful. Sure, it is not as technically impressive as other games, but again, those are graphics I do not give a damn about. Games that make a clear case that games are indeed art, as is Guild Wars, I *can* appreciate. Graphics can add a lot to a game's atmosphere and it is a damn shame the vast majority can not achieve what Guild Wars does. Another plus, it is this beautiful and does not require insane computer specs.
However, other parts of the game are just laughably bad. That is, the story. One concession that I must make is that it at least takes itself somewhat seriously, and I mention this only because I have heard how this very issue ruined the atmosphere in Hellgate: London. Watching some of the cut scenes, though, where characters are trying their best to instill emotion with horrid writing, it's just too embarrassingly bad you have to laugh at it. It at least does not completely ruin the atmosphere the graphics create, but the quality between the two (graphics and story) is somewhat shocking.
I mostly just ignore the story and, though the game play does have faults, overall I have an enjoyable time with Guild Wars. It is definitely worth the money I spent. There is a lot I have not mentioned, such as the whole other side of the game with PvP, but it would take far too long to detail every aspect of the game, there is a lot of content here.