By far, Guild Wars is one of the most unique and greatest RPGs ever created. It provides a very unique style of gameplay which is based on skill, and not the number next to your name or the gear you wear. The first thing you might notice while starting up Guild Wars, is that there are no patches you are forced to download. This is because a unique system called Streamline Technology has been implemented into Guild Wars. It literally downloads patches and extra features in the background as you play. Truly, the annoyance of having to wait for hour long downloads, or even a few seconds for a simple bug fix, has been removed. The game is constantly being updated daily, so you will soon begin to realize that the game world literally changes as you play through it. There are a total of 6 character classes or professions if you will. The Warrior, Necromancer, Ranger, Monk, Mesmer, and Elementalist. In my 130 hours of gameplay, I noticed that these character classes are practically perfectly balanced. There really is no such thing as an overpowered class, because in reality, there are no overpowered classes. Players are given the ability to dual-class, which is a way to have another profession as your secondary profession. This gives you a wider range of strategies and tactics, and it allows to you play really, however you want. From a raging Warrior who uses Water Magic to a Water Magic user who summons undead minions, you are given a huge amount of freedom as to how you create your character. The character customization on the other hand is unfortunately mediocre. You can change the size, hair color, skin color, face, and hair style of your character. There are enough options to keep you content, but you might run into someone who looks extremely similar to your character. Thankfully, the various armor pieces help quite a bit to fix this problem, and in the end players are able to learn up to 150 skills to boot. To help against the war against similar looking character models, the developers of Guild Wars have allowed players to use Dyes. By mixing Dyes or by using them directly, players can change the colors of their various armor pieces. They are also a very good way to make money which in this game is Gold, because they are quite valuable. When you are done creating your character, you are greeted by a very well done in game introduction, which tells you the basis of what exactly is going on. It is very important to listen to everything the NPCs have to tell you, and to pay attention carefully overall. Without doing this, you may find yourself lost and confused which, unfortunately, happens very often to beginners. The very first thing I bet you will say into your head the second you start playing is, "Wow." The graphics, honestly, are simply amazing. I have played games such as Half-Life 2, Farcry, Doom 3, and the Chronicles of Riddick. Although this game does not have next generation textures, in my opinion the scenery simply cannot be beat. Out of all games I have played, this is by far the first one where I find myself staring at the scenery for several minutes upon a time. Gamespy was right, you really do just want to "reach out and touch" the gameworld. Below this line and above the next line is an explanation of what Zones are: ---------- Unfortunately, the entire aspect implemented into Guild Wars called Zones, can be a difficult thing to understand. However, once you have it locked into your brain, you will soon find it to be one of the greatest and unique things that could ever happen to a 3D MMORPG (or CCORPG if you prefer). Before we begin, pretend you are looking at the world map of Guild Wars. The map is basically divided up into several sections. Let's label each of these sections a Zone shall we? No matter where you are in the game world, you will always be in a Zone. If you decide to travel into the Mountain Range, then you will be inside a zone implemented there. If you are off adventuring in the islands, you will be inside one of the zones implemented there as well. Even places such as cities, outposts, and small towns are sections off into these areas called zones, because everything is. Basically, the developers of Guild Wars took an area, and made several copies of it. So, when you are in a city, town, or outpost, you will be inside one of the copies that were created. One thing you will notice when you first begin to play the game, is that while in a city, town, or outpost, you will find yourself in a certain district. In reality, this is just a fancy name that means copy. So, say there are 10 copies of a city, and you want to go play with a friend. Say your friend is in district (copy) number one, and you are in district (copy) number seven. In order to meet up with your friend, you would have to drop down the menu, select which district (copy) you would like to enter, and with a click of a button, you are there within two seconds. In other words, there are several copies of each city, town, and outpost that are implemented into Guild Wars. When you decide to leave the city and go explore the game world, you are given your own private copy of the area. While there, you will notice that the game has basically switched from an Online RPG straight to a Single Player RPG. Giving players their own private copy of the game world when they decide to go adventuring prevents and causes the following things: Waiting in lines for quests is now history. You will not see other players trying to accomplish a certain mission or quest at the same time you are, only to realize that you have to wait for the enemy or item to respawn. Because of this, it allows the developers to implement very interesting and exiting quests such as using catapults to rain death upon the enemy, or by blowing up stone gates with barrels of gunpowder. You are able to interact much more with the environment, and you are given much more freedom as to what you can actually do. Because of Zones, there are several different and interesting ways to complete quests. Kill stealing is now officially a thing of the past. No longer will you be so close to defeating an enemy, only to realize that someone else has stolen all that valuable experience. Gameplay elements such as these are very annoying, and with Guild Wars, they are now history. Much like kill stealing, you will no longer have to worry about other players taking items from enemies that you defeated. No longer will you open up a chest, see an item, and watch it be carried away by another player. You will not defeat enemies or a boss, only to see them respawn right next to you. Enemies in the game do not respawn, so you do not have to worry about killing a boss, and then have him suddenly appear behind you and backstab you. Because you are given your own private area, players are given the ability to summon powerful magic in order to build bridges, burn down forests, and tear the land asunder at their very own will. Other Online RPGs or MMORPGs do not offer nearly as much freedom gameplay-wise when it comes to Guild Wars. Interaction with other players is by far higher then some people might realize. In most MMORPGS or Online RPGs, you might solo by yourself much more then you do with a group. In Guild Wars, player interaction is very common, and you will find yourself in a group far more then you will playing by yourself. Only, if you choose to however. Of course, Guild Wars would not be much of an online RPG if you could not have other players travel around and go adventuring with you. Grabbing a friend and going out in the world to play with him or her is very simple and easy. With the click of a button, you can invite a player or players to form a party. Any person or persons in a party will easily be able to travel together, or go and help each other combat evil. Experience points are shared among all party members, as is gold and items. Whenever someone discovers an item, that item randomly selects a player. Once that player is selected, that item becomes reserved for that person. This means, that no other person besides the one selected by the item will be able to pick it up. This prevents very annoying gameplay elements such as scrambling to pick up items that drop in the middle of a huge battle. Zones are massive and in Guild Wars, you can see as far as the eye can. The draw-distance is certainly impressive. Surely, the unique feature implemented into Guild Wars called Zones will be a very positive thing to most (if not all) players for years to come. ---------- Another nice thing about Guild Wars, is how you can literally use the terrain to your advantage. You may find yourself luring enemies into tar pits, receiving a damage bonus while on high ground, or knocking enemies down into a river of burning flame. Unfortunately, you cannot jump nor swim in Guild Wars. There are invisible walls preventing players from jumping off of cliffs and going out into the middle of the ocean. Otherwise, you can pretty much travel wherever you want to. There are huge open valleys, dark dungeons, paradise islands, wastelands, lush forests, raging volcanic islands, and much, much more to explore at your will. There is a very unique and well done PvP system implemented into Guild Wars. There are several different gameplay options to choose from, and players are allowed to participate in tournaments for the Hall of Heroes, which is an exaggeration of a Master Tournament. Guild Wars is very focused around the creation of a Guild as well. You are able to design your very own Guild Cape from scratch, and even purchase your Guild's very own Island. You may wage war in Siege the Castle type battles on your Island as well. The sounds are great, and it really helps to make you feel that I am actually in the game world. The sounds of birds chirping and leaves are noticeable and effective. The soundtrack consisting of 28 songs are very powerful and moving, and the sound overall is very well done. It's nothing amazing or breath-taking, but the fact still remains that when it comes to the sounds implemented into the game, there really is nothing to complain about. Lastly, combat. The combat in Guild Wars is by far the best I have ever seen. The animations are great, realistic, and the combat overall is very fast paced. You are always keeping track of what you are doing, so unlike most RPGs, you will not simply click on the enemy and wait for it to die. You will find yourself fighting dozens of enemies at a time, yet at the same time you might go one on one with other creatures. Honestly, the combat in Guild Wars reminds me of an action game. The difficulty implemented is very good. It can be easy, but usually it is pretty challenging. At times, the game can suddenly become extremely difficult, so carefully deployed tactics are always a necessity. Unfortunately, the path-finding of the A.I. within the game can be pretty bad at times. NPCs do not get stuck somewhere and cannot get out, but they can be halted for a few seconds by an obstacle. it is very solid overall, but there is no doubt in my mind that it could use a little bit of work. Overall however, the A.I. in Guild Wars is very good. Enemy spellcasters and healers will stay in the back, they will try to get on high ground, go on patrol, and even try to ambush you at times. It is very well done surprisingly, and it is especially well done seeing as how Guild Wars is an Online RPG. No game is perfect, and despite the fact that Guild Wars does have a few flaws, they really tend to be very minor. For what it offers, Guild Wars offers it just about flawlessly. Truly, in my humble opinion, Guild Wars is by far one of the best (if not the greatest) RPG ever created.