Guild Wars is not a true MMO in its purest sense, however it's a game built for the player in mind.
Like any good RPGs, good character development is vital and Guild Wars is no exception here. You can play either a male or female and get to choose one of the six characters available being the Warrior, Ranger, Elementalist (mage), Mesmer (disrupter), Necromancer or Monk. Of course, you can alter the looks of your character with several hairstyles, faces and so forth. Yet note that each class will have different choices so a Mesmer will have a different selection to say a warrior. Choosing a class will be the 'main' class for the character as shortly thereafter, you'll get to choose a secondary class; so in effect there are pretty much thirty classes to choose from.
For me, I chose the Mesmer (as apparently it's the hardest character to play) and my secondary, the Necromancer. Yet later on the campaign, I changed my secondary to the Elementalist as this class compliments better to my Mesmer's current skill set and suited well for the end game content. Of course, this is purely a matter of my own opinion yet notice the flexibility of changing the secondary class (with a small price though).
So the main difference between the primary and secondary class is that the primary has an extra skill called the primary skill (funny that). The primary skill pretty much sums up the actual character. So, in my example above, my Mesmer / Necromancer plays a lot different to say the Necromancer / Mesmer as the Mesmer's primary skill is 'fast cast' (obviously a skill that enables my Mesmer to cast faster however take care of 'skill spamming' – that is, you can run out of mana extremely fast therefore unable to cast until your mana regenerates) whilst the Necromancer's primary is Soul Reaping (this enables the Necromancer gaining one energy whenever a non-Spirit creature near s/he dies).
I deliberately placed a lot of emphasis on explaining the primary skill for the reason that your character will be heavily reliant on skills in general. Before you go on, let me add that at any one time during your adventure, your character can only bring eight skills! Yes, that's it…only eight! Not like many other MMOs where half your screen is filled with a trillion of skills and whatever else, Guild Wars is extremely reliant on your character skill set. You botch this, your character will be dead before your screen loads. Thankfully though, you can change your skill set at any of the 'safe havens' like towns, outposts etc.
Initially I thought carrying just eight skills is a joke however when playing through the game, I realised very fast that the elite skill is the skill that makes your character. Only then, you should select your seven other skills to compliment the elite skill. Also take note that the elite skill can only be earned from a dead boss by using a 'Signet of Capture' and on a rare occasion, when completing certain quests. So back to my Mesmer, the build I use is basically AoE (area of effect) where the elite skill is 'Energy Burn' – a skill that burns away mana on three victims and to compliment this, chose several other AoE skills with fast recovery time. In essence, you can say my character is a mage killer (as mages have a lot of mana to burn away). But, as mentioned before, I do have other skills sets (like a disrupter where my Mesmer's goal is to disable skill users therefore rendering them useless – does very little damage though) among others. So in a nutshell, skills play a very important part for the survival of your character.
Another immediate perceived shortcoming is the level cap. Guild Wars level cap is level twenty. It's not very hard to achieve as you can reach the cap roughly 2/3 into the game. Mobs however can go higher, especially bosses as I have seen level 28 (or in hard mode, level 30). So what this tells you and linking back to the importance of skills, there will be a lot of emphasis on tactics. This I truly adore this as if you decide to go gun-ho, expect a quick death. So the motto of the story is that nothing is impossible and think before you leap.
So during the course of the game, I have encountered some missions that I thought there's no way I can finish this however readjusting my skill set (plus hiring the right retainers – more on that later) provided me the winning solution – especially that dreaded optional quest called 'The Fissure of Woe' – as it took me three hours to complete and when I finally done it, scored a sweet trophy as well (yet trophies will be covered in my future review on 'The Eye of the North'.
When travelling the vast lands of Tyria, in the 'training' grounds you will be travelling by yourself (and on the few yet optional occasion, with another human player) so this is a good opportunity to learn the aspects of the game. However, after the 'searing' (an event where the Charr overrides the grand lands of Ascalon), this is where the game truly begins and only the strongest will survive. Funny enough, this is also where most people give up as the game can be quite unforgiving (as most likely their skill sets are poorly chosen).
Yet, you won't be travelling alone here as depending upon the region, you can bring up to seven more characters: whether they be hired retainers (free of course) or group up with fellow players. The land of Tyria is broken down into sections and each section is an instance for your group. What this means that no-one can enter the same instance as you if not part of the group; so there goes mobs respawning, queuing up, and ganking. Of course, if you exit the instance and come back, the mobs will respawn. Only towns, outposts, cities and so on are where you can meet / greet other players as it's more like a lobby of sorts.
When travelling and discovering new places, your character can use all the discovered towns for 'speed travel' therefore there is no need to waste ample time running back. And if you struggle to enter the next outpost (as some can be quite difficult), there are players that their character build are specifically designed for running (for a fee of course), they will run you there as it only takes just one character to teleport the entire group into the next section.
In addition, everyone can get the opportunity to earn those elite armours as many MMOs I have played before, those armours are only reserved for group instances. Yet in Guild Wars, elite armours are purely cosmetic only so if you see one wearing them, you know that the character has been-there-done-that as it requires hard work and dedication to gather the right cash and ingredients. Lastly, as you may learn very early on, there are no healing / mana potions around – period. So I suggest bringing a damn good Monk (healer) into your party. As I stated before, skills are extremely important as every class will play an important role.
To those PvP lovers, there are plenty of options as well. Some major cities and towns will offer low-level PvP where it's basically duke it out with one another; Arena battles (where two teams of four players against each other – objectives depends upon the map you are on); Tournament battles, Guild vs Guild Battles and so on. Except for those low levels PvP, all PvP games will catapult your character instantly to level 20 (if you are not there to begin with) and granted with ALL general skills. However the elite skills are not there as I mentioned before, they need to be earned. So, PvP will provide an even playing ground where your skill, not your equipment, plays a predominant role. Granted that equipment can boost your chances somewhat, however as I mentioned before, it's the elite skill that makes or breaks your character and your wits.
Controlling your character is nothing short than perfection. Guild Wars have many, many options for key customisation as it was truly built to utilise the entire keys on your keyboard / mouse. Even the player's interface can be customised to your liking therefore screen clutter is a thing of the past. Inventory management is made easy as it's a matter of drag-and-drop however you cannot alter any of the retainers though as they are all stock standard. But don't despair as those retainers are quite clever for a bunch of AIs. And yes there will be times that you can strangle them however overall they do a good job, especially the AI monks.
Visually the game is a beauty to behold. Being an MMO, the game's engine needs to be tailored for the many PCs available and Guild Wars have done just that with its many graphical options. Heck, even the world is a marvel as you will witness rolling hills, vast mountain ranges, the loneliness of the desert and so forth. So much beauty, sometimes I let my character just stand there and simply watch the ocean near Stingray Bay or spot those unusual buildings near Lion's Arch; or stand on top of a mountain and feel the absolute loneliness and coldness around Ice Tooth Cavern. And believe me, that's only the tip of the iceberg as every region (I think there are over forty) will have something to admire – a true traveller's paradise.
Likewise are the sounds from this game. Great voice acting, superb ambience noises that makes you feel like you are actually there. For example, when travelling the vast, cold regions of the Southern Shiverpeaks, you can hear the crackling of ice in the distance whilst hearing the crunching noise when you run through the snow, it sometimes make me shiver even though I'm playing in a heat wave! The musical scores are all worthy enough to be featured in any block-buster movie as it really sets the tone. For example: I remember when after a harrowing escape via a boat to enter the desert as chaos was raining down on my party before boarding, when arriving the desert, the musical score were of a calm nature – like it knew where I just left from and entering a serene place.
There are still many, many features that this game I didn't mention into details like earning titles, building guilds, crafting and birthday gifts (yes, you read right), Guild Wars has something to offer for everyone – whether you are a solo / team player, like exploring / owning, collecting / gathering or simply enjoy a good yarn, the world is yours to discover; and even the community is still very strong today. Guild Wars even celebrate Christmas (with a small twist) and have annual events to coincide with its lore. With a strong wiki to boot to those who crave for perfection and no monthly fees, Guild Wars is not a true MMO in its purest sense (as it bases around instances) however, and most importantly, it's a game built for the player in mind.