NCsoft has released another expansion to its popular Guild Wars series of online multiplayer games and this time they have made up for the previous installment of Factions with a better plot, more new features, and less of an emphasis on PvP (player vs. player) combat in order to complete the game. The integration of the god-touched Paragon and holy scythe-wielding Dervish character classes has improved gameplay immensely and both new professions are very new player friendly.
Nightfall is the third chapter in the Guild Wars saga of NCsoft?s ArenaNet development team. This online game has no monthly fees attached and like its offline counterparts only requires the initial purchase of the game to play. All one needs is the CD key and an internet connection and he?s ready to go. Guild Wars: Nightfall is an epic about a small band of heroes who are trying to stop an evil leader from bringing about the apocalypse. It?s dark, tragic, and sometimes downright depressing, and some of the story is very heart-wrenching.
This chapter, of the Guild Wars saga, takes place on the continent of Elona, a North African setting, where three provinces have lived in harmony for a good while, until the beginning of this adventure. The role-playing campaign seems to be more the focus of this installment, where as Factions was more focused on PvP and had a rather dry role-playing chapter with a lot of confusing maps and excessively difficult enemies. As a starting character in Elona, the player has been selected to be trained as a leader in the prestigious Order of the Sunspears. This militia group is the guardian force of Elona, handling problems all over the continent. Led by Spearmarshal Kormir, a Paragon with much zeal for her position, the player receives all sorts of training on the ?newbie island? of Istan Province. The learning curve is quite forgiving and with the introduction of customizable NPC heroes, it?s not always a must to find other players to adventure with. Guilds are the core of the game, but there are times when no one in the guild is available, and thus, Heroes have come into the picture and are much more intelligent than the henchmen available at outposts in the previous chapters. ?Henchies? are still available, though, if there aren?t enough heroes filling the spots in the party, as each player can only have three of his own in at a time.
The new player area in Nightfall is a lot longer and more thought out than in any other of the previous Guild Wars chapters and has plenty of experience-boosting quests and missions to undertake. The heroes acquired through it are also the core story characters that players will come to admire in some ways and be disgusted with in others; however, some of them are good and others are a bit shady. Koss is a proud Warrior that knows a lot of people. Melonni is a visionary Dervish driven by her faith in Melandru, the goddess of Nature. Dunkoro is a middle-aged Monk who is ?the man with the plan.? And Tahlkora is a young Monk in search of greater glory, so she adventures and uncovers major mysteries with the player. Other heroes are also available to unlock and acquire throughout the adventure and there are about 15 total Heroes of various professions (including one that has not been released yet, rumored to be able to have any profession).
Veteran players will enjoy having heroes around because the new Skill Template system will allow them to save their builds that they use and transfer them to the NPCs. Strangely enough, this AI acts a lot like the player?s alternate character if given similar items and the right build. These Heroes in the hands of a skilled player often do better than some human players. It?s rather frightening sometimes. Their armor can have runes and insignias set in to further enhance their skills. Any skills ?unlocked? through PvP combat, purchased from trainers, or acquired from quests can be used by Heroes of the appropriate profession.
Some of the changes to the skill collection have pleased players who cried foul when Skill Quests were removed in Factions. Hero Skill Points are gained through advancement in the story and in rank in the Sunspears and Order of Whispers. These points can be used at Hero Skill Trainers to ?buy? skills for heroes that have not yet been unlocked or the player can use them on himself to pick up a skill for free. Veteran players hate buying skills because of how expensive they are after one has purchased a certain amount. A thousand gold is a lot of money and it?s best to avoid unnecessary ?gold sinks? when there are better things to spend in-game money on.
Challenge Missions have been altered to have incentives for doing them instead of just bragging rights for being number one in a region of the world. Hero armor upgrades (purely cosmetic) can be gained at each of these events and thus having elite armor on a Hero is a sign of prestige and skill. These missions are also quite difficult and one of them is a solo mission. Even some of the co-operative missions have been spiced up to avoid repetition, though, late in the game, veterans may have nostalgic experiences. One mission for the campaign is a solo and it?s a series of social puzzles. These challenges as well as the other elements of plot path-splitting come into play about halfway through the game.
There are four possible paths one can take in completing Nightfall. The first path split determines what Heroes are attainable, though beating the game gives players the opportunity to pick up the ones he didn?t obtain. Veterans will like the fact that Tyria and Cantha also have special heroes available to owners of Prophecies and Factions. Olias is a bloodthirsty Necromancer who views himself as an agent of Grenth, the god of Death, and often makes morbid comments about how fun it is to kill things. Zenmai is a reformed Assassin who left a gang in Cantha when it took a wrong spiritual turn. She now seeks to redeem herself by helping the player fight the evils in Elona. Each Hero has their own story, and the player can explore as much of it as he wishes.
New skills have made play much more exciting, going so far as to make the original six professions more interesting to play, especially with the addition of new Elite Skills. Necromancers who raise hordes of undead minions will love Jagged Bones. When cast on a minion, it will spawn a new minion when the old one dies off. It?s like a fire-and-forget spell and the new minions cause bleeding when they strike an opponent. The illusion-driven Mesmer might be enticed by the Hex Eater Vortex. It helps the party out by dealing a lot of damage and removing precious protecting enchantments that enemies often cast on themselves. Warriors also will appreciate the recent internet craze of French soccer star Zinedine Zidane?s infamous headbutt in the World Cup by capturing a skill of the same name off of a boss by the name of Enadiz the Hardheaded.
Guild Wars incorporates many pop-culture references into the game, such as the aforementioned Headbutt and shouts that the Paragon can use, such as ?Can?t Touch This!? and ?It?s Just a Flesh Wound!? A quest by the name of Drakes on the Plain is their tribute to the film Snakes on a Plane and is just as amusing, especially with the gag weapon reward Banana Scythe. Some Quests are needed to advance the main plot, while others are just for fun, like this one. Quests are also great for leveling up heroes and gaining money.
PvP fanatics should not worry. ArenaNet has not ignored them. In fact, the Hero Battle is one new feature that should make some hardcore fans of PvP quite happy. The customized personal henchmen can fight alongside the player as he takes on other players who do the same. The worldwide PvP tournament in Heroes? Ascent has been thrown for a wild ride with the introduction of Paragons and Dervishes into the mixture of chaotic combat strategy. Tactical Paragons are hard to kill, their shouts buff the party, and Dervishes will absolutely raze swarms of opposing players if ignored for too long, especially if they transform into an Avatar of the five gods.
In an alternate fantasy universe, various worldviews are often present. In Guild Wars there?s a pantheon of gods and goddesses, complete with teachings that are fairly accessible. NPCs will lecture players on the finer points of their faith. Though the title is quite violent, there is no blood shed present. The game is all about warfare and cooperation and it is impossible to play this game and not be involved in combat.
Some of the professions, such as the female Elementalist, have incredibly skimpy outfits. There are also conservative armor options available, however, and they look great, such as the Ancient Elementalist Armor available late in the game. Alcohol use is talked about a lot as there is an in-game ?drunkard? title that can be obtained by being ?drunk? for a long period of time. There are also in-game beverages that can be abused and give the screen a wild blurry effect. An inebriated player might say random things like ?I?m king of the world!? and produce random emotes (text-based, in-game chat) without typing them. While it might seem amusing, those who have been exposed to an actual alcoholic may not find such events humorous.
The main premise of Nightfall is to stop a zealous leader from unleashing a fallen deity upon the world and trying to prevent Nightfall, the advent of the dark apocalypse. In her quest to do this, she is slowly transforming into a demon and summons all sorts of demons to help her, though there is an organization devoted to destroying the Demons of Abaddon, known as the Order of Whispers.
Language is always an issue in online games that allow players to chat. The language can become be quite foul when players are angry, however, there is a filter that will block most of it and when tested it was found to be very reliable at its highest setting, removing words by putting dashes in their place. The idea might be there, but the word is not. A player may also be added to the ?ignore list,? where one will not hear anything the person says. Offensive players can be reported to ArenaNet through their website as well, if the need arises.
Overall, ArenaNet and NCsoft have released a very impressive chapter in the Guild Wars saga. No monthly fees grant players who normally can?t afford to play an online game the opportunity to do so and the game runs on relatively lower-end systems functioning fairly well on dial-up and ISDN, though updating with streaming patches is quite troublesome with a poor internet connection. The game does lag a lot on low-end systems, so players should consider running it at lower resolutions to cut back on the lag.
For gamers who don?t feel like paying for World of Warcraft, Lineage II or Final Fantasy XI, Guild Wars might be the perfect massively multiplayer title. Player sprites (characters) look beautiful and there are plenty of ways to customize and differentiate them from those of other players. Armor can be dyed a myriad of colors. Online fansites such as, Guild Wars Guru
, are devoted to the hidden mysteries of armor dying and other Guild Wars nuances. The player community is huge and helpful and with no monthly fee, a leave of absence is not as devastating on the pocketbook. Nightfall is an epic game whose storyline eclipses the other two chapters by far, though the original Prophecies campaign does come close.
» By Dave Herbert, Plain Games. Published 11/29/2006 4:10:45 PM.