Guild Wars

I’ve played a couple of MMORPGs over the years, but they’ve all got one thing in common: keep the player playing as long as possible to keep bringing in the monthly fee. Guild Wars is a little different, though. It still features hundreds, possibly thousands of people playing the same game in the same virtual world at the same time, but this one manages to do it without that pesky monthly fee.

Guild Wars really has two parts: story and battling. Story has you going through the epic tale of the kingdom being invaded by the evil Charr. You go through a series of missions designed to move the story along, but what’s kind of weird is that there are cities dotted around the landscape. These cities act as hubs where players can congregate, talk, organize groups, and where you can allocate your skills (more on that in a bit). The giant expanse of countryside between the cities is where you’ll be spending your time doing the missions and generally slaughtering evil, but the thing is that each group gets their own private copy (or ‘instance’) of the area. That way there aren’t folks fighting for resources, and your group gets to experience the story at their own pace.

The game, like other MMORPGs, is focused on getting people in groups and general socializing. So it allows you to take these groups, here called ‘Guilds’ (big surprise, eh?) to do your normal adventuring, but also for intra-guild fighting. And although you can fill up your group with computer-controlled folks for wandering around the countryside and killing things, you need to have people for the Guild battles. I never bothered joining a guild or tweaking my character for Guild combat. Why? Partially because I really only like playing with people I know personally, and I only know one other person who plays this game. Two people make a pretty shabby guild. The other reason is that I found the character customization to be a bit limiting. Early on in the game you have to pick two classes for your character, and each of the two classes comes with a laundry list of skills. And you can only have eight of them at a time. It kind of reminds me of Pok√©mon, where you get a couple of hundred monster choices, but can only use six.

So how does this game remain free? Unlike the ridiculously awful 9 Dragons there aren’t ads plastered all over the place, which is pretty nice. But what the game does have is a periodic ‘content pack’ and ‘expansion pack’ so that every few months you buy access to more game to while away the hours. Though if you buy the content packs every few months, you end up spending about the same that you would with the monthly fees of some other MMORPGs… but of course buying the content packs is totally optional. You can play as long as you like with the bare bones pack, so long as other folks are buying expansions and other goodies to keep the game afloat. And, since the last expansion was released in August of last year, I think there are plenty of folks doing just that.

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