By Joshua Temblett (Dontkillmydreams), OnRPG Journalist
Guild Wars (GW) offers perhaps one of the best Player Versus Player experiences around. Whether you're a casual gamer who can only play for twenty minutes, or a hard core MMORPG nut who loves to game for hours on end, ArenaNet's buy-to-play MMORPG will suit you. With a PVP system that enables you to jump in and create a max level straight from the get go, what's there not to like?
When you boot up GW and create a new character, you'll have the chance to either start from the beginning of the game and develop your little avatar through exciting Player Versus Environment segments which will take you all the way through the beautifully developed world, or create a level twenty character (the cap level) and just participate in the slaughter of other human players. I bet you're thinking, "It's only PVP...who cares?" Well my friend, this MMO just so happens to offer some of the best player versus player experiences on the market.
Once you've made your character, you can quickly create armour and weapons that suit your gameplay style by just going onto the Inventory section and clicking the conveniently placed "PvP Equipment" button. From there you can choose and customise everything, even the colours of your clothes. The interesting thing about Guild Wars is that, in the designers' own words, the game is based around the obtaining news skills, like in "Magic: the Gathering", rather than level grinding character progression. These skills don't make you more powerful, but instead provide you with a different strategy to tackle an enemy.
This is what makes Guild Wars interesting, the various plans you can create and conduct with your friends and also how you intend to react to different situations. If you have a tank character who has eight out of the eight slots available dedicated to taking lots of damage and healing yourself on the frontlines, what happens when you come across a de-buffer who uses health degen spells that, with great speed, lower your health at an alarming rate that is almost impossible to heal, and then casts an interrupt hex on you that won't enable you to recover your health? It doesn't matter how much health you've got, if someone is sneaky they can easily catch you out.
In Player Versus Player combat, things can change within in a second, so you have to be prepared for everything. Or maybe you don't? Gimmick character builds focus on one strategy and, instead of being prepared for anything that comes their way like a Balanced build, are hopeful that the enemy will meet the conditions required for the build to work. This gameplay style is generally very high risk and, whilst it can reap in rewards if all goes as planned, can end up in epic failure, and if it does then you spend the rest of the round, however long or short it is, getting owned by the enemy which as we all know isn't very fun.
I know that you're thinking, "That every MMO's PVP content focuses on builds and how you use skills", and yes that's true. What's special about Guild Wars' PVP is that you can quickly and simply edit your skills, attributes and armour/weapons. You don't have to go on some crazy quest half way across the world to get that one skill you need, no - all you have to do is visit a character called "Priest of Balthazar" who will exchange your Balthazar faction points (earned from doing PVP) for Heroes (more about them later), upgrade components for your weapons, and of course skills. Any of the aforementioned you buy will be available to all of your PVP characters, however not your PVE characters who have to travel through the world to get different skills.
Your hub, where you can do a variety of activities such as change your characters secondary profession, is the "Great Temple of Balthazar". From here you can go into a training ground to test builds, or go to a Luxon Diplomat or a Kurzick Recruiter. The Luxons and the Kurzicks are the two in-game Factions that inhabit the world of Cantha, which you can only access if you own the "Guild Wars Factions" campaign. These two NPCs can take you special PVP areas where you participate in competitive missions for a faction of your choice and which evolve you fighting the other faction (who will all be human controlled players).
Whether you win or lose, you'll gain Luxon/Kurzick faction (depending on what faction you fought for), which you can trade in for rare items. The faction battles don't stop there though, as from your Guild hall (provided you have one) you can access "Alliance battles" whereby Luxon and Kurzicks fight against each other. These battles have a deep impact to Cantha, as whichever faction wins pushes into the enemies borders which then gains that faction "a momentum bonus", enabling them to push deeper into enemy lines. This also means that the faction will gain control of towns or outposts rewarding them with special bonuses.
If you haven't guessed by now the Factions campaign is the place to be for PVP. But there's more. You can participate in smaller battles in the Random Arena, where you're randomly grouped with other players, or in the Team Arena, where you can create a team and fight with them. These are both 4v4 battles. There's also the option to do Hero Battles, which involve you and your NPC Heroes (computer controlled players which you can customise) battling it out against others.
Then there's the Guild versus Guild. If you're part of a Guild you can go head to head against another guild in 8v8 battles. These can be ranked or just a normal unrated scrimmage. These modes are generally the cream of the crop with regards to skill, as each guild fights to be the best. These battles are ruthless, fun, but can be very hard so be prepared for a challenge.
I know that at the moment you're probably tired and maybe even a bit overwhelmed (or maybe not?), but there's one more mode. Heroes' Ascent (HA) or as it's also known, Tombs. HA is a global tournament, where players compete in several arenas before arriving at the "Hall of Heroes", where the final battle takes place. If you win you gain very valuable loot and, perhaps the greatest reward of them all, server wide recognition of your success as a broadcast is made declaring "(<Name> or <Guild Name> [<Guild Tag>]) has won a battle in the Hall of Heroes." which shows the server population just who's boss.
So does Guild Wars have the best PVP in any MMO? In this writer's opinion yes, as it's accessible, simplistic and fun. If you doubt my opinion then why don't you try the game and find out for yourself?