16 June, 2008

Guild Wars

Considering how much time I've been spending playing Guild Wars in the last few weeks, it's remarkable that I haven't mentioned it in an entry here, except once in passing. Though part of that, at least from the beginning, was that I wasn't ready to even admit that I played the game, for reasons which will soon become obvious, if they are not already. Another likely part of that is the fact that if you don't play Guild Wars, you'll probably have very little interest hearing about the details of it, so what's the point, right?

Guild Wars is a multiplayer online RPG. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am staunchly against the MMORPG scene, and wouldn't be caught dead playing games like Everquest, or World of Warcraft. Which is why I was so hesitant to give it a try in the first place - lest I be labeled a hypocrite. But my friend recommended it, and he assured me that it was sufficiently different from the standard MMORPG fare that I could enjoy it. I'm not exactly experienced in these types of games, but one of the differences is that Guild Wars has no monthly fee. Buy the game, and you can play it as much as you want without paying another penny. That's a plus.

One other difference, I suppose, is that the multiplayer aspects of the game are subdued in a certain sense, taking out the first M in MMORPG. What this means to me, is that I can effectively play the game by myself and ignore the whole multiplayer thing - without having other people butting in and ruining my fun. In theory. It worked out nice at first, since my friend, who got me into the game, took the time to show me the ropes and play through I guess about half the game or so with me. But ever since he left me on my own (whether intentionally or not) to fend for myself within this fantasy world, and especially in the second half of the game, I'm finding out how utterly impossible some parts of this game are if you don't play with other human players.

The way the game works is that there are areas to explore, quests to complete, and missions to conquer. Exploring is fun, and gets you access to new places, while quests add subplot to the game and give you experience and skills to play with. But the missions are what drive the story, and push you forward in the game.

Now, you can form a party - because fighting against monsters all by yourself is a really bad idea, unless you're really cocky and fighting monsters much weaker than you are. You can choose to join up with other human players (the multiplayer aspect), or you can add "henchmen" to your party, which are just standardized AI bot characters. The problem with henchmen in a tough mission, is that they are only so strong, only so smart, they can't specialize their strategies for a specific mission, and there's only so much you can do to control their actions. There's just no comparison to having [supposedly] intelligent real human players behind the other members in your party.

And that's what really bugs me, because it's like a thorn in my side that keeps whispering to me, "you can't play this game alone!"

I probably would have given the game up a little ways back, after I was left on my own, but the one thing that's keeping me going (other than the plain old addiction factor), is how much I like my characters and how much I want to customize them and give them better equipment from later in the game to make them even better. But every time I lose on a tough mission, I feel the frustration of not being able to advance further in the game until I overcome this hurdle - and the only way I can see to do it is to bite the bullet and be a ::shivers:: social player...

Come to think of it, one of my beefs with MMORPG's is how people that play it get so absorbed that they play to the exclusion of the real world around them, and ignore the real people around them that want to spend time with them. But considering how small of a real world presence I currently maintain, I guess it can't hurt that much for me right now...

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