Like its predecessors, Guild Wars Nightfall breaks the standard business model set by Sony and Blizzard by offering a streamlined, massively multiplayer online role-playing experience with a robust PvP system and lots of new missions for adventurers - minus the monthly fees.
Set in the Egyptian-inspired land of Elona, Nightfall adds two new professions to the original six from Guild Wars: Prophecies (the original Guild Wars, which was retroactively renamed when the first expansion came out). The Dervishes are scythe-wielding masters of melee combat, armed also with various area-of-effect attacks and enchantments. Paragons are ranged spear-throwing fighters, capable of boosting your party’s abilities with inspirational shouts. Series gurus should be pleased with these new additions, which complement the original professions better than the somewhat disappointing Assassins and Ritualists from the last expansion pack, Guild Wars: Factions.
As with the previous Guild Wars games, you’ll need to choose a secondary profession. With seven alternative professions to choose from and hundreds of unique skills to learn, you can mix and match professions and skills to create almost any type of character. Would you like a Dervish/Monk who can hold his own in hand-to-hand combat and heal on the side? Or do you prefer a Paragon/Ranger who can rain spears of death and set traps?
The choice is yours and Nightfall expands on Guild Wars’ already flexible character creation system by including the option to create and save templates for various character builds. No matter how many skills you’ve unlocked, Guild Wars only lets you choose eight skills to take with you when leaving a town to adventure or compete in PvP. The skills you use to complete quests may not be the same ones you’d prefer for PvP competitions. In the past, players would have to manually tweak their attributes and re-select their skills. The new template system is a welcome new feature and makes managing your characters a breeze.
The highly anticipated heroes also make their debut in Nightfall. Unlike henchmen - NPC characters who you could add to your party in the previous Guild Wars games - heroes are fully customizable, gain experience and level up alongside you as you complete the quests.
As you press forward through the story missions, you’ll acquire up to 14 heroes of various professions, and they add a much needed injection of personality to the banal plotlines and stale henchmen from Prophecies and Factions. Now, when you find a rare item that your character can’t use, you’ll almost certainly find a home for it in one of your heroes’ equipment slots.
Nightfall also incorporates the heroes into a new Hero Battle PvP mode. Now, for the first time, players can compete against each other in arenas without a team of real players. Instead, you’ll battle for control over various capture points spread throughout the map with your three favorite heroes. With the surprisingly competent AI of your heroes and the well designed movement and command options, this new mode breathes new life into Guild Wars ’ already intense PvP play.
Unfortunately, you’ll still pay the price for the lack of a monthly fee with Nightfall. Although loading screens rarely last more than two or three seconds, they are frequent and occur anytime you leave a town or enter a new zone. This ruins the feeling that you’re playing in a persistent world and makes the game sometimes feel more like Diablo II than your average MMORPG as your interaction with other players is restricted to major cities and PvP arenas for the most part.
On the other hand, interaction with other players is still abundant as you can form parties and guilds to tackle the toughest missions, and take on the best PvP teams from around the world. With a flexible character creation system that lets you completely re-design your character on the fly, and gameplay that emphasizes teamwork and skill choice over your character’s level and equipment, Guild Wars still stands head and shoulders above all other current MMORPGs in terms of PvP play.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you, the addition of heroes and new story based missions will provide hours of enjoyment to casual role-players who prefer soloing through quests to the furious PvP modes. Guild Wars fans should not hesitate in picking up this title for the new professions and heroes alone. And with no monthly fees, Guild Wars Nightfall serves as an excellent introduction to those unfamiliar with the MMORPG genre or Guild Wars series.