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Guild Wars Nightfall vitals

Product
   Guild Wars Nightfall
Manufacturer
   NCSoft
Price
   TBA
Available at
   

Published
   27 October 2006
Author
   Chris Thornett


I need a hero feature?
It’s true to say they needed something more to persuade everyone to keep playing, but if you’re asking yourself whether NCsoft has gone nuts, then you’d be thinking the same thing I did initially. I mean, calling the new continent ‘Elona’ was a clear indication they’d totally lost the plot and were happy to crack jokes about all its players ending up playing online ‘alone-a’. But if RPG really only means as much stat-crunching, skill-tweaking and equipment collecting that will make your brain bleed then Guild Wars Nightfall is aiming to deliver that in spades. These aren’t normal henchmen: they don’t just follow you, fight and patently ignore your dead body. No, you can pretty much dominate their existence. You select their skills, you dress’em, you allocate stats when they level from questing with you and you can even micromanage their combat through their own mini action bars. Areanet has also announced that you’ll be able to field your heroic ‘dream team’ in PvP arenas.

Having spent some time ordering my heroes around the plains on the starter island and through some pretty tough lvl 20 missions, they clearly open up a new dimension to the game. It also kills one of the biggest problems in Guild Wars - and MMOs in general - finding up to seven other players for a party that won’t leave you mid-quest or Leroy the biggest and baddest mob in the game, along with his hordes of evil minions (elite) and their cousins. Yes, guilds are great, but if you only need to find one other sane person, who also has three heroes, then you’ve got a far greater chance of actually having some fun in the game! I swear I’m smiling thinking about it…

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You can control your new heroes in combat through their own little mini-skill bar

Get a plot

The story revolves around an alliance of heroes called the 'Sunspears' (could be worse, I guess, Moon Choppers anyone?) who protect the three provinces - Istan (the starter island effectively), Kourna and Vabbi - of Elona from evil ‘stuff', which, of course, duly turns up. On the special preview days we mostly experienced Istan, with a couple of very good co-operative missions that lead us into Kourna terrority and mass battles. All I’ll say about the coop missions is that level 28 generals were involved in one and I got my Dervish’s scythe and head handed to me on numerous occasions.

So far the Guild Wars world isn’t known for its gripping plots and deep characterizations. And I still don’t understand why all the models look like there’s a little alien trying to rip its way out of their belly buttons. Clearly, it’s a Korean thing I don’t fully understand. But anyway, the cut-scenes I’ve watched suggest that the expansion’s story might have legs. More than a few pennies have exchanged hands for the voice acting as well this time. The hope is that everyone will stop reaching for the ‘skip’ button and enjoy the experience. I wish they didn't have an irritating need to make all the new player characters talk like Keanu “Surfer Dude” Reeves when he was in Point Break.

Regardless, it does look promising, with characters, like the Master of Whispers, that have compelling enough voice actors to make you want to follow the story. However, unless they quit running cut-scenes in-game or decide to add special character animations for lip-synching and added emotion, they’ll only ever be as good as a relatively polished, amateur machinima - when a group of cloned guards all gasp in shock at exactly the same time and in exactly the same way, it tends to bugger up any chance of generating any more emotion than mild annoyance.

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You have to be quick to disable the traps in Nightfall, unless you want a face full of darts

There's also a marked attempt to encourage a more thoughtful player this time aswell. When you've spent a lot of time on creating a world, you really want players to stand still long enough to savour their surroundings. Rushing through the primary quests isn’t as easy as in previous expansions for this reason, as access to certain missions is linked to your ranking in the Sunspears. There are also nods to the puzzle-solving that Dungeons & Dragons Online has added to MMOs recently, with fire traps you must avoid or traps you can disable with certain skills. We’ll soon find out whether this will force many players to slow down, or whether players feel that it's just a stalling tactic to hide less content, but having many more side quests will certainly go down well with more pedestrian players.

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One co-op mission will have you fighting off an army of toady men

Overall, It's blindly obvious that Guild Wars Nightfall is shaping up to be the best expansion so far for the game. The PvPers may feel slightly less loved (but they’ll probably be too busy beating each other up), but the general Guild Wars population will appreciate the new world and its new collectible heroes. Whether we’ll be offered enough of a world for our money is a question for the review and now that the game is live I can crack on with just that.

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It was big okay, it was freaking big and we ran away!
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