Let me pre-empt all the flames right now: I don’t dislike Guild Wars. I don’t think it’s a bad game, based on a distant look at it, and I don’t make fun of people who like it.
However, with that out of the way, I must say that I absolutely, 100%, do not get the appeal of it. Sure, it’s a free “MMO”. The technology behind it is excellent – servers are never down, content streams automatically, and performance is completely beyond reproach. The financial concept is bold and commendable – you pay for the game and play on ArenaNet’s servers for free, while they work on expansions that you will hopefully buy. In purely technical terms, the gameplay is an interesting combination of action, RPG and multiplayer shooter elements.
For all that, I find it boring.
Before I continue, perhaps I should explain that I’d experienced something similar with World of WarCraft – I played it to quite unhealthy levels during the beta and by the time the final product was out, I was quite keen on avoiding another bout of addiction that would kill my productivity and social life. Yet, when I finally picked up World of WarCraft, I found myself instantly bored. I’d done everything – or at least enough that I didn’t feel like going through it again. The mystery, the challenge, the desire to improve my character were just plain gone – it wasn’t the monthly fee or technical issues.
So, knowing this, I’d abstained from the Guild Wars beta. I figured I’d really like the game, so why waste my passion on an unfinished version of it? Everything I heard about it made it seem more exciting. Only 20 levels, an intricate introduction mode, the ability to dual-class without any penalties, hundreds of skills, the strategy behind selecting those skills, and actual player skill would be involved in combat. It sounded like the kind of thing developers wish they could do but never did, for fear of creating something so different it would scare players away (see: Allegiance). And yet it worked, and the masses flocked to the game – and I along with them.
Rushing to pick the game up, complete with the little EB special weapon, I logged in, created a few characters, wandered around, read about the introduction and how the real gameplay doesn’t begin until after the searing (typically level 3-6). After that, I could group with 4 or more people on missions and quests as I leveled my way to 20, which was only the first half of the game – then I could continue gathering skills, defend my guild hall or attack others’. Those times when my guild wasn’t on, I could adventure with AI compatriots.
By the end of my first night, I was bored to tears.