Guild Wars offers chance at online gaming redemption

To those who have never heard of a massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG), let these words serve as a warning, a consumer recommendation and humble video game guidance. To those of you who proudly play your level 70 paladins, warlocks or rogues, this is your chance for redemption.

I say redemption because no one should be at level 70. No one should be paying $15 a month when there is a game that is not only better, but cheaper.

No one should be duped into thinking that “World of Warcraft” (WOW) is the best or only way to play an MMORPG.

Here’s the run down: WOW and “Guild Wars” are two of America’s most popular MMORPGs. As in other role-playing games (RPGs) the MMORPG player creates a highly personalized character that they use to play through the game.

Players accumulate experience by killing enemies and completing missions or quests. This experience then allows their characters to gain levels and become stronger.

Massively multiplayer online means that literally millions of these players are interacting with each other in expansive online environments.

WOW has dominated the MMORPG market since its release in fall of 2004, but it had the advantage of brand recognition. The previous three installments in the “Warcraft” world (none were MMORPGs) had been hugely popular games.

WOW had an anticipatory fan base before it was even released, and it was released months before “Guild Wars.”

The fact is, WOW is simply neither the best MMORPG, nor is it the best buy. WOW players, after paying an initial $50 to purchase the software, must pay $13-$15 a month to continue playing that game.

“Guild Wars,” by contrast, is a one-time investment of $50. It has no monthly fees. Most MMORPG users play the games for many months or even years. Over the course of two years, a WOW player spends at least $300 more than his “Guild Wars” counterpart.

Many WOW players justify the higher price by claiming they are getting a bigger and better game.

With a high level cap (70 in WOW, only 20 in “Guild Wars”) and a massive explorable world, they are probably right about the size of their game and the time it takes to beat it. Some users play for more than a year without even reaching the highest level on one of their characters.

But do size and required time equal quality? I think not.

The bigger environments and higher level cap do not make WOW a better game. They simply make it a bigger time trap and keep players addicted for longer. For a monthly-fee based game, the bottom line is not quality, it is to keep players addicted, to keep them playing and paying.

There are a number of ways in which “Guild Warsa” proves itself to be the better game. Some of the most stark advantages of “Guild Wars” are the visuals themselves.

“Guild Wars” has far more richly detailed environments and explorable areas. These areas are also far more realistic looking. The characters in “Guild Wars” are also more detailed and realistic. WOW, by comparison, looks like a shoddy Disney movie from the pre-digital era.

Then there is the gameplay itself. When WOW characters go out to complete quests or objectives, they can bring all of their skills and abilities with them. This allows for laziness in gameplay and makes player vs. environment relatively easy.

Restrictions make a game more difficult, and difficulties demand creative solutions. The unrestricted gameplay of WOW means that users do not need to think to win.

Rather than mindless hack-and-slash gameplay, “Guild Wars” requires tactical planning as rich as any strategy-based game. There is a pool of well over a thousand skills in the game, but before setting out on each mission, a player must choose only eight skills to use for that session.

With only eight skills, a “Guild Wars” player has to make each skill count. This forces the player to have a deep understanding of what their skills do, the strengths and weaknesses of each skill, and how the skills interact with each other.

Just as the skill limit adds tactics and creativity to the game, limits on team size add a need for strategy and cooperation.

“Guild Wars” players may only form parties of four to eight people, but WOW raiding parties can be as large 40 players.

In “Guild Wars,” players must communicate with each other to design specific team builds to beat more difficult areas and missions.

Take the tactics involved in one build with eight skills, and multiply it by four to eight players. “Guild Wars” is not only a more challenging game, it is also a more team-based game that encourages social online gaming.

All of these benefits and tactical aspects create a game that focuses on an individual’s skill and intellect, rather than on how many hours they log on the game. “Guild Wars” is a cheaper, a more challenging and a more social game.

Don’t be fooled by the WOW conspiracy any longer. Let “Guild Wars” save you today.