Unmistakably similar to the previous two games in the innovative Guild Wars series, Nightfall features an impressive new Egyptian-themed continent to explore.
- Features a great-looking new continent to explore, filled with countless quests
- two interesting but complex new character professions add even more depth
- gameplay still offers an excellent mix of action, role-playing, and strategy.
- The core game hasn't changed much, and its shortcomings are still there
- new hero characters can be complicated to manage.
It's scarcely been six months since the release of Guild Wars Factions, the follow-up to ArenaNet's innovative online role-playing game, but here comes Guild Wars Nightfall--another massive game featuring plenty of solo, cooperative, and competitive questing and combat. Whereas Factions took place in an Asian-inspired setting, Nightfall has an ancient Egyptian look and feel, and unlike Factions, it's more focused on solo and cooperative questing than on a mix of that and high-level player-versus-player battles. The result is unmistakably similar to the other Guild Wars titles despite a few new features, though it can still be a good starting point for those who haven't given the series a chance yet. However, in spite of all the new content that's on offer in Nightfall's large new continent of Elona, the underlying game hasn't changed much and is starting to show signs of aging.
Guild Wars Nightfall is a stand-alone product just like the other two Guild Wars games, but if you have one or both of the others, they all tie together. Each one features its own continent to explore and unique looks for all the available character professions. Like Factions before it, Nightfall introduces two new character professions to the original six found in the first Guild Wars. These are the dervish, a scythe-wielding holy warrior designed for frontline combat and support who gains special bonuses from enchantments, and the paragon, a spear-throwing paladin whose inspirational shouts improve the abilities of nearby comrades. Those who own Guild Wars Factions won't initially be able to mix and match Nightfall's exclusive character professions with Factions' assassin and ritualist; however, one of the unique features of Guild Wars is still how you can combine the abilities of your main profession with those of others for what seems like an almost limitless number of choices. Some professions are clearly complementary, such as how the paragon shares the warrior's adrenaline system for launching certain special attacks. But between all the different combinations of professions and the availability of well over a hundred unique skills for each one, Guild Wars offers a tremendous degree of choice and customization.
The combat in Nightfall is fundamentally similar to what Guild Wars has offered all along--a fast-paced, skill-based, action-packed experience that tries to keep the gameplay simple but strategic by limiting you to just eight different skills at a time. It's a great formula for a long while, and Nightfall introduces many impressive-looking, powerful new enemies to fight, and it also seems to have updated their artificial intelligence to make them even more ruthless--they'll happily go after your party's soft targets, like your monks and elementalists, not just attack the frontline. You have to learn a number of hotkeys to be an effective participant in battle, but the game's colorful manual and some in-game training will teach you the ropes. Ultimately, Guild Wars makes it relatively easy for your team to coordinate and bring down one target at a time, then quickly move onto the next threat, rather than spreading your attacks and defenses too thin.
The game is also deeply challenging because it's designed so that no one type of character or strategy is invincible. Taking cues from collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering, Guild Wars' skill system has grown rather esoteric over time, with many professions' skills being useful only in highly specific situations or combinations. Nightfall's new character classes are similarly complicated, offering up a vast number of unique skills that are loaded with qualifiers and contingencies, suggesting that Guild Wars has long since moved on from being straightforward. Sometimes the game can feel strangely limiting, as you can either feel stuck with an overly simple character build loaded with skills that cause direct damage, or you're stuck with a whole mess of countermoves useful only in particular circumstances. Invariably, some of the game's many tough missions will cause you to go back to the drawing board with your character's choice of skills. This highlights one of the good but complicated aspects of Guild Wars, which is that you're free to readjust your character's proficiencies and preferred skills any time you're in a town or outpost.
Guild Wars Nightfall gives you even more to manage by introducing the concept of hero characters that join your own created character during the course of the campaign. While it's always been possible to take on computer-controlled henchmen as an alternative to questing or undertaking missions with other human players, the hero characters grow and improve much like your main character does. They'll gain experience levels, and they have their own sets of skills, as well as their own inventories--and it's up to you to decide what to do with all that. You can even give them basic move orders in battle, though they'll fight and follow automatically for the most part. The hero characters are an interesting way of exposing you to all of the different professions in Guild Wars firsthand, since now you get to choose skills for your computer-controlled allies that are complementary with the skills you want to use. However, managing just your own character is a challenge, so by making you think about how best to develop a growing list of hero characters as well, Nightfall gets a little top-heavy. And since hero characters occupy the same slots in a player's team that could normally go to other human players, it can be even tougher for a casual player to join a group this time around. Overall, the hero system in Nightfall feels like a mixed blessing.