GuildWars publisher and developer NCsoft is starting to make a habit out of showcasing preview events for their steadily increasing number of expansions. As we've been accustomed by previous endeavors, this weekend, players were once again offered a special preview event for the announced Guild Wars Nightfall campaign. Apparently, the last event was such a huge success that NCsoft decided to reiterate it at a larger scale. This time around, it was completely free and available to anyone willing to take an active interest in the game. Thus, complete newcomers could tag along with GuildWars Prophecies and GuildWars Factions owners, discovering the mysteries of Elona together. The game was pretty much full-feature enabled this weekend, a good teaser for the October 27th launch.Prelude
Welcome to the continent of Elona, Land of the Rising Sun. You've arrived to The Island of Sehkah just in time, for dire times are upon us, with two corsair ships being spotted on the shores. They are besieging the settlements, pillaging and burning everything in their path. With trusted companion Koss at your side, you are to take orders from his paragon superior, Kormir. The protectors of the land will not take lightly to this intrusion as The Order of the Sunspears will prevail against all obstacles. It is your duty to do anything in your power to stop the invaders, prior to making your way to the mainland. For times have grown dark indeed, if one of the Sunspears would cross the ways of the order and unleash an ancient evil upon the land, nightfall, a twilight of the gods, where the five almigthies come to an end.Gameplay
I am beginning to see a pattern here, where NCsoft is trying to create character professions inspired by specific cultures of the past. In this respect, Factions introduced the martial art wielding Assassin and the Indian looking Spiritualist. Nightfall presents the North African influenced Dervish, through masks and clothing, along with the highly Egyptian-looking Paragon. In fact, the obviousness of it all is revealed through architectural pieces like statues and buildings, as well as loading screens depicting pyramids and pharaoh themes and faces. Models look great, revealing high resolution textures with a knack for detail. It soon becomes apparent the whole game world looks better than before, adding to the advantage GuildWars already had, as one of the best looking MMORPGs.
NCsoft finally realized people playing Nightfall are usually familiar with game mechanics and given the short period of time the preview is available, they built in an option of skipping the tutorial. Since I have a veritable posse along with me, I can't help but notice that relevant NPC speech now has its own textbox. In previous installments, NPCs had a nasty habit of starting long chats during fights, which used to be rather frustrating. Moreover, in Nightfall, you can give more accurate orders to both your henchmen and hero helpers, specifically asking them to move at certain points across the map. It's a nice touch considering the use of friendly NPCs is a standard procedure even in the later stages of the game, especially useful when you can't get that extra healer to join your eight man group. Now, you can send the healer to the safety of the backlines of combat, and your warrior to tank out the damage instead of wandering aimlessly. Hero NPCs gain levelups with the added benefit of player made customization, further enhancing the solo feel of GuildWars. Although we're talking about a MMORPG, the overinstancing of the game combined with the henchmen system practically allows for solo
play until far into the game. It's not bad to see map navigation has been improved, with collectors now properly showing on the world map for fast planning for routes and buying item upgrades.
Heavy gameplay additions consist in the acquisition of promotion points, introducing a new faction: The Order of the Sunspears. Theoretically speaking, they are not far from the well known Balthazar faction. Promotion points lead to gaining Sunspear titles and eventually unlocking new items and abilities for PvE and PvP use. It is of note that rune upgrades have been disabled during this particular event, presumably to keep game balance to order since older players and newcomers alike battle in the same arenas. The event presented players with the unique opportunity of unlocking Nightfall specific skills for the new paragon and Dervish professions. Thus, characters were given the chance to engage a three day campaign extravaganza, on a quest to unlock as much of the new content as possible. NCsoft even prolonged the scheduled termination of the event by 12 hours, a good sign of its success. Gameplay changes are bound to heavily affect guild PvP, since the two professions bring interesting tactics to further balance the already efficient system. Sunspear Arena and Churranu Island are the two new arenas where players can hone their skills against one another.Dervish
If you are the kind of player that prefers to meet head on his opponents in battle, then the Dervish profession is tailored for you. The Dervish could be termed holy warriors as the character not only has some powerful spinning attacks that can take on several opponents but also special skills that can increase their abilities in battle. Mysticism is the primary Dervish attribute, along with the schools of Scythe Mastery, Wind Prayers and Earth Prayers. We never quite grasped this profession's role until recently. With all skills available for the taking via the Temple Of Balthazar clerics, descriptions are more than tempting. For instance, a whole class of Devrish elite skills revolves around the concept of the holy fighter gaining the acceptance of its main deity. You could turn into different kinds of vicious beast looking killing machines as an avatar of Balthazar, Dwayna, Grenth, Lyssa or Melandru. The Dervish are a mixed class, with decent are of attack spells and direct offensive scythe moves that usually benefit a change in damage type to cold or earth. A cross between warrior and elementalist, seeing as mad bombers W/E used to be pretty successful in arena action.Paragon
Holymen just the same, Paragons are bent on the spiritual part of life, most efficient while fighting close by their comrades for encouraging and support. They bear heavier armor and deal moderate damage, as the main asset is their chants, shouts and echoes. Natural born leaders, it is through faith they manage to effectively use healing powers. Paragons look as the name implies, almost like the offspring of gods among men, revered for their actions and attitude alike. Leadership is the primary attribute for the Paragon profession, along with the specific Spear Mastery, Command, and Motivation skills. During this second preview, I discovered they are actually very capable damage dealers, along with the decent heal and buffs they provide. Not unlike the dervish, paragons use warrior-like skills that need adrenaline to go off. The more hits you deliver in combat, the more adrenaline build up and the more damage you can deal. Areas of effect abilities grant allies important bonuses, like dealing extra damage, conditions (burning) or simply landing unblockable hits. Healing can't match the superior proficiency of Monks, yet the higher damage output and survivability more than makes up for it. MMORPG players have a thing for paladins, I mean Paragons, and thus, I can't help but wonder if this profession isn't overpowered already. Time will tell.Conclusion
While gameplay changes are nothing major, they are dealing with details that subsequently add up to a consistent feeling of improvement. The interface is more intuitive, commands are easier to use and, generally speaking, playing difficulty has been decreased. Since the long term asset of GuildWars has always been guild PvP, this can only please the existing players, as full skills for the Dervish and Paragon need to be acquired by playing the Nightfall campaign from beginning to end. So, expect many exciting hours of player versus environment play that will eventually result in a full player versus player showdown. The waiting is almost over, as GuildWars Nightfall is scheduled to hit the shelves on October 27.