One rarely notices them, but there are in fact several other big mmorpgs out there. Have you ever tried one? I have tried two of them, Guild Wars and Warhammer Online, both on 10 day trials. It was some time ago (Guild Wars about a year and Warhammer Online about half a year), and the games have probably changed considerably since then just as WoW has. But you still get the essence of the game when trying them out, or at least I hope I do since that's the whole idea of a 10 day trial isn't it? To give people a general idea about what a game is about so they can decide whether they want to spend 40 hours a week playing it? I always try to think that I shouldn't compare other mmorpgs to WoW, because it's not really fair. WoW has been out on the market for far longer than GW and WO and has had more time to fine tune through trial and error, but it's hard not to in reality. Since I have played WoW so much, I will inevitably think about everything I do in another mmorpgs through the eyes of a long time WoW player. I'm only human after all. So what did I think?
My first horror filled insight about this game was that you can't jump in GW. Seriously! I read that they're going to release a GW2 in which you can jump, but this still means my very first impression with GW wasn't overly positive. It might sound like a small thing, but it really bothered me. It gives the game a 2-dimensional feel, like you're stuck to the ground. You might as well be a rock in the sand, you don't really get the feeling you're a "living" object with free choice to move around, and I didn't think it suited the game. Maybe it's a habit thing, and if GW is designed around not being able to jump (and I am sure it is), this doesn't have to be an issue, just one of those "I'm used to being able to do this and I want to whine about it"-problem. And on the bright side you automatically get rid of all the idiots who spam jump around when waiting for something in a group.
One thing I knew about GW before playing it, from watching a friend who played it some, and really liked about it when I played, is the possibilty to do just about anything you like with your UI. Unlike WoW, which has the worst and most rigid UI ever, GW gives the player nearly free hands to move bars and windows around as you like to fit ones play style. Lovely! More game developers should think about implementing these kind of choices into their game. It seems like they (Blizzard) don't think about the fact that we're supposed to spend a whole lot of time looking at that screen, and most of us want to customize it to our liking. The UI is part of the game, although Blizzard doesn't treat it like that.
The graphics of GW have always been better than those of WoW. Blizzard has played it safe by having a slightly cartoonish look, it is easier to hide bad graphics that way (and boy are they bad at some places). The emotes, motions and spell effects looked cool enough and I really have nothing bad to say about the graphics overall. As a WoW player I am used to the world and the monsters that inhabit it to look a certain way, which meant I had more trouble locating stuff in GW. The eyes adapt to a certain way of scanning the surroundings I suppose, which of course didn't work the same way for GW. But that was just a problem about me having to become used to the graphics of GW instead, and not a problem of the game.
I did miss the possibility to choose a race other than human though. I like being able to play some sort of "monster", or at least something that doesn't feel so plain all the time. In all honesty I only played one class, some sort of caster, and I can't say much about the diversity in professions and classes. In games like Diablo playing only human heros isn't anything you think about, and I am sure it doesn't have to be a problem in a game like GW either.
One thing about Gw that was a major problem for me before I started out, and that I didn't get a chance to try out (see below) was the game design choice not to let player play by themselves outside of cities. This means you always have to be in a group, either with other players or with npc's. It's an interesting design choice, no question about it. Like I said I didn't get to try it so I can't say it doesn't work well, it probably does. But being forced to play in a group doesn't sound like something for me. I don't like any kind of game mechanics to be force like that unless it is supposed to be an outright multi-player game. But that isn't so since you can use an all npc group, which sort of removes the feeling of being multi-player. The point seems to be that you can't do stuff alone.
As in WoW, you start out playing a secluded area, set up for you to understand the game properly before you get thrown out into the real thing. This worked well and I had no trouble until I got out of this place. Or rather was supposed to get out of this place. I ran around like stupid trying to find the nect place to go, but I just couldn't. I asked around in chat, but just as no one really cares much about nubs in WoW, no one cared much about me in GW. I asked every npc I could see, ran to every corner of the map, but I seriously didn't know what to do next. After a while of running around I just gave up. It's not supposed to be that difficult to get going with the game! I'm not slow (or so I think) and I have at least some experience with games of this kind. Maybe the solution was dead obvious, but they lost my interest anyway.
I realize I probably didn't give GW the chance it deserved, and maybe I was just unlucky or too stupid to get into the game properly. On the other hand I think that a game only has so long to impress me and the competition is fierce. Somehow I think GW had to do better than it had, and eventhough one should never say never, I probably won't become a GW player. I might give it another try, or GW2 if that turns up (maybe it has already?), but overall I felt that GW wasn't a bad game but it wasn't my kind of game.
If you read this and happen to know alot more about GW than me and notice some mistakes please just tell me. In any case what I've written here is the impression the game has made on me, so even if some things are wrong that's still the idea I got from playing it. But I'd also love it if I am completely mistaken and GW happens to be an awesome game (more awesome games for the people), in which case I have to try it again of course!
Next time, which might be tomorrow, I'll talk about my impressions on Warhammer Online!
Have you tried GW? What did you think of it?