Guild Wars: Eye of the North Review

by Cody
“Micajah” Bye

From the beginning of their existence, roleplaying games have
essentially been focused on players interacting with monsters that they
find in their environments. Originally tabletop RPGs featured a Dungeon
Master that controlled the action, sending wave after wave of enemies
at characters as they desperately tried to fight their way to the
treasure hoard. When roleplaying games made the transition onto video
game systems and computers, the formula remained the same. The DM or
game designer would send players on a quest to find an item, kill a
monster or save a damsel; the players would then encounter a variety of
monsters on their way to rescue the captured maiden, recover the item
or slay the dragon. Take this formula, rinse and repeat.

style="margin: 10px; border-collapse: collapse; float: right; width: 136px; height: 165px;"

title="Taking down one of the Norn"> src="/image/view/13835/preview"

style="font-style: italic;">Taking down one of
the Norn.

When the first MMORPGs were introduced in the 90s, the formula was
generally the same. Programmers had basically shifted the gameplay of
the older style RPGs into a massively multiplayer format, allowing
players to meet up with random individuals to go on the quests to slay
the monsters. The foundational principles of the RPG remained in tact.

However, several of the original MMORPGs ( style="font-style: italic;">Ultima Online and a
number of the MUDs) had also included an option that gave players the
freedom to kill other players. Player versus player combat was born, as
thousands of players killers, shrouded in their veil of anonymity,
descended upon a populace that was largely unused to competing with
other players for the same items, loot, and house properties. While
these early MMORPGs had a sort of “free-for-all”
style of combat, it was still only a mechanic in the game rather than a
full-blown game feature.

It wasn’t until many years later in early 2005 that this
would all change. Enter the realm of style="font-style: italic;">Guild Wars, the
first RPG that was created specifically for player versus player
combat. While it still included the same sort of quests and
monster-killing adventures that were in the first MMORPGs, style="font-style: italic;">Guild Wars had also
created a complex player versus player and guild versus guild ranking
system that created a much more competitive environment than what was
previously seen in MMOGs. They matched this system with a free-to-play
component, creating an incredibly successful game system. This success
is still evident today as the four millionth copy of style="font-style: italic;">Guild Wars was
recently sold.

But creating the competitive environment didn’t come without
its drawbacks. Despite including incredibly well-developed roleplaying
game scenarios in each of their subsequent stand-alone expansions,
ArenaNet had never focused exclusively on developing high-end
roleplaying game content for their player base. Instead, development of
Guild Wars
typically focused on creating more balanced PvP gameplay, adding more
skills to each characters skill selections and generating more
scenarios and arenas for players to compete in during their PvP battles.

While this didn’t upset those gamers focused on the PvP side
of Guild Wars,
it did cause a great deal of aggravation to those players that had
really enjoyed the quests, missions and storyline in the three
stand-alone packs Prophecies, Factions and Nightfall. After taking a
momentary step back from their development, the lead designers and
executives behind the Guild Wars series decided that it was time for
the first true expansion for Guild
to hit store shelves. Thus style="font-style: italic;">Guild Wars: Eye of the North
was born.  

The High Level Juice

As an on-and-off player of the original release ( style="font-style: italic;">Guild Wars: Prophecies),
I was instantly intrigued by an expansion focused squarely on high-end
content and PvE gameplay. Thought the PvE in the style="font-style: italic;">Guild Wars
stand-alone games is solid, it’s certainly not the focus of
the first three stand-alone products. On the contrary, player versus
player combat has always been the main target, and I knew that I had to
explore the newest realm of Guild
to discover – for myself – if an
PvE expansion pack was the right direction to go for the style="font-style: italic;">Guild Wars team.

style="margin: 10px; border-collapse: collapse; float: left; width: 136px; height: 165px;"

title="A dwarf, human and Asuran"> src="/image/view/13836/preview"

style="font-style: italic;">A shot of a dwarf,
human, and an Asuran.

Taking my newly minted level twenty character (you have to be level
twenty to enter the Eye
of the North
expansion content), I set out to find the NPC
that would deliver me to the new area. Like all the cross game travel
in Guild Wars,
going to any game outside of your current play area requires players to
find an NPC and do a short quest to access the next area. Although
having the characters perform a quest to access the new area does help
with the storybook type feeling of the roleplaying element of the game,
I found it incredibly annoying to be forced to search an area for
minutes before diving into my newly installed expansion.

Complaints aside, the introduction to the style="font-style: italic;">Eye of the North
expansion is very captivating. To start, you climb down into a chasm
that has ripped open in the heart of your home city. As you explore the
ruins and ancient tunnels, you happen upon a band of Dwarves that are
lifting kegs of explosive powder and stacking them in piles, preparing
to blow their way out of the tunnels. Apparently they’ve
gotten trapped down there with no way out. As you’re
conversing with the leader of the Dwarves (via cutscene) a strange
looking creature steps forward. It’s an Asura, one of the
four new races that are introduced in style="font-style: italic;">Eye of the North.

The other three races, which you happen upon shortly after leaving the
subterranean caverns, are the giant-like, shape-shifting Norn, the
mysterious Sylvari, and the bestial Charr. Unlike some of the other
Guild Wars games, these races play an integral part in the storyline
and the gameplay of the expansions and although you can’t
play as these new races – you can expect them to show up in
Guild Wars 2.

A Bridge Between Games

In essence, Guild Wars:
Eye of the North
is more of a prequel feature to
ArenaNet’s upcoming full-figured MMORPG, style="font-style: italic;">Guild Wars 2. The
developers in numerous interviews have announced that Eye of the North
really attempts to blend the two games together from a story
standpoint, but they’ve also included some features that have
never been explored in MMORPGs before.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Guild Wars Game Page.

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