Guild Wars: Eye of the North - Staff Review  

A Brawlin' Good Time!
by Sean Kepper

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Easy to Very Hard
30-100+ hours
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   Guild Wars: Eye of the North is the first true expansion in the Guild Wars series. The previous titles, Prophecies, Factions, and Nightfall all added gameplay enhancements in the form of new classes and features, but Eye of the North does not. In fact, it is the only title that requires that the player own another chapter; any one will do.

   While originally intended for level twenty characters, the developers recently reduced this requirement to level ten. To compensate for this decrease, characters are buffed while in the expansion areas and will perform like top level characters while there.

   Being an expansion, the core mechanics are the same, but the new content is important. For those that are not in the know, Guild Wars is not a true MMORPG, as players will adventure in completely instanced areas. Furthermore, players can choose to party with either human players, hired henchmen, or their heroes. Heroes, added in Nightfall, make a return visit, but are somewhat more exotic as the new ones are not human. Players will find themselves aided by Norn (giant northlanders), dwarves, Asurans (tiny, intelligent little guys) and Charr (bestial foes from the first chapter.)

   That being said, most players will play through GWEN as if it were a single player game. Unlike previous titles, losing in a mission doesn't necessarily mean that it is over. It is much quicker to create a party of AI-controlled characters than waiting for a full group of people with the same goals. The majority of the game seems like it is designed for solo play, as it is generally very easy. The final few missions destroy this trend, as they are excruciatingly difficult even with human-controlled companions.

   Like the rest of the Guild Wars titles, this one also has its own storyline. After an earthquake wracks the lands of the first three chapters, tunnels are opened up to the great underworld. The player is tasked with investigating it. Inside they meet up with some dwarves and an Asuran who are frantically running away from a pack of monsters called Destroyers. Following the dwarves, they run away and jump into a gate that teleports them halfway across the world into the Far Shiverpeaks. Here, players learn that they must gather an army formed from the different races to take out the Destroyers.

   One thing can be said here: the Destroyers don't make good villains. They are boring and are simply around to destroy and be destroyed. They are just there to be killed. The heroes that join the party are of little interest. Not a single one of them grows over the course of the missions. Instead, they all stick to their personality quirks and show them over and over again. While some exchanges between them are amusing (such as when Gwen and Pyre go at it), they are overused and players will often be shown the same scene three or four times. This repetition within the cutscenes is very annoying and makes a lot of the intended humor just fall flat.

Jora fights a Jotun. Jora fights a Jotun.

   Mission objectives are a little more varied in this game, which adds a little more excitement. Unfortunately, these moments are not that frequent. Similar to Nightfall, players learn faction skills. Becoming friendly with the various factions will increase a player's rank. The higher their rank, the stronger these skills are. The unfortunate part is that there is a lot of grinding involved to hit the higher ranks. These skills cannot be used in PvP. The expansion adds a few skills for PvP play, but they are neither numerous, nor altogether that useful.

   There are a few minigames that are available in this expansion. The Asurans play Polymock, a game in which the contestants take part in one-on-one matches where they take the forms of monsters. Each form gives different abilities and it can lead to a lot of strategy. The Norn, who believe in personal prowess, hold numerous arena tournaments. Battles are one-on-one and depending on the player's class, the difficulty varies wildly. Finally, the most fun of all, the dwarves partake in brawling. When wearing a pair of brass knuckles, the player's skills are replaced by brawling skills. This mode of play is really fun and helps break up the monotony that sets in while partaking of the other content.

A view of Polymock. A view of Polymock.

   GWEN offers little enhancement to PvP play. Instead, players seem to be drawn to the Hall of Monuments. Within this area, players can hang trophies and show off their accomplishments, as well as watch previous cutscenes. These trophies are not for naught, as they will carry over to Guild Wars 2. How they will carry over is unknown, but they offer completionists hundreds of extra hours of play.

   Some of the areas look a lot prettier than those found in previous installments, but most of them don't show any graphical improvement. Character models are all the same as seen before. Similarly, the aural qualities of the game don't differ from the past either.

   GWEN is not the best Guild Wars title and would be little without the Hall of Monuments. For such a heavily PvP oriented game, it is hard to believe that this portion of the game would see no improvements. The challenge varies wildly in both the primary and secondary quests, with some monsters being far nastier than they should be. That being said, player skill plays a huge part, and it is expected that players have a good grasp of how to handle themselves in battle. There are three reasons to pick this game up: love of Guild Wars and a desire to experience the new content, interest in what happens prior to the release of the sequel, or a wish to complete the Hall of Monuments, a task that spawns all four titles. Otherwise, the game should be ignored and should not be taken as a reason to try out any of the other titles.

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