ArenaNet promised us a game without fees. What's more they promised it would be a fun experience that relied on skill rather than the hours of grind spent in the game. They delivered on their promises. Nightfall is the third chapter in the Guild Wars series, offering a new story, features and content. Wolf reviewed the original release., later named Prophecies, and I reviewed the second chapter.
Nightfall is a standalone chapter which means the storyline is in no way related to the previous two instalments. You play the role of a Sunspear recruit and work your way through the ranks in the middle of a civil war. The story does the series justice, the way the story unfolds and the general pace of the story telling is spot on. Expect a story similar to factions rather than the disjointed tales in Prophecies.
Another piece in the jigsaw
Nightfall, as Factions was, is neither an expansion or a standalone product. It's a hybrid of the two. It is possible to purchase Nightfall as a separate product and play through without owning the other two instalments. Owning all three of the chapters will offer a more complete gameplay experience as you can travel between the three continents and carry out missions in any of the campaigns. The one issue that has annoyed players is the number of character slots. If you install Nightfall as a standalone product you get four character slots, if you tie it to an existing account you only get two additional slots. Players will be forced to tie accounts together as they will want to share the unlocked goodies across all characters.
So whats new?
To be honest very little has changed with the new instalment, though the new features do make the game play very differently. Heroes have been introduced to the game. Heroes are similar to the games henchmen in that they are computer controlled characters that support your character in the various missions and quests. The key difference is they are highly customizable. You can set the heroes secondary profession, attributes and skills, you can also put runes into armour and give them weapons of your choosing. This makes them far superior to the standard henchmen counterparts. You may control 3 heroes at once. Customizing the heroes is one part of the new system, you can also give orders, in combat you can tell a hero to stop using skills, whether to attack or remain passive and also where to stand, this allows you to keep your ai support out of the way whilst you scout ahead. The hero system is a mixed blessing, it removes the frustration found with henchmen in previous instalments and the sheer power of heroes once fully souped up is impressive. Two human players can now put together a powerful team of eight and take on the most difficult of missions. This does mean there are less pick up groups in the game, I completed a massive proportion of the game without grouping with another human player. This can make the game a touch anti-social and means newer players won't have a group of friends around them to chat to or help them when required. As heroes are so powerful I've found Nightfall to be the easiest of the three games.
Weapons have changed since Factions, Nightfalls drops can contain 'Inscriptions'. An inscription is basically an improvement to a weapon. This allows for further customization of your characters equipment. Insignias can be added to armour to change the bonuses. Overall you are offered significantly more control over you equipment than the previous two games.
Like the release of Factions Nightfall introduces two new character professions each with its unique feel. The Paragon is an excellent support character who wields a spear. Using various shouts the Paragon improves the health and stats of allied characters. The Paragon can be a little difficult to play as they focus more on supporting others than dealing damage though they can massively increase the effectiveness of a well structured party. Having access to heroes helps to compensate for these combat shortcomings. The Dervish is a Scythe wielding damage dealer. Whilst essentially just another close combat class the Dervish has a definite positive feel and I've really enjoyed playing mine through the game.
The game has an African feel to it, and retains the general style and quality of the series. The engine does not seem to have had much of an overhaul and I think that it won't be long until the graphics start to look dated. The games music and sound effects retain the high quality of the series and voice acting is excellent. The attractive character models and various armours (along with the addition of white dye) will allow for a great deal of visual customization and allow your characters to stand out from the crowd.
But is it any better than the last two?
Nightfall is defintley a fun game to play, it has the high production style of the series and is definitely worth the money. The lack of subscription fees makes the game even more appealing. Like Factions, Nightfall lacks the slow steady progression of the first instalment and it feels more like a race to level 20. Unlike factions there is enough content to get you to level 20 and so the game is significantly less frustrating. Most of the content is aimed at level 20 characters and so it allows characters from the other two chapters to try something new. If you are a fan of the series you will love the game, the core mechanics are mostly unchanged. I think that for the next instalment the developers are going to have to look at making some significant changes otherwise the game will start to feel a little stale. For now though Nightfall delivers a complete and satisfying experience.