Costing nowt to play bar the price on the box, Guild Wars has enticed many penny-pinching MMORPG players into its clutches - and with Nightfall, it continues to borrow heavily from the rest of the RPG genre, both online and offline.
In fact, at times Guild Wars: Nightfall is a bit hard to call an MMORPG. It has all of the hallmarks of the genre, but at times it feels all too similar to old-man Diablo II mixed with two-parts EverQuest and three-parts of fantasy-cliché. Playable as a standalone part of the Guild Wars world, Nightfall mimics Factions by bringing two new classes to the table. The god-bothering, scythe-swinging Dervish can enchant himself with all sorts of spiritual prayers and cause ice and earth damage, and the friendly neighbourhood Paragon can tactically assist players on the battlefield with various buffs and health boosts while lobbing spears at people's heads.
The truth of the matter is that while these classes are great fun to play, you're still basically causing direct damage or buffing yourself and your group; the MMORPG class-barrel has been scraped dry, and no matter how pretty they make it look, it's still back to basics. Along with the new classes comes the much-anticipated hero system, which is somewhat like the henchman system, allowing lonely people to have friends who run into battle with them, except with the depth of customisation you have with your own character. Like an angry Barbie, you can dress up these dolls of death with the same items you use, control their skill development and generally level them up as you would your own character.
These heroes are remarkably well done, avoiding the obvious pitfalls of making them two-dimensional monster-copies (like the hunter's pets from World Of Warcraft); in fact, there's almost no difference between dealing with your own character or them, beyond the allocation of abilities, which is done across all of your heroes depending on class.
Thus, they can be applied on almost a chess-like level; you're able to gear up, level and prepare the skills of each hero as you would yourself, and your mini-army can be prepared down to the level of what moves they're going to be able to pull off in combat, making the normal MMORPG stable of preparing your pets a lot more interesting. They can be added and dropped any time you're in town, and more crucially put in place of a human player in a group - even if it means having an entire group of henchmen and your own hand-groomed heroes and heroines.
This really complements Guild Wars, considering that a great deal of Nightfall's content takes place in your own little instance-bubble within the NCsoft servers. Nightfall takes on and tramples one of the greatest annoyances of MMORPG gameplay; no more waiting around for the right group once you've built up a good stable of heroes (which, at least in the new campaign, is surprisingly fast). While they don't necessarily replace human interaction (with a good player being able to outplay a bot by virtue of being able to think on their feet), they effectively plug any holes a group might have - your L, F and G keys will thank you.
Unlike a great deal of other MMORPGs - even the mighty World Of Warcraft - Nightfall pushes a slick, cinematic storyline throughout its campaign. It follows the usual fantasy problems - some evil bastard is being a nuisance by trying to release an angry god, which spells certain doom for the continent of Elona and the rest of the world, and somehow you're embroiled in it.