Elona, the new continent is a mashup of cultural influences from what looks to be Egyptian, Middle-eastern and Mesopotamian or possibly Sumerian cultures. Whatever it’s true composition, it’s all been thrown in a pot, liberally seasoned with Americanisms, churned around and poured out onto a large chunk of new land for you to explore. And what we saw in the preview was beautiful with liberal use of blooming (although enough already, please) that’ll run happily on a very average gaming rig with at least 512MB of memory and an ATi Radeon 9000 series card (or equivalent). There are even some post-effects thrown in for when your character is affected by things like poison attacks, so the edges of your screen go a nice sickly green and your vision blurs.
Same-same but different
The strength of Guild Wars' standalone expansions are that you’ve a rough idea what you’re going to get, as they’re firmly based on the basic structure of the original game, but it’s clearly also their major weakness. If you hate the idea of permanent towns and outpost connected by instanced areas - that's areas where you’ll never see another player accept the ones in your party – well that’s Guild Wars, whether you play Nightfall or the original. Players can still level a normal RPG character up to twenty by questing in the new continent or they can go straight in and make player versus player (PvP) characters and try out the two new character classes – Dervish (a warrior that has a lot of group damage-dealing abilities) and Paragon (A party enhancer or ‘buffer’, who can also dish out precision strikes from a distance).
At this point of the preview, if I said that's you're lot and aside from a new continent, a few things like new PvP arenas and a ranking system, this was all Nightfall was offering, I’d feel confident in predicting that Nightfall would be the start of “Goodnight Guild Wars”. Let’s face it though, other MMOs have done it, Everquest 2 still insists on chucking out expansions that only extend the geography, but they all have a monthly subscription for leeching money from players.
Fortunately for GW fans, Nightfall promises more and NCsoft has been bigging up the ‘RPG’ elements that the expansion will offer. Yes, there are a lot new skills to mix and match on your action bar - 350 in all I believe, but that’s not the big sell. What the developers have done is taken the party creation feature that’s common in most single player RPGs and added hero party members into an MMO game. There are 20 heroes in all to collect, but players can only have three heroes in their party at a time. And they appear on the scene quickly, before you’ve barely started the training missions you’re given a warrior character called Koss with an aggressive afro and auto-quips that suggest an ego the size of a small planet.