"Here's what's new: Guild Wars is all about small multiplayer teams, and it's built from the ground up to support competitive play. The developers avoided player-vs.-player in the standard online RPG sense (where some random level 50 barbarian appears out of nowhere to whack you and take your stuff), and opted on a unique skill-based system instead. As you play, your character will learn new skills, each balanced with its own advantages and disadvantages. Before entering a mission, you choose the eight skills you want to bring to battle with you. No matter how long you've played the game, you can only bring eight skills into any particular conflict, meaning that a relatively new player is just as capable of winning a battle as a long-time veteran. The secret to winning isn't about who has the best lewt, it's about who is on the team that picks complimentary skills, develops the best strategy, and fights as the better team. Long-time players will have earned more skills to choose from at the outset, but strategy and tactics are what will count on the battlefield.
Gameplay in Guild Wars is also completely streamlined, and feels much more "video gamey" than most massively multiplayer games. Gone are huge tracts of empty lands or long slow grinds to build up experience. Forget about corpse runs or any other time-wasters. Every player has access to a large map of the game world, with all of the mission locations highlighted; simply click on a place to instantly go there. Staging areas outside of each mission allow players to quickly group up with other people who want to do the same mission. As a result, Guild Wars is playable for either long sessions or for quick pickup games. If you only have fifteen minutes to play, you can jump in, hop to a mission location, join a group, play, and log off. Gameplay moves quickly and you're never waiting around for the fun stuff.
Lastly, but most importantly, Guild Wars will not charge gamers a monthly fee to play. When you buy the title, you'll have access to the whole game world (about 30-40 missions and a handful of towns for players to gather). Afterwards, about every six months, an expansion will be released (no word on the expansion pricing yet). Buying the expansions will be optional, but they'll give your character access to vast new parts of the world, as well as new missions and skills. ArenaNet tells us that players who don't buy the expansions will still be able to access the new areas if invited by another player -- the Guild Wars engine allows content to be streamed to players. The new pricing model should lower the barrier to entry and help bring a lot of new players into this type of game."
"Early in the game, your character will only have some basic skills. After completing a few introductory missions, your character goes through what they call "Ascension." At that point, you have enough skills to choose from to make yourself useful in any of the missions. From there, by either trading with other players or completing missions, you'll be able to learn additional skills -- some of which may be rare -- which will give you more options for how to tackle each mission. It's a lot like collecting Magic: The Gathering cards, and customizing your "deck" for each mission. Because each profession has between 70 and 80 skills to choose from, advanced characters will literally have over a hundred skills to work with."
"Missions run the gamut in Guild Wars, from simple solo quests to difficult ordeals that'll require a full team of eight people using careful tactics. Some missions are against the computer, others against other teams of players. In either case, starting a mission spawns off a private server for just the people playing that mission, so you're never interrupted by other players. Within each mission, there's no set way to accomplish it (one of the design goals was to make the missions infinitely replayable.) For example, in one quest we played, a series of computer-controlled enemies were encamped in a valley between the characters and their destination. One solution to the problem was to help some monks rebuild a trebuchet on a nearby ridge. To do so, characters had to carry parts up to the ridge, during which time they were defenseless and had to be protected by their teammates. Once the siege weapon was built, it would make short work of the enemies below. Of course, if players didn't want to bother -- and had a lot of confidence in their fighting abilities -- they could simply storm the valley and wail on the bad guys the old fashioned way. The approach used is up to you and your team.
For most gamers, the multiplayer missions will be the real highlight of the game. Most missions that pit one team against another feature interesting objectives that require a mix of offense and defense. One mission in particular supported 48 players in six separate teams! Each team would try to destroy the bases of the others while defending its own territory. Approaches to such a huge problem were as varied as the teams themselves.
Guild Wars also features a unique online ladder tournament, running 24 hours a day. You and your team can join up and shortly thereafter you'll be paired with another team on the bottom rung. The winner would move on to challenge a team at a higher level, and so on until you'd fight the reigning champion. Aside from bragging rights, the team on top of the pyramid continually collects tons of gold and rewards. The developers hope to be able to put the winning team's guild icon on flags set up all around the game world.
While you're waiting for a multiplayer tournament match to start, there are mini-scenarios to keep you entertained. One has the players defending an area while wave after wave of undead creatures storm the place. If they do well, players can get a small bonus to help them out when the mission officially starts. That's part of the Guild Wars philosophy: there's never any downtime, and always something to do."