I Get/Don’t Get GW2

Since reinstalling the client a little over a week ago, I think I have spent more time reading about GW2 than I have playing.

The initial issue was as I described: picking a class that I wanted to play. I’m not sure how normal people do this sort of thing, but my standard operating procedure is a combination of getting hands-on while also reading the latest news about said class. Nobody wants to play a class about to be nerfed. The other issue is that you can read about how powerful a given class can be, but if the button combinations required to get there aren’t fun to push, then it doesn’t matter.

GW2_Space

Quite nice.

My original thought was Thief or Mesmer, so I started there. Then after playing a while, I realized something: if you aren’t playing GW2 for the WvW gameplay, why were you even playing? The game’s narrative is background noise, endgame progression is wardrobe-based, dungeons are about speed running exploits, and world PvE content consists of Champion trains and dragon zergs. You don’t even really have anything to look forward to while leveling either, as you can generally unlock every ability you are ever going to use by level 31, even under the revamped system. The only really redeeming feature seems to be WvW.

Or is it?

I’m still conflicted myself. I ended up going Necromancer as a class, which I had avoided at the time because of all the bugs and other issues. As it turns out, Necros are pretty damn powerful if you just ignore pets. Between that and the ability to really annoy zergs of any variety (PvE or PvP) from the relative safety of range, I felt like I had found a better home, class-wise.

Issues remain, however. It’s been three years, but I still remember all these level 30 zones I am going through, and the non-existence of their narratives. Combat feels floaty and insubstantial. The economy has inflated massively, and yet there really doesn’t feel like there is anything of value I can do/gather/create for cash. The more events I go though, the more it feels like I’m just mindlessly grinding for no reason. There might not be a mechanical difference between this approach and grinding out quests in WoW, but it emotionally feels different.

I was about to pack it up for good (again) when, in the course of doing an easy achievement daily to satisfy the 3 achievement daily daily, I just… sort of looked around.

GW2_Trees

Something something forest for the trees.

Those are trees. Duh, right? But looking at them, I began to really (re-)appreciate the sense of space that GW2 manages to generate. Each of those are an individual tree that you can walk around, get stuck on, and use to block projectiles coming at you. Other games might have a higher graphics fidelity than GW2, but I haven’t played one that quite felt the same walking around inside. There is almost a Skyrim-esque feeling to the terrain, insofar as you can reasonably look at an area and decide “hey, I want to climb that mountain over there” and be able to do so. This really comes through in the jumping puzzles, but those are just a byproduct of the underlying design allowing you to play in a remarkably detailed 3D space.

The only skyboxes in GW2 appear to be just the sky.

So, I feel like I “get” GW2 now – it is the best exploration MMO I have ever played. It’s just too bad that exploration isn’t enough for me as a player. I either need a reason to explore, or the ability to do something interesting once I arrive. I’m just not getting that feeling from GW2, and I’m not sure that I ever will. But if I ever get the desire to really walk around in a fantastical fantascape, I know which game to boot up.

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Posted on February 2, 2016, in Guild Wars 2 and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I believe those are the two strength of GW2 : exploration, and world liveliness. The overall story is OK as a background noise, (there is a big threat menacing this world + wars between faction) but I like the small story of each chain of event : helping one tribe, or pushing back the centaur to their fort, etc…

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  2. I agree on the exploration part, only for me it was undercut by the ‘exploration’ achievements the game has. If you aren’t exploring an area with an achievement, according to the game you aren’t exploring (if that makes sense). This was especially bad because of the map markers. It would be one thing if you could explore all over and sometimes get rewarded for exploring, but in GW2 you basically know where you should go ‘explore’ to get the shiny.

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    • Not all of it, and especially with Dry Top, Silverwastes and the new HoT maps you have a ton of things to explore that have no map marker.

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  3. The best narrative of GW2 isn’t the Personal Story, at least not the original one. Living Story 2 and HoT story are better.

    The best narrative is the little stories and conversations the NPCs have. Just the other day, while in Queensdale (in the Betleetun area) suddenly 2 females NPCs start having a conversation about the looks of another NPC and how they themselves looked, and my GF that was also playing just turned to my PC to listed to the conversation.

    It is also interesting how when we make our mind about a game, the way you feel about something can be so completely diverse.

    You see:
    “The game’s narrative is background noise, endgame progression is wardrobe-based, dungeons are about speed running exploits, and world PvE content consists of Champion trains and dragon zergs. You don’t even really have anything to look forward to while leveling either, as you can generally unlock every ability you are ever going to use by level 31, even under the revamped system. The only really redeeming feature seems to be WvW.”

    “Combat feels floaty and insubstantial. The economy has inflated massively, and yet there really doesn’t feel like there is anything of value I can do/gather/create for cash.”

    I see:
    – Endgame progression is wardrobe (gear, but without the stats), mastery, skill, achievements, quality of life items, dungeons, fractals and raids (with HoT).
    – world PvE content consist of Champion trains, dragon zergs and map wide meta zergs, opposed to most MMOs where world PvE is solo leveling by doing fedex quests.
    – By level 31 you have no build. Sure, you can unlock the skills, but you barely have any traits, you don’t have all the stats combos and rune/sigils. And with HoT you still have your elite spec to go for.
    – Combat feels fast with tons of movement and great animations.
    – Ectos are at the same price level as of December 2012. All the low level materials and especially tier 2-4 are worth a ton these days. Crafting ascended materials for sale will net you a ton of money.

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  4. As an explorer I agree it’s one of the best MMOs for just wandering about. There are parts of Ascalon that I know as well as the woods and fields I explored as a child, which they occasionally, weirdly, resemble. Swoo is absolutely right about the background narrative. The incidental conversations and local storylines between NPCs, in which players play and can play little or no part, are small works of art. Spend a couple of hours in Metrica Province, for example, just listening to the Asuras bickering and running power-plays – it’s like one of those 1970s improvisational theater events.

    SynCaine’s reaction is, i think, the reaction of someone who is primarily an Achiever with some Explorer tendencies. The directed “exploration” is there for Achiever types, who may need it to stay focused. As an Explorer, after three and a half years and over 4000 hours play on my main account my highest “Map Completion” on any character is less than 70%. I don’t need or want map markers to prompt me to explore and I don’t always or even often go where they suggest. There are many, many more interesting sights to see that aren’t marked and which give no reward other than the pleasure of seeing them, which is, of course, all the reward an explorer needs or wants.

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  5. Well, now you have PvE raids to look forward to, and masteries to unlock once you reach level 80, so your first arguments have been invalidated.

    It’s too bad that in doing so, Anet promptly ignored the original playerbase that were attracted by that sense of immersive exploration (granted, you can glide everywhere now, besides WvW.)

    Now, GW2 is exactly what you describe in your heading. Everybody gets/doesn’t get GW2, because some parts of it make sense to them, and others make them go WTF?

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  6. The thing I find most striking here is how through all of the things you have mentioned about PvE, people use those same things (collectors for the wardrobe, speed runners for the dungeons) as goals to wrap a personal end game around.

    I personally prefer PvP/WvW end game, but most of the population has traditionally flocked to the PvE endgame stuff. The expansion then went and added more traditional MMO endgame stuff for PvE.

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