Little late to the party, but two weeks ago marked 10 years since the release of Guild Wars 2.
Surprisingly, I’m still playing.
Okay, perhaps “still” needs some quotation marks or an asterisk or two. There have been multiple, years-long periods where nary a guild has been warred. But it is absolutely true that I have been low-key doing daily quests and farming for probably well over six months now. And it is even more true that I ended up purchasing the ultra-deluxe edition of the End of Dragons expansion, that came with a bunch of extra premium currency.
Even more true than that is the fact that… I continue to play the game all wrong.
As any long-term reader could readily diagnose, my problem is an unhealthy desire for efficiency. Why do X when you could do X + Y instead? Because Y requires Z, about 15 hours of research, and meanwhile you never get around to doing X in the first place.
Let’s start basic. What I want to do is set my Future Self up for success whenever I get back to playing GW2 “for real.” So, for example, these last six months I have parked all my alts around a certain resource node, mined it, switched characters, repeat, log off. That plus the log-in rewards plus the occasional daily set if it’s achievable within 5 minutes has resulted in a nice nest egg. Thanks, Past Self.
Now that I am “back” in the game, I have additional priorities:
- Play through Icebrood Saga content
- Play through End of Dragons content
- Try some of the new Elite specs
- Work towards completing “Return of” achievements for free Legendary
- Work towards unlocking Skyscale mount
- Work towards unlocking some Legendary gear
The rational thing to do would be to pick something and do that thing in particular. But we’re not rational, we’re efficient. Which means spending dozens of hours setting yourself up for future success rather than using those same dozen hours achieving it.
So, for example, instead of continuing to mine that random ore node all my alts are already parked at, wouldn’t it be more efficient to park them at a node that provides resources towards completing Legendary gear? Absolutely, let me just try and start plowing through the Living World mission that unlocks that resource. But wait, since I am already low-key working towards a future Legendary, I should go ahead and set things up to work on the other time gates I know are ahead. Okay… I can get two Provisioner tokens a day just teleporting around, and I have plenty of resources to craft the 1/day Lump of whatever cooldown. Druid Stones take… alright, they take completing 4 Hearts in a certain area everyday for like 16 days. Better work that into my daily routine. Man, I already got all the achievements done for the “Return of” meta in this map other than redoing the story mode. I really want to try another new Elite spec for that though, because my Scourge is getting a little stale. Damn, my Engineer already spent all their Hero Points so they can’t unlock Mechanist without doing End of Dragons areas though. I wonder if I can just pop into the new zone real quick and then ignore everything while going around the map? Damn, I’m pretty close to the Skyscale though…
And so on, and so forth.
I suppose it is remarkable enough that all of this is still compelling in 2022. I mean, yeah, some of that compulsion originates from my side of the screen. But there are some things still extremely unique to the GW2 experience. “Quest” chains like the Skyscale are both meme-worthily long and relatively achievable, provided you eat the elephant one spoonful at a time. Combat isn’t difficult, but it can be satisfying. The mounts in the game are both a joy to use and perfectly enhances the scale of the world rather than diminishing it. There is an Explicit Schedule of Villainy that ensures there is something going on practically all the time. And there are people that appear out of the woodwork eager to engage in these scheduled events for some reason. Seriously though, no one really know how the economy of the game even works, but somehow it continues to do so. Okay, sure, the Mystic Toilet requiring you to flush thousands of materials away to create Legendary gear is one reason demand for goods have not yet collapsed, but are there really that many people working towards them simultaneously?
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even have the answer as to whether I will still be playing in a week. But of all the F2P/B2P MMOs out there that I have tried, GW2 is the only one that has felt “real” enough to “matter.” As in, time you spent playing and unlocking things would still provide utility years later. Granted, the marketing department is nearly nonexistent, the balance team doesn’t play their own game (although someone is recently cleaning house), and you can never really tell with NCSoft titles how long they are for the world. However! I am glad Guild Wars 2 has made it to the ten years mark, and here’s hoping it goes on for another ten. Or at least as long as my interest persists.
In other GW2 news, I finally buckled down and completed the Heart of Thorns expansion story. Which is a bit weird, because I never finished the main GW2 story in all the time I’ve played the game, but whatever. The primary impetus was not necessarily seeing any kind of plot resolution, but because you can unlock an Ascended weapon at the very end.
The story experience of GW2 is interesting in general. Unlike a lot of other MMOs, your character is fully voiced and actually present at all the story moments that occur. While for some people this can pull them out of the game, I’m more than fine with it. In fact, it was oddly soothing for me, as the Commander always knows what other people are talking about, even when I do not. I mean, of course that is the case, but sometimes there can be large gaps inbetween plot points simply because you get swept up in some Map event chain.
Indeed, I was recently wandering around unlocking stuff when I got swept up in a Mordremoth battle. This is technically the big dragon you are trying to kill in the expansion, so it was a bit weird engaging it before I had even reached the point story-wise when that was possible. The fight was crazy expansive, and I was forced to learn the mechanics on the fly, as it featured many instant-death mechanics. Ultimately we were successful, and I got a lot of shiny loot that was immediately thrown in the garbage, because Good Game Design.
Then I went back did some quests to find my friends kidnapped by Mordremoth, so I could figure out a way to kill him.
Along the way, I encountered a lot of bugs. Out in the open world, bugs can be super frustrating, but at least you can do something else. When you’re trying to complete a story though, getting force-disconnected at the end of a 25-minute story instance means starting all over. And there’s not any loot along the way, so it’s a total loss of your time. So while I appreciated the cinematic experience, this is not a exposition vehicle I want on the road.
I’m wrapping things up with Heart of Thorns, but there is something I definitely cannot say enough about GW2: it evokes a sense of space and depth and environment better than any other game on the market. I did find some invisible walls while I was messing around with mounts – which weren’t implemented until the next expansion – and all of the maps are sharp rectangles… but man. Not just the skyboxes, but the level of detail on the terrain is a sight to behold.
I would take any random corner of Tyria against the best, staged screenshot in WoW any time.
“Oh, 7pm? I’m just in time for the Megadestroyer!” Read that in a faux British accent for maximum effect. I also appreciate how they gave us a generous 15 minutes inbetween world-destroying bosses. “You too can save the world four times an hour, on the hour!” Japanese train conductors would be so proud.
That said, I am actually somewhat interested in ArenaNet’s April not-an-expansion expansion. I decided to give TESO a pass (technically I’m gambling on a Press™ copy) but just the thought of character progression of sorts was tempting me to boot up some MMO or another¹. GW2 is free, so why not, right? Titanfall has scuttled the plans for the time being, but maybe soon.
Well, provided I have enough hard drive space…
¹ The Secret World is still installed, actually, and I still play it from time to time. I consider that a single-player RPG though. Still, it is 40gb…