Two years ago, in July 2012 – and thus, before Guild Wars 2 was released – there was the usual pre-launch discussion that happens with every MMO: What will the endgame be about? Will the game even have meaningful endgame? I had joined the discussion here in our blog and posted my own thoughts about it.
I figured now is a good time to look at the topic again, as the game has been out for almost two years now, season 1 of the living story has finished and episode 3 of the 2nd season has just started.
“One complaint about MMOs that I have seen several times is that the game worlds’ importance in MMOs is constantly diminishing.”
I had mentioned that and talked about how Guild Wars 2 wants to do it differently. As we have seen by now, they were serious about that and still are. Season 1 added a lot of fights and content in the open world. Most of it was removed again after a while, but some zones were left completely changed (Lion’s Arch is the most prominent example here), and almost every content patch made us go into the open world and experience the content there. Even though the amount of instanced content has increased with the release of season 2, they have also introduced new zone events in several zones and added a new map, so that the open world is anything but deserted!
“For me, the big question is: How do the events work at max level? How complex will the fights be in general and how much strategy will they require?”
I would say this has been a “hit or miss” so far. Some of the living story events were horrible and some were really good. This is, however, highly subjective here! I, personally, would say that the best one has been the marionette fight. It was a good mix of challenge and it had very interesting mechanics. However, the platforms had the issue of sometimes tossing one single player in who had very slim chances of winning in the given amount of time. A bit more fine-tuning and it would have been an excellent fight, I think, and I would love to see something like this return (again, with fine-tuning and maybe scaling fights on the platform so that if there is only one player, the fight gets easier).
We recently had a long break from the living story releases and every active player consequently experienced the PvE endgame without that part. So let’s look at that: What kind of endgame is there in Guild Wars 2, other than the living story? Once again, just like I did two years ago, I will leave the PvP aside. While I have enjoyed battlegrounds in WoW and scenarios in WAR, I just cannot really get into sPvP that much. I think it’s because it is a lot more competitive in Guild Wars 2, whereas in World of Warcraft it was more “for fun” or even “something to do before my raid starts”. Open world PvP is usually following a zerg. So even if I took PvP into the equation, it would still not be anything I would spend most of my gaming time doing in Guild Wars 2.
I don’t know what other players have been doing during the break from the living season. My personal “problem” is that I don’t enjoy the dungeons too much. Then again, we haven’t exactly gotten a lot of new dungeons anyway and even those players who like them have had to go through the same ones for almost two years now (with the exception of the new Twilight Arbor path). Fractals – the few I have done – seem to be more fun for me. But the person I want to do them with (other than bookahnerk, of course) and me seem to have terrible timing, so that we switched from using whole sentences and explanations on why we can’t make it to just saying “rain check”. It’s more efficient, really. So while I definitely think this is a viable part of the PvE endgame experience, I can’t talk much about what I haven’t really explored in-depth. ;)
The main thing I seem to be doing in Guild Wars 2 and the moments where I have the most fun are two other things: For one, I love screenshotting maps, because I stop to smell the flowers, I take myself out of the game as it is and appreciate what ArenaNet’s artists and world designers have done. The other thing is levelling alts.
I have always been an altoholic in MMOs. In World of Warcraft , I regularly levelled up new alts because we switched servers with our main characters a few times. I did not want to spend a ridiculous amount of money on server transfers as you pay per character! In some MMOs, like Warhammer Online, I never really set on the one main character and had up to three (tanky black orc, goblin shaman or dwarf engineer – a decision that really is harder to make than you would think!). Only in Lord of the Rings Online, I could not get myself to levelling alts. I have never disliked levelling as much as I did in that game! So, playing a game like Guild Wars 2 is great, because alts have never been more fun to level for me. In fact, I actually wish it would take longer to reach maximum level. I have even tried to avoid doing dailies with my thief when I levelled her, so she would be slower.
Anyway, this is part of my personal “endgame”*. I know that by definition, it’s not the endgame – on the contrary, actually – but it is what I have been doing most of my play time in the last few weeks, even during the attacks on Lion’s Arch which I used to get a taste for my thief when trying to decide whether I really wanted to level her.
I am kind of dreading the day when I have levelled all professions to 80, because even though I can still level up other alts, it is a bit boring when you can’t explore anything new about a profession. Even the world is well-known by now as are the events in those maps. I am curious whether ArenaNet will ever let us use different weapons like they once said they may do (still hoping for a pistol/pistol mesmer here …).
Another good side-effect of levelling up my alts is that once they are level 80, I can switch between my characters when I don’t feel like playing my warrior. ArenaNet has also changed the way the living story works with their second season. Previously, you had certain time windows (two or four weeks) in which you could participate in the current content and after that, most of it was gone again. Now you have to log in during a certain time window (two weeks for each episode so far) in order to unlock the content free of charge (it costs gems to unlock otherwise) and then you can play it whenever you want to. You play through the different episodes of the living story on a per character basis now and also get the rewards on a per character basis. This means that with my habit of switching between characters, even when they have reached level 80, I now have more to do and can decide when I want to do that. It is nice and challenging to do the living story with my squishier thief instead of my warrior. Although I am not sure I would want to replay all of the living story with all my characters. Still, it’s nice to have the option!
So, having said all of that, what is my résumée about Guild Wars 2’s endgame? As I had predicted back before the game’s launch, it is different from other MMOs. There are still no raids (as instanced areas), but they have added big open world fights where you need coordination, such as the Tequatl one. Unfortunately, dungeons have been mostly ignored and even though I don’t enjoy them much in Guild Wars 2, compared to how much I loved them in World of Warcraft, I would still like to see ArenaNet give them some love. In general, I think the living world is a good concept and keeps us occupied and entertained, especially now as we can replay them whenever we want to, but I still can’t help but feel that the game lacks more options of things to do, such as new dungeons (and more fractals more often!) or maybe some activities to do in the cities (Polymock, anyone?).
But as I said above, this is for me personally. I do wonder… Is Guild Wars 2’s living story enough PvE endgame for the rest of the players?
*”Endgame” is used loosely here and means “the things you do in the game once your main character has reached maximal level”.