Blog #13: Back in Tyria

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After taking a considerable break from games (by my standards) I decided to continue the adventures of my engineer in Guild Wars 2. The hype around Heart of Thorns is real, man. The game is getting the thing that’s been the biggest turn-off to people coming from other MMOs: the raids (except maybe also the lack of a holy trinity role distribution). I’m not a big MMO guy so I have never gone on a raid in any game before, but it sure sounds like great fun. It’s cool that ArenaNet seems committed to providing max level players with more stuff to do, though I’m still not sure how that is supposed to work without raising the level cap. I get that raising the level cap would be the “lame” and uninnovative thing to do, essentially just invalidating all the gear that players have worked so hard to acquire. 

Instead of more levels, they talk about this “Mastery” system, which I still haven’t wrapped my head around. From what I understand, it’s unlocking new modes of traversing the world? Basically you do some tasks to earn mastery points and you unlock new areas to go to with the new content, right? Isn’t that basically the same as raising the level cap? It sounds like simply replacing a minimum level restriction for an area with a requirement for a thing you unlock at max level with a different name.

This insistence of ArenaNet of being different is both a strength and an irritant for me. I think they’ve got THE best business model in the genre. The decision to make core GW2 free is yet another sign of that. What’s weird is how much effort ArenaNet’s PR department puts into the message that GW2 is a completely new kind of MMO, which it really isn’t. It’s still pretty much the same as most other MMO’s. It’s the most accessible, enjoyable one I’ve tried yet (I’ve tried WoW, SW: ToR, Neverwinter, ESO before) and that’s great. I’ve embraced the treadmill gameplay systems and that’s how I get the most out of it. GW2 doesn’t need to claim to be more than it is. I’m not necessarily advocating raising the level cap, but it is the logical thing to do. The players have gotten through 80 levels, so it’s weird that suddenly leveling and experience is a concept that is frowned upon.

It would’ve made more sense if GW2 was a game without character leveling, for example, but it isn’t. It’s still very much a traditional, although beautifully refined MMO. Anyways, Heart of Thorns isn’t even out yet, and I’m already doubtful. We’ll see.

Apart from that, I’ve been casually playing my engineer, currently at level 38. Instead of trying to level, I decided to explore the crafting system. I’m a huntsman, and farming materials gives me good reason to go out there and explore new areas. I’ve done 100% completion in Queensdale and Kessex Hills, explored the starting area in the Shiverpeak Mountains and checked out the starting area of the Charr in Ascalon. I’m taking my sweet time with the game, but that’s what’s so great about having no subscription fees to pay. It’s about the journey, and so on. It’s wonderful how many goals you as the player can set yourself, be it making money through crafting, simple exploration, world completion or achievement hunting (which is another interesting aspect that I’ve not delved into yet). I’m eligible to go dungeoning, but I’m saving that for when I get my friends into the game, now that it’s free.

One thing that was the biggest draw for me when playing WoW was the story and lore. It’s probably the thing that made WoW such a success to begin with. I had been obsessed with Warcraft 3 back in high-school, and gotten really invested in the world. It’s so colorful, the characters and their stories so interesting. Most of all, I was in love with the Night Elf race. The idea of a huge forest far away from other civilization where a mysterious Elven nation resided just gets the imagination going. Then actually getting to be a Night Elf myself wandering amidst these enormous trees myself was nerdgasmic.

In GW2, I don’t have that investment into the lore and world, but Tyria has its own flavor, and the environmental design in the game is fantastic, almost ridiculously so. So I’ve been delving into that aspect some more, reading up on lore and especially watching YouTuber “WoodenPotatoes” and his lore series that is aimed at people like me. I gotta say, I’m actually interested in the lore and background, and hopefully it lets me look at Tyria with more appreciation.

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