Sunday, September 17, 2017

Come Back! : GW2

Heartless Gamer resurfaced for only the third time in two years yesterday with a self-recursive post about GW2. Writing as though it had been no more than a day or two since last he blogged, Heartless confirmed he was likely to buy the upcoming Path of Fire expansion.

"Why you might wonder?" he asked, as though it was a question we'd been itching to ask him all these long, quiet months. Answering himself, he said: "I can come back to GW2 whenever I want and pick up where I left off."

Well, so you can. As Heartless observes, GW2 has no subscription. Once you have bought the box the game is yours to play as long as Anet keep a server up.

Over the years, I've heard many players of MMOs cite the cost of a subscription as a reason either to stop playing or not to start (or start again). Avoiding that internal discussion clearly gives GW2 a significant advantage, although it's perhaps one that's been eroded by the increasingly popular option of maintaining a sub using an in-game currency.

There are other barriers than the mere financial to coming back to an MMO after a long lay-off. GW2 neatly sidesteps some of those too, as Heartless summarizes: "Sure I may have to invest some time in reading up on the most recent meta builds or grind out some mastery skill, but for the most part GW2 is pick up and go-go-go for any returning player.".

This is broadly true. By eschewing any increase in the level cap, something that it has been long confirmed will be the case as long as the game survives, GW2 avoids some of the worst of the end-game gaps suffered by many MMOs.

Whereas WoW and EQ2, to name just a couple, where I have recent experience, need to run extensive and well-publicized catch-up events prior to an expansion, GW2 just needs to let former players know there's new content available. The free Level 80 boost that comes with PoF is a cherry; most returnees will already be sitting on a character perfectly capable of jumping into the latest open-world maps and doing just fine.

Even if they didn't, leveling a character to 80 is trivial in GW2 compared to just about any MMO you care to name. You can craft your way from character creation to end game in not much more than an hour if you have the mats or the money and each anniversary brings a scroll that jumps you 20, 30, 40, 50 levels, while Tomes of Knowledge that give an instant level on use drop like rain.

There are other reasons why GW2 is particularly easy to pick back up. Still, I'm not sure I agree with Heartless, when he says it "reminds me of days gone by when games were games and not just a series of money-sucking crates, DLCs, keys, etc."

If there's one thing the old-school MMOs weren't it was easy to come back to after a break. In the
days before cash shops sold level boosts and XP potions, when expansions remorselessly added another ten levels each time regardless of whether most people were done with the last lot, the only way you could come by an instant max-level character was an astonishingly expensive, ban-risking transaction on EBay.

It seems like another life but max-level characters in EverQuest really did change hands on EBay for many hundreds of dollars. Other games too. In those days anyone not pulling their weight in an end-game group might be accused of buying their character off EBay. Whether that was better than just being called "bad" and group-kicked, as would happen now, is a moot point, I guess.

In the run-up to the second expansion there's been a very noticeable influx of "resting" players. Accounts have been lighting up on my friends list that haven't glowed in months or years and every day on the battlefield reveals a flurry of names from the past.

Many of those players will be confused for a while. GW2 is an MMO. It changes, constantly. Compared to the older model, though, its innate design ameliorates the effect. Anyone who hasn't played for a while will need to re-orient themselves but they should be able to do so while stumbling through the same, unfamiliar new content as those of us who never went away.

Or so you'd think. Heart of Thorns didn't quite work out that way. Whether Path of Fire will do a better job of re-integrating the curious we will find out soon enough.

Only I won't be there to see it. I'll be in Italy, riding the rails. Could have timed that better. Luckily, I'll be able to jump straight in, when I get back, without having to worry about chasing the bubble so
there's that at least.

I'll be sorry to miss the feeding frenzy, all the same. Nothing like that Day One rush.


  1. I think I like many was probably mislead by the views on Heart of Thorns at least in part. The expansion has actually been quite engaging and fun to use as the basis for getting back into GW2. Some sessions we're left exhausted literally by the level of manic combat in some events. But for the most part it's been a blast to unlock masteries and delight in the sheer joy that is gliding between layers. We've not played so much that we risk burnout or running out of content, indeed we'll not have finished HoT in all likelihood before PoF launches, but at least we've sampled the new meta of gameplay and given the HoT elite specs a test-drive.

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