Guild Wars 2 is probably one of the MMOs with the broadest array of different game modes and play styles. From end-game PvE content, over PvP and World vs. World, to exploration, achievements, and fashion wars, there is something for almost every type of player.
I started playing the game shortly after its release in 2012 and even though I have been taking long breaks in between, I still come back to the game occasionally. One of the best features of Guild Wars 2 is that this casual play style is perfectly fine: The level cap doesn’t increase and no higher gear tiers have been added since its release. So when you come back after months of not playing, you can just jump in and play without having to worry about getting the latest gear.
After the legendary armory was added to the game, which makes legendary gear even better, I logged back into the game and looked into getting some more legendary items. However, for a game that is quite casual, the path to legendary gear is not only very grindy, but it's also in that "bad and not fun" way.
There are also parts of the end game content like raids that are gatekept by some of the elitist players that make it very difficult for new players to get into, even though they might be interested in it.
Level Cap and Gear Tiers
Since the release of Guild Wars 2 the level cap has always been level 80 and it’s probably always going to stay level 80. As a new player, getting to the maximum level is relatively easy and you will get there within a few weeks of casual play.
Similarly, the maximum gear tier has never been increased. Once you have a set of ascended/legendary gear, you don’t have to worry about it becoming outdated. Getting full ascended gear is going to take a little bit longer than getting to level 80, but it’s still a reasonable time investment and should only take a few months depending on the amount of time you put into the game. Getting full legendary gear, however, is insanely grindy. But luckily, legendary gear has the same stats as ascended gear, so you don’t have to get legendary items to participate in end-game content.
The never-increasing level cap and gear tier are one of the best features of Guild Wars 2 in my opinion. In a game like World of Warcraft, every new expansion increases the level cap and old gear becomes completely irrelevant, which forces the players to get new gear all the time. I rather create a nice set of gear once and then stop worrying about it, knowing that it will be good enough forever. It’s especially beneficial for my style of playing, where I don’t play for months, maybe even years, and then come back to play for a bit.
There is still value in working towards new gear though. You can get more ascended sets of different armor types or with different stats, or even try to work on legendary gear, which provides a number of nice utility features, that make it worth it even though it has the same stats as ascended gear.
In many ways, Guild Wars 2 isn’t a very grindy game. Getting to the maximum level 80 is fairly quick and fun and getting the highest gear tier (ascended) takes a very reasonable amount of gold and time.
However, once you start to look at legendary gear, the story changes. It involves not only getting a lot of gold but also a whole list of very grindy collection achievements.
The first legendary items available in the game were legendary weapons. Among other things, you need to get 100% map completion to craft them. The Guild Wars 2 map is actually quite nice and completing it once isn’t too bad. But if you want to craft multiple legendary weapons you have to get 100% map completion multiple times at which point it becomes repetitive.
Over the years, I managed to craft three legendary weapons, so when I heard about the legendary armory that makes legendary items even more useful than before, I came back to the game and started to look into crafting other legendary gear. Legendary armor is very difficult because it involves Raids, which are hard to get into (see below), so I looked at Ad Infinitum and Aurora instead. Ad Infinitum is a legendary back item that can be mostly collected within Fractals. I mostly do Fractals when playing the game, so Ad Infinitum seems like something I can slowly work toward when doing them. Although, it’s still going to take a lot of time, gold, and effort.
Aurora, a legendary accessory, is another story though. Even just doing the collection achievement that unlocks the first collection achievement for Aurora, is extremely complicated and time-consuming.
The big problem with the collection achievements is that they are not possible without having the wiki and additional YouTube guides open at the same time. One of the steps in the collection that unlocks the Aurora collection is gathering Mursaat Tokens. So I went to the map and started to look for them. But I only found about 5 of the 40 that are required. So I had to look at a YouTube video that showed the exact locations of the tokens and it was very annoying to tab back and forth to find the extremely well-hidden tokens. And I can tell you, there is NO WAY you will be able to find them without looking at a video. And there are many other steps in these collection achievements that are like this where you cannot do them without checking the wiki or YouTube constantly.
I don’t mind grindy content. Grinding for experience, collecting gold or other currencies are actually nice goals to work towards because you can do content that you like and have fun while getting closer to the finish line. However, collecting arbitrary hidden tokens and other random tasks which are only possible with outside help, are absolutely not fun for me. Maybe other players like this type of collection, but I certainly don’t. I want to play the game without needing a university degree’s worth of reading on the side.
Another part of many of these collections is time-gated tasks, which are things that you can only do once per day or once per week. In my opinion, this is bad game design. If I have a free weekend and I want to play for a few hours, I should be able to make some progress toward a goal. Arbitrarily limiting something to once per day is very counterproductive and annoying.
Elitism in End-Game Content
The end-game content in Guild Wars 2 is Raids and Fractal CMs (Challenge Motes, a more difficult version of normal Fractals with an 80% reduction in healing). Difficult PvE content like this is something that I am generally interested in. However, with my style of playing, there is almost no way to participate in this type of content.
I am mostly limited to normal high-level Fractals, which can still be difficult and fun. Fractals are shorter 5-man group content and besides Raids the end-game PvE content in Guild Wars 2. There are enough players available so you can generally find a group for the daily Fractals within a few minutes and if you don’t wipe too often the 3 daily Fractals take less than an hour to complete.
However, if you are interested in Raids or Fractal CMs and you look at the LFG (looking for group) entries for them, you will notice that they almost always include a minimum number of kill proofs players have to link in the chat when joining the group (kill proofs are some items or currencies you get for defeating certain bosses). This is done to eliminate inexperienced players from joining, so the party can kill the bosses as fast and seamlessly as possible. However, because almost every group uses this threshold, there is no way for new players to learn and get experience. This is very similar to every job listing that is looking for 25-year-olds with more than 10 years of job experience.
I have always taken long breaks from playing the game to then return for a few weeks when I got interested in it again. Therefore I was never able to accumulate any significant number of kill proofs, which essentially prevents me from joining any groups unless I want to spend hours waiting for a training group without these restrictions.
I don’t even blame the players for setting these restrictions. If I was in their position, I would probably get annoyed by wiping multiple times because an inexperienced player didn’t know the mechanics too. And I cannot think of a better system either. Just like the growing gap between the rich and the poor in the real world, there is a similar gap between a small group of elites in the game and a larger group of casual players that don’t have access to some of the content.
Even though some of the collection tasks for certain items are very grindy and parts of the end-game content are gatekept by elitist players, I still like to play Guild Wars 2 every now and then. Because gear doesn’t become outdated, it is easily possible to take a break for a few months and then come back to the game and continue where you left off.
In a world where everyone is busy and cannot play an MMO for 5 hours every day, this is a great feature that allows casual players to enjoy the game. The combat system in Guild Wars 2 is great, which makes it always fun to return to and if it becomes too grindy, you can take a break and come back later. The base version of the game is even free to play so you can easily try it for yourself.
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