Recent Guild Wars 2 beta weekend allowed masses of people to enter ArenaNet's much anticipated MMO for the first time and I was of course there in the front row. I played and saw quite a lot during the weekend and I try to squeeze my experiences into few blog posts.
Biggest change in the whole game is the PvE experience. Whether it is evolution of existing concepts or something revolutionary, I do not really care. It is just plain fun and fresh approach to MMO gaming and actually makes the usually rather dull leveling process enjoyable!
Leveling process is kind of a bad word to use with GW2, as it makes it sound like you are going through bunch of levels to get to the end which is arguably the case with most traditional MMO's. Take WoW for example: you go through the game to get to the levelcap so you can do all the fun stuff. Everything you did before reaching that levelcap is pretty much an effort to reach that cap and get to the endgame things. People usually treat these as two different phases: Leveling and endgame. While casual players tend to enjoy the leveling phase there is definatively emphasis towards all the fun and interesting stuff happening in the endgame phase. Endgame is also where the most meaningfull progress in the game happens.
In my opinion Guild Wars 2 kills the whole concept of endgame. The main content of the game is available throughout the whole leveling process and while you do gain access to more content through more levels there is nothing gigantic waiting you at the level 80 which is the level cap of Guild Wars 2. No massive gear treadmill, no level 80 only PvP, nothing.
The lack of endgame changes the whole concept of playing the game: no longer is your aim to hit that magical level cap and get to the fun stuff, all the fun stuff is already available to you when you press the login button and create your first character!
This causes few things:
1) Playing the game requires change of mindset from players who are used to the leveling/endgame divide. If you approach this game with mindset of getting to the endgame quickly you'll be disappointed to find out that there really is not any.
2) It focuses you to the game world instead of focusing you on to your character. Instead of putting all your effort on getting that Big Sword Of Endgame, your focus is keeping zones unconquered, villages safe and all the nasty things that happen around the world in check. When did gaining new gear and items even become the main focus of RPG's, when sole purpose of gaining that gear seems to be enabler for gaining even more gear?
In GW2 gear enables you to do things in the world rather than gain new gear. So the focus becomes "What can I hit this sword with to become famous hero" instead of "What can I hit this sword with so my I can replace it with bigger sword"
To me this whole concept is so refreshing; a whole new approach in main stream MMO's and it's execution makes it just a joy to experience in action.