The world and lore of an MMO helps bring a game to life. As players demand more from developers, games are showing us larger worlds, and telling us bolder stories. Even with all this, if a character isn't interesting enough players won't keep playing. This grand world will become unpopulated, and the potential legends will never be told. In Guild Wars2, ArenaNet has tried a few things with character progression to help keep our interest in the game. And while it’s a valiant effort is made, it isn't perfect.
It all starts with the creation of a character. You have races, professions, and cosmetic choices. These choices are the types of things you would find in most games, but ArenaNet gave us options to create a back-story for our character. Now it's not just a character like all the rest. It has its own past! It feels like you're writing a back-story for a D&D character. ArenaNet did a great job putting this together. It helps us progress our characters in a new way. We make choices in our stories, and those develop our characters into something that's more dynamic then just a warrior with a level attached it. It gains a personality.
Are there enough choices? Can we progress our characters story the way we want? For some, the dialogue choices that are available aren't always what we want to say. At times we wish we could act rather than talk. It would also be nice to see some of my past choices come back to haunt me more, both in story and in the PvE world. While we do see some decisions affect us, there needs to be more. I want the NPCs to really react to my character.
While story fleshes out our characters personalities, leveling progresses our characters abilities. ArenaNet has done their best to balance out what enemies we will face at certain levels. Though you won't be fighting rats at level 1, you won't be facing off against dragons either. The rate that a character can be leveled up is also changed from the norm. It's almost always constant. While exploring and questing on a part of the map, you will gain just as many levels in almost the same amount of time as it took in the last map.
While constantly making progress on our characters level is a nice change for once, it does at times feel like something is missing. I think the answer lies in the original Guild Wars game. Guild Wars only had a level cap of 20, which was really weird for an RPG. But ArenaNet was onto to something. Rather than having players worry about increasing their stats, they made players focus on their strategy. The original games had hundreds of skills, which created thousands of ways to play. In Guild Wars 2, the amount of skills obtainable is greatly reduced. And though skills are tiered forcing players to try different things, and traits help fine-tune a character, the possibilities are limited.
After max level in Guild Wars, skills helped you progress your characters abilities, but for Guild Wars 2 there's nothing in place for this feeling of progression. I would love to see new skills become available in future content. Just releasing new slightly stronger items won't be enough to keep the connection with players to their characters. We want our characters to feel strong because they are, not just because they have the best item in the game.
The strongest type of character progression in Guild Wars 2 is visual. This is where ArenaNet really hit a home run. As your character becomes stronger they will need better armor and weapons. These items can be crafted or found, and sport a tougher, meaner, and more complex look. You could see your character becoming stronger right before your eyes. With all the different visual options out there for every profession and every weapon, you can easily find a look that suits what you're looking for. The ability to transmute stats and looks between items makes it even easier to get what we want. It's always easier for us to connect, and stay connected, to a character that we enjoy to look at. Hmm, maybe that’s why guys play female characters. The only thing ArenaNet can do to make it better is to just add more.
With Guild Wars 2 now a few months old, it's important for ArenaNet to have things in place to keep character progression as constant as possible. They have done a good job in many areas like stories for our characters, which is something new for MMOs. Offering a lot of visual options for items, with the best items mostly being cosmetic enhancements, players can easily see their characters getting stronger. After reaching max level, our characters’ progress comes to a halt, leaving a gap that will hopefully be filled soon. While more great content is being added to the world and lore, additions need to be brought to our characters as well and not just in the form of new gear to chase.
Check out David's latest Guild Wars 2 columns and artwork!