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David North Posted:
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Some people play MMOs for the thrill of constant character progression. Others play them for the PvP, using skill and tactics to defeat other players. Then you have the players that prefer to play MMOs over other genres because you see your character change as you gain new, and more powerful equipment. Whatever reason it may be, the gear you equip makes all of these goals possible. ArenaNet has announced the addition of ascended armor. Ascended weapons were added to Guild Wars 2 not too long ago, offering players a chance to feel more powerful, change their looks, and help fine tune their strategies. But was it fun?

It all started with the ascended accessories, which were easy to obtain. Just by completing some dailies, some monthly achievements, and a few fractal runs was all that is needed. Really all you had to do was play the game and you would be able to pay for them in no time. They were a nice small addition to the game, but they didn't really help max level characters feel like they were gaining much.

Then came the ascended weapons. Crafting levels were increased to 500, with new materials available for players to create. It was nice to see new items become available. However it wasn't a very fun addition. The amount of materials needed to create just one weapon was a bit much, requiring a good amount of grinding.

Other MMOs put the power of the items over the abilities of the player.

Why is a grind an issue? Nearly every MMO in the past has used the grind, and the item treadmill as a form of character progression. It wasn't fun then, and it isn't fun now. Guild Wars was the first online RPG that didn't put you into that type of situation. It focused on player skill, rather then the power of your items. That same design philosophy was promised to be carried over to Guild Wars 2, never forcing players to grind for better items. So far technically they've kept their promise.

While ascended weapons aren't necessary, they require a lot of inventory, or bank space. They also require you to grind harvesting materials in excessive numbers. Now the promise was still kept, as ascended gear isn't required. Think of it as a cheaper legendary weapon. The real issue is that this was the first major step towards improving character progression for max level characters, and instead of using a more creative way to help expand the abilities of our characters, we are given a very boring grind. Games are suppose to be fun, so when they aren't it's very disappointing.

I'm not against ArenaNet adding new items. In fact I love the idea, but would prefer new skills instead. I'm also fine with these items requiring a good amount of effort to create. I just don't see why it has to involve a mind numbing grind. There has to be a way to make new equipment more exciting!

It would have been neat to see a new zone added to the map, featuring new types of enemies and crafting material nodes. Maybe adding new dynamic events that also gave some of these new crafting materials as rewards. You could even have enemies drop a few of the materials. This allows players to have fun exploring a whole new area, and fight brand new foes, all while being able to gather the ingredients for their brand new items.

While the style of the new ascended armors isn’t my favorite, the designs have some amazing detail.

Then there is trading. Dragonite Ore is impossible to obtain by yourself. You have to rely on others to play certain events for a chance to gain this material. For smaller servers, you don't see a lot of activity in the regions of Orr these days. While WvW is a great, and fun, substitute, not everyone feels comfortable jumping in playing a type of PvP, leaving some players in an awkward situation. If Dragonite could be traded, things would balance out a bit more. Sure you'll have the rich players that will just buy the materials and have the equipment the day it's released, but what do you do with the materials once you've gotten all your ascended pieces? Not having the ability to trade these materials makes them worthless drops in the long run. No one will keep crafting materials around that they will never use again.

I think adding new items would be a great way to help improve character progression, as long as we see some more skills in large bulks released soon. I really liked the idea of ascended gear at first, but after the release of the weapons, I fear the armor pieces will just require more grinding. However I could be very wrong. ArenaNet may take a very different route for introducing the new items, requiring different materials, and ways to create them. But if we just see more of the same, is it really worth it?

What do you think about ascended gear and the way it was introduced into the game?  Let us know what you think in the comments below. 

David North / David North is a freelance writer for MMORPG.com.  David loves to play and makes games, but now he writes about them!  If you want to creep on him and make fun of his ability to draw, follow him over on twitter @David_the_North.

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David North