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Guild Wars 2: The End(game)

M Alexander Posted:
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I’ve had a bit of a Guild Wars 2 renaissance in the last few months. It’s handy that it came around the time I got an offer to write a monthly column about the game. I sat down and said to myself, “It’s time to get back into raiding, Tier 4 Fractals, and maybe in dabble in sPvP and World versus World”.

What a young and fresh mind I was back in the spring.

I hadn’t played the game seriously since around March 2018. I’d still log on, do my dailies, potter around the maps, and of course, complete the story in the new Living World episodes and take full advantage of the mass player zergs to knock off some easy achievements. But, I hadn’t  been into the high level end game for a good while, and the arrogant gamer in me had convinced myself I could just get back to the top with a click of my fingers.

After all, I was an ArenaNet Partner for four years. I’d been playing since launch, I’d made legendary weapons, and I’d had a series of very well received YouTube videos. I could do anything!

 It will come as no surprise to you all that I got my ass handed to me by mechanics by the new mechanics. I was rusty. My DPS was pitiful, I’d forgotten the mechanics to bosses and events, and the revised Mistlock Instabilities (debuffs which make your Fractal trickier) made me wipe my team on more than one occasion. I got kicked from multiple groups, and at least one unsavoury accusation was made about my parentage.

However, I’m pretty sure I deserved it. I’d wrongly assumed that I was a good enough player to jump into content that I quite clearly wasn’t competent enough to complete as part of a cohesive unit. A few bits of shiny does not a good player make, and I was sat there, intimidated by content, and questioning whether or not I really wanted to come back to Guild Wars 2.

Guild Wars 2 YouTuber/Streamer and provider of starchy goodness, Wooden Potatoes, is currently embarking on a Guild Wars 2 Master campaign. The idea is that he completes Guild Wars 2. Everything. All of it. You can check out his daily streams here as he carves his way to Guild Wars 2 domination. It reinforced the idea that the end game of Guild Wars 2 is entirely of the player’s making, rather than a fixed set of content and in-game rewards.

As someone who has to juggle work, music, and a long-distance relationship, it didn’t seem likely that I’d be able to accomplish the same feat. Looking at my achievement panel, my lack of cool items and the mastery points waiting to be earned through both expansions and two Living World seasons made think that I could do my own, stripped down version of Dubya Pee’s Master campaign.

I set goals for myself. I made a checklist of items that I wanted. I considered my playing ability, how likely I was to be able to commit to something like a raid schedule, what I would be satisfied with not achieving, and my personal deal breakers were. .

Here’s a small list of my goals: :

  • Completion of Living World achievement tabs
  • Completion of Heart of Thorns and Path of Fire achievement tabs
  • Crafting Xiquatl and Binding of Ipos legendary weapons

It’s a small list to look at, but there’s a lot of work to be done there. I combined this list with my ideal Guild Wars 2 routine: What content did I want to play on a regular basis? How much time did I want to sink into self-improvement? What content would I be willing to abandon because it just wasn’t something that I fundamentally would enjoy?

End game content is a subjective term for the Guild Wars 2 community and the gaming community at large. We tend to think of it as completion of the game’s ultimate challenges. In Final Fantasy 7, it’s well known Sephiroth, the final boss, wasn’t even the toughest opponent in the game. That honour fell to Ruby or Emerald Weapon. Both bosses are monstrously challenging even today, and provide a deeper level of challenge to the game that can’t be overcome by spamming Knights Of The Round and Mimic.

The first Guild Wars gradually introduced its own end game content as the game matured. Sorrow’s Furnace was introduced after the game launched in 2005, and provided a quest chain to finally defeat the Iron Forgeman. Glint was an optional boss, a bonus mission objective that until Eye of the North gave you very little in terms of reward except a title and a shield with a second sword through it.

Perhaps the most interesting items to get in the original Guild Wars was the Gwen’s Flute focus. The saga began all the way back in pre-Searing Ascalon where you eventually received a Tapestry Shred from her for doing a couple of quests. You had to hang on to it until the end of Eye Of The North, and you were given Gwen’s Flute as a unique focus. If you lost the Tapestry Shred, you had to redo the task on a new Prophecies-campaign character.

This year, Guild Wars 2 turns seven years old. In that time, I’ve bought a house, changed careers, and started going grey. My priorities have shifted a bit. I’m in a place now where I’m happy with logging into the game and running my classic daily dungeons and Tier 3 Fractals. I love that the content is still engaging to me. It’s not what you’d call truly challenging content in my opinion, but then again, I’m sure there are players out there who struggle with Story Mode dungeons and Tier 1 Fractals.

There’s a difference between challenging content and end game that very few people seem to acknowledge, even in Guild Wars 2 where end game goals are almost universally cosmetic. For the challenge-hungry players, there are unique rewards that are locked off to all but the most elite players in Challenge Mode raids. For the rest of us, we can grind away to get that shiny backpack or that legendary we’ve had an eye on since it was released.

The end game of Guild Wars 2, at least for me, is where I set my own goals. Broadly speaking, the community needs to embrace that notion further. If your goal is to be the top sPvP player on EU, then go for it. If your goal is map completion on your 40th character, outfitting all two dozen of your toons in ascended armour, or farming Dhuum CM until the blood flow ceases to your legs and necrosis sets in, be my guest. No one gets to dictate how you spend your free time, least of all in an MMO that delivers such a free flow transition between group and solo play.

My Guild Wars 2 rebirth was forged in a fire of self-determination in the game. Maybe I’d spent too long allowing other people to define my final goals and to dictate the content I absorbed as the peak of my Guild Wars 2 experience. Truth be told, I’m happier farming world bosses (and the recent Holographic Stampede from the annual Dragon Bash event) than I ever will be trying, and failing, to defeat Dhuum. I have my goals in the game, and I’ve adjusted my expectations.As the game continues to breath, I, as a long-term player, have changed, and my consumption of the game reflects that.

For me, Guild Wars 2 still holds that promise from 2012 that you can drop back in any time you like and pick straight back up where you left off and play how you want to. And that suits me just fine.


M Alexander