It was only very recently that I considered returning to Guild Wars 2 after a very long time away from the game, and it is not a decision I took lightly. There is so much about the MMORPG that is done right and that I love dearly, though my biggest reason for deciding to dip my toes into the Tyrian waters once more is because of the people I have come to know in the game. It certainly helps that I already have 3 high-level characters to my name and a level 80 boost languishing on my account, so the barrier to joining them is non-existent for the most part. However, I do have a few issues with the game that are causing me a little concern.
When Guild Wars 2 launched in 2012, I was so excited to dive in and absorb the game. At the time, World of Warcraft’s Cataclysm expansion was going strong and I was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the direction that Blizzard’s monolith of an MMORPG was heading. Yet I had watched ArenaNet’s manifesto video and it gripped me right away. This idea of a living world where, rather than completing quest after quest to kill an increasing number of rats, you’re making a difference in the world around you. It sounded like my perfect MMO and I can quite vividly remember getting up super early on launch day to play the game right away. And you know, at first, it was an amazing MMO. Tyria felt alive, everything looked so good, so epic.. But then Mists of Pandaria launched and I left Guild Wars 2 pretty swiftly, as I tend to do with World of Warcraft expansions. I returned, yet by that time I had missed months of updates and as I leveled I found that Guild Wars 2 was not the game I had expected it to be from that first manifesto video I had watched.
The epic-scaled open living world I had expected and thought I had found felt so much smaller. Each zone felt boxed in, with dynamic events zerged or simply ignored now feeling kind of unimpressive. The Hearts which were supposed to make the world feel alive were nothing more than quests that needed to be completed for a character’s map completion. Add to that the bloated skill system, messy dungeons, and my feeling incredibly underpowered as a ranged Ranger and thus obliged to attempt a Sword/Warhorn combination that left me auto-attacking myself to sleep. And that’s not to mention the series of bad guilds I found myself in, it’s little wonder that Guild Wars 2 just didn’t stick for me at this time.
Even so, there was still something magical about the game. I loved my characters, the music, (most of) the lore, and a lot of the gameplay, and I wanted to give Guild Wars 2 the chance it deserved. And so I joined a guild that I had followed on Twitter since the game’s launch and they turned out to be an absolutely fantastic bunch of people. I can’t WvW with them because I’m on a different server but other than that, we’re fine and dandy. But the game’s spark was gone and my issues with the game remained.
Heart of Thorns was the proverbial nail in the coffin for me. You see, I mentioned that I loved the lore of Guild Wars 2, but I really hated the Living World Scarlet Briar story with all of the corrupted Sylvari running around, the thorns and poison clouds everywhere - it turned me right off, and of course, Heart of Thorns is chock full of that. The clue is in the name. Yet I gave it a chance because I love being able to play with my friends, that is the big draw of MMORPGs after all, and some of the changes that the expansion brought really were great! I love the addition of gliding, the direction the wardrobe and collectibles have taken (albeit with a slightly too-heavy leaning on the gem store), and the aforementioned skill bloat is no longer an issue, instead replaced with these skill lines that you can unlock as you play. It’s much cleaner and easier to follow all around.
However, now we come to the point that I couldn’t stomach. The zone event zerg trains. I know the Guild Wars 2 community seems to love a good zerg train. We have seen players latch on to these in Queensdale and beyond, and the way in which Heart of Thorns’ zone events worked only encouraged this kind of gameplay. And sure, you don’t have to join in. But so much of the content relies on group gameplay, that if you aren’t a part of the zerg group, you end up missing out. At least that’s what I found and I don’t like that, being an explorer, and so I didn’t play for months. Heck, I had no intention of ever returning to Guild Wars 2 considering my feelings on it and I was very close to uninstalling the game altogether, which is something I hadn’t wanted to do because of the friends I had in-game. I always wanted that option to return.
But then, I tried to log in on a whim, and there were my characters, right there waiting for me. I clicked on my Mesmer, only level 66, and logged into Divinity’s Reach, where I bumped into my dear friend, had a little dance off, and then we went off a’murderin’. My issues with the game are still very much present, but if I shall be returning to Guild Wars 2, it will be for the people and not because of some non-existent “perfect MMORPG,” even if I do hold a few concerns. Guild Wars 2 undoubtedly has one of the best player communities of any MMO and that is something worth holding onto.
Do you have any recommendations for a returning player?