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The Quest for Power

David North Posted:
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When a player looks back at their character’s adventures, they look through all the enemies they’ve slain, all the dungeons they’ve explored, and the loot they have gathered.  It all comes together as a quest to become the most powerful character possible in a world full of millions.  But we, as players, never want it to end.  The idea that one can keep going on adventures and become stronger and stronger after each one really appeals to us.  I mean really, who doesn’t want to get more power, right?  Each game has it’s own way of extending the quest for power.  While ArenaNet did something really unique for the original Guild Wars, I feel like they went backwards for Guild Wars 2

The original Guild Wars will always hold some very special memories for me as a gamer.  I had played a lot of MMOs, but was fed up with just doing gear grinds. While you could get stronger with a better sword and shield, I wanted to get stronger because I was a good player.  Not because I was lucky enough for certain loot to fall.  The idea that gear decided if I would be considered a good player just seemed so silly.  It wasn’t a real quest for power to me.  Then I played Guild Wars. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect since the level cap was so low, but I gave it try.  I loved the visuals and I loved the UI.  Then I reached level 20 and wondered how I was going to become stronger.  All the max level gear was the same.  You could just fine tune it to fit a certain strategy.  There it was, this game had strategy!  It played like an MMO, a player activated skills to fight off enemies, but this game offered hundreds of skills for you to use.  The possibilities seemed endless.  

In most games, the gear makes the character.

To unlock the elite skills you first had to kill the boss that used it, proving you were worthy of such power.  Once you unlocked more skills you could try new things.  If something didn’t work out, or you found another profession combination that worked better, you could switch points and skills around.  Your character, and you as a player, were constantly evolving and getting stronger.  Your gear was the same, stat wise, as the next guy’s.  But it was how you played and used the gear that set you apart. 

The reason I bring this up is because I feel like ArenaNet has gone in a completely opposite direction with character progression after you’ve reached the level cap.  This time, it seems to just come to a screeching halt.  There are a few items players can try to grab up to gain a bit more strength than the exotic level items can give, but the increase is so minimal that it really isn’t worth the hassle.  ArenaNet seems to stay with their philosophy that items shouldn’t become more important than the character, and they do so by making exotics fairly easy to obtain.  I know a few people that just went and bought them!  This is great, but still Ascended gear was thrown for the Fractal of the Mist dungeon, and it didn’t really add to that never ending quest for power we players crave.  It just made that dungeon a bit easier.

During the holiday events, and The Lost Shores event, ArenaNet designed the content as level 80 content.  While it offered a good challenge for us level 80s, and all these events were very fun, we didn’t become stronger.  It was just have another battle to remember when we look back at our character’s past.  We didn’t become stronger.

I would love to see more skills come into the mix in the future.  To me, having hundreds of skills to choose from made me feel more powerful than having the most powerful weapon in the game.  Guild Wars 2 uses skills in a different way than other games do, So I can see how it might be tough to handle it.  But nothing is impossible, especially with how ArenaNet has handled the rest of the games design. 

Without some sort of reward, whether it's a skill or a stat bonus, killing bosses just loses its luster.

What’s more strength if you have nothing to conquer with it?  More level 80 explorable areas will need to be added of course.  Perhaps maps that feature more giant bosses would be a great way to test new found strength.  Why not have areas within the maps hold the secrets to the skills themselves?  There’s plenty of ways to make it work, I just need something to spend all these skill points on!  At this point, I would spend my points on increasing my stats a point at a time.  Just give me something! 

I love Guild Wars 2.  It’s an amazing game, and gives you that feeling that your character is constantly progressing as you play, until you hit level 80.  And when you compare this to the design of the rest of the game, it just feels so strange.  Sure you can go back and play through content you missed, which is a ton and still fun to do, but honestly your character doesn’t become stronger from it.  The rewards will never feel like they’re worth it.  Just throwing legendary weapons, or less than legendary but more exotic than exotic, doesn’t make us feel stronger.  Items can never be the answer.   

What would you suggest to help keep characters growing, after the level cap?  Let us know in the comments below.

Read more of David's terrific Guild Wars 2 columns from the past few weeks:


David North