Guild Wars 2: Qadim’s Key To Eternal Happiness
Seven years is a long time to play a game. The morning of August 25, 2012 was a glorious day as I skipped over the hills of Queensdale as Guild Wars 2 was unleashed on the world. We were ready for the casual MMO that you could drop in and out of whenever you liked and you’d still be able to keep up as the horizontal progression and cosmetic endgame meant that you could drop back in any time you liked. Legendary weapons were the long-term goal and Giganticus Lupicus was the benchmark for high end play and hilarious game-breaking exploits.
So, what the hell happened?
You happened. Yeah, you. The players. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing that you just so happened to ‘git gud’. Whether your realized it or not, the community has got better at playing the game. New players are held to, and meet, a high standard of play than was displayed and/or expected in the first few years of the game.
Let me explain.
Casuals and elitists. Dirty terms, aren’t they? Both take a relatively broad sub section of players and categorize them all into a distinct style of play with the same attitude. Let’s replace those terms with players who are more heavily invested in the game, and those who aren’t as heavily invested. In the former group you have you Arenanet partners, streamers, YouTube creators, Redditors and the occasional games columnist. In the latter, you have the father of three, the teenager with exams to study for, the full-time workers, and again, the occasional games columnist. These groups aren’t mutually exclusive and by no means cover all bases without overlap but it’s a good starting point.
Let’s look back at the first few years of the end game for Guild Wars 2. Exotic armor, currently the second-most powerful sets in the game, was designed to be hard to get. Looking back at that now, it seems laughable. The way that dungeon tokens, currency specific to each major dungeon, worked was that you save them up and buy the armor that you want to create the full set. The only issue is that it was total bullshit how it worked. The player base figured out waaaaaaay too quickly which dungeons paths could be ground out to get the most income and tokens for your time as well as figuring out that (at that point) could hit up the same three dungeons to get your Berserker gear. Even today and years after my dungeoneering heyday I can auto-pilot through Citadel of Flame and Crucible of Eternity.
The gear grind didn’t exist; at least, not as we understand it today. Early live content such as Lost Shores and Flame & Frost: Prelude brought us the beginnings of the Ascended gear tier and this brought the gear grind into Guild Wars 2. At around a 5-10% increase in stats they were sought after items not only for that but allowed players to slot the agony that allowed them to survive at the higher levels of Agony in the new slice of end game content, Fractals Of The Mists. This is where the true split in the player base began.
Ascended items gave a tangible distinction between those players who ran dungeons and those who aspired for something more. Any idiot can slot Scholar Runes in Berserker gear, but the dedicated got their Ascended trinkets and survive Level 80 (at the time, the highest difficulty available) in Fractals. Dungeons had begun to become stale already. The LFG Tool was laughable, with groups asking for ridiculous numbers of Achievement Points, as if that had anything to do with the quality of someone’s gameplay.
When Heart of Thorns arrived, Fractals got a rework with an increase in difficulty level to 100. However, the rework was so much of an overhaul that the previous zenith of challenge, Level 80, had now been tuned to about the halfway mark as a Level 50. The game itself was being inserted with more challenge to increase the skill cap of players and as such, is explicitly responsible for the growing rift between styles of gameplay. This wasn’t a new thing with raids. It wasn’t even a new thing with Fractals. There we the top tier of players who repeatedly fought Lupicus, lived in Arah Path 4 for giggles and thought that the changes to the mobs in Caudecus’ Manor was actually a good idea.
So, what am I getting at?
Next time you’re in game, look at your achievement panel. In the ‘Dungeons’ section there’s the title ‘Dungeon Master’ for completing every single dungeon path in the game. There was a time when this would’ve guaranteed you at least a bit of awe from the player base. It was not a common title. Before Elite Specializations and before there was a much more general understanding of how stats, mechanics, and rotations worked dungeons and fractals challenged the player base. Some could argue they still do.
Guild Wars 2 in 2019 is a beast. The different end game options that are offered vary hugely in skill and spectacle. Raids, traditionally more challenging content, comes with Challenge Motes that present a further challenge to players who want to push themselves to a higher level. Hall of Chains remains the most challenging content in the game more than a year after it was released, and the elevated challenge mode is so challenging, that one prominent Guild Wars 2 streamer who frequents raids estimated that half of all the challenge mode clears for the final boss, Dhuum, have been sold to less invested players by the more invested players. Top rewards can be bought, but that’s another conversation. The challenge cannot be bought, but it can be overcome.
Some Raid content is more accessible than others. Bastion of the Penitent is a great place of a wanna be raider to begin, and the Qadim story of the newest wings offer a great spectacle and while not being brutally unfair will offer a good challenge to the less invested players in general. Having said that, I think the entire thing was cleared less than six hours after release, so maybe it’s going the other way again?
The point is, the game didn’t get easier. Players got better and your expectations changed. Dungeons aren’t the challenge, there’s even a damn chest of gold and tokens for treating dungeon paths as another tick box on your daily routine in Guild Wars 2. The collections that revolve around the dungeons aren’t to do with challenge but revolve around the original idea of Guild Wars 2’s end game that reward is cosmetic and pushes you to collect all of those dungeon skins.
If you’re looking for anyone to blame for the fact that Guild Wars 2 doesn’t challenge you like it you used to, maybe you only have yourself to blame. If you’re a less invested player and you’re either happy at the level you play at or you want to get into the more challenging content, then that’s a brilliant thing and you should play what makes you happy.
Just because you don’t have Voice In The Void hovering over your character doesn’t mean you’re more or less invested than any other player, and if you take something away from reading this, then I’d implore you to take it into consideration the next time you log on. Similarly, someone without blinding particle effects might be pouring 60 hours a week into the game into content they love. I know I certainly used to and I have very little shine and title to show for it. But I was invested in the game, I had fun, and I did a damn sight more than hanging out at Poser’s Ledge to show off Eternity while I was alt-tabbed watching YouTube.
Okay, that last bit did happen once but I’d just crafted Flameseeker Prophecies and that shield is DOPE.
As a final thought, it’s good to get out of your comfort zone occasionally, whichever side you sit on. The recent meta-event…event has created huge groups of players getting together in a casual open world setting and everyone who’s played it has seemed to enjoy it, if not only for the chance of some super-rare rewards. And it’s been fun.
And isn’t that really what it’s all about in the end? We all enjoy our own things, but then again, my co-workers don’t see the genius in Iron Maiden so I really don’t know where that leaves us.