Choose My Adventure: The return to Guild Wars 2

Many moons ago, when I was first hired on Massively-that-was, my fellow hire at the time was a lady by the name of Rubi Bayer. We hit it off pretty well and became friends. She was also very excited about a title that had yet to come out at the time, a game by the name of Guild Wars 2. For those of you coming to this story without knowledge of names, she’s now working for ArenaNet on that exact same game, along with two other former writers from our staff, all of whom are people I consider friends of mine.

So perhaps it’s a bit odd that I’ve not played Guild Wars 2 since well before Heart of Thorns launched. I have some history with the game, but it’s never been one of my main titles. And now that I’m heading back into it for its second major expansion, I think it’s a fine time to walk back through my experiences there, what I hope to find, and also ask a few reader questions along the way. Because that’s how polls work, after all.

Obviously, I’ve been following Guild Wars 2 in various forms since well before its launch. It’s been relatively entangled with my life as it ran beta events, launched, led up to an expansion (that I got to play around with before its launch, even), launched that, led up to another expansion, and so forth. But my actual playtime has consisted of, well… the gap between Final Fantasy XIV’s shutdown and relaunch several years back.

Seriously, that’s it.

There are, of course, reasons for this. One of them is the biggest criticism that I’ve leveled against the game: the fact that its (original) stated goal was removing the classic “holy trinity” from its gameplay, but then replacing that trinity with nothing. This is kind of a problem when it comes to group content because it turns group stuff into a disjointed free-for-all without any real roles being put forth.

Adding raids to the game after that decision seems baffling, especially when those raids seem to just adhere again to the same trinity structure that the game was originally trying to avoid. But that segues rather naturally into the other issue I’ve noted over the years: that at least from the outside in, it always appears ArenaNet seems to have a hard time knowing what its game actually is.

WHAT AM I

The title has gone through some frankly baffling shifts over time. It had the whole “Living World” updates that started almost immediately… and at least in the beginning provided basically holiday event content every other week, completely failing to materialize into the original plan of “expansion content in small chunks.” A lot of effort was put into raiding and making the game an e-sport when a huge part of the playerbase was attracted to the game due to the specific lack of those elements. Heart of Thorns faced a lot of backlash I saw over adding elements existing players didn’t seem to want, followed by a huge long silence during which players (and those of us watching the game) wondered what the hell was even going on behind the scenes.

Also, I didn’t like the fact that making builds when I played was more complicated than fun. But that was several revisions ago.

Despite all of this, there were also some things I really did like about the game and continue to admire. When it works right, the abstract structure of the game is a blessing, and I love that it’s not afraid to go far afield for class and spec ideas. The lore of the world is really neat, and while I’ve got criticisms of how it’s handled, there’s the simple fact that Tyria has a lot more to it than the generic fantasy you get in the first few moments of the original Guild Wars.

And yes, I adored the original Guild Wars. And the prospect of heading back to Elona for the second expansion? Oh, that might have brought me back anyway. So while I may come across as rather irritated with the game sometimes, the reality is that I admire it a lot for the things it does right. The things it does wrong are annoying, but that’s mostly because it’s quite clear that it can do things very right.

Not to mention that you can literally play a plant. I like the Sylvari quite a bit for that alone.

I say all of the above not to critique the game but to make it clear where I’m coming from. Since I’m coming back to the game after a long hiatus, I have opinions about the game as it stands, and it’s also had a lot of time to actually address those elements I dislike. So part of me will be looking at the title from exactly that angle. Has it changed the weak stuff that stuck in my mind the first time around?

And now, it's party time.

In the time since I left the game, we’ll have hit two separate expansions, which means I have a lot of new play options and I shan’t be touching my old account. The new account that I’ll be using for play is starting completely fresh, so there’s no need for questioning about using my old advantages. But there are still play questions to be asking, so we’ll start in on that with the obvious question: Should I make use of that free level 80 boost? For that matter, will I be jumping to 80 and catching up that way, or will I split my time between the lower levels and the new stuff?

CMA: To boost or not to boost in Guild Wars 2?

  • Yes, use that level 80 boost and focus on that (43%, 149 Votes)
  • No, play the lower levels for important context (31%, 107 Votes)
  • Do both! Seriously, you can fit both into your schedule! (27%, 94 Votes)

Total Voters: 350

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In my classic time with the game, I played a Thief. This was due in no small part to the character I was playing for roleplaying purposes; she had a pretty clear ability set, you see. But the character I use for most Choose My Adventure installments is rather more flexible, so she’s only limited by my particular preferences… which are well-known, but this point. I tend to prefer melee characters and non-pet professions, which means that, well, basically everything other than Ranger is kind of open season for me. Some of them just work a little better with elite specializations.

Of course, for the jobs which really entice me with their elite specializations, starting from low level is kind of not going to work as well. So I’ve divided the poll into two parts. The first part covers all of the specs I’m interested in playing that includes both Elite specializations and non-elite specializations; the second is only professions with non-elite options. This is useful information, as it points in the direction I may wind up if I split my time between higher and lower levels or where I’ll aim for lower levels alone.

There’s also a fairly wide spread in there, so I’m actually opening these polls up for more than one answer. Shock!

CMA: What shall I play when considering elite specializations?

  • Guardian (14%, 56 Votes)
  • Revenant (8%, 31 Votes)
  • Warrior (5%, 20 Votes)
  • Holosmith (Engineer) (23%, 89 Votes)
  • Thief (8%, 33 Votes)
  • Weaver (Elementalist) (16%, 62 Votes)
  • Mesmer (11%, 42 Votes)
  • Reaper (Necromancer) (15%, 58 Votes)

Total Voters: 327

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CMA: What shall I play when disregarding elite specializations?

  • Revenant (19%, 68 Votes)
  • Warrior (12%, 43 Votes)
  • Guardian (22%, 77 Votes)
  • Thief (13%, 47 Votes)
  • Engineer (12%, 43 Votes)
  • Mesmer (22%, 79 Votes)

Total Voters: 312

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Polls will remain open until 6 p.m. EDT on Friday, as always. I’m also eager for feedback in the comments with suggestions, which is something that had mixed results on the last CMA but is still an idea I think has some legs. Build suggestions with my known proclivities are also to be entertained.

Feedback of other sorts, of course, is also welcome in the comments below, and it can be mailed along to eliot@massivelyop.com if you’d prefer. Next week? We start, and I distill the results of those rather multi-point polls into useful formats!

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Eliot each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures — and you get to decide his fate. His impressions of Seattle basically all come from that trip, yes. He enjoyed it.
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63 Comments on "Choose My Adventure: The return to Guild Wars 2"

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Reginald Atkins

as a thief player I say.. play thief and.. thief… LOL.

honestly build creation is what I love most about GW2, 5 people playing the same class can be playing radically differently. LOVE my thief build, it’s resilience has gotten me through my own return to GW2 through season 2, HoT, and I’m closing in on the end of season 3. I like the sound of the Path of Fire Deadeye build but it’s going to have to be *REALLY* good to sway me away from my twin pistols and 3 dodges throwing crippling daggers every time I do.

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imayb1

CMA: What shall I play when considering elite specializations?

Guardian
Revenant
Warrior
Holosmith (Engineer)
Thief
Weaver (Elementalist)
Mesmer
Reaper (Necromancer)

I’m a bit confused about what you’re looking for because on engi and ele, you’ve specified PoF elites, yet for necro, you’ve noted a HoT spec. Then another four classes have no elite spec listed at all. Do you simply wish to avoid engi/Scrapper, ele/Tempest, and necro/Scourge?

Since the ranger is conspicuously absent, I suggest you avoid HoT elite guardian/Dragonhunter. However, PoF elite Firebrand could be fun. While I like Reaper, it’s somewhat awkward in build because the traits are meant for power stats but really work best with condi. It’s a bit of an underdog class.

If you’re planning to boost, mesmer HoT elite Chronomancer is really fun. Again, if boosting, engi/Holosmith is looking like it will be massively overpowered at first and probably a ton of fun until it’s nerfed… ahem!… rebalanced.

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sophiskiai

You should definitely boost – the scaling system means you can go back and play early content at 80 without being too horrendously overpowered, and boosting means don’t need to worry about constantly switching gear and build as you level up and can just find a decent set of gear and a build you like and concentrate on the world and the gameplay.

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Bryan Turner

I only suggest you boost if you’re boosting a class yours already familiar with, if not then play from an earlier level (pretty sure you have a 5th aniversary lvl 40 boost waiting for you on your oldest character.

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Sally Bowls

Everyone says this. I don’t get it. Other than the level 4ish dodge, there are no tutorials I noticed as I was leveling to 80. I certainly agree that you are not ready to unzip and measure your ePeen on a raid immediately upon boosting. But I don’t see how playing 20 hours from l40-l80 would be any different than spending the same 20 hours doing the same content on a level 80. I understand and support “spend X hours Hearting around”, just don’t understand the don’t boost.

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Bryan Turner

Classes play different with every traitline that opens up depending on what grandmasters do to alter abilities, then at lvl 80 Elite Traitlines completely change the way a class even plays altogether (take Scourge for example that completely turns the Shroud sideways).

It’s best to learn your class from the ground up so that you appreciate all the utility that your build provides (especially in a game with out hard defined Tanks/Healers/DPS.

Hell this game deserves a detailed travelogue showing world exploration as well, just to show how deep and rich this game actually is, the story that’s told through the events in each small sections of a map and how it ties up to the major map story such as Harathi Hinterlands even.

However if Rubi has a main that they’re comfortable with then they have an opportunity to boost a new one, play through a new racial storyline, and showcase the expansion Path of Fire (which lets face it, that’s what the readers probably really give a damn about) with out fumbling around like a noob on a brand new class detracting away from the narrative and world exploration.

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Sally Bowls

Good advice, but I still don’t get it. Leveling up, I picked up the 1,2,3 specializations; never changed anything. I certainly agree it would be more optimal (as opposed to better for me) to learn & practice all trait lines, multiple weapons, multiple roles. But I see nothing inherent in leveling that is involved. If someone wants to test all 20 different combinations of 3 of 6 skills, that is fine (for them.) But they can do that at 80 better than at 8. If someone wants to test staff vs D/D, then why can’t they do that at 80 as well or better than while leveling? I am failing to understand how doing Heart#1467 at 80 teaches less than doing it at 20.

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Stropp

I’m with you. I recently leveled a character for the first time to 80, and about half way through started wondering if I should boost. Reading sites like Reddit, the advice was not to on a first character. But after getting to the cap I have to wonder why.

In fact it seems to me that Guild Wars 2 doesn’t really need levels at all. You get all the weapon skills really quickly through use of of a weapon, and every zone scales to your level, so the only power gradient comes through gear upgrades. It appears that levels are really only used for gating.

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Sally Bowls

“only power gradient comes through gear upgrades” and even that seems to be a short slope. So a new 80 can spend 100g (4Hrs or $7) and get 95% of BiS exotic gear and 800g (32Hrs or $56) will get you BiS gear (unless you are doing raids, ever changing FOTM, or Fashion Wars.) So BiS costs a bit more than a character boost. But one can quickly have a max level character with BiS gear.

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Sally Bowls

On the plus side, you have avoided HoT, which, IMO, is a positive.

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Bryan Turner

Heart of Thorns was fine once they had the Fixit patch in April 2016; I’ve done Mordremoth on 2 different characters (2 Necros grant you but still).

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McGuffn

Reaper is there.

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Sally Bowls

IIRC, you don’t have to do HoT to get Reaper; you just have to buy HoT. Money is replaceable; time spent in tunnels is not.

mosselyn
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mosselyn

Sort of. You cannot get enough hero points in just core Tyria to purchase all of your elite spec. I’m sure there will be plenty of points added in PoF, but you’ll likely want those to “purchase” your PoF elite. So, odds are you’ll have to dip a dainty toe into at least some of HoT if you want both elites up front.

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Terren Bruce

I voted for using the boost and focusing exclusively on PoF. If you had criticisms of the game 4-5 years ago and then you play those same areas that haven’t changed at all since then you’re going to come away from this with the SAME criticisms. And that’s not fun for you or those reading your articles. At least write about something new, whether positive or negative.

I also voted for Guardian because it’s relatively easy to play and boosting to level 80 is enough to have to get used to after not playing the game for awhile. And you like melee. Guardian is generally considered the easiest class to play.

I DO NOT recommend going into Heart of Thorns. You won’t have a good experience there. You CANNOT boost to 80 after having almost no real experience with the game and do well there. Just avoid the headache, you’re not ready for that and the time to hear you complain about Heart of Thorns was two years ago not today.

Seriously, just start with the PoF content. Enjoy exploring something new when the rest of the community is also experiencing it for the first time. It might give you some connection to the community in GW2 and you might see the game in a different light than you would otherwise.

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Bryan Turner

She should play a class she’s familiar with, I’m familiar with Reaper and I’m staying Power Reaper.

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Terren Bruce

I didn’t get the impression that Eliot was super familiar with any of the classes. Or with GW2 at all really despite playing it very briefly once years ago.

kalamari_
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kalamari_

perfect answer!

miol
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miol

I also voted for Guardian (hoping here for a Firebrand pick), as Holosmith felt in terms of mechanics too superficial (WP called it a “yolo spec”!), like in Secret World Legends, staring only on that little UI heat meter all the time.

And as you mentioned the lack of trinity, I’d thought that a Scourge (the new elite spec for necros, which has support qualities, just like Firebrand) would also have been up for the vote.

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Rottenrotny

Why is Elementalist missing from the 2nd poll?

I settled on Elementalist/Weaver for PoF.
It’s pretty fun, versatile and mobile in it’s base form and I’ve always liked the idea of a sword mage.

After that I may use my Guardian or Thief as main alt.

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Bryan Turner

You have to be a classically trained Pianist to play an Elementalist like a master.

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Rottenrotny

I’m no min/maxer and certainly am certainly not trying to be hardcore.
Think casual. ;)

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Alex Willis

Ele is fun! And really, that’s the only justification you need. For me, the two major criteria are: 1) versatility, 2) durability, and 3) fun. I don’t care about minmaxing DPS, but I do care about surviving the inevitable shitstorm. And ele provides this! Sometimes when I’m feeling silly, I’ll run a Staff Backline Ele in WvW on Water/Earth/Arcane, dropping heals and rezzing and putting bleeds on the enemies while basically never dying, because you cannot be critically hit and your cantrips give massive regens. But if I wanted to switch up to an AOE backline? Easy-peasy trait switch to Fire/Air, and you’re dropping firestorms at 1200 range.

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Rottenrotny

Sounds great to me!

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Bryan Turner

I get what you’re saying, I’m just saying I’ve spent so much time on the forums that I’ve psyched my self out personally toward playing an Ele, I suppose you can camp Fire and Air exclusively, blow your cool downs, and swap back and forth, or just stay as Fire or Air exclusively even.

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Rottenrotny

My other 80 is a Warrior and I don’t want to be dual wield daggers with Spellbreaker Mehhhhh

Side note.. VERY disappointed that there’s not a single elite spec that focuses on greatsword. Which was the whole reason why I’ve played Guardian to lvl 60.

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Alex Willis

Reaper is a Greatsword spec.

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Rottenrotny

I guess I meant PoF Elite specs and my Necro is lvl 6 or 7 so… haha.

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draugris

I am curious what Eliot will say regarding the player base, according to google trends the interest in GW2 is rather low

https://trends.google.de/trends/explore?date=today%205-y&q=Guild%20Wars%202

There was a peak at 08-09/2015 shortly before HoT was released but they could manage to keep the interest high for this expansion.

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Sally Bowls

For the last five quarters, GW2’s revenue was an all-time low. A couple of months ago, the player base was clearly at its all-time low. And this month will see a huge surge. And it is quite likely Sept ’18 will be smaller than Sept ’17.
Cycles happen.
So it is extremely unlikely this or any MMO will ” keep the interest high for this expansion”

How Open Big virtual worlds grow


That’s OK; there is an obvious solution: the next expansion.

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Terren Bruce

Put in Final Fantasy XIV and compare them and you’ll be in for an awakening. Comparing it to it’s peers and having context matters.

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Sally Bowls

But you do have to be careful who you listen to. You get the “gw2 is top 2, top 3 of MMOs” We know there are three NCSoft MMOs, BDO, FFXIV, that are bigger and obviously WoW and TESO. EVE is probably bigger and IDK whether GW2 or SWTOR has declined more and who is larger ATM.

GW2 is neither dead nor top 5 and what really matters is the bump from the expansion.

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Terren Bruce

GW2 is certainly in the top 5. Not financially which is what is important to NCSoft I admit, but that is because ANet is f2p and has a very generous cash shop. But in player numbers and general interest.

GW2’s subreddit subs are higher than even FFXIV, it’s twitch numbers are comparable, and it has a higher google search rating.

Not only is GW2 in the top 5, it can be argued it’s in the top 3. And that’s very impressive given it isn’t on consoles like FFXIV and ESO are. It’s certainly much bigger than SWTOR which is unmistakably in decline.

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draugris

I would disagree that GW2 is f2p. I mean yes technically they are and it is great for trying out the game to see if you like it, but if you want to play seriously you need to buy GW2. You simply need the elite specs, the power creep Anet introduced in HoT is so high that if you want to be viable you have to play one. And in PoF the power creep will be even higher, balance is plain horrible to non existing in this game.

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Sally Bowls

I know it is frequently argued that is it in the top three. I was pointing out that it is never accurately argued thusly. At least amongst the usual metrics. I am sure it is the top MMO of GW2 reddit posters, in the top 3 at this site; perhaps #1.

And there are “lies, damn lies, and statistics” E.g.: MMOs is different than “PC-based MMOs in English in US/EU/Aus/NZ running on a PC” the latter reducing TESO and FF but not GW2 and SWTOR.

SWTOR is unmistakably in decline, but then so was pre-PoF announcement GW2 so I am not as certain as you who is ahead. GW2 might win the game comparison, but the #1 IP being flogged by Disney helps SWTOR a lot.

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Terren Bruce

It’s impossible to gauge with 100% accuracy the populations of these games but you can infer a game’s popularity by things like subreddit numbers, twitch viewership, google trends, ect.

All indications are that GW2 is in the top 3-4 MMORPG’s available in NA on PC or console. The reason GW2 is in decline is because it is no longer the clear #2 which it was before HoT’s launched.

GW2 had a bad expansion launch while FFXIV and ESO had already recovered from their horrible initial launches. So the general “feel” out there in internet land is that FFXIV and ESO are on the rise and GW2 is on the decline. And that is technically true. But what it really means is that GW2 has fallen from incredible heights to something more standard while FFXIV and ESO have risen and the outcome at the moment is that this has put all three games at nearly the same level.

GW2 started at incredible heights no MMORPG has ever seen with the exception of WoW. FFXIV and ESO started very low with terrible launches. Now they’re all about the same with whoever has an expansion coming out getting a nice boost.

Clearly when it comes to profit FFXIV is ahead as it maintains it’s level off popularity while requiring a subscription. But we’re not talking profit here, as the initial comment was about google trends. We’re simply talking popularity.

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Sally Bowls

I just disagree with “Now they’re all about the same ” I think FF is well over twice the size of GW2 (worldwide not NA though) and TESO even larger. twitchmetrics has GW2 behind, in decreasing size, WoW, TESO, BDO, L2, B&S, FF; GW2 is the third most NCSoft MMO streamed but #7 of all MMOs although close to FF. TESO is much more pronounced. In Feb, TESO was saying 8.5M sold. Their superbowl commercial cost about HoT’s box sales.

GW2 is doing “fine”; like most games, far better than the “OMG dead!” folks say but not as well as its most passionate fans say.

kalamari_
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kalamari_

” I think FF is well over twice the size of GW2 (worldwide not NA though) and TESO even larger.”

LOL. no, just no…

the FF news a few days back, where what? 10 million WITH trial accountsand the new xpac? yeah thats nice, but GW2 reached 7 million already 2 years ago, BEFORE f2p and PoF.

Guild Wars 2 celebrates 7 million accounts as Heart of Thorns arrives

so its mathematically not even possible what you say. they are at the same level atm. and ESO maybe too. (but they have 50% of their playerbase on the consoles)

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draugris

I don´t know for the US but in europe the zones seem to be rather populated compared to SWTOR for example. In GW2`s Silverwastes or in Orr i do not feel alone, in SWTOR the only place where i felt that i was not alone was on the fleet.

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Sally Bowls

I bet SWTOR is getting lonelier and GW2 has PoF countdown clocks going in excitement.

However, this is a far less reliable metric than in 2011. With CRZ/instances/megaservers, the population in your instance tends to be more determined by how the devs set up the instancing limits. There may be quadruple the number of people playing GW2 on Friday than two months ago, but the number of people I see in the map won’t be that different there will just be more maps.

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Paragon Lost

I voted Thief because I wanted to see your PoV on how the class has changed since you last played it. :)

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hugmonster

I hope that by week 3 we’re asked what Legendary weapon you should start making :P

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

Voting Guardian. I’d vote Ranger but I know your thing on pets, and Guardian is the next most rofflestompy class, which I think would be helpful to you so that you can get stuff done and really judge the rest of the game without much struggle. People voting Mesmer, y’all are trolls. :P

I also think you should use the level 80 boost, chiefly so you can get completely decked out in gear and just not worry about that part of the game or farming for money to buy orange gear. I do think it would be a good comparison for you to do a zone as a legit newbie toon, then use the boost and do one of the 70+ Tyria zones (or possibly a living story episode), then start into HOT (at least get gliding), and then go into POF.

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Alex Willis

Go with the Level 80 boost! You can always explore the old content if you want (it’s all level-balanced anyway), which is what I’m doing with my new toon I’ve built for PoF.

My new toon is a Revenant (Herald), but I voted for Elementalist (Weaver) for the elite spec, and Thief when not considering elite. Simple fact is that Thief is a lot of fun to play regardless of the spec (though it can be unforgiving in PvP/WvW if you’re not careful), and Weaver is the new spec that interests me the most. Actually, if it had been an option, I would have recommended Elementalist for both — IMHO it is the best-designed class in the game, and can play any role you want it to, including bunker tank!

ihatevnecks
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ihatevnecks

Wish I wasn’t too broke to buy this right now; the first couple weeks of expac releases are really the best times :/ Between D2 on console and wanting on PC, Divinity: OS2, some tabletop rpg books, I really don’t think I can pick this one up too.

That whole needing a new job thing sure puts a damper on buying too many games to actually play :D

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Ashfyn Ninegold

I voted for the boost because the base game content has not changed since launch. There’s nothing new to report or discover there. The PoF content, on the other hand, is of interest for many of the reasons you mention. Where is GW2 going? What have they done in PoF? And are mounts working or just a pain?

Looking for to this CMA.

dixa
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dixa

The real issue for him is – will boosting with this expansion unlock the heroic trait lines or will it be a FFXIV issue where he has to play through all of the heart of thorns stuff?

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Terren Bruce

You do not need to play HoT’s to play PoF. Just get your hero points in PoF maps. You’d only need to do both if you wanted to unlock both elite specs and you could still skip HoT’s and just get the hero points in world vs world if you really wanted to.

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McGuffn

You have to earn them, and you can earn points in either tyria or the expansions. Earning them in tyria would possibly be more time consuming in the core maps though, since in the original maps you get 1 point at a time, and in HoT at least, you get 10.

Using the lvl 80 scroll will give you enough points to unlock all the non-elite specs automatically. As Eliot alluded to, this is because the trait system has been the victim of several revisions over the years.

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Rumm

Using boosts right now now gets you all base traits unlocked, but not the current elite specialization, and 0 Hero Points. You have to do HoT Hero Point runs to get enough to unlock your first elite spec, or to save up for the new elite spec, as I’m doing with Holosmith.

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Alex Willis

Alternatively, you can earn points in WvW pretty quickly. I unlocked 2 elite specs doing WvW alone.

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Terren Bruce

Hero points come really quickly in WvW for sure.

wpDiscuz