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.
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?
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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d prefer. Next week? We start, and I distill the results of those rather multi-point polls into useful formats!