Flameseeker Chronicles: Guild Wars 2’s 2019 year in review, from the layoffs to Icebrood

    
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It’s no secret that 2019 was a rough year for Guild Wars 2. There were some bright spots in there as well, however, and I don’t want those to be overshadowed. A lot has happened this year, and today I want to focus what happened in the first half of the year.

If you’ll allow a small spoiler for the MOP end-of-year awards, I couldn’t really bring myself to personally nominate Guild Wars 2 for any of the awards this year. Despite its being my favorite MMORPG and the one about which I write here at Massively OP, I can’t really say it objectively deserves MMO of the Year over other choices. It didn’t get an expansion; the build template debacle, combined with a number of other small annoyances, and the fact that it seems to be struggling financially, preclude it from taking Best Business Model; and so far the Icebrood Saga has not inclined me to consider it Most Improved, to say the least. I don’t think it deserves Stormiest Future, but there are definitely some dark clouds gathering and a light drizzle starting.

Layoffs

As I’m sure Guild Wars 2 fans don’t need to be reminded, ArenaNet started off this year with mass layoffs, and it feels like these really dominated the conversation this whole year. I’m sick of bringing them up and I’m sure you’re sick of reading about them, but they have colored every Guild Wars 2-related story since then. Instead of simply asking “What will the next living world season look like?” fans were asking “What will the next living world season look like given the recent layoffs?” Instead of asking “When will the next expansion be?” fans have started asking “Will we ever get another expansion?” ArenaNet lost a large number of people, but even worse, some of those lost were the people who have been with the company the longest, who made the Guild Wars franchise what it is today.

When the layoffs hit, we learned that at least two projects, one a mobile or console game, the other a potential sequel to Guild Wars 2, had been shelved due to the cuts. While I’ve argued that now may not be the right time to begin working on Guild Wars 3, it really is unfortunate that these projects will never see the light of day.

The game is still feeling the effects of these layoffs, and I don’t think that’s going to change in 2020. They have bounced back a little bit — content keeps coming, and we noted recently that ArenaNet is hiring for a new artist, which doesn’t seem like the kind of thing a company does when it’s planning on sunsetting its game in the near future — but I still think that the negative impact of these layoffs can be felt in every area of the game.

The Warclaw

Also early this year, Guild Wars 2 introduced its World vs. World-centric mount, the Warclaw. This giant kitty cat has been divisive, to be sure, as it gave a sizable advantage to players who buy the Path of Fire expansion, behind which the Warclaw is gated, but it gave WvW players something new to work toward, and opened up some interesting new strategies.

Sadly, that’s about all the love that WvW has gotten this year. SPvP hasn’t fared much better, with only a few ruleset variations to speak of. There were a few PvP balance tweaks, but not as many as those players would have liked to have seen. ArenaNet had already de-emphasized PvP before the aforementioned layoffs, and after they happened, it fell even more by the wayside.

Season 4 finale

Living World Season 4, which had been going on since November of 2017, finally came to its epic conclusion with War Eternal. We put another elder dragon notch in our belt, slaying Kralkatorik, replacing him with the benevolent Aurene.

More than just the wonderful storytelling War Eternal gave us, I continue to really enjoy the Dragonfall map. I have spent a lot of time there, and not just farming resources for my skyscale. It’s a really fun group experience that feels a lot more accessible than its predecessor from Heart of Thorns, Dragon’s Stand. A solo player or small group can actually make decent progress in Dragonfall even if nobody else shows up, whereas Dragon’s Stand required a lot of people who knew what they were doing, or it would fail.

Speaking of the skyscale, can we talk about that unlock process for a minute? It was one of the worst grinds I’ve ever completed in any MMO. It’s so much more work than the griffon. The constant revisiting of maps to visit obscure little corners for the clicky found there, the absurd amount of map currency collection… I did it, but I can’t honestly say it’s worth it. Yes, the skyscale is convenient in certain circumstances, but there aren’t many places the skyscale will get you to that some combination of the griffon and springer won’t.

Ascended Cooking, Legendary Sigils

Crafters saw a boon this year, with the addition of gourmet cooking and legendary sigils. Gourmet cooking adds new master and grandmaster cooking recipes to cooks’ repertoire. Not content to simply buy recipes from a vendor like other high level crafting professions, chefs must travel to far-flung corners of Tyria to learn from the greatest chefs of the five playable races and demonstrate their prowess. If you have 425 cooking, it’s a good idea to do at least part of the collection even if you aren’t interested in finishing it, as you can unlock a garden plot and cooking station for your personal home instance, as well as cause additional cooking-related items to start dropping in the world. Naysayers call it busywork, but I thought it was a cool idea, and makes high level cooking feel more special.

Sigils also got an upgrade, allowing all sigils to be salvaged into motes, and the legendary sigil was added, craftable in the Mystic Forge. Like other legendary items, legendary sigils have the same stats as their ascended version, but with the added bonus that they can change their stats to any available stat combination at will after being equipped.

Return of the Dragon Bash

After last year’s return of The Festival of the Four Winds, it was great to see the Dragon Bash also make a comeback. It was always a shame that all of the content for these retired festivals was just lying around, gathering dust, so it was nice to see them return, updated, with new rewards and new things to do. It’s a small thing, but festivals are always a fun reason to log in.

If I were to sum up the first half of 2019, I think I would describe it as a waiting period. Apart from these highlights and lowlights, we spent a lot of the first half of 2019 just… waiting. ArenaNet had promised that the living world would continue after season 4, but after the layoff announcement, we weren’t really sure what, if anything, that would be. The silence from ArenaNet was frustrating, but I’m sure that it was even more difficult internally, dealing with the loss of institutional knowledge, reorganizing, and figuring out what next steps were realistically possible.

In the second part of this two-part column later this month, I’ll talk about the Icebrood Saga announcement and its opening episodes, some of the other events in and around the game, as well as some of the things we didn’t see in 2019, plus what I would like to see in 2020.

Flameseeker Chronicles is one of Massively OP’s longest-running columns, covering the Guild Wars franchise since before there was a Guild Wars 2. Now penned by Tina Lauro and Colin Henry, it arrives on Tuesdays to report everything from GW2 guides and news to opinion pieces and dev diary breakdowns. If there’s a GW2 topic you’d love to see explored, drop ’em a comment!

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latorn
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latorn

Every time I read about the state of this game I miss it more. I just feel like the decisions the studio has made the past couple of years in regards to not releasing new or interesting features, and slow-paced limited content delivery that lacks replayability has killed GW2 for me. I got a ton of enjoyment out of this game, but you can only make so many legendaries before you’re looking for something else to do.

Wish they would consider new features like FFXIV housing (they already have a decoration system in the game…), or that Sun’s Refuge was actually similar to WoW’s garrison and not limited in scope.

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peor togs

I have been loving Dragonfall, and then the story moving into icebrood saga. The story telling is good right now.

I feel like gw2 is catching their stride.

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Michram142

All or Nothing was one of the best episodes ever, sad you don’t point it out.

If I’d give an award for GW2, it’d be for the fastest comeback after knockout ever. They lost so many people, still they managed to pull themselves together and say there is Season 5 coming, and also we had known since August 2018 that we would not get expansion in 2019.

Whales also deserve empathy.

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Matthäus Wey

All or nothing was an amazing episode and also most likely not impacted by the layoffs. I wouldn’t say they had their comeback yet because we have yet to feel the impact from they layoffs based on development time. That said the last update was already bare ones.

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Axetwin .

Saying “Season 5 is coming” and actually delivering it is two very different things. Marvel Heroes, for example, thrived on ” (insert content) is coming, we swear”. And we saw how that one turned out.

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Matthäus Wey

I think 2019 was the worst year for Gw2 so far. Despite the fact that other years had huge content gaps and what not, I’ve never been so let down by a single game within a year.

The sad thing is that there’s nothing like Gw2 on the market and therefore I keep logging into the game again and again. However, I have to admit that I log in less and less and spend less and less time in a great game.

We can only hope for the best I guess.

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Bruno Brito

There’s ESO. Is pretty much the same as GW2. With better character building.

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peor togs

Disagree strongly on that comment!

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TomTurtle

I’ve drastically reduced my GW2 playtime which started towards the end of Season 4.

I’d really like to see the game get expansion-like features such as new races, elite specs and whatever would be the equivalent to gliders and mounts.

Housing is one untapped feature that if done well players would greatly enjoy along with landing ArenaNet more income. There are so many beautiful, diverse settings in the game that would be perfect to draw from. We’ve already seen elements of housing with guild halls, lounges and the home instance. They wouldn’t be able to put out houses as frequently as other gem store items though which may dissuade them from wanting to design and put in all that work.

Aside from new stuff, I’d still like to see ArenaNet put in real work to mending its neglected game modes. I’m not confident they will, especially with word of no immediate plans on some of them.

For me at least, it’s been a bad year as a GW2 player, and I’m not holding up much hope for a well-rounded, good quality effort being put in.

I’m predicting the team is working on smaller side projects in order to gain some revenue that will not hold my interest whatsoever. Like some have said, the best news probably would be a Guild Wars 3 at this point.

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Sleepy

The skyscale grind made me give up the game completely. It was a real two fingers from the devs.

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Greaterdivinity

I can’t really say it objectively deserves MMO of the Year over other choices.

I mean, I’m generally more favorable for GW2 but I’d argue that it hasn’t deserved that honor for a while. Maybe when they launched PoF, but I don’t remember what it launched against so I couldn’t even say that confidently.

I’d be hard pressed to find any argument that could credible call GW2 MMO of the Year, or even call this a good year for the game. It was…rough, but alright.

It was one of the worst grinds I’ve ever completed in any MMO.

I’m still in the middle of this (just finished the feeding the dragon time-gate) and I actually am quite enjoying it so far. The time-gate is annoying, but it’s been a good excuse to go back to a lot of zones I haven’t been to in a while.

I’m cautiously optimistic that they can benefit from an internal reset after this year. If not, oh well. GW2 has long been a “side MMO” for me, so even if support slows down I’ve still got plenty to catch up on when the urge to play strikes me again.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

Colin rarely do MMOs make a come back once the cascade starts, best we can hope for is a plateau like EQ1 and EQ2