GW2: World, not Levels

I’ve hit level 40 now.

Do I feel like I’m halfway through the game?

Hahahahahahahaha.

No.

Not in the slightest.

One thing I think all of us will have to remember in the coming days as more and more folks hit level 80 in under a month is that this is a Guild Wars game.

The original capped you at level 20 and you could probably hit that in under a week of normal play (or a day or two of more intense play, probably a couple hours if you were really trying, no doubt.)

Hitting the level cap does not signify the end of the game. Nor does it signify the beginning of the ‘real’ game.

More and more, I begin to think that levels are just a familiar crutch that gives players used to other MMOs the feeling that they are making progress, and serves as more or less a periodic jackpot style intermittent reward “ding” to tell the player  “Good job, have a cookie!”

I am given to understand, though I might be mistaken, that even after you hit the level cap of 80, you will still continue to get your level ding and earn skill points to eventually buy stuff that costs an exorbitant amount of skill points. Or something along those lines, so there’s always a goal to strive toward.

(Perhaps we will hit the point just like in Guild Wars 1 where I know my main character has gotten lots of levels and has plenty of skill points to buy stuff with, but I really couldn’t care less about them. The only thing some players kept asking for then in GW1 was an overall count for the sake of e-peen comparison, sort of a /played of 9000 hours over your 1932 hours, but a “ha, I’m total level 574 versus your total level 232,” I think.)

Anyway, Levels 32-38 flew by while messing around with World vs World vs World stuff, and after catching up with my personal story that I paused at level 30, I was level 40 in an eyeblink.

And also thrown into some confusion because the neat chain of hearts I was dutifully completing (and point of interest visiting and vista viewing) is now broken. I left off somewhere in Gendarran Fields doing level 30ish stuff and where the heck should I be going now?

This distance away from obediently following along like a WoW sheep from appropriately leveled zone to zone doing appropriately leveled quests has suddenly made things rather clear.

Guild Wars 2 is a world, and I can actually wander in it like one.

I don’t have to feel compelled to 100% complete every zone until I feel like it, because frankly, I’m 80% done with the Gendarran Fields zone and while OCD is screaming at me to just finish it up, the personal story in the level 20-40 range has pretty much flung me out of my comfort zone following one linear path and into way more zones than I can fathom 100% completing on my way to level 80.

I went to a snowy Norn zone, passing Hoelbrak along the way (Two zones to explore, count ’em, two!) I was sent for a stopover in the Gendarran Fields, where I already had a convenient waypoint. (10-20% left, not counting the crypt that I explored in beta but haven’t found folks to do it yet on live. Nor have I done the Loreclaw jumping puzzle in Plains of Ashford yet.) Then went to Divinity’s Reach via Lion’s Arch and ended up in the Fields of Ruin. (Three more zones, aieeeee.)

That’s three cities and two entire zones, both of which I have already sheepishly “outleveled” though of course, I can still wander in and play without bothering because of the unnoticeable downleveling.

If I try to complete each zone I was exposed to in order, I fear I’ll hit level 80 while still messing about in a level 40 zone…

I think it’s very smart and cunning design of the personal story. It starts out all linear and comfortable to hold your “used to traditional MMO” hand, then come the branching choices and before you know it, you’re traveling across half the countryside, flung into Lion’s Arch and other races’ cities and the world has broadened immensely to the point where one just stands stunned in Lion’s Arch wondering, what the heck I should do now? I could do… anything! Should I go here or there first? Should I just stay here and craft? Or go WvWvWing?

The Fields of Ruin and the city or town of Ebonhawke are particularly interesting for proactive NPCs that flag you down and ask for your help. Or maybe I’ve just started taking notice of them. (There was at least one such NPC in the Plains of Ashford too.) It’s too easy to run by, focused on what you’re doing in traditional MMO style and ignore all NPCs as unimportant background chatter. Then a “hey, over here, I need your help!” and an emoted beckon finally catches your attention, and if you deign to go up and talk to the NPC, you’ll trigger a Dynamic Event or find out where to go to find one. If you ran right by, well, yeah, no Dynamic Event for you.

It looks like ArenaNet is on to something here. The road to level 80 for any of your characters is not going to be the exact same thing twice – not unless you choose to repeat it. We’re all going to have at least a slightly different experience as we go through the game. Yes, there will still be commonalities and the same hearts and the more common DEs on repeat loop, and you can repeat the same DEs and visit the same reward chests daily if that floats your boat, but if you don’t want to, then well, don’t.

Go somewhere different. Wander. Gather. Craft. PvP. WvW. Do a dungeon. Follow your personal story. You’ll still get to level 80 in the end.

Personally, I am so spoiled for choice that I am almost paralyzed with indecision and end up playing inventory tetris trying to figure out what next.

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One thought on “GW2: World, not Levels

  1. Rakuno says:

    I am finding myself in a pretty similar position with my Kahlef, my charr. I got to level 32 sort of by accident. I wasn’t really planning to level that fast. It just happened as I did crafting, went hunting for crafting supplies, did a few hearts, a few dynamic events and personal story lines. There are still certain zones I would like to complete though, most of the charr controlled areas. But I will get to them as the mood hits. 🙂

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