I will be honest with all of you. I have been struggling to write today’s Blaugust post. Everything from attempting to figure out what to blog about today to figuring out post titles has been less than easy for me to do. However, in considering the struggle of the day, I realized maybe I should use that struggle. Thus, I started thinking about what else I might struggle with, be it a game or some personal quirk.
And I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but the first thing that popped into my head was an MMO, one I’ve actually streamed a couple of times on my Twitch channel: Guild Wars 2.
When it came time to sit down and write this post, I actually found myself struggling to put why I struggle with the game into words. After all, there’s a lot that I actually enjoy about it. However, for one reason or the other, I’ve never been able to really make a character stick. I got a character to level 80 once, but once I hit that point, I stopped playing Guild Wars 2. I’ve tried coming back a few times, to that character and to new ones, but it’s never been for long.
And then I finally hit on why.
What I Like
Here’s the thing, though. I don’t want this post to come across as though I hate Guild Wars 2. I don’t. There’s a lot that I really enjoy about it.
Visually, the game is absolutely stunning. The environments are probably one of my favorite things about the game, and each zone feels both similar to the ones around it and different at the same time. I remember spending at least an hour in Divinity’s Reach alone, just in awe of the city itself and the various moving parts. The world outside the cities is just as beautiful, and there are enough points in the world that absolutely spark the part of my brain that needs to see what’s over the next hill.
(I’m an explorer at heart, but we’re going to talk about that next week.)
Hell, I even really enjoy character creation in this game. My main MMO back when Guild Wars 2 launched was World of Warcraft, and WoW didn’t offer us much in the way of customization. Guild Wars 2 is different. Yes, there are some facial presets, but the sliders make it possible for players to take those presets and turn each face into something truly their own. Even the sheer number of choices you get after that turns your character’s story into something all its own.
It’s also phenomenal when it comes to representation. Taimi, an NPC we meet later in the game, is disabled and gets around via a giant mech of her own design. People of differing sexual orientations are just naturally part of the world. There are even a couple of transgender NPCs, which was really nice to see.
And Guild Wars 2 has more things that other games absolutely do not.
Leveling syncing is amazing. A higher level player can return to a lower level zone to help out a friend who might just be starting out and still have as much impact on a mob in that area as someone at the higher end of that zone’s “level cap.”
I also really enjoy how Guild Wars 2 handled the acquisition of crafting materials in the world compared to other MMOs. In World of Warcraft, material nodes were essentially first-come, first-serve. I had even seen little battles break out over some of them. But Guild Wars 2? Nope. In Guild Wars 2, everyone can harvest materials from the node, which takes away the competitive aspect. I’ve always really liked that.
And don’t even get me started on dynamic events. I love how events work in GW2. The first time I stumbled upon one, I genuinely had no idea what was going on but had my character grab her bow and helped out, anyway. Since then, I’ve come to love those orange markers on the map that point out when zone-wide events are happening. The sheer number of them makes each zone feel alive.
Overall, I just really appreciate the fact that this game feels like it’s geared towards more of a casual playstyle.
What I Don’t Like
With everything I genuinely enjoy about Guild Wars 2, it might surprise people to learn that playing it is a struggle for me. The characters I make never last for too long. Most of them get to maybe level 20 at maximum and I don’t play them past that.
So why is that?
At first, I honestly thought it was because I had no experience with the world the game is set in. Of course, then I realized that couldn’t be it because that has literally never stopped me before. Going into MMOs with minimal to no understanding of the lore of the world itself is kind of my thing.
But maybe it was the lack of the Holy Trinity of Tank, Healer, and DPS? No. Because I rarely engaged in that sort of content in other games, so not having that didn’t really bother me.
So what did?
First of all, whenever I play Guild Wars 2, I always feel a distinct lack of connection to the world around me.
Now, there are always going to be quests and things that I consider boring. They’re in every MMO. Guild Wars 2, though, replaced those boring quests with hearts that you fill up by performing a variety of tasks in that general area. On the surface, it isn’t a bad solution, but I never felt any real connection to the things I was doing.
Even with a simple fetch quest in other games, you connect with a character, they ask you to do something for some reason, you report back, and you get some form of reward. With Guild Wars 2, I got the sense that the person who represented the heart was grateful for my helping them complete whatever tasks were tied to that heart, but I never really felt any connection with them. I didn’t even really know why I was doing this particular variety of tasks for this particular heart.
Hell, I didn’t feel like I had any sort of connection with most NPCs in the game unless my character had some sort of meaningful dialogue interaction with them, and even then, our connections were tenuous at best.
I understand that for Guild Wars 2, the dynamic events are more along the lines of traditional quests and the hearts are more along the lines of filler, or, at least, that was the case a few years ago. Now, this may have changed in later game levels. I will admit that it’s been a while since I touched those. However, the way the leveling experience is set up left me feeling a bit detached on the whole.
As an example, the first part of the Charr personal story is rebuilding your warband. And then…. nothing. You don’t really interact with them during the next chunk of your personal story apart from your sparring partner. I almost wondered what the point of me even building up my warband was if I wasn’t going to interact with them past the conclusion of the first chapter.
The way the game “gates” story content doesn’t help, either. Personal story missions unlock every ten levels while leveling, and while you’re completing phases of the story, you feel like you might in other MMOs: a hero of some sort on the rise. However, because the personal story is gated in this way, leveling up between “chapters” of the story felt a bit awkward. I’ve just done this epic thing at the end of one part, interacted with these important NPCs I’m working on building trust with…
…and then I’m basically right back to where I was before that. Feeling detached.
I also couldn’t help but feel a bit disconnected from my character, too. None of the race/class combos really felt like “me” and I felt like I was missing a little something to make my character feel like mine. The personal story also may have contributed to that, as the way that plays out makes it obvious that this, this right here, is your character’s story. I had a difficult time detaching whatever ideas of my own I may have had about my own character from what the game told me their story was.
The Struggle is Real
And despite all of that, despite knowing I have these issues with the game itself, I keep going back.
I have friends that play and genuinely enjoy Guild Wars 2. I want to enjoy it the way they do. I want to be able to log in and happily run around doing whatever. I want to be able to find the same joy and fulfillment in playing the game that they do. But I don’t, and I’m not sure I’m ever going to.
I know the fandom around this game is a passionate one. They love it. I have friends who love it.
I want to love it as much as they do, but I don’t. While there are things that I do genuinely enjoy about Guild Wars 2, I think it and I are just incompatible, and that’s okay. Sometimes, that happens.
It does mean there’s room for more MMOs in my life, though, but that’s a separate problem entirely.