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This is Salique. She’s a Human Engineer in Guild Wars 2:
My first MMO was Ultima Online. For a long time, I tried a lot of MMOs for a trial period, until I eventually hit City of Heroes and found one I liked. Since then I have got a CoH Scrapper to level 45, a Cataclysm-era Warlock to 65 in WoW, and a LOTRO Minstrel all the way to 33. My Secret World Illuminati is lost in Transylvania and my Rift Sabotage Rogue’s lost somewhere about two thirds though the original content. My Star Wars Sith and Smuggler are both somewhere in the mid-30s, too.
But if you click on that screenshot, you’ll see something different.
Salique is the very first character I’ve ever made who hit the level cap. I didn’t even screenshot it when it happened, but it almost certainly looks like this:
Note the large flamethrower, the cool hat, and the large amount of flame.
So, since I tend to get bored of MMOs around the mid-level mark, what’s different about GW2 that avoided this problem?
I think part of it is that the level didn’t actually matter.
Because in GW2 you’re always never more than slightly overpowerful, the thing you’re doing – be it an event, or a renown heart or… Oh, yeah.
Guild Wars 2 Works Differently
So, the Quest Hub method of progression has been popular since the early days of D&D. Arrive in a new area, speak to an NPC or NPCs, get some things to do, go forth into yonder wilderness/castle/swamp/fields/ocean wander back, gain new NPC to move to new area. Repeat. GW2 has no NPCs who give out things to do. Instead, when you wander within range, you get a notification that that NPC over there wants people to kill ten rats, to heard these geese, to water these plants, to hunt those worms. Sometimes these involve transformations, special powers, new implements, new mechanics. When you’ve done enough stuff for them, you can move on to the next heart. Scouts give you an idea of what the area’s like, and what Hearts are around in the area.
The second major thing driving you from place to place are events. A wagon might appear with some supplies in it, and want some escorts to keep bandits from getting at the stuff. Escort the wagon, fight off the bandits, gain XP.
But when the wagon gets to the destination, it means the captain has enough weaponry to start a raid on the lost garrison over yonder, and would you mind helping? Storm the garrison, rescue the residents, save the day, gain XP.
But after holding the garrison for a little while, the bandits start trying to claim it back, increasing waves of fights trying to get back inside. Kill the bandits, defend the keep, gain XP.
If you hold off the bandits, it’s a good time to stage a hit on the bandit base. Escort the captain, kill the bandit, kill the boss bandit leader, gain XP, gain a loot chest.
And everything’s quiet, except the bandit raids are stepping up again…
These are all over the world, and while they maintain themes, they’re all scripted differently, they’re mostly all new. Some are funny, some you’ll win, some you’ll lose. Some you can’t trigger until you have loads of people in the zone, some only require a few. Sometimes you’ll catch a symbol out of the corner of your eye and talk to an NPC, and start a quest chain that leads to fifty PCs fighting alongside you as you try to destroy a giant beast from beyond time.
Then you move on.
And because you can only outlevel an area by a couple of notches before the level scaling kicks in (You never lose abilities, but your hit ability and health are scaled down to the level for the area), you never feel overpowered, and you never are forced to move on. The difficulty curve remains almost entirely flat unless you start hitting the big end game content, or things designed for more people than you have.
Also, it doesn’t hurt that I think I’ve leveled Salique in roughly half the time I’ve spent getting my LOTRO minstral to Level 33. But that’s not the aim, really. The aim is the aim I set, which… well, 100% map completion looks good. All the hearts, all the extra skill points. 46% done…