Friday, 16 November 2012

Guild Wars 2: Here Comes the Gear Grind

Slightly better stats on gear

One of the things that I've really grown tired of as far as MMORPG gameplay conventions go is the gear grind. Your character hits max level, and it's time to smack around particularly powerful monsters again and again until you finally shake out that extra fancy piece of equipment that you've wanted for your character. Mission accomplished, Wizzy the Wizard is now +11 more intellect than she was this morning. All it took was killing the same boss 47 times before that Staff of the Undead Muffin Master finally dropped. By the way, is now a bad time to tell you that a new batch of dungeons is going live in three weeks with all new weapons and armor, rendering all of your current gear obsolete? Yeah, sorry about that!

The whole process quickly becomes an exercise in tedium, as players run the same dungeons over and over again to get all of the gear that they want. Much of the time it's not even that it's a challenge. After ten or so trips through these places, most of the people know the fights, and are just in it for the loot. Up until now Guild Wars 2 has been able to avoid this, and Arena.Net talked up how the game was not going to be grindy, but now it looks like this is going to change with the addition of ascended gear.

It's been a way of getting players to keep playing a game by keeping a carrot with slightly better stats dangling in front of them, but the whole gear treadmill is getting tired. Sure, games need a way to keep certain subsets of their player base happy, usually those who plowed to level cap and are thinking, "What now?" but I'd hoped that maybe Arena.Net would at least try and do something different instead of the same old same old.

I'm not entirely sure what would be a good alternative to a gear grind, but it's not something I'm looking forward to in Guild Wars 2. In fact, I don't even see myself participating in it. I'll be taking my characters to level cap at my own pace, explore the world to my heart's content, maybe craft some stuff, and that will be that. I find myself gravitating back towards single-player RPGs of late if only because they have one feature that trumps anything an MMO can throw at you: a pause button. Seeing one of the few MMORPGs I've enjoyed of late tapping into one of my least liked facets of that genre is actually turning me away from the game, and it's a shame.

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