GW2: Dead on the inside

Everything just kinda plays/unlocks itself. – kalex716

I think this describes why GW2 feels like an enjoyably meh experience to me right now. I like each piece of content, to varying degrees, but as soon as I close GW2 the experience is completely forgettable. I’ve not once logged off with my adrenaline still pumping like I have from so many encounters in games like UO, DF, or EVE. Hell, logging off after a successful guild-first boss kill in WoW did more for me. The same goes for starting up GW2; rather than being excited to progress, I just kinda zombie around in the game, ever-progressing forward towards… something.

The lack of in-game report-style posts here and on blogs I read just confirms this: it’s not bad exactly, but it’s not anything to write home (blog) about either.

Part of the problem is the lack of challenge. Or rather, the lack of meaningful challenge. Yes, certain encounters in the dungeons are frustratingly hard (or bugged/broken), but when you overcome them it’s more of a relief than a sense of accomplishment because most likely you just abused the systems enough to win. Plus the knowledge that once these encounters are ‘tuned’, they will fall in line with the rest of the cakewalk experience makes the whole thing a self-inflicted punishment for pixels more than anything else.

As for the rest of the PvE? Forehead-smash to the num-pad will earn you the same gold medal in an event that min-maxing the hell of our character would. Aside from becoming a master at rolling around (which itself feels incredibly lame in a world of heat-seeking arrows and lava pools that don’t hurt if you roll through them), the combat system is the same hotbar smashfest as in previous games, with the occasional combo going off to do… not much of anything actually, because stuff dies whether you pull them off or not.

In addition to a lack of challenge (lvl 65 now, still facerolling all PvE including events. When exactly does it get harder?), GW2 seriously lacks anything resembling a meaningful decision. Crafting? Do them all! Collecting? Everyone collect everything! Hunting for resources? Everything is open to everyone! Gear? It rains from the sky so hard and fast it makes WoW’s welfare epic system feel like full-loot PvP! And in the super-rare event that you can’t find an upgrade under your nose? Don’t worry gear has little to no impact on anything but the one area gear was expected not to matter (PvP).

Worst of all you don’t need to plan anything. Nothing you do one day will determine what you do the next, and regardless of your path, you will eventually reach the same end-point as everyone else. The journey will largely be forgettable with none of your decisions impacting anything anyway. Oh sorry, you get a medal at the login screen. Wheee…

In the oddest sense, GW2 has zero progression. Sure you gain XP and world completion % and such, but it feels like regardless of what you do, you will get there anyway. It’s very Farmville actually. Whether you log in or not, click the right button or wrong, your pixels just keep ‘growing’ regardless. It truly has that “just show up and get a prize” feel, rather than being something that requires effort or ability.

I’ve seen it written a few times now that GW2 is catering to the ultra-casual player, the mythical creature who does not notice gear stats or character builds, nor does anything resembling an intelligent approach to a game. They just materialize from thin air, buy a ton of stuff from the cash shop, and play for ‘fun’. (Because everyone else is not playing for fun…) I don’t doubt that such people exits. It’s a bit scary, but it’s sadly true. But if you have not been lobotomized yet, GW2 has a serious lack of hooks, challenge, or purpose for an MMO.

GW2 is a very pretty, polished, and lovingly detailed toy. Sadly the only thing you can do with it is look and admire the craftsmanship for a bit before returning to play with your Lego kit that you got five years ago.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Guild Wars, MMO design, Rant. Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to GW2: Dead on the inside

  1. João Carlos says:

    I think you need take lessons from what you wrote last post: both DF and EVE are niche games. And if UO was launched today, it too was to be a niche game, there are too many MMO competing between themselves and the sheep were to go out and make the wolves stay alone at UO.

    You want a niche game. But niche is niche and that will never sell to the masses.

    • SynCaine says:

      What does selling have to do with game design? Where in the above do I state GW2 did not sell 2m boxes or whatever?

      SW:TOR cost 500m, was ultra-casual and failed, while DF was good enough to outlast most MMOs and get a sequel. So what? What does any of that have to do with the topic of the post?

      • Pitrelli says:

        oh come on lets drop the Darkfall was successful argument… know fine well without gov funding it would be closed by now. How many subs they down to?

        • Xyloxan says:

          Pitrelli, can you point me to a reliable source explaining this government involvement in the Darkfall development?

        • João Carlos says:

          I think he is talking about greek governement… Darkfall is greek.

        • Xyloxan says:

          I know he is talking about the Greek government, and I know that Aventurine is a Greek company. I just would like to know the source of Pitrelli’s statement.

        • SynCaine says:

          Before DF was released, AV used the DF engine to create a military sim for the Greek gov.

          What that has anything to do with DF still being a sub game 3 years later and getting a sequel, I’m not sure.

        • tithian says:

          Are you really saying that the Greek government (you know, the one that takes loans from the EU to not default) actually pays money to keep Darkfall running?

          …. Really?

      • Dà Chéng says:

        DF was good enough to get a sequel? Is this the one you mean: . I recall it was called Darkfall 2010 for a while.

        • Xyloxan says:

          Dà Chéng, you’re still playing and enjoying your always-on-target WoW mage, don’t ya?

        • Dà Chéng says:

          “Playing” “my” mage, Xyloxan? I don’t have a pet mage that I play with. I _am_ a mage! As for always on target, that’s because I’m hit-capped.

          As for Darkfall, I really enjoyed it for a while, but like Syncaine, I found the world a little empty. Its adventurers seem to spend more time trashtalking on the forums than actually adventuring.

          I’ll certainly visit Darkfall when Darkfall 2 comes out. If I’m still alive then.

  2. coppertopper says:

    Its Friday. No bloggers to troll so trolling the readers?

  3. bhagpuss says:

    Most of your negatives are my positives, which is why, as you recently argued, MMOs need to be niche. There are far too many definitions of a good time.

    I do agree there isn’t a huge “hook” but that’s okay. It’s only entertainment and lighthearted, easygoing entertainment at that. That doesn’t make it mindless or pointless any more than watching re-runs of “Frasier” or re-reading Spenser novels is mindless or pointless. It’s all escapist relaxation, requiring a modicum of attention and intelligence to appreciate but no more than a modicum.

    You scoffed at the idea that GW2 would be a “Jesus” game and you were absolutely right. It was never going to re-invent the genre, carry us all back to our own special MMO Golden Age or become the One Game. Turns out it’s just an enjoyable way to pass a few hours, and that’s not nothing, but if it’s not enough then what’s been lost? Tire of it, move on, story over.

    I do wonder whether any MMO can ever hope to match the kind of expectations, even implicit ones, being heaped on the genre. How much emotional weight can they be expected to carry? If what GW2 is offering isn’t good enough, are we likely to see anything that is?

  4. coppertopper says:

    On a less snarky note, I think what has happened is that MMOs are now mainstream, so they are designed to fit a mainstream audience. Remember how hard video games used to be? Buggy, insane difficulty was the norm, usually just a ‘the end’ when you finally did ‘finish’. Now the default difficulty is easy so that everyone gets a reward – yay! And when a game is hard out of the gate (Demon SOuls) it makes news. So if not dieing in GW2 is a problem its probably that you arent challenging yourself for 1, and its basically just a casual friendly game, as MMOs in general are as common and non-niche as any other video game genre.

  5. Dril says:

    The game is just wholly uninteresting. It’s not different enough from WoW and other themeparks that I don’t think “been there, done that” and it’s certainly not different enough to “get out of the WoW mindset” and just enjoy the game.

    It may well be hindered by the fact that I’m heavily (5+ games per day) into LoL right now, and the gameplay is practically the same but with a better control scheme, better camera angle and more gratifying rewards.

    Even WvW, the much touted neo-DaoC is pretty crap when you’re playing Planetside 2. Who wants to be just another ranged dps on a static cannon when you could instead be sedately cruising through a dogfight in a beefily armed and armoured troop carrier? Or charging along the landscape in an armoured column?

    GW2 certainly does many things, and most of them to a decent standard. But, since there’s no community, no compelling gameplay and no meaningful progression, I’d rather play games that focus solely on one aspect of GW2 and do it miles better than play a game that does many things not wholly well.

    Having said that, I’m pretty much over themeparks now. They’re just too dull.

    Still waiting for a decent Mount&Blade (preferably Napoleonic Wars) MMO.

  6. Mekhios says:

    And right on queue Dril comes out to repeat his same old tired trash ad infinitum.

    GW2 is what it is – a wholly casual experience that caters to a mass market looking for a new twist to their social MMO games. It is polished, beautiful, easy to play, and removes almost every annoying feature that has plagued previous MMO’s. It is the perfect social guild game.

    “Having said that, I’m pretty much over themeparks now. They’re just too dull.”

    Excellent. Does that mean you will shut up now?

    • Xyloxan says:

      SynCaine is, obviously, not a fan of “a wholly casual experience that caters to a mass market looking for a new twist to their social MMO games.” So he, and Dril, and many others with similar taste for games can say here whatever they want to say. I actually like reading their “old tired trash ad infinitum” because it’s not just more entertaining than reading fanboys but it’s also more interesting and informative. So, Dril, please do not “shut up”.

    • Dril says:

      People always seem really mad that I don’t like GW2.

      I actually fluctuated between being really hyped for it and hating it and ultimately ended up just not really giving a shit.

      Besides, the ultimate social guild game doesn’t really have many ultimate social activities.

      Sorry, let me try that again: hai fck u gw fanboi sht up with ur fanboi sh1t srry for nt liking ur shit gmae lololol

      go bck to framville

      • coppertopper says:

        “But, since there’s no community, no compelling gameplay and no meaningful progression…”

        You don’t own or play the game, so what are you basing these statements on?

  7. SynCaine says:

    Maybe I missed it, but pre-release, was everyone calling GW2 just a slight twist on the casual MMO themepark formula? Like they are now? I don’t remember that…

    • Adam says:


      I thought it was sad you even logged into it.

      Pretty obviously nothing more than warhammer 2.0 or wow 1.2 depending on your perspective.

      Tabtarget123 themeparks can’t be saved dude.

    • bhagpuss says:

      “Everyone” might not have been “calling GW2 just a slight twist on the casual MMO themepark formula” but I was.

      From my “first impressions” post written during my first BWE on 28 April:

      ” Is it a paradigm shift? Is it a game changer? A step change? A new generation? No it flippin’ well is not. I’m very glad I wasn’t banking on any of that nonsense because boy, would I have been in for a disappointment. … what I’ve seen is an excellent implementation of traditional, standard and familiar MMO tropes. Guild Wars 2 looks to be a really first-class AAA theme-park MMO. If that’s what you want then you’re going to be very happy “.

      My opinion hasn’t changed.

  8. kalex716 says:

    Thanks for the quote! you summed up my sentiments exactly.

    GW2 is fun, i can’t fault it in the immediacy. But it exists for this new-found ultra casual indeed, not someone like me.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Syn have you ever thought of just not playing MMO’s anymore? It seems you have outgrown them

  10. adammtlx says:

    I guess GW2’s success indicates that I’m no longer in the mainstream of MMO gaming, since I have zero interest in it at this point.

    I’m hardly a “hardcore” player, but I do prefer games that demand more of me than just showing up and collecting my rewards like candy thrown out at a parade. Unearned rewards are meaningless to me and I have little sense of entitlement. GW2 seems to be all about just giving and giving and expecting little to nothing in return. To me, that is mind-numbingly boring.

  11. Endest says:

    “Whether you log in or not, click the right button or wrong, your pixels just keep ‘growing’ regardless. ”

    Just like Eve’s progression. Pay your sub and skills go up….. Don’t even need to log in. And when you do feel like skipping ahead and paying better gear there is always Plex2Win….

    Funny how all these MMO’s are the same despite fanboys wanting theirs to be a special little snowflake.

    • adammtlx says:

      Bit different, actually, since EVE’s skills are useless unless you’re successful at actually playing the game. GW2, by and large, doesn’t require you to be successful at playing the game. Just showing up is good enough.

  12. ausj3w3l says:

    It does seem to reward the meaningless, more so though many and I have said from the start that it will be a brilliant pick up and play casual game.

    And it is exactly that, I jump in, get some warm fuzzy feelings from all the achieve.. massacre some critters, kill a few people in PvP then log.. mission accomplished for me. It has a fun base there but playing for extended periods will most definitely turn you into a cynic. Irregardless of its issues I have fun when I play

    I think it is more peoples playstyles that ruins games for them, branch out a little as there is no be all and end all game that you should solely play for massive amounts of time.

  13. I like being rewarded for random stuff, I chop down a tree and get experience for it. Have you ever chopped down a tree in real life? I haven’t. But if I did in real life I’d hope I gain experience from it. Chopping down a tree is badass.

  14. ponder says:

    Your post got me thinking.

    Maybe real mmo fun is where people realise they can cooperate in predictable way to overcome large challenges:
    . WoW had this in dungeons and raids (through tank/heal/cc)
    . GW2 doesn’t have it because PQs, PvP and dungeons don’t really allow cooperation (other than just zerging)

    I think all these post-WoW mmos are going in the wrong direction. They should return to D&D type roots of:
    . necessary cooperation
    . unpredictable content (like in current proceduraly generated roguelikes)

    • João Carlos says:


      I tryed two dungeons at GW2, there are not tanks, no healers, and that dungeons need more cooperation than a game with teh holy trinity.

      The problem is that the cooperation is more complex…

  15. tithian says:

    The other day I was just strolling in an area looking to do some exploring and twice I got a gold medal from an escort event that I didn’t even know was happening. Uh…. yay?
    And only today someone pointed out that I’m due for some gear upgrades… and I realized that at level 61 I was wearing level 45 gear. Not that it matters anyway, the last time I died was when I was trying to get to a vista and kept falling off a cliff.

    So yeah… you’re dead on with this post. The game itself seems to flow well , but when you run around solo you realize that the experience is a bit on the shallow side.

    I’ve already heard your opinion being expressed by other people. They think that GW2 is a good game, but for some “strange reason”, they feel disconnected from it. Well, it seems that MMO players painted themselves into a corner. They are unwilling to give up any convenience, but wonder why they are offered only superficial experiences and not a virtual world they can be invested in. Because I believe that that’s what most people would enjoy, but they simply cannot be arsed to give it a shot.

    BTW, I’ve been hearing that from 70+ it gets harder and Orr (the 80 zone) is supposedly a pain in the ass. I guess we’ll see, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  16. Shiolle says:

    “Worst of all you don’t need to plan anything. Nothing you do one day will determine what you do the next, and regardless of your path, you will eventually reach the same end-point as everyone else.”

    For the part of reaching the same point regardless of your decisions, I believe that is the inevitable in most theme park MMOs and I don’t see how GW2 could be different without turning into a sandbox.

    That does not necessarily make the journey forgettable. No amount of menial tasks in between doing something interesting makes the overall experience better. It’s like reading a good story: an author does not need to insert hundreds of pages into his book just to highlight his otherwise mediocre writing.

    And speaking of menial tasks, being able to pick a different thing to do each time I log into the game is much relief after playing EVE. Too often I decided not to log in at all knowing that anything interesting I wanted to do would require at least two hours of preparation, and having an hour at most for playing. Watching Clarion Call 3 was fun; chain collapsing yourself for 6 hours wouldn’t be.

  17. silvertemplar says:

    Yep, you’ve nailed GW2 there. I am having fun while i play, but i never ever feel any long term investment going. You know, like i’m actually part of a journey, it’s literally like playing a random game of minesweeper .

    I think a large amount of players are the same people who was caught in that Jimmy Kimmel Iphone 5 joke (go check it on youtube). They went out there onto the streets with an Iphone 4, and told people it’s the new Iphone 5 and asked what do they think of it…guess what , they actually thought it was better than their current Iphone 4S , lighter, faster and better… amazing how much B/S baffles the brains.

  18. spinks says:

    I’m finding the auction house quite engrossing.

  19. WasWavering says:

    Thanks for the review. It actually made me more interested in GW2, since what I’m looking for is a fun, well-built playground to run around in.

  20. Simon says:

    GW2 is built around competitve PvP, it is as simple as that, in case you didn’t notice PvP is absolutly terrible in most MMOs (Rift, WoW, LOTRO, etc), in large part due to them being PvE focused games that are obsessed with PvE “progression” and then tack that on to PvP to create sme of th eworst, most unbalanced PvP known to man.

    That is on top of them being designed ground up for PvE, resulting in impossible to balance classes in PvP.

    As for things being easy, how is that different from any other MMORPG, raids are a piece of cake in WoW, LOTRO, Rift, etc, read a guide, gear check, faceroll your rotation if you are DPS (will require more than 10 brain cells and some awareness if you are healing/support/tank), if your game plays itself for you with Addons like WoW or Rift, even easier.

    At least in GW2 when I play sPvP (and even WvW relative to other games what with how quick it is to get exotics) at least it is actually a test of skill rather than how much gear/rep/PA/weapon experience, etc I’ve grinded.

    • wagner says:

      Wtf? WoW PvP is infinitely better than GW2.
      In WoW you can understand and react to every enemy move, you can clearly understand who is attacking you and what is happening.
      GW2 PvP is an unresponsive hell where a massive zerg AoE the shit out of everything. Every skill is the same and pretty much meaningless, you don’t need to defend or tunnel healers, you just zerg and target whoever is closer to you.

  21. Sam says:

    I could not agree more. GW2 feels completely pointless :/

    Good post

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