How can you spot if someone has reached the level cap in GW2? Ask if they still like the game.
While for some time now themeparks have been two different games, the leveling aspect and the ‘end-game’, the change in GW2 is IMO by far the most drastic. And it’s drastic not because you go from solo-questing to forced-grouped raiding, but because the exact content you found compelling and rewarding at 79 instantly turns into flawed meh at 80. It’s shocking if you have not come to accept that progression = success for an MMO. And if you are among those who do not, feel free to look at successful MMOs of the past and draw a link as to why those games worked long-term. (Hint: progression that matters) Even easier, just look at recent failures and identify the trend.
And I think this is where I lose people when I say GW2 is a shitty MMO, because NOT fading after the (very short in GW2) leveling game is a critical metric. It’s one of the key things that make a game an MMO. Lots of games in lots of genres are solid to great short-term. On that criteria, GW2 is not the worst way to spend 40-60 hours. It’s not the best this year, or even really on the same level as something like Skyrim, but it’s not Superman64 by any means.
The issue I have is that not only did Anet call GW2 an MMO, but they (yes they, not fans) hyped the product not only as an MMO, but an MMO that ‘fixes’ so many wrongs of the genre. And yes, they succeeded in some regards (the overall “players are your friend, not the enemy” thing is well done), but the trouble is they failed in the most critical area. Being nice to others or having lots of options in terms of where to level or how to get gear or where to collect crafting mats is all pointless when, once you hit 80, it all does nothing for you.
MMO content, GW2 very much included, is not good enough on its own. Put the average GW2 quest next to an average Skyrim quest and Skyrim wins 10 times out of 10. The reason you would pick GW2 is because you can do that quest with others in a world where doing that quest ‘matters’ long-term. It’s why people mine in EVE when mining in EVE might be the worst gameplay in all of gaming. You progress, and that progression makes doing silly/bad/terrible things worthwhile. Molten Core was not awesome-enough content to justify running it 500 times. It could easily be argued that if you removed progression, few would ever run MC once, let alone return. But you ran it 500 times because you, along with 39 others, had a lot of fun hanging out and bashing your collective heads into the next raiding wall, and damn it, you needed that .01% crit chance upgrade from MC to do it.
If you hate the above that’s fine. If you expect or even want to go from one game to the next each month, that’s cool. But understand that’s not how the MMO genre as many know it works. Titles tagged as an MMO have diluted this, as have other unfortunate trends. But unless you accept a very different definition of what an MMO is and what makes an MMO work, GW2 does not measure up, no matter how good the first few hours are.