In the beginning…
Back when the earth was new and none of us had ever heard the phrases “fiscal cliff” or “Gangnam style,” there was the Guild Wars 2 Manifesto. While you could argue as to whether ArenaNet fulfilled all its lofty promises, there’s only one I’d like to address today: grind.
Here’s what Colin Johanson had to say in the Manifesto video:
In most games, you go out and you have really fun tasks occasionally that you get to do, and the rest of the game is this boring grind to get to the fun stuff. “I swung a sword, I swung a sword again… hey, I swung it again! That’s great!” We just don’t want players to grind in Guild Wars 2. No one enjoys that, no one finds it fun. We want to change the way people view combat.
Colin seems to be taking a smaller approach to grind than what most people – or maybe just I – think. He’s referring to “grind” as boring combat, whereas I think “grind” to most MMORPG players means “endgame grind,” namely having to repeat the same content over and over to get the best stuff in the game.
The blog post attached to the Manifesto video seems to echo my sentiments, saying:
It [Guild Wars 2] doesn’t suck your life away and force you onto a grinding treadmill
Our games aren’t about preparing to have fun, or about grinding for a future fun reward.
So, that comes to the big question: Is there a Guild Wars 2 grind? Has this part of the Manifesto, at least, been validated? For the most part, I’d say “yes.”
No grind allowed
To get you an idea of where I’m at: I’ve got two level 80 characters and three alts. I’ve run about 10 to 15 each fractal sets and explorable mode dungeons. I’ve got one crafting profession at 400 and two more in the 300s. I’ve fought the Claw of Jormag twice, never seen Tequatl or the Shatterer. I’ve done all the Orr temple events once except Grenth and two times on Melandru. I’ve done some sPvP and WvW, but usually don’t dip into either more than a couple times a week.
Based on that resumé, I don’t think you’d say I’ve “grinded” anything. I’ve sampled a little bit of everything and there’s still a fair amount left to do, including several dungeons and one whole zone (Blazeridge Steppes) I’ve only spent about five minutes in.
And I have the best gear, stat-wise, in the game. Well, sort of.
You see, I could have the best gear on one of my 80s, and probably on the other. Between my crafting, gold – about 35 across all my characters, which isn’t much to hear some of the people in my guild talk, though I could get more by clearing out my bank – and karma, I could easily have a full set of exotic armor, exotic weapons, and superior runes and sigils that fit my build and playstyle.
So why don’t I? Because I’m saving up for that damned legendary weapon.
“Aha! There’s the grind!” you say. Yes, without a doubt, getting a legendary weapon is a grind on a massive scale. I crunched the numbers the other day and found that, if I bought everything I needed for my legendary – not counting what I already have or account-bound items – it would run me about 1,170 gold, including 500 for my precursor weapon alone.
But legendary weapons are nothing more than extremely fancy cosmetic upgrades. They’re the ultimate in bragging rights and uber-cool, but, stat-wise, they’re the same as an exotic I could get for a few gold on the trading post, from a few more dungeon runs, from crafting, from the Mystic Forge, etc.
So my decision to (mostly) hoard my gold, my globs of ectoplasm, my T6 crafting mats, and so on is slightly hampering my overall ability at the moment – though rares aren’t too far a step down from exotics in most cases – but it’s something I could remedy almost instantly if I chose to give up my legendary chase.
And I think having a full set of all the best gear in the game, without needing to repeat specific content or do certain things over and over and over more than satisfies the promise of there being no gear grind in Guild Wars 2…
Grinds my gears
…except for ascended gear. Yeah, that still sticks in my craw at the moment, but I’m kinda-sorta OK with it because the stat differences are very minor and it’s currently limited to just one slot. And ArenaNet clearly saw the response to their introduction and will be extremely careful in expanding ascended gear in the future.
In truth, I like my legendary “grind,” at least for the moment. (Ask me again in six months.) If not for that, I would have all the best stuff and might be wondering a little bit about where to go next.
But because I have the long-term goal of a legendary to strive for, I feel like there’s still something for me to accomplish, something beyond just having the best stat gear in the game.
Others might disagree with ArenaNet’s implementation, insisting that the best stat gear should be something that should at least require some kind of very difficult, semi-unique task, such as defeating a raid boss in a large group. In other words, it should require great skill, not just the accumulation of resources – in GW2‘s case, gold, karma, crafting mats, or even tokens from relatively easy dungeons or fractals.
I can see where that side comes from, but that isn’t ArenaNet’s style. If you did require “the big raid” or whatever to get the best gear, would it make sense to only have to do it once? Of course not. You’d have to do it again and again to get a full set of armor, weapons, accessories, etc. – and that would be grind.
No matter how grandiose your expectations, every MMO has to include some kind of reason to “grind” – or, by definition, a reason to make you come back to it beyond just, “Well, it’s fun.” I like fun in my games, too, but even I would rather do something that’s fun and gets me something I can use in the game than just doing something for kicks. And I think I’m on the low end of the “Best Gear or Nothing” side of the player base.
Ascended gear notwithstanding, I like that Guild Wars 2 limits its grind to a cosmetic. Looking up at what still lays before me, I feel it could maybe be a touch easier to acquire, but maybe it’s better this way. It means that people who are just interested in stats can get a full set of “stat gear” with relatively little effort but that there’s something else super-fancy to strive for.
That part of the Manifesto, at least in my mind, has been true to ArenaNet’s vision and promises.