Guild Wars 2’s attempt to shake up the long standard quest dynamic could best be described as organic quest chains. If you stumble across an event in progress you can join the fun assured that you’ll be rewarded however you manage to help out. The result is that groups of players will spontaneously form to undertake whatever challenge the game has in store. And because the events cleverly move from one to another and around the areas, you’ll rarely find excessive down-time between quests.
Another way to describe it is that many of the players in a given zone will be doing the same quest as you. And I don’t mean a copy of the same quest. No, you’re in it together. It drives a great sense of camaraderie between players who’ve never met before when other heroes suddenly show up and you find yourself fighting back to back with other players.
Players of other MMORPG’s may point out a flaw in this type of gameplay, citing that lower level content will be useless to higher level characters and provide little, if any, real challenge or benefit to such characters. To counteract this usually normal state of affairs Guild Wars 2 does several things to players in any area of the world.
First and most important is that characters will be leveled down to match the enemy’s level in each area of the world. That is to say that as your level 80 Warrior struts into an area where the enemies are at about level 10, your level and stats will all be leveled down to match that. While your weapons and armor will still provide an easier trek, they do not guarantee you will survive if you do not play smart.
Second, and almost as equally important, those who are leveled down will still receive loot and rewards in line with their actual level. So while that level 80 Warrior is only a 10 in the previous example, when it kills a level 10 centaur the loot provided will be at level 80. The experience gains of the character will also be in step with their real level, so a leveled down character will progress at about the same pace in a low level area as in an upper level area.
Third, the presence of other players of other professions allows players to take advantage of the combo system. The combo system, in a nutshell, is that when a player’s skill does something to the environment, anything forced through or passing through this effect takes or gains an additional effect. This leads to players playing in more than just a “smash it” or “burn it” style. A truly dangerous Elementalist, for example, would cast a wall of fire between an enemy and a fellow player who attacks with projectiles, like a ranger, which will cause every arrow to catch the target on fire! Maybe a warrior with a knock down or snare skill sees that the very earth beneath a target’s feet is surging with frothing lava from an elemental skill and decide “hey, it’s a nice time for this guy to sit down!” Basically it’s not just more power with more bodies in this game, its more power with more cross-profession support by smart or quick thinking players.
The final chilling blow to the old mold of the useless and forgotten low end area methodology is not necessarily by design of Arenanet, but is instead an unintended consequence of their system. On our server, players used the in-game chat system to communicate the status of desirable events, which is to say that the progression of events with higher than normal rewards was known to all players actively paying attention on the server. While this could have been more or less due to the limited reach of the beta, it was still very interesting to see people updating the whole server. Because of this, when the final event of the chain began and a massive shadow beast rose from a dingy swamp, well over 100 players had assembled to beat the vile thing back into the darkness from whence it came.
Now the common retort to this awesome experience would be that the thing had no chance against hundreds of players and what fun could such a slaughter have been, but fortunately Guild Wars 2 is built for just such an occurrence and as more and more players arrived to do battle the creature became more and more powerful. Yes, even the creatures in this game scale, in both toughness and number.
A similar trend can be found in the World vs World game mode where three different teams, denoted by their home server, compete for control points comprised of supply camps, towers, forts and castles, on large scale. This isn’t a refined Player vs Player mode. Instead, sometimes with some coordination and sometimes spontaneously, mobs of players form up to attack or defend these key points. Alone you won’t take down a tower gate, but the few dozen new friends you just found might make that happen.
While the game does include other modes, such as a personal story and more structured player vs player games, much of the appeal to Guild Wars 2 is found in wandering into a ravenous pack of players and joining them on their quest for glory.