On the ninth Guild Wars 2 will have their second ever Features Pack update. This update, like in the past, is used to introduce new mechanics, rework old systems and introduce new ones into the game. These updates are deep and numerous. However there are two questions on my mind: is this update appropriately timed and does it offer enough for players?
Timing is Everything
What needs to be addressed first is why this update is strange for Guild Wars 2. If you haven’t heard by now Guild Wars 2 follows a certain story update schedule, called the Living World, which updates the game every two weeks. This is a very impressive standard they have set for themselves and they have mostly followed it closely to achieve what they have so far. The only exceptions to this update cadence have been for this upcoming Feature Pack, seasonal updates and a long break they took prior to the second season of the Living World.
Now the problems with this particular Feature Pack is the timing and how they package them to players. The past Feature Pack was introduced at the end of season one and was at an appropriate place for it. It didn’t interrupt the flow of the story that they were trying to tell. This upcoming Feature Pack arrives right in the middle of season two of the Living World and effectively pauses the story. We are left in this strange place where there is a huge event that occurred in-game and all players are left to sit on their hands due to the limitations of what has been introduced thus far.
Some of you might be saying, “Lee! We have had to wait months and sometimes even longer for updates to our stories in our games! Don’t come at us with this entitled behavior.” You are right. Guild Wars 2 can’t really compare updates times to other games. The game moves fast and it is incredible on that aspect alone.
The problem is that Guild Wars 2 can’t afford to be slow. When you’re a veteran player, who has played since the day of release, you have really done almost everything that the game has offered. When there is a five month pause like that between the finale of season one and the start of season two, or the month (and possibly more) pause in the middle of this season, you start to get a sense that you’ve done all that you want to do. Veteran players have picked the meat off the bones of the game and the only new source of meat comes from the Living World.
Players are starved for new sights and the way that ArenaNet has trickled in new content means that all of that new content is thoroughly explored by the time the next story update comes. They have given us an incredible new map in this second season. The problem is that they broke the map release over three updates so that by the time we’ve seen the entire map we already know it like the back of our hands.
That is the difference between updates in Guild Wars 2 and in other games. In other games an update is like a new book in a series or the next movie in a trilogy. With Guild Wars 2 it is like a new chapter to a book or a new episode in a TV series. You can’t pause a tv series in the middle of a season or release half of a book and expect people to be content with that. More often than not people will just move on to some other form of entertainment.
The Meat of the Update
Now there is certainly something that can be said about what this Feature Pack offers. There is a new Fall World vs. World Tournament that will start at the same time as the update and PvP is getting some exclusive new armors. There is even a whole new collections achievement category being added to the game. These can keep a player entertained further as they wait for the new Living World update to hit.
For new players this update also features all new systems designed to make leveling up and experiencing the game more rewarding. The game’s inherent systems, like being downed or what you should be doing, are more detailed than ever before. Even these new players will find it easier to play with people due to the nature of global guilds and finding allies across different instances of maps.
That's the thing though. These new updates to systems are designed to just keep players content, enhance some game systems or are directed to new players. None of it is really directed towards a veteran player. A lot of this seems like busy work to keep us entertained during this break. It feels like they are saying, “Here are some new achievements and items skins to keep you busy. We know you want more new, original content like dungeons but we can’t do that right now.”
PvP needs new game modes to make getting a new set of armor skins worthwhile. World vs. World needs something to freshen it up and change how it is played to make another Tournament seem appealing. A veteran player is left with much of the same that they’ve had for two years and it wears out.
If we need to stick to pure mechanics for future Feature Packs then offer the addition of hard mode dungeons and the associated achievements with them. Raise all the enemy levels about five to ten levels higher than the normal dungeon and let the players figure out how to navigate through those challenges. There needs to be more than just getting players to work on new clothes and weapon skins. That isn’t going to be enough of a goal for veteran player who can just straight up buy the new skin or spend an hour a day to meet the time-gated content.
Simply put: Players need meat. We’re done with the appetizers and salads.