Guild Wars 2 Traits

I was surprised at just how easy I found traitless killing: Enemies die a lot quicker now than they did with traits before the patch. The balance changes make tooling around on a lowbie character painless, but I have some reservations about how it might affect downscaling since level 80 characters could already kill low-level mobs by sneezing vigorously in their general direction.

The collaborative development initiative discussion on horizontal progression was chock-full of players asking for more involved forms of character advancement, which I am 100% behind because paying for a book to click on was pretty hollow. Being asked to complete a map for a single trait unlock isn’t a huge deal, and neither is needing to find specific events; those are both activities players are likely to run across in the course of leveling, and they provide a bit of direction. On the other hand, some trait unlocks require dungeon groups or putting a lot of work into the personal story. That seems like a disproportionate level of investment, especially since few new players will have enough experience or information to determine whether an individual trait is worth the effort.

One of the themes of the horizontal progression CDI thread was how cool it might be to replicate the feeling of skill hunting in the original Guild Wars. I think on a basic level the changes to how traits are unlocked accomplish that, but attaching adept-tier trait unlocks to level 50+ personal story steps and dungeons strikes me as the GW2 equivalent of skills that couldn’t be captured unless you were three-quarters of the way into a campaign’s story. As a new GW1 player, I always found it frustrating to look up a skill for a build I wanted to try, only to realize I had something like six hours’ worth of mandatory content to get through first. In that light, the ability to just head to the nearest profession trainer and buy traits is a good thing, but it requires both skill points and coin in amounts that are probably reasonable for a veteran player and not so much for someone on her way up to 80 for the first time.

I’m not going to either condemn or exalt the whole setup based on my exhaustive and highly objective experience of running around in game squinting critically at the changes for a few hours, but I suspect it’ll probably need tweaking eventually. I do feel comfortable saying that trait hunting adds something to the leveling experience that I personally found lacking, which is the need to actively invest in a character to make him more powerful. My only worry is that level 30 seems a little late to say, “Surprise! Now that you’re almost halfway to max level, it’s time to introduce one of the most important parts of developing a playstyle!” Unlocking the first minor trait at level 15 or 20 would at least let players access the trait UI so they can get used to swapping points around and make plans for obtaining their first major adept-tier traits.

Predictably, not everyone is happy with the changes. Some people miss having everything unlocked as they level up without any fuss, and it’s true that not having that makes it harder to experiment with builds while leveling (although you can always head to the sPvP lobby and try stuff out to your heart’s content). The changes to traits are a direct result of feedback from the community, though, and one thing I can — and do — consistently praise ArenaNet for is being willing to make adjustments in good faith based on player requests. I imagine that this has to be one of the riskiest parts of MMO design because we’re not always able to articulate exactly what we want and why we want it or to foresee the effects that having what we think we want might have on our game experience. We’re also not a hive mind, and catering to one group of players (however vocal) carries the risk of ticking off another.

I’ve seen some of GW2’s staunchest critics describe it as a game that jettisoned substance in favor of convenience, and while I don’t think that was ever entirely true, I do think ArenaNet originally tried some ideas that missed a bit of what establishes an MMORPG as an RPG. The feature pack changes have moved gw2 gold closer to a good balance between ease of access and progression, and by choosing which direction to head in, ArenaNet has hopefully set a definitive tone for upcoming content. I doubt it’s a coincidence that we’re getting this coat of polish before the start of the second living world season.

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