GW2 – doing it solo

GW2 character Vokhtah I try not to do too many posts on the gaming side of my life, but I feel my time in GW2 [Guild Wars 2] is drawing to an end, so I’m going to talk about how the game has measured up for a solo player.

The gorgeous looking young man in the photo is my main character on GW2. I called him Vokhtah in some kind of psychological sleight of hand. Perhaps I thought the name would remind me that I had ‘work’ to do. Or perhaps I just wanted to assuage my guilt.

Whatever the motivation, I have managed to restrict my gaming addiction to a couple of hours a night. Unfortunately, the combination of superhuman self-discipline, and the tyranny of timezones, has meant that I’ve had to do most of my gaming solo.

As Vokhtah [the character] is a Ranger, I had no trouble leveling him to 80. The low level, open events were a great help, and gave me the illusion of being part of a team. I say illusion, because these open events are mostly zergs.

For non-players, a zerg is a free-for-all that involves no strategy and precious little teamwork. Basically an event begins, players show up, and everyone just spams their most destructive spells or weapon skills as if they were playing solo.

Nonetheless, there is scope for teamwork, even  in such open events, and there were times when I did nothing but heal players who could do more damage than me. Those were probably the events I enjoyed the most as they involved some thought. At higher levels though, such zergs aren’t terribly effective, and the ability to join in without even having to join a group means communication between players is minimal.

Once players reach the higher levels, and have to move on to Orr everything changes, and not for the better.

The three zones of Orr – The Straits of Devastation, Malchor’s Leap and Cursed Shore – are an order of magnitude harder than anything that has come before. The density of mobs [enemies] is much higher and they all seem to have debilitating crowd control skills that can leave you helpless. Apart from the normal mobs, there are also far more veterans, champions and areas in which the player is assaulted by briars, lightning, supernatural elements etc which you cannot fight.

These deadly map elements can be countered, up to a point, by using the appropriate signets, but signets have cooldowns [a period during which they are unusable because they are ‘refilling’] while the map elements do not. Add normal mobs to the mix and you may find yourself spending a lot of money on equipment repairs, and a lot of time running back from the nearest available waypoint.

The lack of available waypoints is another sore point. In Orr, almost all of the waypoints are contested, and hence unavailable. Group events are meant to release these waypoints, but these group events are either not happening during the times I can play, or they are not happening at all. So dying can be a terrible time sink.

If you are just farming, the extra dangerous areas can usually be avoided. However if you have an obstinate desire to complete the map, you will become very frustrated very quickly because skill challenges are often located right in the middle of these hotspots.

I am one of those obstinate people who need to complete the map, and it was not until very recently that I learned something not mentioned on any forum I have been on – namely that the game developers have provided ‘back-doors‘ into many, if not all of these hotspots.

Some of these back-doors involve following a well hidden path to the skill challenge. Others involve waiting until the Champion guarding the skill challenge moves far enough away. A nifty one I discovered last night involved reviving a friendly npc and having it distract the Champion while you run around the back and grab the skill challenge.

I might have thought I was just being particularly clever had the skill challenge not worked almost instantly. [Communing with a skill challenge usually takes a couple of seconds]. Clearly my strategy was exactly what the developers had intended with this particular back-door.

I’ve managed to reach some of the more impossible map elements by attaching myself to the odd group, but thanks to my time-zone, such groups are incredibly rare. Most of the time I’m on my own and shouting for groups achieves nothing because no-one else is on.

Why not join a guild, you ask? Hah. I’m in two guilds and there’s never anyone playing during the short window in which I can play. Or they’re afk. Or they’re not interested in playing in Orr.

To be honest I don’t enjoy playing in Orr either. I have spent weeks completing other parts of the world map, but now Orr is pretty much all that’s left. Plus I really do want to complete my personal story arc, so here I am. In Orr. Playing solo and dying a lot. Upgrading my equipment to Rares and Exotics has helped, but wasn’t gear supposed to be less important than skill? In Orr, being a reasonably skilled solo player is less important than have the best gear possible.

To be fair, the developers always intended Orr to be the more traditional, massively multiplayer part of the game. That means groups going out with a plan, clearly defined roles and the intention of playing together. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much of that happening. And of course, even if there were, I’d still be playing solo because I only allow myself 2 hours of play a night.

Before I wrap this up I’d like to say a word about crafting in GW2. I love crafting, and I have to say I’ve enjoyed making things in GW2, but I can’t say crafting is particularly useful and I have had to buy 99.9% of my gear.

As in most games, you have to level your character so it can survive long enough to gather the higher crafting materials. Even if you do nothing but gather and craft, it’s next to impossible to make worthwhile gear for yourself. One way around this is to gather materials for one of your other characters so they can stay safe in a low level zone and just craft. Unfortunately this is not much fun because it requires grinding the same zone over and over again until your crafter can move up to a higher level. Now that my ranger has reached 80 I am spending a lot of time just gathering, but it is a grind.

Before GW2 was launched, the developers touted it as the mmo without grind. They also touted it as the casual-friendly mmo. I’d have to say they’ve achieved about 80% of the no-grind promise, and about 70% of the casual-friendly one. They have also created a top quality product that is subscription free.

No matter how you look at it, those results are pretty impressive. But. We were lead to expect more, and I am a bit… disappointed.

I have never had the time, or the inclination to play dungeons, so as a solo player I would have been satisfied with completing the world map, and my personal story arc, with the same level of enjoyment I had in the lower levels. Orr killed that. Now I have to think long and hard whether there is enough left in the game to tempt me into leveling up another character.

“We shall see,” said the blind man.






About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

14 responses to “GW2 – doing it solo

  • Candy Korman

    Thank you for the cogent explanation of the game. I’m NOT a gamer — at all. I find it all mystifying, but your description clued me into the language and that’s very helpful.


  • josh

    I’ve never played GW2 (or 1) but I did get a couple years of WoW under my belt before quitting cold turkey, so I understood most of this post at least. Sounds like GW2 has some concepts WoW did not (at least as of the time I quit a couple years ago) such as skill challenges and deadly map elements, but I see a lot of similarities.

    Sometimes I still miss WoW but I don’t know that I really want to get back into it. I might consider trying another MMORPG at some point though. After all, I have plenty of free time!


    • acflory

      I played Wow for about 3 years and it was a great game, especially for casual players, although at the time I was a wee bit more than casual. 🙂

      There are lots of good mmo’s out there but you need to find one that lets you play on your terms, otherwise they become a real addiction.

      My first ever mmo was Final Fantasy 11 and I still feel nostalgic about it. And like you I had to quit cold turkey to get my life back. -sigh-


  • metan

    “Or perhaps I just wanted to assuage my guilt.”
    You are so busted! My theory is that you called him that because then when you turn up with bags under your eyes you could always say “I spent all night working on Vokhtah” and sound like an author instead of a slacker! 😉


  • geooorge

    Really, we should play together at least once 😛 They have “guesting” now. (God i hate it when a company makes a new word just because…)
    Do a dungeon or two.


  • lorddavidprosser

    I wish I understood one half of what you’re talking about but hey, we’ve already established I’m older than you and senile.Perhaps gaming just never got in my blood because my wife only allows me so much playtime and I have to use that on mail, or maybe I just lack that competitive edge. Heavens, I struggled with Farmtown on Facebook.
    If this gives you pleasure Andrea, go for it. And if it’s time to wave goodbye to this particular sphere of war, at least you have others to fall back on. xx


    • acflory

      lol – I’m sorry David, I knew this one would be a ‘what the..?” kind of post. I suspect I had to get a few things off my chest. Must have worked to because afterwards I treated myself to some unscheduled play and had a major win. 🙂


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