The idea that this is the death of the solo player has been bothering me for the past year and a half. Ever since the beta weekends of Heart of Thorns, I had the feeling that solo players were being left out, particularly the casual solo players, and I’m not the only one that thinks so.
As a casual solo player myself, I only have limited time in a week to do my thing. Because of that, I don’t have full ascended armor yet and only the weapons that I’ve looted, and that’s only on my main character. Most of the stats are mixed up and I don’t have all the sigils and runes needed to perform at my best. All of this isn’t needed to complete the content, but it does pose a challenge, either time-wise or difficulty-wise.
A New Direction
Way back, I logged in for the beta weekend of Heart of Thorns. They had just released information on the Daredevil and I was really excited to try it out. Daredevil, with its new melee staff skill set, is close combat. Not something you want to rely on when you’re a newbie wondering off in the Verdant Brink for the first time. The CC was deadly. I think I only saw about 20% of the map that was available back then.
It didn’t help that it was my first time playing a Thief and I had no idea that the Shortbow could help me navigate through the map without dying every two seconds. The Mordrem enemies, the Saurians, the new terrain; it was a challenge. Both new types of enemies had incredible CC with stuns, snares, and knockdowns that kept you down, in combat or dead.
The Silverwastes was a prelude to this new ‘more challenging’ content, but I don’t think it compares. The density of the enemies is about the same, but the enemies themselves are very different. The Mordrem wolves do try to take you down, but the other Mordrem enemies are easily avoidable.
It’s true that the focus should be on groups since Guild Wars 2 is an MMO, but why should that be used an exclusion mechanism for the casual solo player? It shouldn’t have to be. I do agree that not every game mode should be for solo players. Dungeons, fractals, and raids are definitely best as group content and I’m not saying that should be changed. PvP and WvW are also team-based, although WvW can still be done solo as a scout or roamer. The role of roamer is more difficult than that of the scout. I personally feel like I’m not good enough to be a roamer and just scouting isn’t for me, I want the time that I spend here in Tyria to feel more rewarding.
The open world content of Heart of Thorns’ maps, and the new maps introduced with the Living Story, all give me the sense that exploring alone is a death sentence. If you don’t have the mobility to escape, you’re dead. The enemies are so dense and very durable that the one you killed already respawns before you have the second one dead.
Most of the awesome rewards in Guild Wars 2 require group play. This means that I won’t get any of the raid rewards. That legendary armor? I won’t ever get it. I was okay with not getting the skins or the minis but being excluded from legendary tier armor hurts a little. I understand it has to be difficult to get, that it requires time and effort, but why should it only be obtainable through raids? I honestly hope that sometime in the future we’ll be able to craft/collect/earn our legendary armor in a different way.
Personal Story Should be Personal
The worst thing, I think, is when progression in your personal story is dependent on other people. The living world episodes count, in my opinion, as personal story as they are story content focused on the continuation of your personal story. Your character is still one of the main characters of the story. Some of the tasks can be done alone, but be prepared to work on it for some time as the enemies are designed to be taken on by more than one player, especially not one casual solo player with imperfect gear.
I liked the instanced story steps. It allowed me to go back to Glint’s Lair and visit the Priory library, those were some very fond memories. I also liked it when I didn’t have to rely on other people. As a casual solo player, these were fun to do. Challenging, yes, but the little puzzles made it worthwhile. That’s why I didn’t like the setup for Season three. Every episode brought a new map, with story steps being part of the open world. It does help with immersion for the new map but it’s not necessary, the maps can talk for themselves. Decent game design makes it possible for the player to become immersed without the need for narrative direction. The people who want to become immersed will talk to NPCs, they will explore, they will click things (especially the things that they shouldn’t click).
Give people options. By forcing them to explore a map or go to certain places on a map, they will skip other valuable parts of the exploration. Then you have to hope they will return. I know that some maps (Bloodstone Fen for me) just aren’t as interesting as others, even the rewards aren’t enough to make all players come back. It’s impossible to cater to everyone, and that’s why Guild Wars 2 has so many different game modes which all cater to a different style or mood but for now, I feel like there isn’t much of interest for the casual solo player.
What do you think? Are you a solo player? How do you experience the state of the game as it is now? What do you think would improve the game for you?Related: ArenaNet, Column, Guild Wars 2, MMORPG, PvE, The Tyrian Chronicle