Today is the day. The easily predicted, even when ArenaNet was still denying it, expansion to GuildWars 2 launches today. Today it is Heart of Thorns day.
I have no real stake in the game or its expansion at this point. I played GW2 for a bit, but it never really hooked me. It is very pretty, and there was nothing really wrong with it, I just never settled in and felt at home. I think that was, in part, because a lot of people I knew who played the game got in, made a character, played up to level cap, and left. There didn’t seem to be much hanging about for some, and while I do a lot of things solo in MMOs, I do like to have friends around to share the experience with, even if it ends up with us being involved with parallel solo play.
But it is a major MMO, lots of people do still play it, and it launching an expansion seems worthy of note here.
I have been interested in the reactions to the expansion as well. They have not been… wholly positive. I find interesting because it stirs within me my own conflicted view of expansions.
Part of me, of course, loves expansions. Who wouldn’t want MORE of a game they already enjoy?!?! I find enthusiasm for expansions easy to stir up within myself.
But in my gut and in the back of my brain and lurking in other dark recesses of my being, there is an aspect of me that believes expansions aren’t all they are cracked up to me.
When I am channeling that particular bit of myself, I am apt to say that EverQuest Ruins of Kunark was the only good expansion EVER.
Expansions, by there nature, tend to be dividing lines in the game, before and after points where the game changes, sometimes significantly. Sometimes the changes are good, or at least not bad, but sometimes they are very disruptive and completely change your relationship with a game.
I hold Ruins of Kunark in esteem as it is one expansion that seemed to extend what we already liked about EverQuest without changing the game too drastically. That is a rare case indeed, at least in my experience. (And I will admit to time perhaps distorting my view of Ruins of Kunark, but I’ve held to that opinion for a long time now. 2007 me seemed to be in full agreement with 2015 me.)
But I think of all the times that expansions… or the hype for expansions and the accompanying build up of expectations… changed my relationship with games for the worse.
As an example, I was totally a fan of Rift for a stretch, played through to level cap on four characters… including a mage type, and I never play those… and was totally down with their system and tight, well designed zones. And then came Storm Legion, and the game just stopped clicking with me. I gave it a couple of runs, but it just wasn’t the same. The game had changed. They opted for huge, sprawling zones, new quest mechanics, and a few other items that just broke the game’s hold on me.
Not that a game can’t get past that. I’ve been back to World of Warcraft since Cataclysm alienated our group. But each expansion brings change. Mists of Pandaria was actually quite good in the end, despite my skepticism. Then Warlords of Draenor kindled some hype in me again, only to crush it later by endless garrison labor. And now we’re looking towards Legion. Should we trust another expansion from Blizzard, especially one with a single word title?
Sometimes I think we might be better off without expansions. Sometimes I think companies should just make their 1-50 or 1-60 or 1-80 level game and be done, moving on to the next game. Maybe add some new classes or some new end game content, but otherwise let the world be. Because expansions just add complexity, move your core user base further away from any new players if you choose to raise the level cap, trivializes old content, and otherwise bring as many problems as they may solve.
Or such is my dour mood this morning.
How about you, how are you feeling about expansions today as we see a new one launch?