Now, nostalgia and red-tinted glasses about the original game notwithstanding, I'm feeling like I've had a day or two to digest my impressions - and most of them aren't entirely rosy.
For some context, over the BWE, I've had the chance to take a Human Commoner Elementalist through the entirety of Queensdale - I believe I finished the zone at level 13, or thereabouts. I've also taken a ranger, and a warrior to level 8, or so. I'm willing to express the benefit of the doubt that the patterns I observe change as the game progresses - but I have strong doubts on the matter.
So, for a bit of a breakdown of the experience:
There are three ways to progress your character through the game - renown hearts, personal story quests, and world events.
Renown hearts are the new addition to the franchise. They are the Guild Wars counterpart to typical MMO quests.
Say, there's a bandit camp. A typical MMO would have several quests, which would ask you to, in this order:
1. Scout out the camp. Come back to town.
2. Go back to the camp. t Kill some of the weaker mooks in the camp. Another quest might ask you to bring back their ears. Come back to town.
3. Go back to the camp. Kill some of the stronger mooks in the camp. Maybe set some of their stuff on fire. Come back to town.
4. Go back to the camp. Kill the boss of the mooks. Come back to town.
5. You're done.
Renown hearts abstract this process into:
1. Go to the bandit camp.
2. Wreck their stuff. Murder them. Rob them. (The latter may occasionally cause bandits to jump out of the ground to attack you.)
3. You're done.
Arguably, it's an improvement. I'm not sure that there's anything of value that was lost in the process of getting rid of the "Go back to town. Go back to the camp," gameplay. Except possibly for more thinly-veiled justifications as to why your character should murder very *specific* kinds of bandits (It is narrowed down to a single thinly-veiled justification as to why your character should harass these poor bandits in the first place.)
This is, after all, very similar to a typical MMO quest chain, with an improvement. So far, so good, right? Not quite - but I'll get to why a bit later.
For now, let's talk about the personal story quests, instead. They are quite similar to the original Guild Wars, in that they flesh out a plot, are instanced, and carry voiced dialogue. They require you to perform specific objectives. In the original game, most of them consisted of "Fight your way through a group of mooks to get the boss of the level," with a few gimmicks thrown in here and there. For the most part, the pattern repeats. There is only one difference - they are done solo. There is still a problem lurking here - one that I'll get to in a bit.
The third is world events. They range from "Bring me wolf tails," to "Kill these wolves," to "Protect me from wolves," to "Kill this really big wolf. Oh, and you better bring some friends." There's nothing wrong with this concept - although the execution of it can be lacking, it's more a problem with individual events, then the gameplay as a whole.
The problem comes from Renown Hearts, and Personal Story quests - they are, unfortunately, a big step towards GW2 being a generic mummorpuguh - sans monthly fee.
Consider... Just about every GW area. You'd go in with a party, and you'd be fighting parties of enemies. Some of those parties had interesting sets of skills that worked together (Some of them... Not so much - but I digress.) Either way, your enemies could throw quite a lot of stuff your way. They were *varied*. When you went through a mission, you typically wouldn’t end up fighting 20 groups of White Mantle Justicars, five at a time. You don’t have a twenty-fold repetition of the same bland experience.
Contrast to GW2 solo content... Where you're fighting 1v1, against a mob that auto-attacks you. Occasionally, it will pop a skill on you. You kill it. You move on to... Another, single mob, almost always of the exact same type. What we’re seeing is the repetition of what is pretty much the same experience. And it keeps repeating, until you clear the renown heart, and move on to the next one.
If that’s the kind of leveling experience we’re looking for, there are... a good half-dozen MMOs that fit the bill.
“But MNF, what about the personal story quests?”
While they are similar to the original GW missions - and do throw in a bit of enemy variety your way, there’s a more pressing problem with them. Specifically, the fact that you can’t fail one. You can wipe as often as you want - you will just revive at the start of the dungeon, and can keep fighting. They carry no notion of failure - only one of a varying repair bill. At worst, all it takes to get through them is... A sufficient amount of grind - which is ironic, considering that repetitive, grindy gameplay is something this community is very happy to attack other MMOs on.