Guild Wars 2’s loot problem

As you might be able to tell from these screenshots, I recently wrapped up the personal storyline on my Guild Wars 2 Engineer, paving the way for progress in the living world and expansion. If we assume a fall expansion, it’s going to take some dedicated work to getting through all of these episodes. Maybe I’m slow, but some of them feel pretty long.

I kind of want to push hard to get through Season 2, because once I do that, I’ll finally get to some new stuff… and I wouldn’t mind having S2 in my rearview mirror. It’s a step up from the personal story, but I’ve been there and done that, and plant dragon and pale tree speeches and so on.

Right now I have two main methods of growing my character: getting more hero points for my Scrapper spec and unlocking/working on masteries. I’m not getting either of these just doing S2, but it’s something for the future. At least my character hasn’t arrived at a plateau on which there is no advancement.

So let’s talk about the other reason that I am not the biggest fan of S2, which is loot. Actually, it’s a problem systematic to Guild Wars 2 as a whole from what I’ve seen and experienced (which I admit has yet to cross over into the expansion and season 3). This is an MMO that throws loot at you left and right… and so very little of it is actually useful or interesting. I’ll finish up an episode and get a little bit excited at the loot explosion that happens, but then I realize it’s some currencies, some random crafting mats, and some bags and boxes of gear that is of no use to me other than breaking down into crafting mats to sell.

Don’t get me wrong, I like selling on the trading post and building up a nest egg, but an MMO player needs more than just money. Guild Wars 2 build a foundation on the idea that there wouldn’t be much of a gear treadmill, so once you have exotic gear you’re generally fine at all level 80 stuff unless you want to bend over backwards to get ascended gear for slightly better stats or contort yourself into knots for months to get legendary gear for slightly better stats and ostentatious armor.

What else is there? There’s no housing, so no housing items are going to be in loot tables. Pets and truly desirable items are going to be locked away in the gem store. Maybe if you’re a crafter, all of this lootapalooza is exciting, but what is there for everyone else? About the best thing I can hope for is that a piece of gear drops that has a skin I haven’t collected yet, but I’m pretty much beyond that with the common stuff.

Story, experience, sights, character progression… all of these are fine and useful motivators to pushing forward in a game, but I won’t lie and say that loot is unimportant. I’ve had similar complaints about the general unexciting loot tables of LOTRO — my longstanding main MMO, lest anyone think I’m just picking on GW2 here — because when there’s never any surprises, never any desirable or useful gear, never anything that’s going to make my night. It’s busy work, filling up my inventory so that later on I’ll have to salvage and sell it.

Loot should be useful.

Loot should be exciting.

And my point is that this is a darn shame. It’s not an immediate deal-breaker to playing the game, but it does make for a lesser experience in comparison with other MMOs on my rotation (again, in this one regard). Maybe I’m not looking in the right places. Maybe I need to be doing more guild missions, or fractals, or (shudder) raiding, or whatever. Maybe I should turn to crafting. I’m open to advise. But I agree with one forum poster that Guild Wars 2’s loot is “excessive and unenjoyable,” which makes it an area that could use some attention as we do barrel down into a new expansion.

What do you think?

7 thoughts on “Guild Wars 2’s loot problem

  1. This is a very common complain about GW2 and I think it has to do with a combination of design decisions they made that are a core part of what GW2 is.

    First, no gear tread mill means that once you gain the highest tier of gear you are pretty much done. The highest tier of gear is even account bound and also allows relatively cheap stats swaps, so you really are done once you get it.

    Second, due to shared loot rare drops are difficult to implement. They either need to be super rare or they will not be rare at all. There is not much room for a middle ground. Think about it, in non shared loot games if 40 players down a boss there is only one loot table drop. In GW2 if 40 players down a boss there are 40 loot table drops.

    Third, crafting require a lot of materials. This is due to shared loot too, and this is also the reason why the game showers you with loot. That loot may seem useless to you, but when you start crafting believe me you will need much more than what you get in drops.

    In each expansion and living story zones you can earn currencies that provide you cosmetic and convenience rewards. That might be rewarding to you if you care about cosmetics.

    Some player also find building up their masteries rewarding. This provides meaning to gaining XP after level cap and also makes mastery point activities more rewarding at least until you get the points you need.

    That being said many of the big rewards, like highest tier of gear and event some cosmetics, require crafting.

  2. When I played GW2 for years I felt the same. I had to shift my thinking to accommodate the game. You have to look at the cash shop as the “loot”. You play and get all those loot explosions, you sell the stuff and then buy things in the cash shop. Think of it like going to the miniature golf course that has a huge arcade and GW2 is Ski ball for tickets. All the loot you get in drops are the tickets and the cash shop is the counter that has all the things you can buy for tickets.

    The issue I have with playing the season 2 content was that it was repeatable, but the drops weren’t worth repeating and the player impetus for repeating content should be loot. They could have made that content highly repeatable with decent loot, but it seems to me they want warm bodies in the open world and that makes sense even if it’s more than a little disappointing to me that the new content(Season 2)is the stuff I’d want to be repeating and they made it pointless to do so unless I wanted to see the story again.

    The last straw so to speak for me is when I realized I really adore the overarching story and world they’ve crafted but I loathe the moment to moment interactions. It’s like the Star Wars prequels. I love the overall thing happening in the prequels, but the sappy Anakin and Padme dialog is insufferable. I want to know what is happening to all of Tyria but I don’t want to listen to Taimi or Jory or Kasmeer.

  3. The problem is this: GW2 was designed not to have “loot” in the way other MMOs do. The idea was that you would buy most of your gear using Karma or various in-game currencies. There would be special drops, primarily Exotics with unique skins and the uber-rare Precursors, but most mobs would not drop anything significant. If you were leveling up then you would use the greens, blues and yellows as they fell but other than the skins they put into your collection they weren’t intended to be exciting or sought after.

    Unfortunately, ANet weren’t able to bring players onside with that approach. There were constant complaints about how terrible the loot was. If you can remember what the game was like in the first few months, there was no “loot explosion” as there is now. Yellows were genuinely rare and even greens weren’t all that common. In the end they addressed it by increasing the volume of the disposable loot and they have gone on increasing it ever since.

    It isn’t at all true, however, to say that there is no desirable or exciting loot in GW2. I can assure you that there’s plenty. Only tonight I opened a Gilded Coffer I got at Tequatl and found Entropy, an hammer with a strong purple particle effect that looks fantastic. I have never seen that drop in well over 10,000 hours of play and i was pretty darned excited i can tell you!

    You can get a whole load of unusual and desirable items like that but they are rare and unpredictable. I’ll bet you’ll be pretty stoked when you open a box and your first Ascended weapon or armor piece pops out. If you get a precursor you may need a lie down.

    It’s also the case that you can go hunting for specific drops from specific named creatures or events just as you can in other MMOs. Even people who’ve played a long time don’t always realize that quite a lot of “bosses” have specific loot tables with unique drops. The problem is that they are unconscionably rare. They do drop though. I’ve had quite a few.

    Overall I wouldn’t have done it this way but given that they did, at least you can look forward to a real thrill when something good finally does drop.

  4. I’ve found that with games that have frustrating loot issues like GW2, you almost have to make self-imposed gameplay rules that make loot drops more useful/exciting. Like you can only use armor drops as upgrades – nothing can be bought from vendors or even crafted. Or you can only use weapons you craft yourself as upgrades – drops are considered inferior. Whatever RP or gameplay rule works to best extend the thrill of the games loot systems.

  5. Well, getting a ghostly infusion during Gorseval raid is exciting… that’s happened to me exactly once in two years of weekly raiding. Ha.

    If you ask me, I think the really important thing with GW2 and loot is for a player to change their mindset. In many other MMOs, loot is an enabler of performance, it’s what you -need- in order to produce bigger and bigger numbers, succeed at more difficult content and so on. In GW2, once you have a blend of exotics and ascended, you are at the “enough gear” threshold where skill, knowledge and practice come in to distinguish players, just like in less loot dependent games like certain FPSes or MOBAs.

    I always see players of other MMOs play GW2 seeking gear upgrades in the hope that it will make them play better and I want to keep screaming, “ugh, it doesn’t work like that, just play the game and learn from your mistakes to keep improving.”

    If that way of thinking doesn’t work to sate the progression needs of a player, then there are little tricks to replicate the “incremental progress” feeling.

    One, convert all loot into a gold/hr figure. This does have a tendency to make -everything- feel like work, but hey, maybe some people like it.

    Two, have some alts or special builds in mind. Now all the random loot that drops can also be applied to the alt. Oh, and these days in GW2, it’s time to move on from the mindset that exotic suffices. Aim for ascended. You will get more excitement out of getting a rare ascended drop that upgrades you minutely, or one that isn’t quite the right stats but can be stat converted.

    Three, do fractals and focus on fractal and agony infusion progress as the source of incrementing numbers progression. Fractals has plenty of wildly random loot built into it too.

  6. Oh, and set your sights on an ascended weapon, stat. This will push you into crafting, making all those random drops suddenly more valuable. The improvement in damage is small but noticeable with an ascended weapon over exotic, especially for direct damage power builds. Seems like that might address your major loot complaints, killing two birds with one stone.

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