As other gaming couples must know, love is about refraining from playing an MMO without your other half, never leaving them behind in experience and out-leveling their character without their express consent or knowledge. In fact, that’s a pretty surefire way to bring about spousal aggro in this house.
As such, my husband and I have always maintained at least one character for the purposes of concurrent leveling in every MMO we play together, and lately it has become apparent that this spousal-leveling contract has been extended to game betas as well. I guess it will come as no surprise then, that we also played together for the Guild Wars 2 beta weekend.
We started over with new human characters for this BWE; I made myself an Elementalist while my husband rolled a Guardian. We journeyed across Queensdale hitting up “heart tasks”, personal story missions, dynamic events and any other activity we came across along the way. We had a blast. Something interesting that I want to bring up though: after several hours, I started to notice something — GW2 is the first MMO in which partying with my husband has felt “off”, and sometimes even downright awkward.
I guess it’s not surprising, given what Arenanet has said about de-emphasizing grouping. Of course, this means that while partying is supported, it doesn’t feel as necessary as they do in other MMOs. Obviously there are lots of benefits to this. Gone are the days of kill stealing or competing tooth and nail for mobs in crowded areas, for instance.
And yet, for someone like me who probably spends up to 90% of her MMO game time playing with at least one other person in the group, GW2′s brand of cooperative PvE takes some getting used to.
For one thing, concurrent experience gain is much more unpredictable. For example, if I run around with a bunch of people during a dynamic event whacking at centaurs and killing them one after an other in quick succession, that gains me a lot more experience than my husband who is sitting off to the edge of the group whittling down a enemy’s health by himself. Likewise, while we’re both completing tasks for the denizens of Queensdale, my husband’s XP takes off because he’s killing worms while I prefer more passive tasks like feeding bags of oats to cows for their cute floating pink hearts. I don’t think I’ve ever seen two group members’ XP bars fluctuate so greatly while still doing the same things together.
While our rates of experience gain tend to even out eventually, I have to say what still feels missing is the synergy between us. That’s the biggie, I think. One of my favorite things about always playing with my husband is the inevitable discovery of how our chosen classes simply click. I mostly PvE, and in playing within a structured group, a lot of the time I end up learning more about how my class plays by observing the abilities of others and seeing how my own can play off of them. A wonderful thing happens when the mister and I play together, just me and him; gradually we come up with unspoken strategies and somehow I know all his moves before he makes them and vice versa. I can see there will be less opportunity to do this in GW2, when there is little reason to attune to each other as most everything is done with every other player who is in the same area.
The strange feeling of grouping in GW2 is just an intriguing observation that occurred to me this weekend, and is by no means a criticism. Really. Of course, the most enlightening moment for me is when the realization hit that we don’t actually even have to be partied up and the little difference it would make! We still did though, if for no other reason but the fact it’s easier to see where each other are on the mini-map.
It would be interesting to see what other gaming couples or people who frequently group together will make of the GW2 duo-ing experience. I think leastwise, it adds a new dynamic.