Second, the game gives your character a “personal story” quest line, which feel less grind-like – the personal stories are a series of different quests, complete with animation and dialogue during the course of the story. Your character’s personal story is determined by some questions you answer when creating your character – each character class has three different personal stories (with seven character races, that’s 21 different stories to experience if you are a completist). While you can’t just complete all of the personal stories at once (the level requirements tend to jump up, requiring you to do some events or other experience-gaining quests), they do tend to make the game more interesting than the aforementioned “kill X number of boars” quests seen in other games.
Other ways to gain XP in GW2 include map exploration (each time you go to a new area or unlock a fast-travel portal, you get XP), including hard-to-reach vista points, which require a bit of platform jumping-and-running skills. Vista completion reminded me a bit of the Assassin’s Creed series, where climbing to the top of a building or other area would unlock more of the map. Some vistas are easy, others can be frustrating.
You can also gain XP by playing in the game’s player-versus-player (PvP) or world-versus-world (WvW) areas – unlike PvP in other games, which have level and gear requirements, everyone can play here right from the start. When you jump into one of those areas, you are transformed to the highest level (level 80), although your gear stays the same. So being higher-level with your gear and skills can help somewhat, for the most part the PvP and WvW areas have a level playing field, and success requires skills like teamwork and organization, not just “who has the best stuff”.
There’s no way that you should feel that gaining XP turns into a grind with the number of different ways players can level up. Even crafting items can get you XP – in fact, a spokesman for the game said the first person to reach Level 80 achieved it solely through crafting.
The crafting system is similar to other MMOs – gather a bunch of materials, either through exploration (mining, cutting down trees, gathering food), enemy mob drops (open a bag and retrieve some leather) or purchase. Crafting lets you make additional items for your own character, or to sell via the trading post. Your enjoyment of crafting in GW2 depends on how much you love or hate crafting in other games – one thing I did enjoy, was that the crafting goes much quicker when dealing with bulk items. For example, if you’re turning logs into wood planks, the game speeds up completion as you work – if it takes 3 seconds for one plank, it’s not going to take 150 seconds for 50 – rather, it takes about 10 seconds as the system speeds up completion. It’s a very nice and efficient touch.