The latest preview of what’s to come in the April 15th feature pack focuses on structured PvP – but if you’re like me and usually figure this means it doesn’t apply to you, don’t turn away yet. The theme of this update to PvP is integration: ArenaNet are looking to remove some of the distinctions which make sPvP its own self-contained game within a game, separated from PvE. Thankfully, none of this update makes it strictly necessary or even too strongly incentivised to participate in PvP play, but it does extend the philosophy that underlies a lot of WvW design (you should be able to entirely level a character and achieve most things through WvW alone if you want to) to structured PvP as well.
Continuing with the themes and principles of the new wardrobe feature, the first change mentioned is that there will no longer be a distinction between one’s PvP gear and one’s PvE gear. Now, before anyone panics: this does not change the fact that PvP gear is automatically exotic level across the board, or that players can choose whatever stats they like on it. This is a basic principle of Guild Wars 2 PvP, that everyone’s gear is on the same level and it’s your build choices and your own skill that distinguish you. What the update does mean is that your PvE appearance – the skins chosen from your wardrobe – will carry over when you enter PvP, rather than the PvP wardrobe being a totally separate thing.
As someone who has never been a PvP player, this would mean little to me except for the fact that any skins I have in my PvP locker will be merged into my account-wide wardrobe after the update. I haven’t earned any skins from playing sPvP, but ArenaNet have been giving them out in achievement chests since those were implemented and so I actually have quite a few, currently displayed only for mini-games. What this means is that when the feature pack hits, I and many others will be able to add various pieces of dungeon armour and other skins to our wardrobe without having unlocked them the conventional way! I’m a little ambivalent to getting dungeon skins I haven’t earned, but I can’t really complain about the solution in this case – it allows PvPers to have access to the same appearances they’ve bought or earned, while granting a bonus for PvEers in the course of integration. I am curious about how achievement chest rewards will work after this update; will we just get a selection of random skins for our wardrobes?
The new ‘PvP Build Panel’ will handle the allocation of stats, runes, etc for a character in PvP. As mentioned earlier, there will be one slot to apply one rune to all pieces of armour. Runes, sigils and amulets will be selected from a list in this panel – no more running between NPCs to switch these things around. Traits for PvP can also be selected in the build panel, and in this context I think reducing everything down to a clear, simple interface is a good idea (sPvP is already abstracted from the main game a little anyway, with the excuse of ‘the Mists’). One thing I’m less sure about is the idea that extra runes, sigils, amulets and traits “outside the core set” will be available to unlock for PvP with a gold purchase. This would seem to unbalance the principle that everyone has access to the same things in PvP from the start, but as they removed glory and intend to reward PvP play with gold, this may work out as a reasonable progression scheme within sPvP.
While gear unification will have the most effect on me personally, the most dramatic changes to sPvP come with the addition of reward tracks. This new system for rewarding PvP play allows players to choose certain things to work toward out of a series of achievement-like tracks, and to earn various bits and pieces along the way – including the sorts of things PvE players might earn in the course of their play.
This allows people who would rather spend most of their time in sPvP to earn things through that play, and increases the amount of integration between different parts of the game (again, I’d compare this to the relative self-sufficiency of WvW). With all the integration of this and recent updates PvE, WvW and sPvP feel less like separate game types where your progress only counts within that context, and more like parts of the same game; it echoes the idea that any work a player does should be rewarding across the game, just like the move toward account-wide unlocks. At the same time, the PvP reward tracks – along with the announcement that most components for a legendary will be available in some capacity through PvP – prevent players from feeling like they’re “forced to” move into PvE for progression. ArenaNet are generally in favour of ‘play what you want to play’, and have been since the start; this just enables that goal a little more.
I myself often fall into the mindset of seeing PvE as ‘the real game’, with other game types as sideshows – as a PvE player and an explorer and lore fan to boot, this isn’t surprising. To keep viewing the game this way is restrictive, though, and does not do justice to how robust ArenaNet have made WvW and now PvP in their own rights, making a real effort to cater to the hypothetical player who loves that side of the game and would only play anything else if they had to for something.
The final big change mentioned in this post is the removal of separate PvP daily and monthly achievements – which makes perfect sense, in the context of integration. As the post states:
There will be enough achievements that you will be able to complete your dailies and monthlies entirely in PvE, WvW, or PvP if you like – but you can also dabble in different game modes and complete your achievements by playing a mix of content.
April’s monthlies will be a bit odd due to this update falling in the middle of the month, and details can be found in the main post. But in future dailies and monthlies will contain achievements from all three game types – again, bringing sPvP that little bit closer to where WvW has already been for some time, existing alongside PvE. This may encourage some players to try out PvP when they wouldn’t normally, which I suspect was part of the reason for the regular appearance of WvW dailies (around the time of WvW Season 1, if I recall correctly).
Overall, many of these changes won’t affect people who play solely or mainly in PvE, and I can’t judge the effect they’ll have on sPvP as well because I don’t participate in it. However, the general themes are more rewards, more ways to get rewards by doing what you enjoy, and less distinction between game types meaning, in some ways, less need to specialise. Flexibility and more progression options: all things Guild Wars 2 has been moving towards for some time.