Even before Guild Wars 2 officially launched on August 28, one player, Surfeuze, reached level 80, the maximum level. You would think he walks through the valley of the shadow of Tyria and fears no evil because he is the meanest SOB in the valley. But rather than slaying enemies left and right, he power-leveled with the adrenaline-deficient task of crafting. Crafting gives your character experience, as well as some nifty toys and upgrades. But for some–and check out the commenters on MMO Champion to see what I mean–leveling through means of exploiting game mechanics is unsexy.
But was this an exploit, or just someone who got their craft on?
Even Mike O’Brien, president of ArenaNet, implied that this isn’t the kind of accomplishment that ArenaNet had in mind for players. “Level 80 is always something to celebrate, but be aware that this was not through normal leveling. A few users have made us aware of unusual ways to level very fast. We’re fixing these issues as I type.”
ArenaNet did not explain what the issue was, other than there was a problem with leveling through crafting that they needed to address. But the basic idea of being able to level purely through crafting? That’s incredibly cool and not a problem that needs fixing.
As a person who won’t let my gamer friends kill digital yet adorable rabbits, I enjoy the idea of earning experience through non-violent means. (You can also earn experience by exploring new locations and unlocking Waypoints. But while you can unlock these things once and only once, the more you keep crafting, the more experience you keep earning.)
With that in mind, I decided sooner was better than later to get with the crafting. Of all the disciplines I had to choose from, such as making armor and hunting, I naturally chose the one with food. If cooking chicken stock and buttered toast in a fantasy game sounds strange, keep in mind that in GW2 there’s no such thing as alchemy: Cooking is how you create buffs. So that toast actually gives you increased resistance to damage, and the chicken stock boosts healing effects (just like in real life).
Crafting isn’t an innovation by a long shot, but although other MMOs (e.g., World of Warcraft, EVE Online, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Star Wars: The Old Republic) have crafting, GW2′s variation excels in several ways.
– You start crafting the moment you step up to one of many cooking stations, which you can find in a town or city. Normally, you would first need to run to the bank to gather your materials, then run back to the bench. Not in GW2. Here, you can access your bank from the bench itself.
(Speaking of banks, you can deposit collectible items into your inventory, and you don’t need to go to an actual bank to do so. This is essential for freeing up slots in your inventory as you go, and this helps with inventory management.)
– Then there’s a recipe Discovery feature, which lets you unlock recipes based on what you have on hand, of the 101 total ingredients you can gather for cooking. Drag an ingredient to the bench to see how many recipes you can create with it, then add more to try to discover them. Many recipes require you to have a certain rank of Cooking, which you gain by, well, cooking other recipes. It’s a great deal of fun and reminds me of a tea-based mini-game in Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, one that I enjoyed a great deal.
(Hint: One quick way to level the Cooking skill, if you have the cash, is to buy ingredients like flour and butter from nearby merchants and bake a whole batch of dough.)
– Creating multiple items (say, ten loaves of bread) works much faster here. In other MMOs, you have to wait several seconds for cast time. GW2 takes into account multiple items and increases the speed; I made enough bread for an entire circus lickety-split.