Over the course of 15 years I have played dozens of MMORPGs from standard bearers to the totally obscure. Guild Wars series has always stuck with me because of it's mechanical innovation and not chasing the trends of other successful games. With that being said, Guild Wars 2 came out of the oven a bit half baked at launch. Eight years later the game is a totally different place and to many it will feel like a totally different game.
So what is Guild Wars 2 progression? Getting max stat gear? Raiding regularly? Structured PvP? World vs. World? Story? Exploring? Skins? It's actually all of the above. The short answer is accumulating Legendary Equipment.
One second, let me explain. Legendary equipment has the same stats as ascended gear (which is much easier to obtain). For a new player the first legendary may take you 6 months to a year to complete. Consecutive ones will take you less time as your player skill and knowledge grows opening up newer ways to accumulate materials and gold faster. Legendaries biggest benefit is the stat swapping ability. Outside of combat legendary gear has the ability to switch the stats and socket slotted items. This matters because unlike most MMOs where there is always a meta build for a particular class GW2's professions can play as a tank, DPS, or Healer by switching stats.
Example: A Ranger can switch to Berserker stats to become DPS dealing physical damage, or switch to Harrier's stats to become a healer and buffer, even switch to Viper's stat to be able to do armor ignoring condition damage, or do your own build crafting and make a hybrid build. What you play is dependent on the game-mode and what your team needs. Switching stats becomes a non-issue with legendary equipment because you can bind one button to switch your build outside of combat. All professions have multiple paths and learning to play them and be skilled in them is part of your personal progression.
Now with the upcoming Legendary Armory any character in your account can share legendaries across all characters. Meaning your stat swapping ability now will apply to all your characters. This is the hyper end game to be able to play everything and accumulate your legendary weapons, armor, and trinkets. So how does one accumulate legendaries? You have to play all game modes. Crafting legendary gear has you going out of your comfort zone to take a chance at sPvP or see what WvW is like or finally get the courage to join a raid practicing guild.
TL:DR: Hyper late goal (taking multiple years to complete) would be to accumulate legendary weapons, armors, and tinkets because it will be shared across all characters with Legendary Armory update. Legendary gear is stat swappable. With build template system out right now you can easily swap builds out of combat for any situation. End game sees you switching builds a lot to cater to your team. Accumulating legendaries will make you participate in all aspects of the game.
GW2 is absolutely flourishing with new players and is a totally new game compared to 8 years ago. See you in game.
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