Endgame describes game content that becomes available at max level, typically after completing the structured base storyline. In short, it is a way to give max level players a sense of progression through repeatable content (repeatable because no developer or company can deliver content as quickly as good players consume it).
Guild Wars 2 is quite different and does not really feature content that is restricted to max level. Instead, all content is adjusted for a continuous challenge (or rather, the player is adjusted to be continually challenged). This leaves, theoretically, the whole game as endgame. To further differentiate Guild Wars 2's endgame from the usual practice, the developers have stated that they wanted the endgame to be only cosmetic, as opposed to a stat-driven 'gear treadmill' (a repetitious cycle of acquiring gear to beat harder content that rewards better gear, ad infinitum).
The reality, however, is mixed. There is both a cosmetic endgame and a playable endgame in which to show off the cosmetic part. This page lists both types of endgames.
When looking for an endgame, most of the time the purpose remains to get some sort of progression. Guild Wars 2 allows that progression to be directed towards either a specific character or the whole account.
Reaching max level means that every option is open to the character, but the character itself may not have unlocked everything in the process. In other words, level is only usually the first of a character's stats to be maxed, and while its power reaches a plateau, there are still things that can be maxed for a small amount of power.
- Elite Specializations and skills will eventually require more Hero points than a typical leveling process will provide, so getting more hero points is always useful after reaching max level.
- Max gear can be obtained. All content can be completed with Exotic gear, except high-level Fractals due to the Agony mechanic. Ascended gear may still be pursued as part of the character progression. Getting several sets of gear may be useful if the character is used for different activities.
- Inventory size can be maximized by buying 20-slot Bags and even Bag Slot Expansions. With owning Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire, inventory size can be further expanded with 32-slot Bags.
- Map completion is necessary for the Legendary component Gift of Exploration and shows a little star next to the name of the character (only visible by other players).
- Personal story, Living World, and Dungeon Story Modes can be completed. The story will be guided by the Objective Compass, and the latter will allow the character access to Explorable Mode.
- Some Consumables scattered within the world may prove invaluable for the more challenging encounters.
- It is time to settle for that ultimate visual appearance (or as many of them as necessary).
Account progression means focusing on account-bound rewards that any character can benefit from. It makes playing with the existing characters and leveling new ones easier and more rewarding. While the main progression within the game is through Account Medals and Achievement Points, there are many more ways an account can progress. Account progression bring:
- Masteries - The Mastery system is an account-wide progression system available once players reach level 80.
- Account stats such as Magic find, multipliers on gold, karma and experience, and WvW Rank levels that can be allocated independently on each character. There are also PvP Ranks which are mainly cosmetic, and a hidden counterpart that is used in ranked match balance.
- The Commander status can be unlocked to more easily lead players during an organized event.
- Account bound gear such as Ascended or Legendary rarity items, and Ineffable Exotic items. Many of these items must be crafted, some can be dropped, other are rewarded for doing Living World-related tasks or completing Collections.
- Account unlocks and convenience items from the Gem Store such as Bank Tab Expansions, Permanent Contracts or unlimited Gathering tools or Salvage kits.
- Account-bound cosmetic rewards such as Miniatures, Dyes, Outfits, Finishers, Tonics, Mounts, Musical instruments or Skins that can be reused with any character (this is the cosmetic endgame).
- Account-bound consumables such as Scrolls or Tomes of Knowledge can also be collected to increase the leveling speed of a new character.
- The Home instance can be enriched with many Nodes that can be gathered daily over the account.
- Amassing currencies is the result and may be the purpose of playing the game. These currencies can be used to further the other goals.
Gear in Guild Wars 2 is given in such a manner that maximum efficiency can be (mostly) attained shortly after reaching max level. The endgame, thus, is not acquiring the stats you want, but acquiring the look you want. Several options are available to provide a long-term incentive to keep playing.
Legendary weapons were the first long-term component to be included in the game. Crafting one is a feat that will ensure that a player has tested most playstyles -dungeons, WvW, map completion, farming and more. Buying one is a feat that will ensure that the player has acquired the knowledge of how to make money in the game (or will bring a healthy amount of support into the game if purchased using Gem to gold exchange).
Even discounting the legendaries, there are many weapons and armor sets that will test patience and wealth, and can act as a medium- to long-term goal.
- Event gear is typically hard to acquire, time-limited and exclusive to a particular moment in the game's life. Acquiring them later can be most expensive. Most of this gear came from the Black Lion Chest or Black Lion Claim Tickets. The other source is extreme luck at the end chest of a temporary dungeon. Being available only temporarily (at least at a reasonable price), these items typically increase in price as time goes on, and can end up being more expensive than the legendaries themselves (the availability of which stays constant).
- Mystic Forge exotic weapons require many components to craft. While their availability is permanent, farming the components is in itself a long-term goal, and buying them can cost hundreds of gold.
- Cultural armor and weapons is the third category of expensive gear, although tier 3 of this gear is the only really expensive choice. There are also armor and weapon sets for each Dungeon and each Order, and some places also provide matching sets (Centaurs, pirates and the Lionguard for instance).
- Heritage armor and weapons is not expensive per se, but may require a significant investment in the first Guild Wars (which, of course, also means owning a linked account).
Skins are their own reward because they can be displayed on characters; however, the game elaborates on them by allowing their storage in the Wardrobe and a whole achievement category exists for Collections.
While not purely cosmetic -nor really supposed to be-, ascended gear has been set as a long-term goal for those that absolutely need a stat improvement to justify spending a large amount of time and money in the game. The increase in stats is low and unneeded for anything other than Fractals (and only because of the Agony mechanic), but still significant enough to be pursued by those who want maxed stats.
Cosmetic customization also includes these five collectable categories. Outfits can replace armor, miniatures can be set to accompany player characters (much like real-life pets), dyes can be used to customize armor skins and outfits further, tonics can change the whole appearance of characters temporarily and finishers change the Finishing animation. The specificity of these categories is that, except for tonics, their primary source is the Gem Store. Dyes, tonics and miniatures can be traded, but rare ones end up at a steep price.
While getting a visually perfect character is the endgame as ArenaNet envisioned it, there needs to be somewhere to show off and, preferably, use that visual perfection. This is why endgame activities have been provided. Most (if not all) of these activities can be accessed without being max level, but obviously they are easier and more rewarding once max level is reached.
Guild Wars 2 is a Massively Multiplayer game, and as such the occasions to meet people ingame and collaborate toward an objective are common place. While most players will enjoy a minimal collaboration -jump in, work together, leave- more social options are available for those who enjoy the persons behind the characters. A player may provide boons to others through mass-usable consumables like banners or food, or spread happiness through music or festive items. Another option is to lead other players through an organized activity, of which there are plenty (from large-scale battles to farming to exploring to hosting events). Guilds provide a stable social context to gather friends, play together, roleplay, overcome some Guild mission challenges and ultimately build a shared game experience. The more social player will be advised though that Guild Wars 2 is not the kind of game that forces its players to connect daily, so player attendance may fluctuate, many players enjoying long breaks and the liberty to leave the game without getting lost behind in terms of progression.
The Living World in Guild Wars 2 is ArenaNet's official term for updates to the game intended to bring the world of Guild Wars 2 to life. Updates are added in the form of episodes, grouped within seasons similar to television. Each episode includes story missions and other content that tell the story of Tyria's ongoing evolution. The episodes serve as the ongoing storyline between expansions, detailing the effects of the previous expansion and leading into the next. Although the first season of the Living World was largely temporary, new episodes were made permanent starting in season 2 and could be replayed at any time. The episodes are unlocked for free if you log in during the timespan that the episode is considered "live" and unlocked using Gems afterwards. Either way, when an episode is unlocked, it is unlocked for the whole account and forever.
The content itself is usually supplemented by Achievements.
Guild Wars was initially advertised as using PvE to get the player used to the game, teaching the concepts of PvP arenas during the story, to finally end in the Mists against the true challenge -other players. This is not how Guild Wars 2 has been built. However, structured PvP still is an activity that is challenging (especially when aiming for the top of the Leaderboards), progressive (by sorting the players by skill) and repeatable yet always new.
It is not, however, the activity in which to show off PvE gear: matches are fast-paced and the player will focus on skill, not looks (which is even more true in ranked matches where the looks are likely to be disabled entirely).
World versus World versus World is an activity that puts the player against other players while still retaining the PvE cosmetic achievements and contributing to the completion of these achievements. The reward system is mostly integrated with the PvE reward system. WvW has been available since the beginning of the game and was one of the first available endgame formats.
While a player may choose to see the visual appearance of others, many players will rather choose to display them as fast-loading, bland sprites, to gain some FPS in large-scale encounters.
Dungeons and Fractals are content designed to be challenging for a group of 5 players. Whether it is, in fact, challenging depends on the skill of the players and their ability to function as a team. It is worth noting though that Guild Wars 2 is aimed towards more casual players than the average MMO, so a dungeon will not typically require hours to complete it (especially so because there is little gear progression). Many dungeons can be soloed or run in smaller groups for additional challenge.
Since fractals and dungeons are the most competitive and challenging 5-man group PvE content, the greatest part of PvE build theorycrafting and fine-tuning is directed towards efficient dungeon running. As in any MMO, the player may be expected to "build" specific gear stats, skills and traits when joining an experienced group. Indeed, while most dungeons can be completed with any combination of gear stats, skills and traits, there is a huge difference in completion time between a casual dungeon "PUG" and a well-prepared group.
Raids are 10 player squad-based PvE instances focusing on challenging combat and mechanics, designed for level 80 characters. Each raid encounter typically utilises multiple phases with several unique mechanics, which test your squad's coordination, damage output and positioning. It is the most challenging PvE content in game in terms of required skill. Players are expected to be well prepared before entering the encounter. Raids can be done with PUGs but a well coordinated pre-made group is recommended, as PUGs tend to gravitate towards experienced players and are not ideal for learning the mechanics of the encounters. Ideally a new player is recommended to start as part of a static group, a guild or a training community.
Strike Missions are 5-10 player squad-based PvE instances, serving as a bridge between open world and raids in their difficulty. Missions are accessible through the open world in maps related to The Icebrood Saga. Players can enter a strike mission portal as a pre-made squad or individually, in which case they will be placed in a new instance with up to 10 other players.
There are many places to visit, many activities to master and plenty of gear to collect and many of these also grant achievements. Some players may therefore use the Achievement panel as a tour guide of what the game has to offer. Other will focus on a fraction of the collectible items and try to get them all. A full panel is often a matter of great pride for a dedicated player (all the more so because dedication in this case means needing to master all aspects of the game, and possibly depending on community contests or giveaways).
Dungeons and Fractals can be repeated and will give a daily reward for each dungeon path and for each fractal set of 10 levels. Dungeons are considered the most lucrative source of farming income, while fractals are deemed lacking (mostly because of the relative average completion time). Because many farmers have already completed every lucrative dungeon hundreds of time, they can be expected to want a quick reward, and the less jaded player is advised against entering any 'rush', 'speedrun' or 'experienced only' group if wanting to enjoy the journey.
Dungeon runs can also be sold to other players for an increased yield. The practice typically involves either running the dungeon solo or running it as a guild and having some runners leave the instance just before the end. The remaining group slots are then sold and when the group is full, the last boss is quickly killed and everyone gets the end reward (possibly offsetting the price).
World bosses offer an alternative involving a large player count. The guaranteed daily rare item at the end of each boss and the amount of events involved make for a good income, though not as great as the other options. It is a good place to show off cool gear and to play in a lucrative yet relaxed manner. Some world bosses like Tequatl and the Three-headed Wurm represent quite the challenge as well.
Farm Trains are large gathering of players that follow a set route in an area to gather loot through drops, Champion loot bags or Event rewards. They are usually very lucrative and relaxed. Organized maps can often be found using the lfg tool (section Open World).
Fail trains are large gathering of players that continuously -or as continuously as possible- repeat the same event without completing it, leaving it to fail because then it restarts faster than if it had been completed (if it has no fail mechanic, they may ensure it continues endlessly instead). Fail trains are generally incredibly lucrative, but they easily lead to frustration either on the side of those who would like to complete the event, or on the side of those who have to wait a long time to start over should it be completed. It is the most controversial mean of farming because it can hurt the ability of others to play, and fail spots are usually quickly corrected when they become problematic. However, whether taking part in a fail train constitutes an exploit and therefore a violation of the End User Licensing Agreement has not been explicitly stated, and sanctions are not usually dispensed (although the wary player will pay attention to not let frustration lead to harsh behavior and language).
Solo farming involves the loosely collaborative activities listed above, as well as more literally solitary activities. Killing enemies solo is not effective for any farming purpose barring some Achievements, but Material gathering can yield a fair amount of money -or resources to further a crafting goal. When trying for a considerable amount of a particular resource though, it is almost always preferable to gather and sell everything -or raise gold by other means- and buy the specific materials.
The game offers other kinds of activities that can provide a player the incentive to keep playing, depending on taste. Roleplaying, Jumping puzzles, Chest farming, Guild Missions and Mini-games are some of them.