It's an argument among MMO players as old as what defines an MMO; is the max-level character boost a good idea or not? Both sides of the argument have generally good points. On the one hand, if you can't play with your friends at end-game or participate in what's largely considered "the best part", people should be allowed to. On the other, handing someone max-level and equivalent gear means you're flooding end-game with people who don't know what they're doing.
So which is it? Here's what I found when I burned a max-level character boost.
The Deep End
For this little experiment, I decided to take advantage of the max-level boost offered to buyers of Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns. The 50% sale was too irresistible, and I had been watching the game develop from the sidelines for a while now. I figured this would be a great chance to try my hand at a game I had been wanting to really get into, while also searching for the truth of max-level boosting.
Now, I feel I should qualify myself a bit here. I played Guild Wars 2 at launch, right up to just before Season One of the Living Story started. I rolled a Charr Warrior and made it as far as Orr before I got bored. I walked away from the game for a few reasons, chief among them being that Orr was annoying and Warrior was boring to play. I also wasn't incredibly invested in the world; Guild Wars 2 is a fun video game, but not a compelling MMO universe, in my opinion.
Regardless, I was excited to try out something new and get into the thick of things. I boosted my little Asura Necromancer to 80 and was plopped into the Silverwastes to try my hand at the class before fully committing to the final boost. This was probably the best thing Guild Wars 2 does for max-level boosted players and went a long way to making me feel comfortable enough to run the new maps.
After a good hour or so of getting myself acclimated to the Necromancer and arranging a build, I went ahead and finalized my boost. Being in the middle of a new max-level area was both daunting and exciting at once, and I threw myself at a few events in the Silverwastes before engaging myself into the Heart of Thorns story. Things felt good overall at this point. I felt competent, effective and was able to adapt to the new beasties that were being thrown my way.
That was until I made my way to the Verdant Brink.
Swim or Drown
It became pretty apparent to me pretty quickly that, no matter the amount of time I had spent training in the Silverwastes, nothing really compared to how things operated in the depths of the Heart of Thorns' starting quests. Having played Guild Wars 2 before, I made the apparently silly mistake of assuming I could roam the map, unlocking things and joining in on events as they sprang up. What happened instead was an exercise in frustration and a pervasive sense that everyone around me was so much better than I was.
Even though I had secured my rotations, and even got used to a newly-earned Reaper, it all still felt like I was just missing the point. Watching people dash in and tear through baddies while my stumpy little self was trying to contribute was not a great sensation, and I began to see the side of the boost argument that says fresh-capped players are clueless. I had no idea where to go, or how to navigate, or how to get my Masteries. I was a mote surrounded by giants.
Things were feeling pretty lousy, so I did what any well-meaning noob would do. I asked for help.
Persistence is Key
Specifically, my MMOGames colleagues invited me to chat and gave me some advice and encouragement. I also looked around the official forums and Google for guides on builds and the content. I even copied a Reaper build, which always feels like a cheat code for MMOs to me, but I was desperate.
This is the part of the argument where the pro-boost side wins, but with one important asterisk. Newly boosted players should not be ashamed or afraid to ask for help. Derision be damned. You're still new and it only benefits other players that you perform at your best. So it was with me and the Verdant Brink.
After swallowing my pride and following guides and advice, I found myself starting to come into my own again. The missing pieces began to fall into place, and I was starting to have a little bit of fun once more.
I still didn't feel like I was amazing, but I at least felt like I was progressing. That's a feeling that can still happen even if you're at max-level. Sure, you're not earning XP anymore necessarily, but you're still making forward progress in how to be a better player. That's something that people who argue against max-boosting miss. People can learn, even if they're clueless when they first arrive. It doesn't always end with people being swallowed by their frustration and quitting.
What does this mean for the argument? It means, like any really good argument, that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
For those against, I can indeed confirm that boosting to level-cap can lead to people standing in the middle of a new and wonderful area blinking in confusion, but it also is another opportunity for players to learn and to grow. If you're angry at people learning, then you might be taking your chosen game too seriously.
For those for, if you're going to boost a character to max level, it's important to know what you're getting into with some research. Even then you're not going to become an expert right away, but you'll at least have some form of expectations set. You will be awful. Be truly comfortable with that knowledge, be doggedly persistent and you can see the crest of that learning curve.
Would I boost a character to max again? I don't think so. Yes, leveling from 1 to cap is annoying, especially if you've got friends already doing end-game things, but I still feel that gradually learning what you're capable of is a far better decision than jumping in at the deep end. I do have to admit though when you crack how things work at max level, it feels incredibly rewarding. It still isn't recommended, but I can definitely see the allure.