It can be a real chore to group up with friends in MMOs, especially whenever you and your friend are at different levels. A group of friends can play, but a few have more time to level up, leveling past the others or you may be at the endgame and your friend is starting, requiring you to create a new character to play with them. Thankfully, Guild Wars 2 throws this mechanic out of the window and replaces it with the dynamic level adjustment system.
Unlike sidekick systems in other games, the system works fluidly and is completely fair and balanced. Even me, an expert MMO player can’t find any flaws with the system. Let’s start with the basics, it comes in two flavors: PvE (if you’re a higher level than the content, you’ll be leveled down) and PvP (you’ll be leveled straight to level 80). Each one is a bit different, so we’ll talk about them separate.
Player vs. Environment Adjustments
The system is very simple, but it is also incredibly fair. If you’re at a higher level than the maximum level of a specific area, plus one, then your effective level and attributes will be adjusted downward, to the maximum level of the area, plus one. While your level is adjusted, the game will still consider any rewards and loot you receive to be level appropriate. However, the rewards will be substandard to the rewards you’d receive doing content that is at or above your level.
For instance, if you’re level 40 and begin doing events in a level 30 area, your will have the effective level and attributes of a level 31 character. There is an indicator at the bottom left of the screen showing what your current effective level is. While in this area, you will continue to receive loot and experience that is comparative to rewards at your level, even if the enemies’ level is drastically below yours.
The content should, in theory, remain challenging, although easier. You will get to maintain your skills, traits, and equipment. With your attributes lowered, you will have lower health and attack power, making you more vulnerable, so the content shouldn’t be trivialized. It works well like this because it helps keep higher level players from stomping lower level areas and allows players to have fun while experiencing content they may have skipped.
It also helps bring friends together, because you and your friends can level together no matter what level everyone is. Everyone can still group together, even if there is a level 5, a level 10, a level 40, and a level 80. The only caveat is that everyone will need to play through the level 5 to 10 content, because GW2 doesn’t have a sidekick system.
This entire mechanic applies to dungeons too, although the effective levels for story and exploration mode are different. You can skip a dungeon and return to it, still facing a rather strong challenge. You can also help others run through a dungeon and still have fun together, without wiping the floor with everything.
Like with anything though, a level 80 player will obviously have a huge advantage over a level 3 player, even if their effective level is scaled down to 3. As the gap decreases, the power difference is negated. Like I've mentioned though, most content in the game should remain challenging, although content closer to your level will remain the most challenging.
Player vs. Player Adjustments
World vs. world and structured PvP handle things a bit differently in how they place you at level 80. In WvW, you are adjusted to level 80, but retain the same equipment, traits, and skills. In structured PvP you are adjusted to level 80, but gain the appropriate amount of traits and have all skills unlocked, plus access to level 80 gear.
The difference is that WvW simply adjusts you to level 80 while structured PvP gives you a level 80 version of yourself. This allows you to level up in WvW, using the same system as mentioned above, except you are placed at level 80 (rewards in WvW are equivalent to rewards for your level). This also allows structured PvP to have an even playing field, as everyone has the same amount of gear, traits, and skills unlocked.
Well that’s pretty much all there is to GW2’s dynamic level adjustment system, it’s pretty simple to understand and you should hopefully not have to ask “why is my damage so low!” when you’re out and about outside of a capital city.
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