Character personality does absolutely nothing in GW2. I’ll be the first to admit that. As of the April 15th feature pack, it does even less than it did before, since the redesign of the hero panel did away with the neat little icon we used to get to tell us how our dialogue choices had influenced our characters’ personalities. There were even possibilities beyond the initial “charming,” “dignified,” and “fierce” to unlock if you’d picked a range of dialogue options.
On one hand, it’s understandable if it’s been scuttled. As features go, it barely counted; early plans to have character personality influence NPC reactions and even some content never came to fruition. It was also entirely possible to just click dialogue options over and over to get guild wars 2 gold you wanted, since NPCs don’t actually care whether you just ticked them off with a renegade dialogue choice and will happily accept the nicer option when you repeat the conversation.
Then again, it’s kind of disappointing to see one of the few pure roleplaying tidbits in the game get the axe. I might be bemoaning its demise too soon, since personality is still selectable in character creation and to my knowledge none of the NPC conversations with personality-specific dialogue has been removed. But it doesn’t bode well for the system that such a minor perk got dropped.
The lack of meat in the personality system and its subsequent fade makes me wonder how character stories will be handled in future content. I’m not the biggest fan of the personal story, even though I appreciated the intent behind it; it seemed like an attempt to provide a Mass Effect or Dragon Age-style narrative. I think one of the fundamental differences between a single-player RPG and an MMORPG is found in experiencing a story — even a customizable one — versus being turned loose to define your own. GW2’s personal story couldn’t possibly provide a full single-player RPG experience, and yet it tried to go too far in that direction to be useful to roleplayers.
In that light, I’m hopeful that the new story journal heralds a different way of doing things, allowing ArenaNet to sidestep previous issues with the personal story. However, the biography questions and personality-defining options are the better, less intrusive part of all of that, and I hope they can be expanded on instead of discarded. I know players who chose the dead sister storyline just for the opportunity to define their human character’s ethnic background, which has no impact on gameplay, story, or dialogue in the rest of the game. It’s not even visible to other players. But it’s still important, because the game itself is validating the player’s own character concept.
I’m rooting for the personality system to make a comeback, along with fresh content related to other biography choices. If the storyline no longer has to branch based on pre-written events from our characters’ history, maybe we’ll have a chance to define who they are in subtler, more open-ended ways.