PvE takes place in Tyria, a persistent environment with its own history built specifically for the game mode. The world map is divided into zones separated by portals. Each zone is filled with creatures, NPCs, events and other players for the player to interact with. In Guild Wars 2 the player is guided through the zones by following their personal story, though they are free to ignore that guidance and simply explore the game.
PvE is designed to encourage fluid, natural cooperation between players. Any player contributing to a fight is rewarded and has a chance at loot and gets the same amount of experience regardless of how many other players were involved. Dynamic level adjustment scales higher level players down to the level of the area. Events and other encounters scale in difficulty as more players join in. Every player is able to revive others who have been defeated. Traditional MMORPG player roles such as healing classes have been eschewed in favor of each character being able to perform a hybrid role in combat and provide all of the three facets of the Guild Wars 2 combat system; damage, control and support.
The following sections provide additional details about some of the significant aspects of Guild Wars 2 Player versus Environment game play.
Guild Wars 2 currently features 26 large explorable zones, 9 dungeons, and 6 cities.
In Guild Wars 2 PvE game play follows a story which leads the character through the world, replacing the campaign and mission system from the original Guild Wars. The storyline is personalized based on the character's race, profession and biography questions answered during character creation and branches based on decisions made by the player during game play.
Much of the personal story takes place in solo instances for the character, but other players can be invited to take part in their story. The story instances scale in difficulty with the number of players participating.
Each character also has a home instance which updates as the player advances through the personal story and the world. The player can invite other players to see their home instance.
Renown Hearts are fixed areas within an explorable zone that give a set of tasks for a player to assist with and provide a reward upon completion. Rather than being given as a checklist of tasks a player needs to do in sequence, players simply follow a list of possible actions or activities that contribute to the progress of an area's renown heart. Renown hearts act as a way of guiding players towards dynamic events.
Dynamic events ensure something is always happening in the world. These events replace the traditional MMO quest system, and any player coming across the event can contribute and be rewarded. Events can influence or overlap with each other, chaining from one event to another. A large portion of PvE experience consists of players participating in events together, ranging in from helping farmer grow his crops to epic battles against champions of the Elder Dragons.
Dungeons have two modes: a story mode which tells the story of Destiny's Edge and a repeatable explorable mode. In explorable mode dungeons provide the most challenging combat available in Guild Wars 2 PvE, requiring good coordination and game play from groups of up to five players. Each of the 8 dungeons has one story mode version and three explorable mode versions (with Arah being the exception with 4), bringing the amount of different versions of dungeons to 33. Events also occur in dungeons.
A player can gather materials to craft items for themselves and their friends. A player character can possess two crafting disciplines at a time, but gathering of different resource types is not restricted. Crafting recipes can be discovered by purchasing them from a master craftsman, by leveling up or as loot, but mostly by experimenting with different combinations of materials at a crafting station.