There is this big misconception going round, don't know who called it: There is only cosmetic gear in this game, you won't need progression because guild wars 2 is all for fun.
No guys, I agree on the fun part, but guild wars 2 has a gear progression. It has a character progression. It has a combat progression. The simple difference is: In competitive PvP (e-sport 5vs5 mode) gear gets normalized, levels too. Thats it. In the World PvP mode: WvWvW you play with the same PvE gear. With the same PvE skills and traits.
As you get lv.80 it takes not long to get the max. itemlevel. You won't get higher tiers of items in dungeons (the hardest parts in GW2). BUT you still will get different gear. Some weapons might be better in "Power", others in "Perception". Some will have very cool effects etc. etc. BUT no new weapon has a tier-jump. As a new lv.80 player you'll always stand a chance vs. someone who played the game for months. This doesn't mean that there is no better gear though.
I posted this over and over again, I feel I have to put this in a thread. Get informed guys!!
1.) gear does have stats.
It's only, there is a tier-frontier. So you will find better gear for your playstyle.
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different gear in GW2:
Armor xy lv.80
lifegain +20 at night
Armor zx lv.80
critical hit +5%
a player in pvp has always a chance against an other player, regardless of gear
in other games it looks like this:
Armor xy lv.80
proc. 0.5% +200dps
Armor zy lv.80
proc: 0.02% +500dps
a lv.80 player may stand no chance against an other lv.80 player if one of them has farmed gear for countless hours.
2.) leveling does matter, you won't buy your skills in a shop (like in other games), you have to find certain challenges in the world and be successful there to gain skillpoints. With these points you will be able to unlock new skills. There are about 200 skill challenges hidden all over the world, so you won't have nearly all skills unlocked when you hit 80.
this is the interface where you can spend your skillpoints:
furthermore there are traits, these are modifiers like the skills in a skilltree. You will have to find/earn these too by exploring the world. As we speak they get a rework done, we don't know much about them yet.
You see, you can enter World-PvP in the WvWvW-mode without all skills, traits, weapons for your playstyle (for example a hammer with a lot of precision, the hammer I have has only decent power) etc etc. BUT you will still be able to beat the hell out of guys who aren't as skilled as you. They will be really scared if you have your build + weapons that you find perfect for your playstyle, though.
---------- Post added 2012-01-23 at 04:31 PM ----------
Other problem: you currently have no time to play the game. You come back later and there is a new Dungeon that gives you better gear. Now the old raid is too easy and you won't get it with the difficulty you long for.
Imagine Arthas in GW2:
You know, this fight was epic. Oh, in GW2 it stays epic. You go into his halls and suddenly your gear gets scaled down to the dungeon level (lv.80, down from lv.85). Your character gets scaled down to the dungeon level. Oh, now, I can actually replay this hard dungeon again and again and again. It is still as hard as it was back then!
All dungeons in GW2 are this way. You can play them in 2 years and they will be exactly as hard as today. You will get armor-tokens from a sucessful run and you can trade this tokens at a vendor for the dungeon set. Transmutate it with a max.level Item and you look like coming straight out of Icecrown-Citadel, with the power of a max. level player.