I was hoping you could help me find an answer to my struggles, so here's my story.
I've stopped playing GW2 back in late 2014. At that time I had almost 2 fully dedicated years to the game and I enjoyed every aspect of it. PvE (although there wasn't really much of that back then), structured PvP and WvW were all pretty interesting on their own but after playing for several hours a day, I started growing an overall sense of... pointlessness. There wasn't much that I could push myself to do in terms of in-game progression or achievements. The game felt like it was too casual with no real end goal to look forward to. I am not saying that's a bad thing, but I acknowledged it as the seed of my expanding disinterest. Eventually I just stopped playing, and so 3 years have passed since my last log-in.
Currently I am at what I like to label as "gaming low", and all the stuff I've been playing over the past months seems to no longer bring me joy. My last prolonged MMORPG interaction was with WoW but Blizzard just went too far with the whole grinding (which they thought is equal to more content) and since around the end of March I haven't really been playing anything consistently. In these situations I often find myself running back to games with which I've had pleasant experiences in the past so that's why I am writing here, in the GW2 forums.
As you can imagine, 3 years is a heck of a long time for an MMORPG and I have doubts whether I would feel the same way for GW2 as I did when I played it back in 2014. I know that now there's a "proper" PvE in place with raid bosses and everything, so that's definitely something to look forward to. Understandably however, I feel like I've missed so much during my downtime that if I were to return I would never be able to catch up with all the changes, and that I will try to hold on to the things I've known from the past, as a defensive reaction - which will pretty much screw me over quickly. I have several characters on the EU Desolace realm, which, as I've read it, is still going strong in terms of population, so I guess I could easily join a guild to help with my "transitioning" process.
I've still got a lot of concerns, though. Is there any real gear progression system, or can I simply craft almost BiS gear like I did in the past, and don't even bother doing high-end content? Is the game still buy to play or has it changed to a different model (subscription, freemium/ premium, cash shop)? Do I need to buy any extra expansions (I only have the vanilla GW2 + the HoT expansion unlocked for my account)? Is there REALLY anything to do at max level or do people still run those farm trains where you shovel around in search of ancestral evidence for transgenderism? Does the meta still revolve around running "zerker" builds for everything? What is the viability of a more support-oriented player who wants to heal and buff people instead of spin in circles with a needlessly disproportionate sword? Is WvW still based on Winnie the Pooh's ideology "The more - the merrier"? Do I still need to bring the physical manifestation of the symbols of communism in order to dig a carrot? (I've heard some bad stuff about people being forced to purchase gathering tools from the shop because they are way better)
I'd be extremely grateful if you guys could share your contemporary in-game experiences with me. It would really help me out in making the right decision.
Thanks a ton!