You're showing a bias toward game system as the defining aspect of the game.
I suppose it has a lot to do with what you come to a game for. I'm aware that a lot of people approach MMORPGs at a meta-game level, but there are many who approach them at a story-based, immersive level. So, in addition to whether or not the game mechanics seem like an evolution from 1 to 2, rather than a complete rework, whether the world and story seems like an evolution from first to sequel also needs to be addressed.
Does Tyria still feel like Tyria, only in another incarnation? Does the spirit of the stories told in GW1 feel present int he stories of GW2?
I didn't play GW1 in its prime... I picked it up a couple years before GW2 launch, so I will definitely have a different sense of it than those who knew it from the beginning. I did play through all four stories, plus HotN and WiK, as well as get to 30/50 in the HoM. I didn't do any PvP, though, and I'm aware that is probably the area GW2 feels so completely different from GW1. From my perspective, I'd say at launch, GW2 could be called a legitimate successor to GW1.
Even with some of the big changes, I can see the GW2 skillbar as an evolution from GW1, for better or for worse. I can see some of their focus on making the game "grief-proof" as an extension of the same desire that lead GW1 to be entirely instanced in the first place. A lot of it feels like trying to find another design path to the same ends they were trying to reach with GW1. They may not have been as successful, and found worse problems while trying to solve the problems they struggled with in the first game, but the spirit feels like it was there.
As far as story goes, I can see the personal story as a poor attempt at emulating the stories in GW2. Themes of betrayal and loss are there, just not presented in a very sophisticated manner. Even more so, the smaller stories and characters you encounter throughout the world are in keeping with how the GW1 stories felt to me. And of course we have plenty of landmarks and recognizable bits of lore.
The place where it feels like they abandoned GW1 entirely is shortly after launch, and on both levels. From a mechanic point of view, slowly introducing gear grind over the year was an about face from the beauty of GW1's power plateau. From a story point of view, Scarlet and the LS seem like they abandoned cool graphic novel for saturday morning cartoon.
In the end, a sequel shouldn't be a carbon copy of the original. It's supposed to be an evolution that keeps the spirit of the series but takes it to new places. To go with Star Wars as an analogy, I feel like GW2 was Return of the Jedi to GW1's A New Hope. Then ArenNet got seriously spooked a couple months after launch, and spent the rest of the year giving us the Anakin Prequels.
Edited by Kymeric, 24 January 2014 - 02:48 PM.