You could do almost all the missions in Prophecies out of order, except for Thunderhead Keep which was required to access the Ring of Fire missions... Many people skipped the Maguuma ones altogether by running to Sanctum Cay from LA, or straight to Droknar's Forge and the southern Shiverpeaks missions from Beacon's Perch. I don't miss the voice acting in GW1, but the replayability and the greater length of many of the missions is a definite plus for the first game.
The two ends of your post kind of contradict each other even though I agree with the overall message to a degree. How come people kept trying to skip Maguuma or paid for runs, especially Drok run? Probably because some of the missions in between were a bit too long to be replayable especially for an alt that's seen most of the game already (or hasn't but doesn't want to).
The GW1 Prophecies storyline had something that the GW2 storyline lacks. In GW1, you start out as a member of an elite but irregular military scouting force. You get drawn into hero stuff already then though: you prevent the charr from making the final breakthrough into southern Ascalon, you go deep behind enemy lines to free people, you get to recapture the capital city! And that is before the main story even starts. By the time you get to Lion's Arch, you're a hero - but then what? Instead of joining the refugee Ascalonians, you are dumped in LA where you have to find new employment. After joining the White Mantle, you are drawn into a conspiracy theory that turns out to be true, you have to escape across the seas carrying a magical artifact, you have to find your destiny, recapture another kingdom and then finally invade the home of the bad guys - and then there is another twist waiting for you.
That you see all these story twists and narrative pumps way before they happen, or that it's all very cheesy, doesn't really matter. Because even though there were no narrative branches, it still felt like progressing the story was your choice. That is in part due to gameplay: everywhere you went, you could stay as long as you wanted and smell the flowers. There was never the feeling of "I want to do this but I have to stop and grind this first" that you (or at least I) ran into with the GW2 personal story all the time. There was also the feeling of wanting to see where the story went - you knew it would go somewhere cheesy and that it would have bad voice acting, but you never knew exactly what twist was behind the next corner (for example, I thought that Khilbron was going to turn the world undead or something, I had no idea that his plan was to summon some kinda monsters from hell itself).
In short: deep hero stuff and player agency.
Maintaining the illusion of player agency is what A-Net dropped the ball on completely with their personal story and LS and I think that's what I've been trying to say from the start in this discussion. What they ended up with was like the Mass Effect 3 ending only you didn't even have A B or C as a fake choice that comes to the same result. But that is solely a writing and narrative issue in my opinion. It isn't to say that the personal story structure didn't have or can't have the potential to be executed better. If they refocused the writing team and put together something entirely new for an 'expansion' style release, or even went back and rejiggered the entire second half of the existing personal story, it could go over well as long as they maintain the illusion that you are important and you're in control of things. Not necessarily the most important as some folks here think I was trying to say you should be, but the primary focus of your own dang personal story. It's supposed to be about you after all. Then they can throw whatever twists they want at you, no matter how cheesy they are.
For example, why do you have to go to the Mother Tree if you're not a Sylvari and can't be arsed to care? If you're any other race, you should have an equally flavorful prophecy thingy tailored to your particular race. Maybe the humans evoke their gods, the asura work some technobabble magic, the Charr don't prophesize at all but just hash it out in a tribunal council, and the Norn likewise in a moot or maybe a spirit animal quest. Instead of following the ♥♥♥♥ plant like a lapdog, you find your own way of figuring out that you have to go into that blasted wasteland. He has his thing and his mom's sword, sure, but you're going in for your own reasons instead of following his quest and his story. That's the illusion they dropped the ball on.
Edited by MCBiohazard, 24 April 2014 - 01:11 PM.