I imagine most of us know why AQW isn't what it once was.
1, First off the Chaos Saga ended.
This is what kept a lot of people new and old coming back every Friday. It ended and was replaced with a continuation of the Chaos Saga rather than a new chapter to the AQW story.
(Trust me, there was so much they could have done which would have been great, but their choice was bad. Though when trying to recover it was clear it lacked direction.)
We are talking about a vast majority of players who who didn't want the pointless humor which is overly taking the place of what was once serious, impactful, and interesting story.
If a story can't take itself seriously, neither will the players.
People were invested in the characters, villains, heroes, and factions of AQW. Yet as the Saga Ended they have just been treated as decoration, a badge, and nothing more.
2. AQ3D came out, which pulled a lot of the old AQW players from the game. That's just the nature of new things.
Not much to be said about this, people like the idea of new.
3. Due to the more games put out, it's obvious the time and effort put into AQW has diminished.
Everyone can see and feel that the quality of AQW had dropped considerably, as we all remember that throughout the chaos saga there are point in animations which you could choose a faction based response.
(Not just no choice and the main character making a dumb joke.)
There use to be a time when a war meant something, it was a point in which something in the game/story that was important was about to change. It wasn't just a filler event used to have players grind merge items.
4. They doubled down on the grind.
People play games to relax, have a unique experience, conquer a challenge, take part in a story, or immerse themselves in a fictional world. They don't play games to exhaust themselves or work.
The sheer amount of grinding has taken over AQW and is practically all it's known for now.
So lets be honest, AQW is dying because they killed it with bad choices.
Now if you want more than just a list of issues here's a few ideas they could use to improve / revive the game.
Note: it'd have to be done in this order. Though these are just things off the top of my head and i may be forgetting something.
1. They need to cut the grind and reduce farming quests, if players don't enjoy the game they won't play it.
- When it comes to bosses it's great to have old players help new players, though this shouldn't be every major boss in the game as this breaks the immersion and challenge of beating a boss themselves.
That in mind, farming quests that involve 50+ level players going after the 13 lords of chaos need to be moved to an ultra-fight so that it doesn't kill the experience for new players beating a major boss for the first time.
- In addition farming / grind quests are exhausting, and when it's doing the same thing 5 thousand times for a single quest in a chain of 5 or 13 then players will see it as work, it's not fun and clearly the people who design the quests don't play them as QA.
It's the most basic game design you learn of in university or CC, they should know better.
2. Players need to be invested in the story.
- Frequent humor kills the mood, they are damaging their own plot every time they have an npc, villain, or hero crack jokes, break character, or make playful small talk.
This should not be something every villain and hero does, in moderation and from characters whose personality is humorous would be a way to avoid killing the scene.
- Factions should be more than a label a player wears. At the start of the game when you pick a side it means something. You are roped into their cause when the battle is interrupted and the two leaders are dealt mortal wounds. This causes many players to resent or despise drakath as an enemy. As choosing a side was their choice, he has now done the player an injury by hurting their chosen leader. This causes the players to want to know more about the battle, who this new threat is, and invest themselves in their chosen faction.
Mystery, tragedy and conflicting ambitions are great ways to grab peoples attention.
- Player agency is important, if they feel as though their character is just a passive observer in the story and not a player in it then it's hard to have players invest themselves in a story. The illusion of choice or true choice is better than no choice.
3. Fights should be interesting, not a brick wall.
There is a reason so many players used bots, it's because the gameplay is that bland that a bot could play it and a player doesn't need to pay attention to the game.
Uninspired gameplay in which a player is just slashing against a massive hp bar is not interesting. It would be better to have bosses which have low health and low damage, but interesting dynamics.
Most players can picture a boss or two which was hard because they did something unique, rather than simply being a slog of a fight or maxing out their dodge chance.
In turn this would allow old classes to still be used, as the bosses and classes would not need to be balanced around maxing out damage, dodge, or crit chance.
Examples of this would be a boss whose feature is fire or poison, which so long as the players fight them they have to deal with a DoT regardless of being hit, making healer classes useful. Or a boss who every 10 seconds casts a stun that last 5 seconds, so the party can't rely on a single player to carry them through the fight. Maybe a boss that locks the player out from using their 4th skill in a fight, mirrors attacks at 30% value, etc. Though everyone sees what I'm getting at, just not a massive hp or damage bar.
4. The game needs a new audience, as if no one knows about the game it's hard to build an audience.
- Quite frankly, making a mobile version of AQW would be a great way to introduce new / young people to the game.