But half the progression was getting the spells you wanted anyways and these were location locked, so even in factions and Eotn there were upgrades over time. But these games also allowed you to play different builds very early on and the power creep was fairly small.
GW1 was very atypical for an MMO, to the point where you could ask yourself it it still fits the definition. Only the cities were really open, everything else was instantiated, you could fill your party with somewhat useful bots and in Eotn you could even skill these bots, making it closer to a party based RPG than a typical MMO. They tried to tell a story and had a bunch of times somewhat tragic quests. Like I don't think I'll ever forget an early side quest in factions where the story was that a mother asks to find her recently deceased child's favorite teddy, which they had to leave behind while fleeing from the plague. Just perfectly introduced the world.
GW1 is also a perfect example that there's no problem letting players just start at max level if they want or challenge players during the leveling because they can always seek help and that funnels social gameplay. Recent MMOs have apparently forgotten and now want to be paid extra if you don't want to spend days repeating content a toddler could clear every time you make a new char.