After almost a full year of speculation Guild Wars 2 developer ArenaNet has confirmed that the Heart of Thorns will be the first expansion pack released for their popular online role-playing game. ArenaNet announced the news at the “Guild Wars 2: Beyond the Point of No Return” panel at PAX South in San Antonio, Texas.
A community desperate for an expansion
Since the announcement of the Living World story sytem players have been appealing for a fully fledged expansion for Guild Wars 2, though players hopes were dashed multiple times as ArenaNet stuck to the Living World story system as a means to expand the games world. This stance has been meat with both player criticism as well as praise for its unique and dynamic storytelling.
However, in the last few months the rumor mill has been in full gear. After the final installment of its Living World Season 2 updates to Guild Wars 2, ArenaNet left fans on a cliffhanger asking fans to tune in for further news during PAX South. Simultaneous to this the Guild Wars 2 Reddit community identified documents proving that NCSoft had filed a trademark. Que speculation overdrive!
Titled Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns, the expansion will set players on a journey deeper into the Maguuma Jungle, where the game’s current evil enemy, the elder dragon Mordremoth, is hiding. Along with continuing where the Living Story left off, the expansion appears to introduce a wealth of new content and importantly large explorable PvE and PvP areas.
In terms of new content the expansion’s trailer shows off a new profession, weapon types, areas, enemies and oddly players using gliders to soar through zones, it’s unclear whether this was just a cutscene or something players will be able to experience first hand. Currently the game has no mounts.
During ArenaNet’s president and co-founder Mike O’Brien statement describing the expansion and reiterating Guild Wars 2’s core values, revealed that unlike the generic MMO expansion release, Heart of Thorns won’t feature a new level of gear that invalidates old gear, nor a new level cap. Instead, it will be focused on new, more challenging content.
Introducing the Revenant
A rising concern amongst Guild Wars 2 players has been the lack of any new playable professions. The Living Story has unfortunately proven to be a platform which is simply not suited to new content such as Races and Professions. Thankfully we now have an expansion and along with it comes Guild Wars 2’s first new profession extending the playable profession options from seven to eight.
ArenaNet describes the Revenant as:
Channel legendary powers to slaughter foes and unleash chaos on the battlefield with our brand new profession: the revenant. Enter the field of battle heavily armored and equipped with the otherworldly powers of the Mists.
Based on ArenaNet’s brief description of the Revenant its hard to gauge whether he will have more mobility than a thief or the chaotic confusing nature of a mesmer but based on the expansion’s trailer its clear that mobility is a key component to his skill set.
End Game Character Progression
“I think you need real character progression that you can keep using to evolve your characters long after you hit max character level and have the best gear in the game,” O’Brien said. “Now you understand why we had to go build this expansion pack.”
End game content and goals have been Guild Wars 2 Achilles’ heel for too long. Though the game includes content focused towards hardcore players such as Fractals and PvP, once a player has achieved level 80 there is not much more you can do to improve your character besides collect every weapon skin and work for ascended gear which offers an incredibly small stat boost over the ubiquitous exotic armour. In order to address this issue ArenaNet are introducing two systems: The Mastery System and Specializations.
The Mastery System
The Heart of Thorns expansion will introduce a new progression system called “Masteries.” Masteries will focus on providing new skills and abilities that players need to master in order to survive in the deep jungle environment that the expansion focuses on.
Here’s what we know so far
- Masteries are an account based PvE progression system. Available to every character that is level 80.
- Complete content in the heart of Maguuma to earn mastery points – i.e. from story, challenging content & achievements, exploring etc.
- Use mastery points to purchase abilities for every character that is level 80 on your account.
Specializations will fundamentally change professions in Guild Wars 2. Guild Wars 2 game director Colin Johanson stated that they will almost be like a new profession onto their own. As an example, rangers will be able to specialize into druids, opening up new healing and utility skills, access to a new weapon type and “new profession mechanics that fundamentally change the way that rangers play.”
Each profession’s specialization will be revealed one by one as the expansion’s launch approaches. Specializations seem to be similar to the original Guild War’s primary and secondary profession system where a player would assign a profession to their character during creation and later choose a secondary profession from the remaining ones.
“This all comes together, so it’s not a collection of features,” O’Brien said. “It’s a comprehensive experience.
“I’ll put it simply: Heart of Thorns is our new vision for character progression in Guild Wars 2.”
Enter the heart of Maguuma
New Explorable Zones
Trying to establish the extensiveness of the new area from the trailer and expansion’s website alone is tricky. We currently know that ArenaNet has been exploring vertical map design more with every Living Story patch, resulting in what at first appear to be extremely small biomes, but on further investigation are incredibly dense and well detailed. However, the trailer also suggest new ways to explore including players flying by gliders. This seems to confirm ArenaNet’s focus on vertical map design but also raises the question, are these maps large enough to require faster travel by air?
During PAX South, Guild Wars 2 game director Colin Johanson promised that the zones in Heart of Thorns — known collectively as The Heart of Maguuma — will be some of the richest areas ever designed in the game.
Here’s what we know so far
- Some of the richest and deepest zones
- Comprised of 3 distinct biomes – core, root, and canopy (where remains of pact fleet are scattered).
- Apparently a player can explore everything from the very depth to the very top. With a hint regarding finding Glint’s secret.
- New challenges for you, your group and new guild.
- New type of content, new civilization, new creatures, new achievements.
- Same content as rest of GW2 – no quest text, dynamic events etc.
During the final public betas of Guild Wars 2 back in 2012 and to the dismay of many guild leaders and members ArenaNet revealed that Guild Halls would not make it into the game at launch. Fast forward to today and many players had simply given up on meeting their fellow guildies in their own Guild Hall.
With the announcement of Heart of Thorns a pleasant surprise awaited many players. Finally guilds will be able to create Guild Halls. It has also been revealed that Guild Halls will be dynamic and will also grow and change over time. Hopefully this will allow even small clans to have a Guild Hall whilst guilds with hundreds of members can seek to expand and show off large ones.
New Stronghold Game Mode
Stronghold appears to take some of the gameplay concepts from the original Guild Wars as well as WvW and apply them to structured PvP.
Fight for control of supply, spend supply to hire troops. Hired troops assault the stronghold and kill the lord to win. Find heroes along the way to help you assault the stronghold.
Guilds will now have the ability to create teams by registering on a guild leaderboard and then climbing the ladder to prove who is the best guild in the world. Suddenly everything makes sense!
The expansion also expands the World vs World environment by adding a new borderland to the existing three: Blue, Green, Red Borderlands.
We want you to feel what it is like to be inside an RTS game.
The new map is the most diverse map ArenaNet have built. Each keep has its own distinct theme and holding objectives around the keep provide abilities to the world which holds it.
- If you control the shrines around earth keep, earth will rise up to defend the keep when attacked
- If you control the objectives around fire keep, your team can use lava to travel across the map
- Holding objectives is now a bigger component of victories in WvW