The first Guild Wars 2 expansion has finally been announced, nearly two and and a half years after the games initial release.
The expansion – officially titled Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns – was revealed during a PAX South conference over the weekend, showcasing the debut trailer and highlighting the core features that ArenaNet will bring to the popular MMORPG.
First off, ArenaNet took the time to look at the vision and philosophy behind Heart of Thorns. Many of the new features that the expansion will bring represent a re-envisioning of the progression within an MMO. This will be done mainly through the introduction of a new Mastery system, which will allow players to unlock and explore new abilities past the current level 80 cap, and brand new Specializations will also give players access to new traits, skills and mechanics. All of this sounds promising, and means that current level 80 players have the chance to go out and have new experiences with those characters, in both the existing world and the one that Heart of Thorns will bring. It’s reminiscent of the sideways progression systems seen in other MMOs like Rift and The Secret World, which both have ways for players to increase their abilities beyond the level cap.
Mike O’Brien, ArenaNet president and co-founder said: “With Guild Wars 2, we set out to redefine the MMO genre by letting players experience the world in such a way that the journey itself became the goal, and give them a place where they are constantly able to enrich each other’s experience. Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns is taking that philosophy to the next level with our reimagined endgame systems that turn tired tropes like level and gear grind into an expandable framework for progression.”
It’s an interesting premise, and which I’m sure will pay off for the MMO. Many people who play these types of games play to garner as many top-level characters and possible before moving onto the next, so it’s nice to think that these old characters may get some playtime again as changes are implemented.
ArenaNet also confirmed that the strange video of the game that had been circulating over the last week was in fact the first glimpse of the expansion, which looks to continue the storyline from the main game of Tyria facing off against the Elder Dragon, Mordremoth. As the storyline unfolded within the game through ArenaNet’s Living World updates, players had been speculating about one potential casualty in the war with Mordremoth. In one particular cliffhanger, Tyria’s iconic hero Rytlock had disappeared into a mysterious void as he chased the weapon to end the curse of the Foefire and drive the ghosts of Ascalon away for good.
Well, fans of the game will be pleased to hear that Rytlock will be making a return to the MMO, along with an entire new set of abilities, which makes for one of the more exciting new additions to the game. These abilities will be available to players in the form of the new Revenant profession, which channels the powers from some of the Guild Wars universe’s greatest heroes.
ArenaNet also took the time to highlight new environments and game modes that will be coming to the game. These include:
The Heart of Maguuma:
The Maguuma jungle is the biggest environment that is looking to be added to the game, where an entirely new adventure awaits. Confront the growing hordes of Mordremoth’s minions, discover allies from ancient civilizations, and battle new enemies. Maguuma will also offer you challenging group content, the ability to explore large, open jungle maps and the chance to test yourself in all new boss battles.
The Mastery System:
Although this was mentioned previously in the article, if you’ve forgotten, the Mastery system is a plethora of new abilities for your character to learn past level 80, including hand gliding within the jungle, the ability to tear the bark off of a heavily armored Mordrem, or even the chance to build new collections which earn precursors to a legendary weapon.
New profession – Revenant:
Again, mentioned prior in the article, the Revenant is a profession which channels legendary powers to help you slaughter your foes and unleash chaos on the battlefield, either by battling in heavy armor or equipped with the otherworldly power of the Mists.
Each profession specialization is set to allow access to a weapon that was previously unavailable for that profession, as well as new traits, skills and mechanics, all of which help to transform the current professions into something completely new.
PvP – New Stronghold gamemode:
Use the Guild Wars team feature to team up and battle to the top of the leaderboards. Stronghold offers a new way to play competitive play in Guild Wars 2. With several important aspects to gameplay, including supply gathering, planning and both attack and defense, it’s sure to make for an interesting addition.
WvW – New Borderland:
World vs. Worlds is getting an addition in the form of the new Borderlands map, which allows for an entirely new form of battlefield combat, unseen in the game before. With a vast array of different heights across the map, more traps than ever to blow your foes away and ferocious defenders to help keep the enemy at bay, it helps make WvW all the more exciting. Map objectives will also become more important than ever before, as they unlock new strategies, tactics and play mechanics that you’ll want to make sure you use to your world’s advantage.
Players and their fellow guild members will now be able to claim and grow a Guild Hall in the heart of Maguuma. There’s not too much details about it yet, but we’re sure that more will come to light as the release grows ever closer.
There’s a hell of a lot of stuff coming out with this expansion, and it’s good to see that ArenaNet have listened to their fans and it looks like they’re looking to make this expansion what the both the developers and fans can be proud of.
Colin Johanson, game director on Guild Wars 2, said of Heart of Thorns: “We know many fans have been waiting for this moment, for us to say this one single phrase – an expansion is coming for Guild Wars 2. We wanted to go well beyond just announcing that an expansion is coming and then let our fans guess as to what it would bring, and so we waited until we could tell them every single feature that we think sets it apart. We only wanted to unveil Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns once we felt we could showcase everything that makes it an expansion worthy of Guild Wars 2, and that’s what we did today.”
It’s been a long time coming, but it appears to have paid off. ArenaNet seem to be offering everything that players have asked for with Heart of Thorns and announcing everything at once seems to have paid off. The features that are to be implemented will help update and refresh an MMO which was needing a refurb, especially coming up to its three year anniversary.
For me, the most important – and most interesting feature – is the decision not to increase the level cap and instead offer the Master system as an alternative. It’s a move which could redefine how most MMOs tackle the issue now – though as pointed out at the start of this article, it’s not quite as original an idea as O’Brien seems to think. As we know, Blizzard recently opted to increase the level cap to 100 in the latest World of Warcraft expansion, Warlords of Draenor. ArenaNet’s solution is an attempt to change something that’s so often recognized as the norm, and it will be interesting to see how both players and other MMO developers react to the change.
One thing we do know: when this expansion is released (as of yet, there’s no set date), it’s going to be beautiful. Just look at some of the concept art found in this article and watch the two videos. Guild Wars 2 has always been known for its stunning artwork and environments of course, but ArenaNet is doing a good job already of raising the bar.
Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns is sure to bring life back into the old MMO, and maybe change the shape of some others along the way.