The long-awaited expansion for the acclaimed MMORPG is finally here, and oh boy it was worth the waiting. Beautiful, fun, massive in content and full of new features. Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns is everything we hoped for, if not more.
Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns
Available on: PC (tested)
According to the game, I’ve spent over 2600 hours playing it. According to everyone else, I’m a hardcore fan of this beautiful MMORPG. I do like Guild Wars 2. I really do. And as any other fan, I know pretty much every single Fractal, every single Dungeon path, I always have a tab opened with a timer for the different world events and I always complain in map chat when I get a green item or a broken spoon.
Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns brings a ton of content. Seriously, this is a huge expansion. We have access now to four new maps in Magus Falls, to the west of Tarnished Coast. It is a jungle-themed region that only brings joy when exploring it. And ArenaNet did a fantastic job to prevent you from discovering all the new secrets on Day 1 by implementing masteries.
Masteries is a new form of horizontal progress. The level cap is still 80, but you can keep leveling. Why horizontal progress then? Well, you won’t get more HP or attributes. You will train different different aspects, divided in tracks, and each of them will earn you with different ways to traverse the world and interact with the environment. They are, experience-wise, super expensive, but they account bound. Unlock them for one character, and they’re unlocked for the rest of your toons.
The first one you should train -and the first one to be required by the new Heart of Thorns story-, is Gliding. Divided in 6 levels, you will gain access to the glider. It allows you to glide like a squirrel across the highest points of the Heart of Maguuma. You see, the maps are not just huge horizontally like in the vanilla game, they are also huge vertically. And trust me on this: once you start gliding, you will not want to stop. Gliding allows you to go to some cliff, jump down and glide through the map, discovering new areas otherwise out of reach. Leveling the Gliding track will improve your skill in such a way that you won’t need endurance to keep doing it, you will learn to glide silently, gain altitude using updrafts and even enter ley-line energy flows.
The second track is Itzel Lore. Here is where you learn to use bouncing mushrooms and the Itzel dialect, access to new vendors and events and how to ingest different mushrooms scattered around the jungle to improve your skills and moveset. While not as fun as gliding, this track is equally important, as it will be required as you slowly progress in the Heart of Thorns story. It will also be required by some specific events and hero point challenges.
The third and fourth track are out there for you to discover, as I won’t spoil any part of the fascinating story. Let me hype you just a little bit by telling you this: they are required to progress through the story. You will discover a civilization full of secrets, a huge city with some really challenging events, and new nodes and materials to gather and craft new items. You also have masteries tied to Tyria, where you can now earn new abilities like auto loot, revive fallen allies faster, craft precursors and further expand your fractal knowledge. Yes, precursor crafting is finally here, but don’t think this is an easy task. A long journey awaits for those who want to craft a precursor. A journey that includes pretty much everything you can do in Tyria, but pretty much worth it if you decide to enjoy it instead of rush it.
Some of the complains many people had at launch was that four maps is not enough for an expansion, but they’re big, really, really big and multi-layered. You will need to also complete several, and I mean SEVERAL events to unlock the masteries required to fully explore the map. Hero Points are also way more challenging than before, and now we have Adventures.
Adventures are a new and challenging feature in Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns. They are indicated on the map, and they may be locked in the game world due to failed or current events. Every adventure is performance-based, repeatable and feature leaderboards for friends and guild members, allowing players to compete with each other for the best scores and/or times. Some of them involve time or survival constraints, rewarding practiced movement and planned strategies in 3 tiers: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. They are really different and refreshing, with tasks like burning tendrils, gliding to collect bugs, we have a shooting gallery, a salvage pit, and even some real life games references like Hot lava.
All four maps are for level 80 players, so you won’t find Renown Hearts here. Each map is full of public events and they follow the successful trend of other maps such as Silverwastes: many, many public and multiple stage events that scale based on the number of people who participate ultimately leading into a map-wide meta event. These meta events are really hard and the whole map must be organized to beat it. They require skillful execution of your new masteries and interactions with npcs to acquire new temporary armor and weapons (you even need to win an auction for your shiny armor!).
Guild Wars 2 has been known for its different approach to the genre, and Heart of Thorns is a natural extension that uses most of the good bits that ArenaNet found in the last few years of updates. You don’t want to solo the new content. Far from that, you are glad to see new players coming to help you. Gathering resources around the map is not a competitive thing, is a collaborative task. Map events and world bosses are a common threat to all players, and everyone is rewarded for beating them. This fantastic approach created one of the most friendly communities around, where you rarely see a toxic player. And as always, a wave of new content only enhances this. Unfortunately, there is little to talk about the new global events. Just like Triple Trouble once was, they are really hard and only practice and time will tell how balanced the rewards are.
All mentioned above alone is worth an expansion, but there is more. Much more (and it’s impossible to cover everything), but there is something specially important: a new class, the Revenant, and elite specializations.
Revenants are highly in tune with the magical protoreality of the Mists, giving them the ability to summon legendary figures and make use of their powers. You can channel assassin Shiro Tagachi (this alone is worth the expansion, seriously), centaur Ventari, Mallyx The Unyielding, Jaris Ironhammer and dragon Glint. Unlike other professions, the legend you equip determines skills 6 through 10 on your skillbar, and revenant skills and abilities cost energy to use or maintain. As soldiers, revenants wear heavy armor.
Elite specializations are available for all 9 professions. This is a new trait line that lets each profession wield a new weapon type and utilize a new mechanic. For instance, Warriors can now be Berserkers. Their new mechanic allows them to use Primal skills, and a new weapon: the torch. (I know, not the most expected weapon, but still fun to use as a warrior). You will need to earn several Hero Points in order to fully unlock the specialization, and they are character bound. If you want to be a Herald with your Revenant, or a Chronomancer with your Mesmer, you will need to earn it. This is the least alt-friendly addition to the expansion, but the new skills and mechanics are well worth it. All of them are very, very different, but they are still true to the profession’s nature. Warriors are still damage dealers, Guardians -as Dragonhunters- have access to all sort of boons, Rangers can now become Druids and get access to all several support skills, etc. They further enhance the profession, and they all are worth earning it.
It is impossible to cover in just one week everything that Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns brings to the table, and that alone is a huge compliment. I already stated I’m a huge fan of the series, and as such, I feel entitled to say that this new expansion is well worth acquiring it. I get pretty much upset when I see some balance tweak I don’t agree with, but from an objective point of view, I have nothing to complain about this new expansion. There are many, many things I can’t cover without turning this into a wall of text, but between the story (if you have been playing vanilla Guild Wars 2, you know the plot. I won’t spoil anything), a new PvP mode: Stronghold, the reworked Fractals, the adventures, masteries, the promise of Raids and everything else, it is easy to say that Guild Wars 2, one of the best MMORPGs out there, got even better.