by Jesse “Radiophage” Mackenzie
Alright, reports indicate that an NDA will soon be lifting for Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns, the first true expansion for GW2 since launch. Before we get hit with a barrage of news, information, and quaggans, it might be a good time to round up what we know.
NEW PROFESSION, PROFESSION SPECIALIZATIONS
On stage at PAX South, Guild Wars 2 game director Colin Johanson smiled when he spoke about the game’s imbalance of armour types—three light-armoured professions, three medium-armoured, but only two that wear heavy armour—and with a wink, he announced the new profession coming with Heart of Thorns: the Revenant.
The heavily-armoured revenant will channel the spirits of “legends” within the Guild Wars world, and the revenant’s healing, utility, and elite skills will change depending on who they have channeled. The spirit of King Jalis Ironhammer of the Dwarves will give different properties than the condition-damage powers of the demon Mallyx, according to Johanson.
Since PAX South, ArenaNet has revealed that the Revenant will be able to slot two legends at a time out of a pool of several, one active and one inactive, and that the Revenant’s skills will not have cooldowns and will instead use a special energy bar as a resource to manage. This mixes a few gameplay elements from other professions—specifically, elementalists (who attune to different elements to change their weapon skills) and thieves (who do not have cooldowns on their weapon skills, instead expending a resource called Initiative to cast them).
As well, each profession including the Revenant will receive at least one “specialization”, a sidegrade that will diversify the weapons you can use (important, as half of your skills at any given time are defined by your weapon) and change your healing, utility, and elite skills. Johanson gave the example of the ranger’s specialization into Druid, allowing use of the staff weapon. Teaser images have also showed Engineers with hammers, Mesmers with shields, and Johanson himself talked about necromancers with greatswords.
For more info on the Revenant, check out ArenaNet’s official post on the profession, as well as the partial list of traits posted to the game’s official wiki.
THE MASTERY SYSTEM
Staying true to Guild Wars 2’s firmly-established design principles, the level cap is not increasing, and there will be no new tiers of gear to acquire in Heart of Thorns. Instead, ArenaNet has devised the Mastery system.
The Mastery system is a group of PvE unlocks available to all max-level characters on your account. In a release posted to the game’s website following PAX South, ArenaNet revealed that the Mastery system will work similarly to the Reward Tracks already used by the game’s PvP mode. Essentially: once a character hits level 80, that character will stop gaining experience as normal and will be able to slot new Mastery tracks that their experience will be applied to instead. Examples include unlocking the ability to hang-glide, unlocking secret areas, and crafting precursors for legendary weapons.
On the stage at PAX South, Johanson and ArenaNet president Mike O’Brien repeatedly stated that the Mastery system will be a system of vertical progression that does not invalidate the work you’ve put into your characters.
NEW REGION: THE HEART OF MAGUUMA
Johanson announced a new set of zones for the game: the Heart of Maguuma. While its location in the game world hasn’t been confirmed yet, it will very likely be to the west of the current game’s area.
According to Johanson, the Heart of Maguuma will encompass “three distinct biomes”—the Canopy, Core, and Roots of Maguuma. Calling it “some of the richest, deepest experiences that we have ever built in Guild Wars 2”, Johanson hinted that the area will actually bring some closure to the story of the original Guild Wars, with players able to discover the legacy of the dragon Glint deep in the jungle’s heart.
NEW LEGENDARIES AND PRECURSOR CRAFTING
It wasn’t given much stage time at PAX South, but Johanson did reveal that with the Mastery system, players will be able to build out special collections that, if completed, will award them with precursor weapons—a key component in crafting the highest tier of weapons in the game, legendaries.
Prior to this, precursors were primarily available via an RNG system using the game’s Mystic Forge—putting possible ingredients for a precursor in the Forge wouldn’t always result in you getting one. And your only hope at a precursor was either the Forge, or buying one off of the trading post for an exorbitant price.
Precursor crafting may well bring numerous players back to the game, as the inability to acquire a precursor without heaps of either gold or RNG was a common complaint among players.
NEW WvW BORDERLAND MAP, GUILD VS. GUILD ARRIVES WITH NEW PVP GAME MODE
Heart of Thorns will also contain updates to the game’s PvP and WvW (mass PvP) game modes, as well as guild halls.
In PvP, we’ll see the Stronghold map enter the rotation. Competing in the Stronghold map will allow you to recruit allies and gather supplies for an eventual attack on the enemy team’s base, and an assault on their lord, MOBA-style. Guilds will be able to register “guild teams” for Stronghold that can compete against each other, with results posted to an in-game leaderboard. Check out ArenaNet’s official post for more details.
In World-vs.-World, a new Borderland map will enter the rotation of available maps. Calling it “one of the largest and deepest content experiences that you will find, period, in the game,” Johanson revealed that the map will feature multiple Keeps, each with their own abilities. The Earth Keep will be able to lift itself off the ground and defend itself, for example, while the Fire Keep will open up special fast-travel lava pools that can take you quickly across the map.
Finally, the much-requested guild halls are coming as well. According to Johanson, you will be able to “build and progress” your guild hall, as well as gather and host events there.
… AND EVERYTHING ELSE
Following PAX South, ArenaNet has been rolling out update after update about Heart of Thorns. First, director Colin Johanson confirmed that the current system of trait unlocks will be removed from the game. This is a big move for the player base, as the current system was the result of an unpopular change about halfway through last year.
Another huge move is the addition of a first person camera to the game. A first-person camera was in the game during its beta, but was removed prior to launch. Adding it back in will be a huge quality-of-life change for machinima makers, jumping puzzle fans, and anyone who likes looking at the game’s frankly gorgeous environments.
WHAT HEART OF THORNS DOESN’T HAVE (YET)
A new race. While players have been clamoring to play a new race—the tengu and largos races, in particular—we have so far seen zero indication that there will be a new playable race in Heart of Thorns.
Updates to the game’s eight dungeons have not yet been announced as part of Heart of Thorns. Dungeons have remained largely static since launch, with the exception of a new high-level path in the Twilight Arbor dungeon. Fractals have seen some additions with various elements of the Living Story releases being preserved as fractal levels and/or boss fights, and it looks like they’ll be receiving some Mastery-related content, but whether that translates to new fractal levels remains to be seen. By and large, it looks like players looking for new high-level PvE content will largely have to content themselves with exploring the new Heart of Maguuma zones.
A release date or pricing structure. In a cheeky aside, Johanson announced that Heart of Thorns will be released “when it’s ready”. Pricing information was not given at the event, but an update to a Guild Wars 2 FAQ page revealed that the expansion will indeed be buy-to-play, much like the main game.