Guild Wars 2: Heart Of Thorns, The first expansion unveiled - Games Weekly

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Guild Wars 2: Heart Of Thorns, The first expansion unveiled

Guild Wars 2 is doing something developer ArenaNet did not originally expect: receiving a full expansion to go along with its constant Living World updates.  Players are accustomed to receiving small content updates on a regular basis as the overarching story of the world progresses  via the Living World philosophy, but Heart  of Thorns will provide a glut of content in a single powerful punch.

This expansion includes a massive new area, a new advancement system for level capped characters and accounts, a new class, new profession options for all existing classes with completely new skills and abilities, new world PVP options, a new PVP battleground, and guild halls for players to embrace their communities.

The crux of content that players explore takes place in the Heart of Maguuma, a layered three-tier jungle area that challenges players to explore their environments in new ways. The story provides a lead in to the new area, full of dragons and an ongoing story arc all the way from the original Guild Wars. Players explore the zone on several levels, from the roots to the jungle floor to the canopy above. The new areas feature challenging group content alongside world events that have permanent impact, much like several of the massive Living World shifts that have occurred since release.

One of the keys to this expansion is character progression. Level-capped characters are able to continue developing through the use of mastery points, which are applied at the account level (so you won’t have to earn them over and over if you have multiple level 80 characters). Mastery points are designed to give you  specific advantages to tackle the new  content in the expansion, advancing your roster of level-capped characters in new and interesting ways. For instance, you can hang glide to discover previously inaccessible areas of the jungle, or to cut through the thick bark of tough enemies plaguing the zone. Outside of upgrades that only assist the player in expansion content, these masteries also help players in core game content, allowing them to build and equip legendary weapons.

And what would an expansion be without new classes? Not only does Heart of Thorns introduce a completely new core class with the Revenant a heavy armor archetype that allows companions to tread through the mist and grants protective boons but all of the existing classes have new specializations they can delve into at level 80. A ranger, for example, could opt to become a druid and learn a completely new set of skills. These new specializations can be swapped back and forth freely; you won’t lose your old class to start exploring a new one. While all the new specializations require a character to be level 80 to begin exploring, players can play immediately as the Revenant at level 1.

World-versus-World PVP combat is pushing out new incentives for players to hold onto captured territory, making retaining a keep more rewarding. New resources and boons are associated with this defense oriented push that should get players more interested in the value of their holdings. In the standard PVP area, a new kind of battle called Stronghold is offered a sort of small scale iteration of what we see on the World versus World front. Stronghold pits teams against each other in fortress based combat that involves one team succeeding with the siege of the opposing base and the dispatching of the NPC enemy guild lord.

Heart of Thorns also brings an oft-requested feature to Guild Wars 2 with the Guild Hall. These areas serve as social and community hubs, and while details are not available yet, you can imagine that many cool perks for guilds in terms of decoration, achievements, and other things are likely to be included.

While many more details are yet to come, players will have their first chance to play Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns at PAX East 2015. Seeing what any big expansion brings to a MMORPG is always interesting, and Heart of Thorns looks like a major milestone for Guild Wars 2.

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