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Five Things We Love About Heart of Thorns

William Murphy Posted:
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With Heart of Thorns now over a week old, and our review currently in progress, we wanted to spend this week pining over the things we really appreciate in ArenaNet’s first Guild Wars 2 expansion. Next week we’ll tally up a few aggravations, but for now let’s give credit where credit is due.  There have definitely been some divisive aspects to the expansion, but with the recent changes to Hero Point requirements on Elite Specs, it appears some of that clamor is dying down.  Of course, there are always things we’d approve, which we’ll get to later, but here then are five things we love about Heart of Thorns.

5.) Scrappers or Hammer-neers

Seriously, this is Bill writing this List folks. How could I not at least reserve one spot for my Scrapper? This could be a nod to all the Elites, but frankly, I haven’t played enough of them to know if they’re all as enjoyable and useful at the Scrapper. My Dragonhunter (Guardian) seems to be really powerful with his traps, but I’m still plugging along on my Scrapper because combined with the new Action-Camera (see next entry), it makes combat on the profession extremely fun and satisfying. The Hammer should have always been a weapon for the Engineer, but now I’m happy to have a whole new elite specialization to chase along with it.

4.) The Action Camera

There was an unofficial add-on for Guild Wars 2 that did what this little menu option does, only now it seems ArenaNet have gone and made it even better. If you’re a fan of the kind of combat targeting TERA, Blade & Soul, The Secret World and now WildStar offer, you’ll want to at least try this out. PVP folks will tell you it puts you at a disadvantage, since it screws with the traditional tab targeting and auto-facing action… but who cares when it’s this much fun? Combine this, along with auto-firing ground target skills and you’ve got one hell of an awesome Grenade wielding Scrapper, I’ll tell you that much.

3.) Masteries in General

This is still a contentious topic, as some folks don’t like the insane amount of XP these new horizontal progression paths take to achieve. Over a million XP for a low rank may seem steep… until you realize that these Masteries are account wide.  Suddenly, when this hit me, I realized that we’re not supposed to grind them all to max in a week. They’re something we’re supposed to work towards across all characters, and in time ArenaNet will add more and the wheel will keep spinning. Now that they’ve removed the Rank 4 of one Mastery to progress the story, I truly see nothing wrong with making these take some effort and yes, repetition of content. It’s an MMO. We’ve all been repeating content since 1998. By the time you go through with a 2nd or 3rd character, some of the busy work to progress the story and traverse the jungle will already be done for you too.

2.) The Verticality of Maps

While I could bemoan the fact that ArenaNet didn’t put nearly enough waypoints in Maguuma (seriously guys, add more) I’m more than happy to report that these maps are the most joyful to explore since the original game launched. Do I miss the wide open plains and snowy mountaintops? Of course, and I’m sure one day we’ll make it back there too. But when we do, I’d expect ArenaNet to bring with them all the lessons learned from making some of the most winding and interesting zones in MMO memory with Maguuma.

1.) The Story

Guild Wars 2’s original story, and even Living World Season 1, was a bit of a punching bag for fans and critics alike. When LWS2 came around, ArenaNet’s lore team clearly hit their stride, and now with Heart of Thorns we’re vine-deep in some truly heady and personal stuff. There’s a moment early on in the story for HoT where pretty much any Guild Wars 2 fan will be taken aback. And it only gets better from there. This, plus the fact that the tech team figured out how to let our characters talk without vignettes means a whole lot more immersion from that point of view.

And yes, there’s a lot of Taimi. Because the world needs it, nay… demands it.

So, how about you? What are you loving or hating about Heart of Thorns so far?


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.