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Unpacking the Heart of Thorns Announcement

Som Pourfarzaneh Posted:
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We’ve been waiting a good long while for any peep about a full-fledged expansion for Guild Wars 2ArenaNet’s flagship has seen a host of Living World updates, gameplay and feature additions, and balance tweaks, but the promise of a canonical expansion has been elusive.  Just last month, I wrote about some alternatives to GW2’s Living World, with an expansion being the obvious choice to drive the post-launch game forward and create a new revenue stream.

As confirmed at last weekend’s PAX South in San Antonio, ArenaNet is indeed working on the first official expansion for Guild Wars 2, Heart of Thorns.  For most of us still playing GW2, it’s a welcome announcement and long overdue, even considering the unprecedented amount of Living World updates that the development team has been cranking out since launch.  Heart of Thorns looks to be quite the doozy of an expansion as well, with heaps of gameplay and content updates to boot.

New Gameplay Features

Most speculation around a potential expansion for Guild Wars 2 before last weekend’s announcement would likely have involved a new class, race, or both, and the former is definitely going to be on offer in Heart of Thorns with the Revenant.  GW2’s first new profession looks like a heavy armor-wearing, sword-wielding, teleporting name-taker whose blindfolded getup begs the comparison to the Mortal Kombat series’ Kenshi.  Like most of the bullet points on Heart of Thorns’ announcement list, we’ll have to wait and see how the Revenant plays to know more about how the profession will fit in with the other classes, but the trailer definitely shows it off in a very positive light.

For existing professions, we’ll be looking at new weapons, Specializations, and importantly, a new max-level Mastery system.  These new features are probably the most sought-after enhancements to Guild Wars 2’s gameplay, as they’ll open up a new dimension for each class and give us a different kind of character progression to work with at level 80.  I like GW2’s combat, but am of the mind that more variety could go a long way towards making each class’ gameplay refreshing, and the new weapons and Specializations seem like something to look forward to in that respect.  Additionally, talk has abounded regarding the level 80 experience for some time, and about how the collection of skill points doesn’t quite cut it as an alternate advancement system.  Mastery seeks to fill that void, and its account-wide nature could provide for some interesting opportunities for us alt-oholics.

Along with the Revenant, new weapons, Specializations, and the Mastery system, we’ll also be getting updates to Legendaries, and hopefully, new loot and Black Lion Trading Company items.  I can always use more things to spend gems on!

New Content

As expected, Heart of Thorns will launch with a new game region, replete with group content, events, bosses, and more.  The Elder Dragon Mordremoth and co. will take center stage in the Maguuma Jungle, which isn’t exactly the Cantha or Elona we’ve been waiting for, but looks spectacular and very vertical in the announcement trailer.  Maguuma will also be the site of the highly sought-after new Guild Halls, which will hopefully indicate the groundwork for some sort of player housing in the future.

PvP is going to see some major updates with Heart of Thorns, including a new Stronghold game mode and a new WvW Borderlands.  Stronghold looks to be a type of siege defense with the added feature of guild leaderboards, while the new Borderlands seems to be the biggest addition to WvW since the implementation of the Edge of the Mists.  We don’t have much more info than that on PvP and WvW just yet, but it’s a good sign that ArenaNet is thinking about the PvP community just as much as PvE.

Release, Price, and Other Items

No release date has been given for Heart of Thorns beyond the usual “when it’s ready,” which to me, is always a good response.  I’d much rather the devs take their time with it to make sure that it’s as polished and bug-free as possible when it launches, with all of the classes balanced for PvP and all of the content working as intended.

If I had to speculate, I’d say we should look to PAX East (where there will be a playable demo) for more info about the expansion and a possible beta schedule, with a launch in the summer, perhaps around GW2’s third anniversary.  As for price, I’d expect Heart of Thorns to release as a box and digital product at $39.99 or thereabouts, with a deluxe edition also available.

It should be said that there are a few items notably absent from ArenaNet’s announcement for Heart of Thorns, including new races, the aforementioned regions of Cantha and Elona, or any updates to crafting.  I’m not the only one who’s been wondering about the possibility of writing in Tengu and Dwarves as playable races for Guild Wars 2, and players have been clamoring for the addition of the iconic expansion regions from the original Guild Wars for quite some time.  Furthermore, I’m of the opinion that crafting needs a substantial rework to make it more fun and streamlined, but I suppose ArenaNet has bigger fish to fry with their first expansion.

Overall, I’d say that the Heart of Thorns announcement is a promising one for most if not all Guild Wars 2 players, particularly for the PvE, PvP, and Guild-oriented crowds.  Crafters and roleplayers will have to wait on future updates for revamps to crafting and any potential player housing, and mum’s still the word on new races and original GW regions, which would be instant crowd-pleasers.  Still, there looks to be a lot of punch packed into Heart of Thorns, and I’m looking forward to all of the additions that ArenaNet has planned for the game.

Keep your eyes on the site for more coverage on Heart of Thorns!  In the meantime, what are your thoughts on Guild Wars 2’s first expansion?


Som Pourfarzaneh

Som has been hanging out with the MMORPG.com crew since 2011, and is an Associate Director & Lecturer in Media, Anthropology, and Religious Studies. He’s a former Community Manager for Neverwinter, the free-to-play Dungeons & Dragons MMORPG from Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment, and is unreasonably good at Maze Craze for the Atari 2600. You can exchange puns and chat (European) football with him on Twitter @sominator.