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Playing Heart of Thorns is Like Coming Home

William Murphy Posted:
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The Masteries

Upon completing the initial story quest and getting into the world itself, the demo granted us with two Mastery points to spend. Right near the bottom right of the UI by the end of your XP bar is a little Masteries button which brings up a (placeholder) UI where you can track your progress and spend earned points. The bummer? Most were locked and “shrouded by the mists” during the demo, but the Glider Basics and Mushroom Lore basics were both available so we popped points into each.  Doing so gives you the beginning ability to use your glider, but looking down the path shows that by spending more points you can fly longer, higher, do tricks and more. All of which plays into ArenaNet’s idea that the Glider itself will be something that needs advancing in order to fully explore all the reaches of Maguuma. 

As for the Mushrooms? I put the point into them, and they’re supposed to be all over Maguuma to jump off of and use for different modes of transportation, but our area of Maguuma was really small and I didn’t run across one.

What’s interesting to me is that the UI for the Masteries (while not complete) shows a lot of room for growth. That “Pact Tyria” tab along the top is where the Precursor Mastery path is, along with others, and the Heart of Maguuma tab is where all the Maguuma content Masteries are. This leads one to believe that there will be many more tabs in time as the Masteries system is added onto. In fact, Jon Peters all but confirmed to me in our interview that this whole expansion is all about creating the new systems that will continue to grow Guild Wars 2 and its character progression for the foreseeable future.

Gliders are fun to use, but limited in the demo.

We only got a little taste of the system, but the Mastery Globes littered around the map in unreachable places seemed reminiscent of Vistas and Jumping Puzzles. The difference being that you’ll really want to reach these for more than a checkmark off of Map Completion or an RNG treasure chest.  And as though they were teasing us for what’s to come, the one and only mastery globe we could see on our small map was unreachable without some progression in the Glider or Mushroom mastery paths.

And yes, it sure felt like Zelda or Metroid where you know you’re going to come back and get it somehow at a later date.

Stronghold PVP

Oddly enough, this seemed to be the darling of the event, as everyone wanted to just keep playing more of the new Stronghold PVP map.  As John Corpening tells us in the interview, Stronghold is something they’ve long wanted to try with SPVP, and it’s definitely a way to take some of the intimidation factor off of direct competition in PVP. Players can spend entire portions of the game on defense killing the enemy minions that are sent out from the opposing base, or grabbing supply and sending out their own. Stronghold is like a gateway drug to what you will find in WvW, without having to roam about looking for a fight.

Gameplay of Stronghold with John Corpening Interview


Players on each team start off with 1 supply and can carry a maximum of two. In the middle of the map is a supply depot where the two teams will often come together and fight over getting more supply. You need supply because the ultimate goal of the game is to break down the gates of the enemy base and defeat their keep lord. How do you do that? You send out archers and door-breakers using the supply from your own base to march down the lane, break down the gates, and take out the enemy guards. It’s very much like a 2-lane MOBA, with the supply depot and two trebuchets serving as a sort of mini-jungle. You don’t need to farm creeps or gear up though, and matches last about 10 minutes with a max of 15 before time runs out and the winner is the team with the most points.

There are two trebs on the map two, one for each team, and frankly we didn’t use them much in our fights. But also frankly? We were all noobs with the map. Trebs could easily be used to knock out the team holding the supply depot, or even clearing the lane of archers and door-breakers being sent out by the enemy.  I jokingly told John Corpening that they should make the center of the supply depot destroyable once per match, with sharks and jellies waiting below the water underneath the spot. Could make the trebs much more sought after.

During my multiple matches (read: all wins) in Stronghold, several different strategies arose. Sometimes we went all turtle and just kept to defense while sending out door breakers when we could, thereby preventing our enemy from ever getting at our lord. Other times we went nuts unleashing tons of archers that the enemy just couldn’t defend against while we took out the doors and the keep lord. And yet, we also found that holding down the supply depot so the enemy couldn’t get any for themselves was just as viable. Even at an early stage Stronghold seems to have a lot of different tactics on hand, which is something that’s long been lacking in other PVP game modes.

Overall Thoughts

I’m impressed. Can’t you tell? 2,000 words later, two interviews, a full gameplay demo, and I could probably go on talking. It’s just a small taste of what’s to come from Heart of Thorns, with so many more questions left unanswered. It does feel like we’ve been waiting forever for this expansion to come, but if this first taste is anything to go by it’ll definitely be worth the wait.

Be sure to check out our video interviews with Jon and Corp, as well as our full uncut gameplay of the demo. We’ll have more Heart of Thorns coverage this week from PAX, so stay tuned.

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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.