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Returning to Tyria with Heart of Thorns at PAX East

Michael Bitton Posted:
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It’s been a long, long time since I’ve set foot in Tyria. I haven’t played Guild Wars 2 since a couple of months after the game’s launch in 2012, but I’ve been meaning to check out all the improvements and additions made since then for some time now.

Fortunately, ArenaNet was showing off the upcoming expansion, Heart of Thorns, at this year’s PAX East, and I can’t really think of a better way to re-introduce myself to the game than to check out the latest and greatest ArenaNet has to offer. While it was tempting to jump into the demo as one of my favorite vanilla Guild Wars 2 classes, I was immediately sold on checking out the all-new Revenant class when I caught a glimpse of its snazzy looking blindfold in character creation.

From what I understand, the story picks up right where the season 2 finale of Guild Wars 2’s Living Story content left off.  The pact fleet has ventured into the Maguuma jungle to destroy Mordremoth, but the tables turn once Mordremoth takes control of the sylvari aboard their airships, who then turn on their allies and destroy the fleet. With the wreckage of the battle strewn throughout the jungle, the player is sent down with his compatriots to investigate the situation and put together a counter-assault.

The fact that some of the sylvari just turned on their allies is likely to be a significant point of contention throughout the story of Heart of Thorns, and our demo wasted no time in bringing this to the forefront. One of the very first people you meet on the ground is a pact commander – who happens to also be sylvari. Can the sylvari be trusted? Some of the soldiers on the ground aren’t too sure. It’s here that you make your first story decision of the expansion.  The sylvari commander is looking for help in rescuing some captive soldiers. You can choose to go along with him or join up with the soldiers who aren’t too keen on trusting the sylvari. I chose to help the commander and I was only able to play the demo a single time, so I’m not sure how it all plays out if you decide not to go with him, but I’m already digging the racial tension this terrible scenario has created. I’m particularly curious at how the story plays out for player characters who are sylvari themselves.

After rescuing the soldiers, I was dropped out into a new area that does well to showcase the chaos caused by the events of the expansion’s story. This was also a great opportunity to sample ArenaNet’s approach to dynamic event content in Heart of Thorns via the outpost system. Instead of having events scattered around the zone that may or may not be related, Heart of Thorns is concentrating groups of events into outposts that all fit together within the same context to tell a cohesive story. Initially, I found myself on a ridge with sniper rifles I could pick up to shoot at larger enemies assaulting players and NPCs below.

As I worked my way down, I was tasked with gathering explosives to clear vines that were blocking choppers from escaping the area. Once the vines were cleared, I was able to make my way to the final section of the demo – a fight with a massive fire breathing wyvern. As I had only been playing for about 20 or so minutes at this point, I wasn’t fully acclimated to playing the game yet and the visual noise from all the fire as well as the massive displacing AOE attacks threw me for a bit of a loop. Needless to say, I died quite a bit. The players around me didn’t seem to be faring any better and I ran out of time before I could find out what happens after the fight.

That about wraps up the story bits we were able to see during our demo. But what about the Revenant? The class is interesting to say the least. It’s a heavy armor wearing soldier class that taps into the power of the Mists to gain the abilities of notable legends from the past. Currently, only two of these figures (or stances) have been revealed: the stance of dwarf king Jalis Ironhammer and the stance of demon Mallyx the Unyielding. The dwarf stance is more of a tough close combat stance while the demon stance offers a unique gameplay dynamic by feeding off of conditions applied to your character. 

Your stances govern your non-weapon skills, meaning your heal, utility, and elite skills, and these skills are on separate cooldowns per stance. This means stance dancing between different legends will allow you to use many more skills than you would typically be able to. Sounds overpowered, right? Well, these abilities are all governed by an energy resource, so while there are potent combos that can be put in play, you’ll want to keep an eye on how you manage your energy regeneration.  On a basic level, it all works similarly to the Elementalist, even down to the fact that Revenants cannot weapon swap.

I mostly stuck to the Mallyx stance while playing because it just looked wicked along with my black armor and massive hammer. I also harbor an unhealthy hatred for dwarves, so I wasn’t eager to mess around too much with any of that stuff. The Mallyx stance is just plain more interesting, too. Its heal is powered by the amount of conditions on you and it can also gain damage resistance by absorbing conditions from nearby allies. Drawing in a bunch of conditions, toughening up, healing yourself, and then using the Mallyx stance elite skill ‘Embrace the Darkness’ will transform you into a sick looking demon that spreads those same conditions to nearby enemies. I’ve always enjoyed interacting with conditions, particularly in Guild Wars 2, which is why I tend to lean towards the Mesmer and the Necromancer in the vanilla game, so I can see myself playing with Mallyx stance quite a bit once the game goes live.

At this point, there are only a couple of things that are keeping me from falling completely in love with the Revenant class – and that’s simply the lack of information on what else the class has to offer. What other stances can we look forward to? What will the Revenant’s specialization be? Will the Revenant be able to wield a two handed greatsword (please, please, please!)? That last bit is probably most important for me. 

How excited are you (if at all) for Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns? Share your thoughts with us below!


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB