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ArenaNet

Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns seeks to redefine MMO endgame progression

Mar 03 // Chris Carter
Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns (PC)Developer: ArenaNetPublisher: NCsoftReleased: TBA 2015MSRP: TBA At ArenaNet's offices last week, I had the chance to get some hands-on time with the expansion, and I'm pleased with what I've seen so far. There's an all-new zone, a new "Masteries" leveling system, the Revenant class, and another PVP mode titled "Stronghold." The heart and soul of the expansion is the Maguuma Jungle, an area that picks up mere "days" after the story in the original game. For those who aren't caught up, all of the combined armies in the land took off via airships to chase down the Elder Dragon Mordremoth, and the expedition ended in flames -- literally. The jungle came to life and tore the fleet apart, leaving most for dead. You'll start the Heart of Thorns content right after that, provided you have a level 80 character. Yep, you'll need to be max level to stand a chance in the new zone. Masteries are the new way ArenaNet is tackling progression, because there will not be a level cap increase. Instead, players will earn Mastery Points, which they can put into skills like additional creature languages, or more mobile skills like gliding or mushroom riding. For instance, I earned my first point at the start of the demo, and gained the power to use mushrooms as bounce pads to leap to new areas. Later on the tree may evolve to allow me to eat said mushrooms to gain a boost in speed, and so on. ArenaNet co-founder and president Mike O'Brien states that this is the ideal way to tackle an expansion, because typically in MMOs you'll leave way too much behind. He elaborates on the concept, stating, "With a new level cap, you'll instantly find new gear and items to replace. Saying goodbye to the old and in with the new can be great, but players are often attached to their old conquests. We didn't want to invalidate that, so I'm really excited about Masteries. It pertains to jungle-specific progression, but you can still go back to the old world and have fun." Masteries can be equipped to level them up individually, so if you're keen on becoming a better glider while roaming about the world, you can do that. Right now I'm excited for the concept, but I didn't see enough Masteries to convince me they will stay interesting for the long haul. When confronted about this, O'Brien noted that more Masteries will be added over time, which is great news. You'll need those new powers to get around in the jungle, because based on the demo, the difficulty has been ramped up. According to O'Brien, the jungle is "really vertical, and not like any other area in the game. With the vertical setup we really have a way to build it unlike any zone before, allowing players to get into the depths of the game world into more frightening areas." Lead designer Colin Johanson commented on the enhanced difficulty, stating, "playing with others is supposed to be fun. We're doubling down on that challenge in Heart of Thorns." I was able to see that in action with a wyvern mini-boss fight at the end of the demo, which required a decent amount of strategy and dodging typically not seen in other world events. I was able to tackle that challenge head-on with the new Revenant class, which is basically an undead warrior of sorts. Classic Guild Wars fans will be excited to know that according to O'Brien, the developer is excited to "bring back old lore and mechanics that we weren't previously able to add to Guild Wars 2." He goes on to say that "it's different than the other eight professions in more ways than one" -- a statement that I can definitely agree with. The Revenant has two different "states" -- one based on DPS (Demon), and the other, more tanky (Dwarf). You can instantly switch between them with a mouse click (or F1), which you'll need to do to maintain its energy levels to power its skills. The kicker? Both states do not share cooldowns, and it has two heals between them. It was a rush to switch to the tank and lay down a buff shaped like a spiritual pathway, then switch back to lay down some damage. Aesthetically, the profession looks unlike anything else in the game, with a very cool demonic feel complete with mist effects and a badass headband that extends over your eyes. It's easily my favorite class so far, and I will be leveling one as soon as Heart of Thorns hits. To alleviate any concerns, I do feel like the class is balanced -- and this is before users even give their feedback. Right now Revenants are scheduled to use the hammer, mace, and axe weapon types -- but Rytlock (an NPC) is wielding a sword, so we'll see. PVP is also getting a lot more enticing in my mind with Stronghold. To be blunt, over time I lost interest in the massive World vs. World scheme in the original Guild Wars 2. It just became too much to keep track of, and often times I'd be running around without a skirmish in sight for up to 10 minutes. It wasn't action-packed enough, and Stronghold will fix that issue. In short, it's a MOBA-like experience that aims to be 10-15 minutes in length. There are two teams that each have a lane with troops to go down, and a base at the end with a "Lord" to protect, who is behind two doors. If one team's Lord dies, it's game over. To facilitate your attack, you can embed yourself in random map events like the acquisition of a hero character (which buffs you while you're in proximity to them), or grabbing "supply" materials to create archer or doorbreaker units. Archers will help clear out the path to each door, and doorbreakers actually bust them down. Of course, players can attack either of them, and you'll definitely want to do so for the latter to prevent your Lord from becoming vulnerable. Because of the way it's set up, there's action at every turn. Whether it's battling over supply or doing some actual laning work, the map is small enough where you'll always find someone to fight. I'm sold. ArenaNet isn't done revealing what Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns will entail, but that's the gist of what you can expect. If you're interested in getting some hands-on time, the expansion will be available to play at PAX East. ArenaNet is also planning a number of different beta events just like the core game, so you'll have plenty of chances to try before you buy. [Both lunch and dinner were provided at the event in ArenaNet's offices in Bellevue, Washington.]
GW 2 expansion preview photo
No new level cap, just 'Masteries'
Guild Wars 2 is an ambitious project. While ArenaNet's initial offering of Guild Wars was more of a social dungeon crawler than an MMO (the company called it a CORPG, or competitive online role-playing game), the se...

Guild Wars 2 photo
Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2 adding first-person mode


Eat your heart out GTA
Feb 26
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Typically, MMOs are third-person affairs and for good reason. Whenever you find yourself in any dangerous persistent world, you want a good idea of what's around you to have the best possible view of the battlefield. Well, so...
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I've needed this for a while
Guild Wars 2 is a pretty great MMO. It's buy-to-play, which means you have to purchase the initial package first, then there's no subscription fees or nasty progression-hindering microtransactions. You buy the game, and...

Cheap Guild Wars photo
Cheap Guild Wars

At $10, yeah, Guild Wars 2 is worth playing


Your next MMO?
Jan 23
// Jordan Devore
As a casual MMO player, I've always liked the Guild Wars series -- no monthly subscription fits my lifestyle, you know? I don't have to feel guilty about wasting money by not playing "enough," whatever that is. If you're of a...
Free Guild Wars 2 photo
Free Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2 is throwing a free trial week soon


September 25 - October 1
Sep 23
// Jordan Devore
On Thursday, ArenaNet will kick off a week-long trial for Guild Wars 2. You'll be able to play the MMORPG for free from 12:00am Pacific on September 25 until 11:59pm Pacific on October 1. Trial accounts can be opened ahead of...
Guild Wars sales photo
Guild Wars sales

China really likes Guild Wars 2


China DO care, to the tune of almost 4 million
Jul 08
// Steven Hansen
Guild Wars 2's Chinese publisher had the MMO at 760,000 players on launch day. Two months later, it's reporting 3.8 million Chinese players. Guild Wars 2's first year sales, before the Chinese launch, were at 3.5 million, so total sales are at least over 7 million.  Not bad, not bad.  [Via NeoGAF]
Guild Wars 2 photo
Guild Wars 2

NCSoft giving away 5,000 copies of Guild Wars 2


Just pledge your allegiance for a chance to win
Nov 30
// Wesley Ruscher
In one of the more spirited giveaways I've seen in recent years, NCSoft and ArenaNet are giving away 5,000 copies of Guild Wars 2 to folks willing to pledge their undying loyalty to the game on camera.  For a chance to ...
MMO deals photo
MMO deals

Get Guild Wars 2 for $30 or World of Warcraft for $5


MMO sales for the holidays!
Nov 27
// Joshua Derocher
If you have been looking to get into World of Warcraft or Guild Wars 2, here is your chance to get them for cheap. Battle.net just launched its black friday sales, with World of Warcraft for $4.99 and Mists of Pandaria for $9...
Guild Wars photo
Guild Wars

Play Guild Wars 2 for free next weekend


Fastest-selling Western MMO, according to developer
Aug 16
// Jordan Devore
With the one-year anniversary for Guild Wars 2 rapidly approaching, ArenaNet has plans to host a free trial weekend soon. That'll kick off on Friday, August 23 at 12:01am Pacific and carry through Sunday, August 25 at 11:59pm...
Guild Wars photo
Guild Wars

Original Guild Wars isn't shutting down anytime soon


ArenaNet wants to support passionate player base
Jul 16
// Jordan Devore
While I have only the vaguest memories of playing Guild Wars, it was one of the rare few MMORPGs to grab hold of me and obliterate whole summers. What I do recall is a general feeling of nostalgia, though I'm sure it would be...
Guild Wars 2 photo
Guild Wars 2

Bazaar of the Fours Winds content live for Guild Wars 2


How Bazaar! How Bazaar!
Jul 14
// Jason Cabral
Time to dust off that Tyrian merchant hat and polish up all of your excess junk that you don't want -- I mean, quality product that you would hate to part with -- because the Bazaar of the Four Winds content for Guild Wars 2 ...
Guild Wars 2 photo
Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2 sheds a little off its price


Every bit helps
May 21
// Jordan Devore
Despite not playing as much Guild Wars 2 as I'd like to, that's okay -- it's not costing me anything. I can continue not playing free of guilt, which is the only way I can do MMO gaming any more, I've realized. ArenaNet has k...
Guild Wars 2 photo
Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2 April Fools' Day gag becomes a real game


Rytlock's Critter Rampage
Apr 19
// Jordan Devore
For April Fools' Day, ArenaNet devised Guild Wars 2's Super Adventure Box update that went into the actual game as content folks could play. Part of the joke involved a commercial which briefly featured a kid p...
Guild Wars 2 photo
Guild Wars 2

A 'Looking for Group' tool is coming to Guild Wars 2


MMO standard coming later in 2013
Apr 10
// Chris Carter
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Guild Wars 2 photo
Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2 goes old-school with Super Adventure Box


April Fools' Day done right
Apr 01
// Jordan Devore
There are some companies who can make coming up with great April Fools' Day jokes look effortless and ArenaNet has secured itself on my personal list with Super Adventure Box, an update for Guild Wars 2. Watch the commercial...
No Guild Wars 2 expansion photo
No Guild Wars 2 expansion

There are no Guild Wars 2 expansions in the works


ArenaNet confirms focus on Guild Wars 2
Mar 05
// Chris Carter
Speaking to IGN, Guild Wars 2 director Colin Johanson stated that there are no expansions planned for the game at the current moment. While they haven't completely ruled any out, don't expect any soon. Johanson states, "expan...
Guild Wars 2 tournaments photo
Guild Wars 2 tournaments

Guild Wars 2 removing paid tournaments


Free fighting for everyone!
Feb 25
// Joshua Derocher
With the recent introduction of a ranked matching system, ArenaNet has decided to drop the current system in Guild Wars 2 of paying to participate in high-level player-versus-player matches. The earlier system -- ch...
Guild Wars 2 sale photo
Guild Wars 2 sale

ArenaNet's sale for Guild Wars 2 ends today


$39.99 for the non-subscription based game
Feb 25
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If you've been on the fence in regards to checking out Guild Wars 2, now is a good time to take the plunge, as the digital and collector's editions are on sale for $39.99 and $54.99 respectively. Buying the game will grant yo...
Guilds in Guild Wars 2 photo
Guilds in Guild Wars 2

Chicken races? Guild Wars 2 gets guild missions next week


Get the band back together
Feb 22
// Jordan Devore
ArenaNet has shared a look at a new aspect of Guild Wars 2 called guild missions. "Our team’s primary goal was to create a solid foundation to support PvE guild play," writes content designer Leah Rivera. "We wanted t...
Guild Wars 2 PVP photo
Guild Wars 2 PVP

Guild Wars 2 introduces the Spirit Watch PVP map


Bring out your Norns
Feb 18
// Chris Carter
ArenaNet has a new video out showcasing their new Norn-themed PVP map for Guild Wars 2, Spirit Watch. It promises huge idyllic vistas, crystal clear waters, and of course, deadly combat. The map will combine conquest g...
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Guild Wars 2 adjusting how dynamic levels work


More challenge and better rewards for all
Feb 04
// Joshua Derocher
Guild Wars 2 has a system in place that allows higher-level characters to revisit low-level zones. The player's level is scaled down to match the zone, so they can still get the same challenge. This means they don't...
Flame and Frost: Prelude photo
Flame and Frost: Prelude

Guild Wars 2 gets 'Flame and Frost: Prelude' this month


Prologue to 'multi-stage narrative'
Jan 22
// Jordan Devore
A new update for Guild Wars 2 dubbed "Flame and Frost: Prelude" will roll out on January 28, adding a variety of features and setting up what ArenaNet has called a "multi-stage narrative" planned for the MMO this year. Going ...
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Guild Wars 2 boasts 3 million in sales


Explore Tyria with company
Jan 15
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Guild Wars 2 had a pretty tall order to fill when it was released. It sought to change up the MMO formula once and for all, and despite the fact that I wasn't a fan of the original Guild Wars, I think it succeeded in spades. ...
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'The Lost Shores' Guild Wars 2 event starts this week


Plus a free trial weekend
Nov 12
// Jordan Devore
It's another big month for Guild Wars 2 as ArenaNet prepares to kick off a one-time world event for the game dubbed "The Lost Shores." The official site offers a glimpse at this new storyline, which will begin at 12:00pm Paci...
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Guild Wars 2: Shadow of the Mad King starts today


Update celebrates Halloween
Oct 22
// Jordan Devore
If you've been neglecting Guild Wars 2 as I regrettably have, the latest content update should offer plenty of incentive for you to clear some time for ArenaNet's Halloween festivities. Shadow of the Mad King begins today wit...
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Paid tournaments, custom arenas next for Guild Wars 2 PvP


Oct 09
// Jordan Devore
In a blog post, Guild Wars 2 systems designer Jonathan Sharp has written at length about the future of the game's structured player versus player. In short, the team at ArenaNet has a lot in mind -- particularly when it comes...
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Unboxing the four-disc Guild Wars 2 soundtrack


Sep 28
// Jayson Napolitano
After showing off composer Jeremy Soule's amazing 4-disc soundtrack for Skyrim earlier this year, I thought I'd extend the same treatment to the recently released Guild Wars 2 Original Game Soundtrack. We featured a review o...
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Guild Wars 2 Mac beta client now available


Both versions will get simultaneous updates
Sep 18
// Jordan Devore
Upon seeing that Guild Wars 2 was getting a Mac version, I had to rub my eyes and look again. Turns out I read it correctly the first time -- the game is available for Mac OS X (Lion and Mountain Lion) right now. It'll be pla...
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Laugh and/or cry at this Godawful Guild Wars 2 trailer


Worst live-action trailer ever?
Sep 11
// Jim Sterling
ArenaNet is currently being laughed at throughout the Internet for releasing one of the silliest live-action trailers ever conceived. Such things are usually bad, but you'd have to work damn hard to come up with something mo...
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You can now buy Guild Wars 2 from ArenaNet again


First-party sales of the MMO repopen
Sep 10
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On August 30, ArenaNet ceased its sales of Guild Wars 2 and restocking of retail inventories as a measure to "ensure that players who bought the game would continue to have the best online experience possible." We knew people...

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