Guild Wars 2: Heart Of Thorns
The communities surrounding online games are an infamously rambunctious lot. Put out a Collector’s Edition with all the trimmings part way through the life of your persistent world and you could find an army of longterm fans at the gates, wondering where exactly their new emotes have got to.
This very scenario unfolded almost simultaneously for two conceptually similar games in June. Bungie went first, its pricing strategy for Destiny: The Taken King sending fans into a frenzy when, speaking at E3, the expansion’s creative director seemed to goad players into throwing money at the game rather than try to persuade them of its worth. Back in Bellevue, Washington – the city Bungie also calls home – Guild Wars 2 developer ArenaNet had an almost identical problem. The PC MMOG’s first major expansion, Heart Of Thorns, had just been priced up for pre- purchase and suddenly the most dedicated parts of the playerbase were far from happy.
ArenaNet reacted almost instantly. Within days, it had offered refunds to those who had found the pricing system confusing and erroneously purchased the base game thinking that it would be necessary to upgrade to the expansion (the base game is included). It also promised to gift veterans the character slots that were originally only available to players forking out for Heart Of Thorns’ Ultimate Edition and all its tempting extras. ArenaNet, then, clearly listens to what its most ardent fans are saying when it comes to its business model. Likewise, it took just a day to rejig the game’s in-game currency to align more readily with player expectations after a patch last year. Look a little deeper, and it becomes apparent that the team is actively
pushing its community into making its mark on Guild Wars 2’ s game world, too.
About a year ago, the game’s living story, which revolves around an episodic mission structure, updated fortnightly, took players through a steadily escalating series of events that culminated in the utter destruction of the game world’s largest city hub. Guild Wars
2’ s equivalent of Destiny’s Tower, Lion’s Arch, was demolished during a terrorist attack by an antagonist called Scarlet Briar. Players logged in to see refugees of the city being ushered outside (often by other players in limited-time dynamic events), and mull over the obliteration of once-familiar shop frontages they had perused so often.
The reason for this destruction, beyond the emotional impact of seeing your favourite auction house merchant booted out, has only just become clear. Recently, ArenaNet sent emails to all account holders asking for their input into the city’s rebuilding efforts. Which monuments should be constructed and in whose memory? How should this area look? Should certain districts be left as they were, or should the studio take this opportunity to improve upon its traditional designs?
By late June, players were able to log in and see the new-look Lion’s Arch for themselves, with the elements, buildings and imposing central plateau that they had voted for and contributed towards. What they got was a city they felt they could own. Even World
Of Warcraft, which pioneered much of the MMOG genre and actively introduced player- owned garrisons as a mechanic in its Warlords
Of Draenor expansion, couldn’t give its players as keen a sense of ownership over its world. It’s an eternal problem for the MMOG, but ArenaNet has proved that all it takes to solve is to give the community a voice and to listen.
And ownership of your own slice of Tyria is about to be taken even further. With Heart
Of Thorns, you’ll be able to join up with your guild members to push into a new area, the Maguuma Jungle, and capture a piece of it to function as your own Guild Hall. You will also be able to band together with fellow players to aid in the construction of Guild Hall features, such as taverns, workshops and war rooms. When you step outside, though, an unlockable glider is available to carry you among the boughs and ruins of this towering, layered tropical zone, furthering your search for Mastery orbs to spend on abilities beyond level 80, including upgrades to that glider.
While that level cap won’t be seeing an increase (ArenaNet never has been a fan of assigning ever-larger numbers to progression, capping the original Guild Wars at level 20 and not once upping it in a decade-long span), you’ll still have a chance to further grow your characters beyond its ceiling. A new elite class system, which sees existing types such as Elementalist and Ranger evolve into forms such as Tempest and Druid, ensures veterans and newcomers alike will have something to aim for. Longtime adherents needn’t feel that the work they’ve put in has been undermined, while newcomers will have exciting paths to aim for when starting from scratch.
Destiny’s biggest achievement is bringing MMOG paradigms into the mainstream, but the community-facing problems that Bungie has encountered along the way are hardly new. These are problems that Guild Wars 2 and its first major expansion are ably proving solvable, simply by putting the player’s wants and needs before the bottom line.
An unlockable glider is ready to carry you among the boughs of this towering zone
BELOW LEFT The Revenant profession allows players to activate a set of abilities that harness the spirits of long-dead Tyrian heroes. Best scrub up on the lore
Publisher NCSOFT Developer ArenaNet Format PC Origin US Release 2015
ABOVE CENTRE This dragon can only be reached safely by using a new Mastery, the ability to glide, which is unlocked through play in the game’s newest area.
ABOVE Veteran players will be happy to learn that the precursor weapons needed to build Guild Wars 2’ s infamously hard-to-craft Legendary weapons are now craftable themselves.
ArenaNet has expanded the
GuildWars2 cast over the course of the past two years, letting you form an almost traditional JRPG-style gaggle of NPCs for story missions
The PVP offering is being boosted with an additional mode, Stronghold, a lanebased battle for territory which feels as MOBA-esque in play as it looks on paper