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

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