Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns, Expanding to the jungle

It’s been two years since the launch of Guild Wars 2 . The highly successful (and lucrative, according to its developers) action-MMORPG is finally getting the first of presumably several expansions. Until now, content additions to the game have arrived in the form of experimental “Living World” episodes. These free patches moved the world along, progressed the plot past the “Personal Story” phase, and introduced new characters and stories. The first season was temporary, a “you had to be there for that” structure that was marvellous if you were around for it. It told the story of an insane Sylvari who, through a series of events, awoke the elder dragon Mordremoth. Season 2 of the Living World just finished, its eight episode arc is replayable, permanent content. The season ended with the Pact Fleet (formed during your Personal Story) attempting a pre-emptive strike against the dragon in the jungles of Maguuma. The fleet was destroyed, massive tendrils erupting from the ground, swatting the ships out of the air, thus setting the stage for the expansion.


THE HEART OF MAGUUMA
The expansion will feature an entirely new region spread across multiple open world jungle maps. There will be a lot of verticality to the new zones, which include the dense jungle floor, the root system of the jungle itself, and the massive canopy far above. The zones will have Outposts that function as centralised hubs that evolve over time: a more expanded version of how the Pact Forts in the Silverwastes can be retaken by Mordrem, forcing players to fight through and wrestle back control. Outposts will feature adventures repeatable on-demand challenges with leaderboards that groups of players (or guilds) can attempt. ArenaNet is expected to show more on how these adventures look and work soon. The expansion will also include new events, storylines, boss battles, group content, reworked progression systems and even a new profession.
“The expansion will also include new events, storylines, boss battles, group content, reworked progression systems, and a new profession.”
THE MASTERY SYSTEM
Because the level cap of 80 will not be raised in the expansion, ArenaNet instead is focusing on what they call their Mastery System. This account-based progression uses Mastery Points unlocked through content, bosses and exploration to unlock Mastery Tracks. Only one track can be active at a time, and it is filled by earning experience. Tracks reward all the characters on your account with new abilities, and are divided into Lore, Legends, Exploration and Combat. Lore mastery lets you learn the language of the jungle civilisations, granting access to new locations and combat techniques. Legends mastery unlocks the ability to collect what is needed for a Precursor special weapons used in crafting legendary weapons. Exploration mastery grants new movement abilities, like being able to hang-glide and fly through the air. Lastly, Combat mastery provides new abilities for the Fractals, for increased challenge and greater rewards. There will be two sets of Mastery Tracks, one for the expansion, and one for non-expansion content.

NEW PROFESSION: REVENANT
A new heavy armour-based profession, the Revenant lets you channel “legends” from the history of the  Guild Wars  series. When you channel as a Revenant, your Heal, Utility and Elite skills change based on the legend summoned. Two examples shown so far are King Jalis Ironhammer, which makes the Revenant hardier and more tank-like, giving frontline abilities that echo the tenacity of the Dwarves, and Mallyx the Unyielding, which grants supreme condition control, letting you remove conditions from your group and placing them on enemies. We’re hoping to see much more of the Revenant soon, as ArenaNet are still parcelling out details slowly.

SECONDARY SPECIALISATIONS
Every profession will gain access to a new sub-profession, which unlocks the ability to use a new weapon as well as new traits, skills, and profession mechanics. The Ranger for example, can become a Druid. As a Druid, the Ranger can use staves,  which come with their own unique skills for Rangers. In their secondary spec, Necromancers gain access to greatswords, Mesmers can use shields, and Engineers get hammers which let their turrets fly around as little helicopters. Specialisations are unlocked at level 80, and are character specific. You can swap between Specialisations when out of combat. The expansion won’t be adding any new weapon types, unfortunately; sorry polearm hopefuls.

GUILD VS. GUILD: STRONGHOLD
What ArenaNet calls an “evolution” of Guild Wars’ Guild vs. Guild mode,  the  new Stronghold player vs. player map pits two teams against each other in a fight to control supply. Supply can be used  to  hire  troops, which join the player in an assault on the enemy stronghold. The goal is to kill the enemy’s Guild Lord. Along the way, players can enlist the aid of heroes, who act as powerful units. The entire mode is very much inspired by the “MOBA” genre. Players will be able to set up custom arenas  with  Stronghold as the game type, which will allow for more than just five-versus-five. There will only be one map for this game mode  at  launch,  but it does feature leaderboards for guild teams. The existing Conquest PvP  mode  will  also gain team leaderboards.

EXPANDED EXPERIENCES
The three-way server-on-server “World vs World” mode will gain a new Borderland with expanded mechanics, along with revisions to the existing maps that should make holding objectives more rewarding. Guilds will finally have access to guild halls they can claim and grow. We’re looking forward to seeing more details from ArenaNet soon, and getting some hands-on time at PAX South in March.

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