With three days to go until Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns launches, there’s a lot of information floating around. I’ve struggled to keep up with the reveals. With that in mind, here’s the main things I think you need to be aware of that are arriving with the expansion and interestingly, you don’t need to purchase Heart of Thorns to appreciate all of them.

Minion Damage Reduction

Announced yesterday, minions will be receiving some significant love when Heart of Thorns arrives. Including everything from pets, to spirit weapons or illusions, all these AI controlled minions will no longer take full damage from enemies in PvE, unless directly targeted. With damage reduced by 95%, there’s no doubting that your pet dying instantly on a boss encounter will become a thing of the past. Just in time for Raiding as well as the addition of Gyro’s, it’s going to make such a huge difference to a variety of professions and the builds they can use (Spirit Druids incoming!)

Is it available without Heart of Thorns? Yes.

Action Camera Mode

The Combat Mod for Guild Wars 2 has been around for a long time and anyone familiar with TERA will know it goes some way in replicating free-look, without the need to constantly hold the right mouse button down. Action Camera Mode builds on this, implements a similar control scheme but also bolts on a smart crosshair and is now officially supported by ArenaNet. It’s going to make a huge difference to players who want

Is it available without Heart of Thorns? Yes.


Masteries offer an account based progression system that’s integral to Heart of Thorns and its content. Mastery Points are acquired by playing content in the Maguuma Jungle as well as existing zones. Spending your Mastery Points can reward all your account characters with new skills and abilities such as hang gliding or learning a language. Master Points are also going to be incredibly important for obtaining legendary weapon precursors.

Is it available without Heart of Thorns? Sort of. Mastery Tracks are available for core Guild Wars 2 content and one for the Heart of Maguuma.

New Profession

The revenant is the 9th profession in Guild Wars 2 and fills the final heavy armor role. As an angst ridden blend of the warrior and guardian, the revenant is a surprisingly original and versatile profession. It’s not only fun to play but incredibly useful. Its elite-specialization, the herald, is also highly sought after already. Whether you pursue conditions or power, both are a lot of fun and I fully expect most of the playerbase to gravitate towards the profession on launch.  

Is it available without Heart of Thorns? No.

Elite Specializations

Each profession in Heart of Thorns will gain access to an elite specialization. These “new” professions can be accessed from selecting a new traitline and will provide a new weapon, skills and often, mechanics. As one example, the ranger can become a druid, gaining access to a staff, Glyphs and a new Celestial Form where they can heal and support allies.

Is it available without Heart of Thorns? No.


Ten man raiding is making its way to Guild Wars 2 in Heart of Thorns. There will be 3 raid wings in total, with the first wing available in 2015 a week after launch. In 2016 two more raid wings will come online. Requiring team work, coordination and masteries, raids are designed to be truly challenging end-game content. Defeating the bosses within will provide legendary precursor armor as well as ascended items.

Is it available without Heart of Thorns? No.

Fractals Updated

Fractals are to receive a fairly sizeable amount of changes in Heart of Thorns. The first is that Fractal chains (3 fractals and 1 boss fractal) will be changed to single fractal islands. In addition to this, the Fractal Level is being increased to 100, new Fractal weapons are being added (gold variant) and players will be able to trade in their duplicate Fractal skins for one they don’t yet have. Finally, there will be a Fractal leaderboard going live shortly after launch as well as a new set of achievements.

Is it available without Heart of Thorns? Yes.

New Living World/Personal Story

We don’t yet know any details as to what the story will entail, but it’s envisaged that players will travel into the Heart of Maguuma to battle Mordremoth. With Living World Season 2 ending on a cliff-hanger, there’s every expectation that the new Living World story will begin where we left off. I hear, from those in closed testing, that it’s rather good.

Is it available without Heart of Thorns? No.

Guild Halls and Guild versus Guild

One of the biggest additions to Guild Wars 2 is Guild Halls and the fact players can craft and build their own. You’ll be able to access Guild Missions from it, decorate it as you see fit but also challenge other guilds by registering guild teams to compete within sPvP, in both Conquest and Stronghold maps. A new crafting profession, knock as a Scribe, will also be added.

Is it available without Heart of Thorns? No.

Precursor Questing and New Legendaries

One of the most long awaited additions to Guild Wars 2 will be the precursor questing. Available through masteries, it’s a long adventure that players will go through to construct the precursor and eventually the legendary weapon. It’s a huge undertaking by ArenaNet and right now, only three new legendary weapons will be accessible. After launching the expansion pack more will eventually arrive but for now, it’s the axe, staff and pistol that players will be able to get their hands on.

Is it available without Heart of Thorns? No.

Structured PvP Stronghold and Leagues

Stronghold is a new structured PvP game mode that blends some MOBA elements that’s somewhat reminiscent of the original Guild versus Guild. It sees two teams protect their own lane whilst attacking the enemies, all with the intention of bringing down the enemy lord. It’s super fun but also very different to the existing capture point maps. Best of all, you can choose whether to play just Stronghold when you queue. On top of Stronghold, there’s also a new sPvP league that allows you to climb a ladder as well as earn new badges and rewards.

Is it available without Heart of Thorns? Sort of. The base game mode as well as the sPvP league is available to everyone but some Mist Heroes (characters which you send down your lane to attack the enemy Lord) are restricted to Heart of Thorns.

Squad UI

One of the most welcome additions, without question, is a fully functioning Squad UI. Rather than the rudimentary system players have been using for many years, you can now customize a squad and place players in proper sub-groups. Best of all, it shows their health and will eventually show their buffs and debuffs. It had a few issues during the first round of testing but is working rather perfectly now.

Is it available without Heart of Thorns? Yes.

World versus World

Receiving some sizeable changes, World versus World is going to receive a brand new map (that’s absolutely enormous) as well as a greater emphasis on holding specific locations for longer. There’s also a new piece of siege equipment (Shield Generator) as well as adjusted abilities, as well as a fair amount of changes to structures and the upgrade system.

Is it available without Heart of Thorns? Yes.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Guild Wars 2 Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Lewis is currently playing The Division 2, having covered a variety of genres for many years.