I’ve read and witnessed in game a fair few comments from Guild Wars 2 players who are insisting that the Heart Of Thorns expansion pack isn’t big enough. So much so that these individuals insist it shouldn’t be called an expansion pack. This statement has made me quite mad for a variety of reasons, primarily because it’s simply too early to tell. I am however willing to address the question because I think this sort of thing needs nipping in the bud.
First and foremost, there is no standard for what size an expansion pack should be. There’s an expectation that it should be large but that’s primarily because expansion packs cost money. Players and developers know that when they’re asking for an extra $50.00 that it should be worth the money. As to how value is quantified is an entirely different matter but for most, it’s simply a case of “the more the merrier”.
Guild Wars 2’s Heart Of Thorns is providing the following:
- An entirely new area in the Heart Of Maguuma made up of three layers: Core, Root and Canopy. This area is filled with new content, bosses, creatures and events.
- An ability to Hanglide and travel on gusts of wind.
- A new Mastery system that's Account wide, designed to add greater depth to your character.
- A new WvW Borderland and significant improvements to the game mode and mechanics.
- A new Specialization system designed to change your class completely. Ranger's can specialize into Druid's.
- A new PvP game mode called Stronghold where Guilds can fight it out to be crowned the best in the world.
- Guild Halls to act as a hub for your friends and fellow Guild members.
- A new class called The Revenant.
As far as a feature list goes, I think those 9 things are excellent and for the most part are all that the majority of players were seeking. There’s still a few things missing that I’d have liked to have seen (Equipment and Skill presets for quickly changing builds, customisable Ranger pets, a new Race) but those things are minor in comparison to what is being given here. That said, I’ll address each of the 9 Features as I see them.
Heart Of Maguuma Map Size
Many players have been commenting on the fact that Heart Of Maguuma is only one map, with three layers. Due to that they’re concerned the area is going to be too small and after all this time, a too smaller addition to the game. Firstly, adding layers to the Heart Of Maguuma is a brilliant idea as it allows each layer to have its own theme but it also triples the potential size of the zone. Some of the existing maps in Guild Wars 2 are large and if we were to add two additional layers to them, they’d be undeniably huge. I just think of the size of Lornar's Pass and how adding further layers above it would be make it a daunting and brilliant experience to travel around. There’s also no suggestion that ArenaNet won’t increase the default map size further. As confirmed by Colin recently, the idea behind Heart Of Maguuma is to add depth not neccesarily landmass. If we look at The Silverwastes, it’s one of the best maps ever implemented in Guild Wars 2 and yet it’s not particularly big. The reason why it’s so good is that it’s a bustle of activity with lots of events to do. Should Heart Of Maguuma build on that, it’ll be an amazing area to play in. As to why players are worried Heart Of Maguuma is the only map, I'm not sure but I think it's almost certain at this point that it'll be one of several but likely the biggest.
Perhaps not quite mounts, but Hang Gliding not only looks brilliant but it’s also going to present a whole new method of exploration and discovery. The design of Heart of Maguuma will have factored this in from the beginning and as a result, will likely have taken considerably more time to design and test than a standard map, especially if it’s possible to glide all the way from the top tier to the bottom on gusts of wind. ArenaNet have always been reluctant to implement methods of travel and I suspect this went through many iterations before this design was finalised.
At the moment this system seems relatively simplistic but I suspect with it affecting the entire game that it’s not only vast but the options available to players when spending their points are also. It was a brilliant and brave decision for ArenaNet to not increase the level cap so the Mastery System has to provide a level of depth that provides the same sense of progression. I suspect it’ll act similarly to World versus World ranks, with the exception that most of the improvements will have a meaningful impact on your character. To design and test these systems and what will unquestionably be a large selection of choices is no small undertaking. When you can learn a language or specialise in combat to make life in the jungle easier, it’s going to be a vast and exciting system.
World versus World Borderland
I have many friends who play World versus World religiously and like most who play this game mode, they’re disappointed in the state of it. They’re disappointed because so little has changed in terms of the very fundamentals of the game mode, not necessarily the land mass. Removal of Orbs, the water and adding Edge Of The Mists are all welcome but as a game mode, World versus World is inherently pointless. There are no tangible rewards for your Badges, no reward for your servers success and little motivation to secure objectives for long periods of time. Fixing these problems is difficult but it not only requires a huge amount of testing but also iteration on what will and won’t work in the long term. Adding an extra Borderland on top of this is exactly what the game mode needed.
Probably the most difficult design process for ArenaNet, I don’t think people realise that Specializations are effectively adding a new profession, per existing profession. These new specialized classes are given a whole new set of Utility skills, a new weapon (and the skills that come with it) a new heal, a new Elite and new Traits. To do this across 9 classes is an enormous undertaking that would have taken an eye watering amount of testing. That doesn’t include the quest chain leading to players becoming specialized in their respective class. At the very least, there’s possibly 7 extra skills per profession and a total of 63 that all require balancing.
Rumours of a new structured PvP game mode have been rife for a while and I wasn’t surprised to see this added. What makes it so good is that it blends some MOBA elements while disposing of the Control Point mechanic. It’s been a long time coming but as someone who still adores the Control Point mode and existing maps, I’m still glad to see a new addition to the roster. What’ll make Stronghold so interesting is that it’ll bring Guilds together in a competitive environment and best of all, there’ll be proper leaderboards. Will this one game mode prolong the life of PvP considerably? I think so. Combined with the new class and Specializations, Stronghold is going to add heaps of replayability to PvP. There will inevitably always be those who complain about balance, or certain classes but at a fundamental level I still love Guild Wars 2’s PvP. This addition is only going to strengthen it further.
We’ve wanted them for years and now they’re finally arriving. We don’t yet know how much we can do with them and it’s a shame we can’t fight over them, but the fact that this new hub is being added is more than welcome. From the very brief images we’ve seen, these Guild Halls are going to be big and they’re going to be a focal point for many players to visit and customize. If there anything remotely close to WildStar’s housing functionality by providing players with Waypoints to specific locations or unique instances they’ll be incredible. Even if it’s just a location for you and friends to hang out and hold meetings it’ll be much better than anything we currently have.
Lastly and arguably the biggest feature is the new profession. It might seem small to add a profession but it no doubt took a considerable amount of design and planning. Finding a niche between the other Heavy professions must have been hard enough but then designing every skill, its play style, weapon sets, traits, art and animations. It’s a huge undertaking, that’s without even testing it or ensuring that it sits perfectly alongside all the existing classes.
Everything In Between
Besides the lengthy Feature List, there’s also a ton of other things that take considerable amounts of time but will improve the game enormously. New raid bosses, skill and trait improvements, the Precursor Quest, new enemies and events, new weapons and skins. There will also likely be new crafting recipes, significant AI improvements as well as a ton of new armor and reward revisions. Lastly, there will be a new Living World Season that still has so much left to answer. Heart Of Thorns list of “features” might appear small but it really isn’t the case. There’s a wealth of additions here and considering we’ve only been teased about what they all offer, I’ve no doubt players will be incredibly pleased with what they see. The only thing left to discuss is the price point and what value players place on it. Personally, I’d have no problem dropping $60.00 for what is on offer. Guild Wars 2 has kept my attention for almost 3 years (thank you Beta!) and to have its lifespan extended even further is more than welcome.
What are your thoughts on Heart Of Thorns size? Is the Feature List too small to justify an expansion tag? What are you willing to pay? Let us know!
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