I’ve always loved the idea of MMOs. I was a Runescape fan in my youth, and as I grew up I flitted between a variety of them; never paying, but playing for as long as I could before getting bored.
Because of my financial situation at that age I never played the payed ones, so Guild Wars and WoW were out of my reach. Even now, I still shun subscriptions, and as such I decided to give GW2 a go about twelve months ago. Immediately, I loved it, getting to level 46 within a couple of weeks.
Then life got in the way.
Regardless, when the chance to review the expansion came up I leapt at it, as it gave me a reason to finish the main game, create a new level 80 character and jump into its sprawling world all over again.
Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns is the first expansion to the highly-acclaimed action MMO Guild Wars 2, bringing a huge heap of new content to Tyria, and it’s been highly anticipated ever since announcement, but did it live up to my expectations, and has it added enough content to justify the price-tag? I’m going to structure this review so I can focus on each new feature individually, and I’ll avoid spoilers when I can, so there’s no need to worry about that!
The Heart of Maguuma – Look up, now down, now up, now down?
A majority of the expansion’s content is focused around the new area of the world map available to players; The Heart of the Maguuma Jungle itself. Split up into four distinct maps, the new area is absolutely HUGE, providing plenty of opportunities to go exploring. By exploring, I don’t just mean in the same sense as you did in the base game; The Heart has a huge focus on verticality across three different biomes; the roots, floor and canopy of the jungle.
Whilst there are definitely similarities to other areas, the new locations are beautifully breath-taking, and are some of the best views the entirety of Guild Wars has to offer. The fact you can jump off of some of these beautiful vistas thanks to the Glider system (discussed below) just makes them even more breath-taking, as they represent not just a huge expanse, but an explorable expanse.
Mastery – 2 B A Master
The main meat of the expansion unlocks at level 80, but unlike most other MMO Expansions Heart of Thorns does not raise this level cap, instead offering a variety of masteries and skills to improve and evolve throughout the expansion. These Masteries cover a decent range of skills; Hang Gliding, Languages, the ability to unlock and craft legendary weapons and getting achievements, and although I would have liked to have seen more ability-focused paths, they do give you a good reason to progress with your character.
The Gliding mechanic is easily the most fun out of all of the masteries; who DOESN’T like flying around a beautiful jungle like a loon? The control scheme fits well into gameplay and after a few hours of using it you’ll be wanting to do the same in the rest of the Guild Wars map. The implementation isn’t anything like WoW’s infamous flying mounts, as it has been designed to assist movement, and not be an entirely separate style in itself, preventing you from flying EVERYWHERE.
Mastery points are gained through the story, through the exploration of maps, through defeating bosses and partaking in group challenges, and by gaining achievements, but the main way in which you’ll be developing these new skills will be through gaining experience.
Now, I know that this SHOULD go without saying; it’s an MMO after all, but I wasn’t expecting this much damn grinding. It’s frankly ridiculous, even for MMO standards, that it should take so long to level your masteries. Agreed, I’ve heard that they transfer between characters on the same account, but even so, it’s ridiculous, especially when the best ways to level them are those which require more than one player to finish correctly, and many of the maps are already quite sparse.
Personal Story – Here be Plants.
Without going into too much detail, the new personal story episode is full of developments, but ultimately too short, feeling shorter than that of more living world episodes. It’s disappointing, but I hope that it will be expanded and extended on as time passes, just as the base game was.
I did however enjoy the changes in terms of dynamics between the races. Up to yet they have all been pretty chummy, but with the turning of many of a certain race’s members (Avoiding the name due to spoilers) to the side of the Elder Dragon, rifts are starting to form. I look forward to see how this develops going forwards.
New Class – Is the Revenant Relevant?
By far my favourite aspect of the expansion is the addition of a brand new Heavy Armour class; the Revenant. In some ways a tangential version of the traditional bard, the Revenant channels the powers of a famous legendary character from the past, in order to fulfil a variety of roles.
You are able to have one active legend at a time, but can switch them with F1 at will, essentially allowing you to switch between two completely different legends almost at will. Each fulfils a different set of roles; Jalis Ironhammer turns you into a Tank, The Demon Mallyx the Unyielding gives you the power to control and transfer conditions between yourself, allies and enemies, Ventari is all about Healing and Condition Removal and Shiro Tagachi the assassin is all about Damage and Mobility.
I’ve been playing a Revenant Sylvari, focusing on the Healing of Ventari (Racial bias, honestly) and the fact-paced damage dealing of Shiro, and I’ve been having an absolute blast. I haven’t yet completely unlocked the Elite Specialisation; a whole new dragon-based legend, Shiro, but so far he seems to be boon-focused, so I’ll probably stick to my current build for a while yet. The Revenant is Definitely my favourite class by far now, as it allows for so much flexibility. Seriously, if you fancy a new character give one a go!
Talking about Elite specialisations, they are another bit reason to keep developing your character, as each and every class can unlock them from level 80. There’s only one for each class, but they unlock a previously unavailable weapon (for that class) and give new traits and skills on a certain theme. They’re really interesting and can seriously shift up your play style after so many levels.
The Best of the Rest
Also included in the expansion are a variety of updates to the PvP systems; including a new World Vs World Map and a whole new PvP mode, Stronghold. It’s a bit of MOBA-themed fun, but more of a side-line than anything else.
Guild Halls also return, bringing with them a new profession, the scribe, who focus’ on guild items, and a variety of new missions, guild upgrades and currencies.
In terms of PvE, ArenaNET are slowly bringing Raids into GW2, which allow 10 players to work together to tackle a difficult dungeon. Not really my sort of thing, but I’m sure many seasoned MMO players will love this new inclusion.
All in all, Heart of Thorns is a pretty solid expansion, bringing together a great new area to explore, a fantastic new class and a huge host of new features. The only areas in which it falls down are in terms of the length and depth of the content itself, which should hopefully improve over time. If you loved the base game it should be a no-brainer, as it offers more of the same and loads of little improvements to the base game to boot. However, if you had issues with the base game and were hoping it would offer enough changed to pull you back in, I can’t guarantee it’ll do anything to help you.
Regardless, I still recommend giving it a look, if only for the amazing new class!
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.