Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns – Review
Follow Genre: MMORPG
Developer: Arenanet
Publisher: NCsoft
Platforms: PC
Tested on: PC

Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns – Review

Site Score
7.9
Good: Epic soundtrack, Mastery/layered map combo, challenging content
Bad: Story heavily rushed near end
User Score
9.0
(1 votes)
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Rating: 9.0/10 (1 vote cast)

It has already been three years since Guild Wars 2 brought a certain freshness to the MMORPG genre. Relying on dynamic events to make maps feel alive and changeable, it effectively created a new way of approaching online RPGs. Heart of Thorns, the game’s very first expansion, happily builds on this, offering engaging and challenging new content.

Heart Of Thorns Title

Story

Blinded by rage over Mordremoth’s attack on the Mother Tree, Marshal Trahearne led the entire Pact fleet into the Heart of the Maguuma. However, no good can come from a rushed assault like this, especially a highly anticipated one. The jungle itself quickly reacted, crashing any ship passing over its canopies, kidnapping, killing or seriously maiming anyone it could get its thorny vines around.

Heart of Thorns starts with the destruction of the Pact as we know it and the disappearance of most of the prominent members of Destiny’s Edge. With Tyria’s hope now scattered, it is up to the player character to pick up the pieces. This sounds like the perfect set-up for a great new story arc, and in a lot of ways it is. Forced to move without the cover of an army, your quest becomes a lot more personal for everyone in your team. Especially Sylvari characters will experience that extra pressure Mordremoth is posing to them. Quite literally even. However, because story chapters are only gated behind certain Masteries, the adventure as a whole can feel incredibly short and -especially closer to the end – even rushed. Indeed, in order to enjoy the full experience this little epic can bring, we can only advise to try and do all the meta-events you can find within each area before advancing to the next Personal Story Chapter. You will thank us once you reach the final map.

The ending of Heart of Thorns leaves a lot of room for speculation. Because of this, we expect future Living World additions to soon be added to either explain things further or create a set-up for a following expansion.

Heart of Thorns Taimi and Scruffy

Graphics

As this is Guild Wars 2’s very first expansion, the graphics are of the same quality as the original part of the game. However, there are clear differences, for example in the way cutscenes were handled. Where the base game focussed more on the awkward, one on one conversations, Heart of Thorns makes great use of a selection of in-world generated scenes and beautiful pre-rendered videos. Because of this, players feel less compelled to simply skip all the dialogue and thus get a clearer picture of what the game is all about.

Sound

If anything in this expansion is deserving of a ten-out-of-ten, it’s its soundtrack. The way it moves from nearly suffocating to very light-hearted is nearly divine. No matter the location you are in or the event you are doing, Jeremy Soule’s accompanying scores always manage to lift your experience to a higher stage.

As is the case for the base game, most conversations are voiced. While lines aren’t always brought forward in the most believable way, the voice acting of certain members of Destiny’s Edge 2.0 has clearly improved. Little Asura progeny Taimi is a clear example of this. Also the player’s character seems to have come more into his or her own, and finally shows signs of actually having a personality. There is clearly still room to grow, especially for the main characters, but it’s good to know things are going in the right direction.

Heart of Thorns Tarir Vista

Gameplay

Heart of Thorns is the very first expansion to the buy-to-play MMORPG title Guild Wars 2. Because of this, most gameplay elements are of course identical. For example, the game still heavily relies on events to fill up its maps. However, a lot has been added to make the new content extra challenging. The four new explorable maps all contain well crafted vertical layering, which can make navigating the dense jungle painfully hard at times. Add powerful new mobs that swarm you and you know the Maguuma is the end-game content every level 80 character deserves.

This heightened difficulty level is clear from the moment you step into the new content. Verdant Brink for example is a living horror for solo players new to the expansion. Mordrem Guards and their Saurian pets are about everywhere and even the mushrooms are out to kill you. Add the likelihood you’ve probably adopted vanilla approved Berzerker gear during the base game and you know this combination can only result in lots of dying. Luckily Heart of Thorns comes with a completely new way of leveling which effectively grants your characters – account wide – mastery over the jungle. You’ve guessed it, we are talking about the Mastery System.

Heart Of Thorns Glide

The Mastery System is your new best friend. Replacing the old leveling system, masteries are abilities that can be unlocked once enough experience points have been syphoned towards an activated track of choice. Closing the track with the needed amount of Mastery Points, finally adds this welcome new knowledge to your ever growing repertoire. Skills like Gliding, Bouncing Mushrooms and Nuhoch Wallows greatly improve your viability in the jungle. This by creating various combinations to not only flee from ambushes, but also safely move across the maps. Furthermore, a small amount of specific masteries is needed in order to comfortably advance within the various story chapters.

While discussing the game, we of course can’t forget the meta-events. Every map has its own set of meta’s which all tell their own story and cumulate into something big. A great example of this mechanic, is the way Auric Basin opens up. This map, which has the majestic city of Tarir at its centre, starts off the dynamic chains with events to capture pylons. Once these are controlled and activated, more challenges sprout, only to accumulate in an epic assault on the Mordrem taking the city hostage. This final massive event demands teams in four locations to kill a shielded boss within two minutes of each other. The coordination and knowledge of the local mechanics that is needed, definitely makes this particular fight very memorable. The downside of these types of events, is of course the fact that you need to be on a well populated map to make it work.

Heart of Thorns also brings the Revenant to the table. The Revenant is a curious new profession. Able to chose between a damage-dealing, tanking or healing healing focus with the help of a handful of Legendary beings, the Revenant finally closes the heavy armor ranks as its third member. About two Legends can be chosen to draw from during battle, giving players plentiful ways to set this profession to their hand.

Heart Of Thorns Revenant

In a way, the versatile Revenant can be seen as a little preview for what the Elite Specializations can bring. Unlockable once all Core Specializations have been fully completed, these traits and skills successfully offer new ways to play your character. The Ranger’s Druid for example, offers the profession a whole array of healing possibilities. Meanwhile the Necromancer’s Reaper becomes a deadly condition-inflicting melee fighter. In order to fully enjoy these elites, Hero Points – formally known as Skill Points in vanilla Guild Wars 2 – need to be pumped into its specific reward track. This is similar fashion as is now needed for the different core specialization tracks.

Last but not least, we can not end this review without having talked about the Guild Halls. It has taken a long while, but finally Guilds can claim their own home within the game. In order to do so, guilds are asked to start an expedition into these fabled locations. Waves of Mordrem and Vinewrath Knights will attack on location, making it clear that Mordremoth will not allow any of his territory be taking by just any group. Once all enemies are defeated, a guild leader can activate the crystal that will effectively make this place yours. At the moment, there are only two locations to chose from, though both are gorgeous. Guild Halls, though located within the Heart of Thorns content, can luckily also be accessed by members who do not own the expansion, giving all players an extra reason to join Tyria’s finest.

Heart Of Thorns Crystal

Conclusion

Heart of Thorns, the very first expansion of the MMORPG Guild Wars 2, brings a great mix of challenging content and new ways to play your character to the series. Its outstanding soundtrack accompanies the locations perfectly. Also, the verticality of the maps and the amount of enemies their layers house, manage to perfectly convey how dangerous Mordremoth’s stronghold really is. However, while all this and the lovely addition of Guild Halls, Elite Specializations and the Revenant are great, Heart of Thorns’ short story fails to deliver because of a rushed ending and mastery-gating rather than event-gating.

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Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns – Review, 9.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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