Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns – Preview Update
Follow Genre: MMORPG
Developer: Arenanet
Publisher: NCSoft
Platform: PC
Tested on: PC

Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns – Preview Update

Good: Specialisations and masteries are lots of fun, challenging raids, story adjusts itself for Sylvari characters
Bad: Night events leading up to possible bosses are pretty dull, Adventures don't show personal score
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Rating: 7.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Mordremoth’s grasp on Tyria becomes bigger with each passing day. Because of this, Arenanet gladly offered previewers a sneak peek into the gameplay of Guild Wars 2’s very first expansion with not just one, but three Beta Weekend Events. With the Final Event having come to a close last week, we now look back to the new PvE content that will be unleashed on October 23 of this year.


It has to be said, the various teams at Arenanet clearly know what they are doing. All three Beta Weekend Events sure was proof of this. A various amount of new levels of fun have been added. Some additions are big, like the new Raids we’ll mention further on. Others however, are a lot more subtle.

Story wise the Beta Weekends didn’t reveal too much. In fact, testers were treated with exactly the same content as during the beta stress test. However, now players were able to log into the sequence with any race available, some parts did get surprisingly more interesting. With about any character, dialogue gravitates towards the growing mistrust Tyrians have towards Sylvari. But when you actually play a Sylvari, it really starts hitting home as certain allegations are made against your character and worst of all… you can actually hear Mordremoth’s voice. What this will mean for the rest of the story is still unclear, but it does give extra incentive to get a Sylvari to the level cap.

The instance also saw a change in enemies in between different Beta Weekend Events. The first clear change were a group of tiny little raptors which attack you at a certain point. When you don’t know they are there, their attack comes as a very deadly surprise, making it clear that you shouldn’t underestimate any enemy within the boundaries of the jungle. When looking at the bigger bullies our dear green Elder Dragon sends after you, we stumble on a second difference. During the first two Beta Weekend Events, the fights always held a great number of Mordrem guard hunters. These bowslingers were a big pain in the unmentionables from the start, able to down you with the vine effect left by the path of their arrows alone. By the Final Event however, they seemed to have vanished. While this did make the initial story instance less frustrating to complete, we do hope to see these hunters back in later instances as they do offer quite the challenge.

Heart of Thorns CGI scene

In total, the Beta Events gave testers the opportunity to explore about 50% of the new Verdant Brink map. It is clear this very map is incredibly big, especially because of the added verticality in the form of canopy locations, rocks and various tree-settlements. The lush world is beautiful, yet -as expected- utterly lethal. The night-and-day cycles mentioned in our previous preview returned, introducing even more events to participate in. Our favourites are clearly the ones that play out under the watchful eye of the sun. No matter what daytime event you take part in, they all have their own story to tell, ranging from utterly serious to downright hilarious. Night-time however is all about the Mordrem attacking and people trying to protect their base. Because of this, they all tend to feel similar. Yes, the fights are indeed very challenging, but continuously fighting a great amount of Mordrem while helping to carry supplies over to the various outposts in order to fortify these chosen locations does become stale after a while. The real night fun, however, starts the moment you gain proper control over the bases. When this happens, Pact Choppers will appear about 20 minutes before the break of dawn and transport players to various Canopy locations where powerful Mordrem bosses lie in wait.

Besides participating in multiple events, Verdant Brink also offered ‘Adventures’. These mini-games open up during the day in various locations and allow you to participate in challenges against time. Doing very well in these tiny events is key, as the fastest heroes will appear on the top three of the Adventures’ very own leaderboard. The content of the mini-events is okay, though at the time of testing there was little indication of your personal time or record.

Heart of thorns Adventures

As mentioned before, the new map has a lot of vertical space to traverse. Last time, this is where we mentioned the new Masteries- a system that turns experience points into new knowledge. Throughout the various Beta Weekend Events, we’ve seen Arenanet attempting to make progression within the Jungle easier by fixing the very first Mastery you are able to unlock, and further condense them into less tracks and more fun. For example, Mushroom Lore, a track which holds the ‘Bouncing Mushrooms’ Mastery that that makes movement throughout the jungle a lot easier, is now part of the Lore of the Itzel tree frogs. Another change is that by the end of the Final Event, all Mastery tracks were also locked from the start, with the exception of Gliding, which is absolutely necessary in order to traverse the new maps comfortably. Other tracks would be unlocked deeper into the game.

Something else that we’ll be able to explore throughout Heart of Thorns are of course the Revenant and Specializations for every profession in existence. Last time we got to test the ‘Rev’, only two Legendary Stances could be channelled, being the Dwarf and the Demon. This time, we also got to testdrive the Legendary Assassin, Centaur and -the Revenant’s Specialization- Dragon Stance. The fun part about the Revenant is that the profession can take on about any role imaginable. You need fast damage? Evocate Shiro Tagachi. Need a steady stream of healing? Then definitely summon Ventari. With only two legends to channel within the same battle, you definitely need to think about which ones you feel work best together and what role you want to play in your team.

Heart of Thorns Wyvern Event

The newly introduced Specializations are a category of their own, especially since lots of them make you rethink your way of playing- which is exactly what these seem to have been created for. Every new unlockable skill, trait, weapon and mechanic is either something completely new or an adaptation of something familiar. An example of this is the Guardian’s Dragon Hunter. The Longbow and traps this Specialization uses are a far cry from the playstyles the players have been used to thus far. On the contrary, ‘Specs’ as the Mesmer’s Chronomancer and the Necromancer’s Reaper have very good synergy with previously established builds. Others lie somewhere in between. The Engineer’s Scrapper for example has great electricity based attacks that work well with core [6] to [0] skills. However, the new Gyros they get don’t feel up to scratch yet and definitely need a little more work. Nevertheless, all of the expertises are fun to play once you get the hang of them and will definitely turn your battles upside down, if not make them extra flashy.

The jungle is full of beasts that need you to shuffle around traits and pick the right skills, especially the creatures you encounter during the 10 man Raids. Only four enemies have been revealed thus far, but it is very clear that these demand much more than the general Berzerker outfitting most players seem to go for these days. During the battles against the Guardians, not only did we have to take location specific mechanics into account, we also had to make sure our complete build was fit for the task. If that wasn’t enough, the final boss of the available content -the Vale Guardian- made the fight extra challenging by combining every single request from the previous three bosses. Squad leaders and their team are forced to come up with strategies and need to divide responsibilities accordingly in order to even have a chance. In other words, the Raids are definitely something we are looking out for.

Heart of Thorns Raid Vale Guardian


Though the Beta Events exhibited only half a map, enough content was shown to make any Guild Wars 2 fan thrilled for the new expansion. Unlocking new Mastery tracks is a bunch of fun and the Specializations will make any player rethink the way they have been playing their favourite profession. Those who are looking for a little less zerg and a little more thrill will also find their cup of tea in this expansion, especially with the new Raids and enemy mechanics. In short, Heart of Thorns is definitely a title to look forward to.

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Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns – Preview Update, 7.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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  1. […] the official release-notes and our first impressions of this raid during the beta for more […]

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