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

Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns – Preview

Good: New enemy types and battle mechanics, Season 2 type cutscenes, Mastery integration, plot directions, vertical map design, Mordremoth clearly threatening
Bad: Event chains may be too fast now
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Rating: 7.0/10 (1 vote cast)

When Arenanet announced players could find a Portal into the new Beta for Guild Wars 2’s very first expansion ‘Heart of Thorns’ by killing enemies in the Silverwastes and Dry Top, the maps boomed like never before. The hype for ‘HoT’ is clearly very real. What will happen to Tyria now Scarlet Briar managed to awaken Mordremoth, the Jungle Elder Dragon? What world will we be facing in our race to hunt this thing down? What will the Revenant be like? In this preview we will discuss some features that appeared in the Beta of May 26 that might answer parts of these questions. Do please be aware that the beta was incredibly short and only gave a very first impression. Nothing is fully set into stone just yet and so a lot can still change before the actual game’s release.

Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns

Guild Wars 2 players who’ve managed to reach the finale of the second season of the Living Story know full well where our heroes have arrived: at a Point of No Return. With the cunning Mordremoth being a clear and massive threat, the dragon needs to be stopped- right now. However, when the Pact sents out its entire fleet, the Elder Dragon is expecting it… The story seen in the last Beta picks up right where Season 2 has left us: in the Silverwastes. The tale of the annihilation of the Pact’s entire fleet is shown and recounted in a cutscene. The cinematic follows the pattern we have come to love in Guild Wars 2 and its Living Stories, sewing animated artwork together to create the whole epic feeling. Fans will also be pleased to see the return of in-world conversation and cinematics rather than the more minimalistic approach the original Personal Story chapters brought us. The voice of your character is also back, giving the new world that one thing that felt lacking a bit in the Season 2 chapters: a sign you are truly part of it.

As expected, focus is being placed on the link between Mordremoth and Sylvari with survivors of the crash now distrusting the leafy individuals they once called friends.Playing as the only available race in this Beta, being Human, the story does raise a lot of interesting questions. As a Human commander, the survivors seemed to follow you quite quickly, but what will happen if your character of choice is a Sylvari? It surely is food for thought and hopefully Arenanet will bring us a satisfying response.

Heart of thorns May 26-4

The story part that was available ended with a quick intro into the Night- and Day cycle mechanic that we will all be able to find in the expansion. With the Jungle being its most dangerous under the watchful eye of the moon, nights turn into true battles for survival against Mordrem forces.The beta gave us a taste of fabulous new enemies, for example the Groot-like Mordrem Guards and dino-riding Cavalier. The riders come with various mechanics, dashing after players while safely on the backs of their mounts after which you can force them off and need to finish both Cavalier and reptile.

With the promise of a world trying to kill us as swiftly as possible, we were dropped in a completely new map: Verdant Brink. The location consists of dry steps, slim walking spaces, outposts to capture, paths through branches and very steep cliffs. When opening the map, we can get an idea of what to expect in the world of Heart of Thorns. Next to the expected POI, skillpoints, Waypoints and Vistas, Renown Hearts will apparently also return to the game. Within the beautifully crafted Verdant Brink however, we only got into contact with Waypoints and POIs.

When returning to Verdant, we all noticed the depths of the Brink are extremely vast. In order to safely cross this unknown treacherous world, the new Mastery system actually comes in pretty handy. By completing the story and simply entering the new map, Mastery points were distributed. More Mastery points can be earned by getting to hard to reach locations. There will obviously be lots of things to master in Heart of Thorns. Languages, lore, but also new ways to travel. Masteries, or at least in the way they are portrayed in the Beta, are learned automatically by activating a Mastery speciality. Such an activation sets training in motion which funnels your experience points into these track rewards. Mastery points however are simply used to unlock more tracks. In other words, instead of having players grind their way to a new level cap, Arenanet has opted to turn experience into the actual sense of the word: learning and mastering new crafts.

Heart of thorns May 26-5

Two Masteries are incredibly useful in the jungle: Gliding and Mushroom Lore. As the map is a lot more vertical than what we’re used to, with branches and rocks looking over an enormous gap in the world, gliding can save you of lots of deep falls. Mushroom Lore on the other hand allows you to use the power of the local fungal life to your very advantage, for example by using them as trampolines.

A different Mastery type is also being hinted at but wasn’t implemented in the beta: Pact Tyria. The Pact Masteries seem to focus around Fractal Attunement and Legendary Precursor Crafting. We have to be honest, these do make our fingers itch with excitement and wish that this Beta was able to give more info on them.

It is clear that besides personal story content that was given us, little extra lore was added to make the Beta feel more alive. For example, the treefrog Itzel and their complex tree-city did make an appearance with events and their outpost, but we had somewhat hoped to see more. Of course, this was still a very early demo version, so a lot can and will still change for the actual release.

We tested the Beta with both the new Revenant and an original profession. The Revenant seems like an interesting addition to the heavy armour group, indeed balancing the already existing duo out. This is done by adding a certain extra depth through the choice to either channel the Legendary Dwarf or the Legendary Demon. While these do not change your weapon skills, switching stances does alter the final 5 skill slots. A bar shown next to the stances gives an idea of your Energy pool, the substance you use to activate all skills with the exception of auto-attacks. Because of this bar, it is very important to keep an eye on your Energy use if you don’t want to end up without juice when needing to heal up for example.

Heart of thorns May 26-6

The Elite skill, which has you channel the Legendary power directly, looks very impressive. While the skill drains your energy, it applies new conditions to you. While Dwarf Stance feels more tanky, we really loved the Demon Stance. Pulsing out torment simply looks incredibly menacing. We do feel that, even though the Revenant is clearly something new, it still plays like the other Heavy Armor professions. This of course not a problem, but rather something to keep in mind when playing Heart of Thorns. If your own play style doesn’t gel with Warrior or Guardian characters, the Revenant will probably also not be something for you.


The Heart of Thorns Beta of May 26th showed some interesting mechanics for us to expect in the new expansion. The story bits displayed already promise more than one great plot and the Night and Day cycle events do seem to address some past dynamic event problems, namely slow chains. Another compelling feature is The Mastery system, which will clearly have a very important play in the upcoming expansion. Lastly, the Revenant looks like a fascinating new addition to the Heavy Armor class. All in all, the Beta was short and only offered some first impressions. However, it did give us a look into a beautifully crafted new area and mechanics and offered new fodder for plot speculation. It sure does look like Arenanet is hard at work to deliver us players something worthwhile.

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

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  1. […] 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 […]

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