As we are getting closer and closer to the release of Guild Wars 2’s first expansion, Heart of Thorns on October 23rd, the more we know about what it will contain. But there is one thing they’ve been quite silent about – how many new areas will be there, and what it is like to play on them? We now know that 4 jungle maps will be present at launch, with 3 distinct biomes – jungle roots, floor and canopy. But we still don’t know the relation between these 3 biomes – the Beta Weekend Events only show us one biome per event, as it seems.
For BWE 2, which took place between September 4 and 7, we got the Jungle floor biome of the first map, Verdant Brink. According to ArenaNet, this is about 25% of the playable area on the map. It contained 2 outposts with event-chains related to them, several Mastery points to collect, and a basic version of the nighttime events. The latter were quite a disappointment and a downward change from the great and enjoyable story-packed daytime events, especially with night lasting more than 40 minutes; but according to the blog post they put up before the Beta, we’ll get to know the final version of nighttime in a following event.
The area was really fun to explore, but I found it to be really, really confusing at first. Enemies are somewhat stronger than in the base game, and they possess many more abilities and skills than usual, which made fights more enjoyable. Gliding and mushroom-jumping is fun, and they really open up the map. The event chains during daytime can be quite repetitive after a few tries, which is the reason why I think there should be more, unrelated random events too. But we’ll see in the final version of the map, this area was too small to judge the map’s size properly.
The new MOBA-like PVP mode, Stronghold was also open for the duration of the beta. It is an enjoyable game mode, but I think that it’ll devolve into lord rushing in the final game, as time goes by. They seem to have strengthened the Lords a bit, so it is harder to solo it and its guards, but rushing is still easy.
Specialization-wise, all but 2 were available – Rangers and Engineers were the ones without their elite specs. Any Beta character created defaulted with their Elite spec equipped, so I could try all of them out quickly. Elementalist’s Tempest is quite interesting with the shouts and the overload attunement skill, but so far, I haven’t seen any real use to these. I also tried out the almost-final Revenant, but found it to be too confusing, as it was a full level 80 character with everything unlocked and really unfamiliar mechanics. From what I saw of the Revenant, it will have a bit more distinct roles, depending on which of the Legends does it equip at any given time. It is also much more locked than any other class, as the active Legend governs their healing and utility skills. We’ll see how the Revenant fares in the long term, but I don’t see them being considered useful in dungeons, with the current meta-game.
All in all, I am looking forward to Heart of Thorns, and I found the beta to be very short and lacking in content, but the given content was quite enjoyable and interesting.