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Guild Wars 2 Announces Raids and Pseudo-Free to Play at PAX Prime

PAX Prime is in full swing, and you know what that means: panels, press releases, and Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns launching on October 23rd! Luckily for Guild Wars 2 fans, ArenaNet has not failed to disappoint with their recent panel featuring game director Colin Johanson and ArenaNet president Mike O’Brien. Despite their relatively quiet presence on the show floor itself, ArenaNet opted to drop some huge news bombs, one of which players have been eagerly anticipating since the original Heart of Thorns announcement at PAX South: Raids.

The Hydra theater at the Grand Hyatt was packed for the announcement.

The Hydra theater at the Grand Hyatt was packed for the announcement.

During the panel, Colin Johanson announced that raids would be coming to Guild Wars 2 in the form of ten player instances that would feature more difficult and complex content than ever before. This announcement was accompanied by a trailer showcasing a brief glimpse of one of these many encounters. Curiously, Colin made no mention of how these ten-players would be grouping up, since parties cap at five players. Now, it’s not as simple as merely bumping the max number of players that can join a party to ten. This is because dungeons and fractals are going to remain five-man content. This leaves two options: implementing a new type of “group,” or revamping the squad mechanic that currently goes relatively unused. Squads are currently a large group that can be created by commanders. However, squads lack any UI support and are, therefore, largely unused in-game. Honestly, though, I think a completely new type of group is far more likely. New features make and break expansions, and having one more new feature to go along with all the others will make players feel like they’re getting that much more for their money with Heart of Thorns.

Colin Johanson explains raids to the assembled press and fans at the Hyrda theater.

Colin Johanson explains raids to the assembled press and fans at the Hyrda theater.

Colin went on to state that Heart of Thorns will feature Guild Wars 2’s first raid, which will be released in increments called “wings” after launch. The first wing will go live a few weeks after the launch of the expansion, in order to give players time to adjust to the new content and gain many of the advantages it has to offer.  This is important to note because it means that, while raids are a part of Heart of Thorns, it will not launch with them. This initial raid will have three wings, each of which will be released incrementally after the launch of the expansion. It should also be noted that while Colin used the term “raids” in the plural tense throughout the duration of the announcement, he only made mention of one raid specifically. Undoubtedly, ArenaNet plans on releasing a plethora of exciting raids for players to enjoy, they just won’t all be released in one lump sum right out of the gate. ArenaNet posted a short blog post on raids shortly after the announcement reiterating the information Colin provided, which can be viewed below.

After Colin Johanson concluded the segment on raids, ArenaNet president Mike O’Brien took the stage to make an announcement that will no doubt prove relatively controversial: as of yesterday, the core Guild Wars 2 game will be free to download and play. While this will no doubt create a massive influx of new players, these free players will have restrictions placed on their accounts. All of these restrictions can be found in this blog post written up by Mike O’Brien on the Guild Wars 2 website. Furthermore, players who paid for the core game will receive the Royal Guard outfit for free, which can be seen in the image below. Despite the core game being free, however, Heart of Thorns will still cost $50, and Living World releases will likely remain in the gemstore for anyone who doesn’t unlock them for free while they releases are active.

Royal Guard outfit.

ArenaNet will also be launching a new Heart of Thorns website, which can be visited here. Be sure to read up on all the new information before launch because, at only 54 days away, it’s closer than you might imagine!

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