With the release of Colin Johanson’s State of the Game blog post earlier this month, Guild Wars 2 fans are quivering with excitement over the plethora of changes coming to the game in 2016. Many of these changes, though appreciated, are minor quality-of-life affairs and won’t affect the overall player experience too much. However, a few of the items Johanson mentions in his post stand apart from the others as things that will drive the game to new heights and bring more players into the world of Tyria. That isn’t to say that any of the updates listed in the post were bad; quite the contrary. With so many fantastic updates to choose from, the top five needed to truly brighten the game’s horizon. Without further ado, here are my top five Guild Wars 2 updates to look forward to in 2016!
5. Gliding in Core Tyria
When gliding was announced as a Heart of Thorns feature at PAX South 2015, the community lost their minds. It provided the perfect solution to the “flying problem,” in that it allowed players to progress toward easier map traversal without completely trivializing content on the ground. Needless to say, it was a smash hit, and since Heart of Thorns’ release gliding has remained one of players’ all-time favorite features from the expansion, with one caveat: Why can’t we glide in core Tyria?!
At first, it seemed there were two main reasons: that gliding could trivialize core jumping puzzles and vistas, and that it could circumvent the boundaries of core maps, both of which were obviously not designed with gliding in mind. However, when one gives the concept more thought, it’s clear the pros outweigh the cons.
The facts are that we, as a player base, have had over three years to tackle the core jumping puzzle and vista content. After all this time, the pure enjoyment of gliding far surpasses any potential disgruntlement at perhaps getting to a vista too easily. In fact, for those of us who are on our ninth full map completion run (Oh, that’s just me? Right.), it’s something of a quality of life improvement. Furthermore, it would appear that tightening up map boundaries to account for gliding wasn’t the monumental task we thought it to be, as Johnason mentions that the dev team only made “some small changes here and there” to the core Tyria maps in preparation for gliding.
There is also a laundry list of advantages gliding in core Tyria offers to both ArenaNet and players. When new free-to-play players see characters gliding overhead, it will incentivize them to buy the expansion. Machinima creators will have new ways to film landscapes. Roleplayers can take their story arcs in new directions. Players who’ve seen and done it all can get from place to place with greater ease, cutting down on “exp waste,” while the sweeping beauty of Tyria can finally be experienced in all of its sprawling, majestic glory. Bringing gliding to core Tyria is an important step in unifying the old world with the new, and will serve to further broaden the appeal of the core content experience.
4. Salvation Pass
It’s no secret that raiding has gone over swimmingly with the community. ArenaNet promised us truly challenging content, and boy, did they deliver. The first wing of the Forsaken Thicket raid, Spirit Vale, satisfied numerous hardcore raiding guilds and stumped the rest, proving the game’s toughest challenge to date and boasting great gameplay, a compelling story, and shiny loots. It was so well received that the community was soon clamouring for more, and the great god of smiles and hype, Colin Johanson, has delivered.
Later this quarter (date unconfirmed), ArenaNet will be releasing the raid’s second wing, Salvation Pass. By the reckoning of many, myself included, the story beginning to unfold in Forsaken Thicket is highly compelling, offering fascinating lore insights as well as posing critical questions that, if answered, will significantly impact the main storyline of the game. The advancement of the raid’s plot alone is enough to place Salvation Pass on this list, but there is also its gameplay impact to consider. With the huge hit that was Spirit Vale, raiders are foaming at the mouth to get their hands on the next raid wing, eager to tackle new challenges and earn new shinies. The release of a new raid wing will get Guild Wars 2’s name circulating in that hardcore community once more, increasing its credibility with that audience. These are good things for the game as, while Spirit Vale definitely boosted its hardcore player base significantly, those players are still relatively unsatisfied with Guild Wars 2.
3. New Fractals
Let’s be honest: we’re bored with the current Fractal rotation. New Fractals have not been added to the game since November 2013’s “Fractured” patch, and after more than two years of the same 14 instances, it’s about time for some new blood. The developers have made numerous attempts to revitalize the Fractal scene with reward revamps, scaling adjustments, instabilities, and leaderboards, but at the end of the day, regularly released new Fractals are what is going to make this content fun again.
Luckily for us, 2016 is going to offer just that at some point. While ArenaNet has not specified a release date for a new Fractal, Johanson did confirm in his post that new Fractals will arrive in some capacity in 2016. As someone who enjoys Fractals a great deal but is simply bored to tears with them, the prospect of some new Fractals to spice things up has me positively brimming with glee. Not only do Fractals provide excellent gameplay, but I absolutely love the storytelling potential they provide. Any piece of Guild Wars history could be made into a Fractal and that gives me hope that some of the amazing stories in the game’s vast storehouse of lore might be brought to life via the Fractals of the Mists.
2. World vs. World Overhaul
As someone who does not play a whole lot of WvW, this one came as a bit of a dark horse on this list. At first I lumped it in with all the other background noise in Colin’s post: nice, but nothing to write home (or the internet) about. However, as I thought about which items would make my top five more and more, I realized that the impact this update could have on WvW as a game-mode could be potentially tremendous. Not only will it see the return of WvW tournaments (those were so much fun!), but it will see revamps to population, rewards, and scoring. As a result, it could possibly see WvW once again become a popular game-mode and possibly get the coverage and love that I wish it deserved. Right now, WvW is easily the least popular of Guild Wars 2’s three game types, and if this overhaul could put it on par or even above Structured PvP in terms of popularity, it would no doubt be a game changer for the WvW scene.
The problem here is that we don’t know enough about this patch yet. In his post, Johanson mentions that ArenaNet:
“may not be ready to reveal more in early 2016, but you’ll have an opportunity to get all the details and give feedback when we go into the beta phase of this massive project later this year.”
In short, this update is nowhere close to being ready yet. However, I’m ranking this based on its potential positive outcome for the game: if it goes over well, it will contribute massively to the overall health and longevity of Guild Wars 2.
1. Living World Season 3
Seriously, what else could have topped this list? Season 2 of the Living World was a marked improvement over Season 1, and while we may have faltered a smidge with the Heart of Thorns storyline, I feel that ArenaNet’s redistribution of resources and manpower going into 2016 will result in a Living World experience that surpasses both Heart of Thorns and Season 2.
Season 3 is likely to be upping the lore ante significantly with the potential reveal of Rytlock’s experiences in the Mists, the mystery of Glint’s egg, and our continued interactions with the Exalted. Combine that with the veiled notion from Season 2 that killing off Elder Dragons might not be such a good plan, and we get a complex, compelling narrative experience deeply rooted in the lore of the Guild Wars universe. I can’t wait!