Win Me Over, Heart of Thorns

Ever since the announcement of the Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns expansion, I have wondered whether or not it will contain the key aspects of modern MMORPGs that grab my attention. I am currently a raid leader of a team on World of Warcraft, and a semi-hardcore raider on Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. As a gamer that frequently plays MMOs and has quit Guild Wars 2 in the past due to multiple factors, I have been most interested in the upcoming expansion, Heart of Thorns.


On the left is a bard from Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and on the right is Sylvanas Windrunner from World of Warcraft.

There are various reasons as to why I quit playing Guild Wars 2. I guess the main thing that really drove me to quit was the lack of endgame content. In other MMOs that I have played, there has been endgame content that has retained my attention. On World of Warcraft, I am highly interested in raiding – PvE that requires larger groups of 10-30 members to defeat harder bosses, and Arena PvP (2v2, 3v3 and 5v5 rated deathmatch-style combat). Final Fantasy XIV also has a very engaging PvE element, including both raids and dungeons, encouraging replay for the older content within the game.

Both of the aforementioned games are ones that I have played fairly consistently and have missed when I have not been playing them. World of Warcraft is a game that I have grown up with and has a lore that I have generally always been interested in following ever since I was introduced to the franchise. Having played the older Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy XIV naturally caught my attention, and I have loved it since day one. The main common factor between both of these games is the compelling PvE and raiding scene. Unfortunately, this is something that I have never really felt in Guild Wars 2.

Trial of the Crusader, a raid from World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King.

When it comes to games, I’m generally a competitive player that enjoys the harder and more challenging content. As “fun” as grinding Ascalonian Catacombs paths 1 and 3 every day was, I found no reason to continue playing Guild Wars 2 after trying to commit to it in 2014. Everything I was doing daily just felt so repetitive and grindy (which can be said about many games), but wasn’t challenging at all. The dungeons that I was running every day consisted of stacking as a group and burning down enemies as fast as possible. Although I had good friends to keep me company and aid me in whatever I was doing, I just found the PvE content so boring to the point where I couldn’t continue. The best way to describe my feelings towards the game is that whenever I logged in, I thought “what do I need to do?” rather than “what do I want to do?” Once I realised that this was how I felt about the game, I basically gave up on it there and then. I play games for enjoyment, not to fill time. Don’t get me wrong, I did have fun when playing the game and do have some memorable experiences (I’m looking at you, Twisted Marionette), but it just generally didn’t suit my play-style.

So, what does Heart of Thorns require in order to win me back? Pretty much the previously mentioned things: challenging PvE content and a balanced, rated form of PvP. I realise that no game will ever be perfect for me, and even if it is, it won’t be perfect for someone else. It’s just the way that games are made. Heart of Thorns has so much potential, and I hope it meets every expectation of the Guild Wars fan base.


The above screenshsot displays the Legendary Wyvern encounter, including the new defiance bar.

With news of the Legendary Wyvern introducing the new defiance mechanic, there’s a good chance that ArenaNet is focussing on bringing out more challenging PvE content. By introducing new fight mechanics, I’m hoping that another issue that I had with Guild Wars 2 will be fixed: the lack of an individual “role.” What do I mean by this? Basically, the way that everyone doing challenging content or speed runs pretty much requires Berserker’s armour (bonuses to power, precision and ferocity) in order to clear dungeons efficiently. Fortunately for me, I always intended to play a “glass cannon” styled thief, which led me down the Berserker route naturally.  The concept of everyone doing the same job was really lackluster to me, having played MMOs that use the trinity approach (tanks, healers and damage dealers). I felt like I didn’t really do anything different to anyone else, regardless of profession. This basically led me to feeling a lack of individuality – carrying out tasks that pretty much any profession could fulfill. However, a recent reveal from ArenaNet has given great promise that this individuality is going to be around come Heart of Thorns.

The announcement of the chronomancer has set the stage for specialisations to be the thing that will fill niche roles in parties. This elite specialisation for the mesmer will be heavily focussed on being an AoE party support, applying buffs and status effects through the usage of well skills. A support type role that utilises well skills is something completely new to Guild Wars (the only profession that can currently cast wells is a necromancer). To me, this seems like ArenaNet is actually focussing on implementing a more diverse selection of roles for people to choose from. The whole specialisation feature is looking to be a great new way for players to be able to customise their profession to suit their play style, which is always a good thing. Although specialisations will most likely have a huge part to play in the upcoming PvE content, I’m also curious as to how much it will affect the PvP environment. Will elite specialisations such as the druid and chronomancer bring a major shift in terms of the PvP meta?

Particle effects for the chronomancer’s Well of Action.

Guild Wars 2’s PvP system is one that I’ve never really gotten into. As much as I’ve always loved to do PvP in previous games, I never felt hooked at any point of playing it in GW2. Before the game was even released, I was really looking forward to getting a good start on the PvP scene and keeping up-to-date with the meta. This all changed after reaching level 50 and trying to have this as my main focus as opposed to doing the daily dungeon grind. The one thing that I’m used to when playing PvP in a game is having a visual progression of my character – whether this be earning some kind of rating, or grinding a currency in order to obtain gear with higher stats etc. Sadly, my previous experiences were far from what I found in Guild Wars 2. While I can see the benefits of having no farming process for superior gear, I surely didn’t expect to be given the best armour and weapons available for free. The only thing that I could actually work towards was my rank, which in turn provided me with new cosmetics for my gear. When playing endgame on an MMO, I’ve never really been focussed on aesthetics, neither did I ever see it becoming my main focus in any game that I play. I know that PvP Reward Tracks were introduced which at least give some sense of achievement and something to work towards, but I don’t believe it fixed the problem that I have with the system.

Overall, though I think Heart of Thorns does seem to have very promising aspects to it such as specialisations and newer PvE mechanics, I think the PvP system may still need updating. Although not much has been revealed about the future of PvP, a complete overhaul of the current system is the only thing that would make me want to play this part of the game again.

If you’d like another perspective on challenging content in HoT, check out Kriss Watt’s article in our latest magazine.

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