Left Behind: Guild Wars 2 WITHOUT Heart of Thorns .

TIME :2022-07-03

That time had come again. You know, that time. That first login immediately following a major change in your favorite video game that fills you with a sense of dread. I experienced this a few days ago, when I first logged back into Guild Wars 2 following the release of Heart of Thorns, the first sizeable expansion to be released for the game. I had read the patch notes, of course, but my eyes glazed over a bit as I tried to read them – you see, there are a *lot* of changes with Heart of Thorns, and hence, a *lot* of patch notes – and I could not positively determine how much of this, if any, would really have any impact on my gameplay. It was pretty difficult to tell exactly which changes and features came with the purchase of Heart of Thorns, and which were gamewide changes which would impact everyone, whether or not we had yet purchased the expansion. You see, I have not yet purchased Heart of Thorns; I intend to, but I haven’t yet, and I may not be able to for a few weeks. Life sometimes gets in the way like that. But, nevertheless, I was worried, skeptical; would Guild Wars 2 be unrewarding now for those of us who hadn’t bought the expansion yet? Read on, and find out.

Even if you did not purchase Heart of Thorns, you will still have noticed the immense update that you had to download last week, and I downloaded the update and logged in. The character select screen came up, and immediately I noticed the changes to the little window in the upper right of my screen. Now, instead of simply telling me how many achievement points I had earned, there were entries for Mastery Rank, PvP Rank, and WvW Rank. Upon mousing over them, a pop-up text window informed me that I must purchase Heart of Thorns to do anything involving the new mastery system (I already knew that) but there was no similar information with the PvP and WvW entries. Not of huge importance for me, as I don’t PvP (Yet; rest assured, I plan to start dying repeatedly in WvW
!) but it did confirm that yes, there would be some changes for those of us who didn’t get the expansion yet; new finishers and special abilities are actual changes, not just little cosmetic “stuff”. Nice.

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I entered the game and looked at my character; yep, all my gear looks the same, my specials, my spec. The only real difference I noticed was that on my hero sheet, there was now a page for “Masteries” but, once again, that is meant for those with the expansion. Hmm. I decided to dig a bit deeper, and I trotted off to the Tailoring Station to see what, if anything, had changed on the crafting side of things. When my list of schematics came up, everything looked more or less the same, except for things like “Cube of Stabilized Dark Energy”, which is evidently used in crafting legendary backpacks, and “Jeweled Damask Patches”, which are used for… uh. Well. I have no idea; if anyone reading this knows, I’d be grateful if you’d leave a comment and tell me! The vendor shows some new schematics, notably insignias with Crusader and Marauder stats; Crusader adds to Power, Toughness, Ferocity, and Healing, and Marauder to Power, Precision, Vitality, and Ferocity; I must say, the Marauder’s stats excite me quite a bit; seems like a nice alternative to Knight’s or Celestial stats.

Crafting changes are nice, but so are bug fixes and UI updates, and this patch was not short on those for those of us who are HoT-less either. Every class received its share of bug fixes and changes; according to the patch notes regarding elementalists, for example, Glyph of Storms had issues with the Ice Storm and Lightning Storm effects impacting a smaller than intended area, and this bug has been fixed (I never noticed this bug… of course, I never used Glyph of Storms) and Burning Fire had a rather serious bug which prevented it removing the entire stack of conditions when it would trigger; now this bug I HAD noticed. These fixes are certainly not game altering by any means, but they’re nice, and there were a lot of small bug fixes and tweaks like this. By far, however, my favorite change is a targeting tweak that was made which effects targeted area of effect type skills. The option, named “Snap Ground Target to Current Target”, is enabled in the general section of the options menu, and when it is enabled, a ground targeting skill, such as a staff elementalist’s Lava Font, will not only appear beneath your current active target, but it will move with them should they move. This is awesome for those of us who like to do the various world bosses, but who hate the soulcrushing lag that has plagued some of these events (Frozen Maw, I am looking at you) since launch. Changes that improve my play experience? Sign me up.

YOU CANNOT ESCAPE ME!

YOU CANNOT ESCAPE ME!

The cool changes don’t stop there; there are actual content changes and additions for all. In my opinion, the coolest change has been the reworking of fractals in general, and the reduction in the number of parts to a fractal run in particular. Previously, doing a fractal run meant that you would be required to complete three separate fractal instances, and then do a boss instance, for a total of four “parts”. Now, a fractal run consists of only a single instance, which makes them considerably more approachable for players who cannot, or would rather not, commit to the length of time they could take previously. It has the added effect of making a fractal run more tolerable for more experienced players, should they be grouped via the LFG tool with someone who might not be so familiar with how fractals work. As I myself am still all too often that inexperienced person who just doesn’t know the instances well and has some troubles, it’s nice to know I am not making people suffer through four instances with me, should I be having a particularly bad day. This change made fractals go from a thing I only did once in a great while to a thing I will now do daily. A number of other fractal changes were made – mostly bug fixes, though some new achievements have been added – but none so important or noteworthy as this.

Another content change is the introduction of a system of map rewards, and it’s another change that is just plain cool. All explorable areas of the map, except for the starting areas, will now give players items as rewards for completing events on that map, doing jumping puzzles, and the like. For instance, as I write this, I can alt tab to the world map and mouse over a region; let’s look at Cursed Shore. The current map reward is a Vial of Powerful Blood – you know, the fairly rare Tier 6 crafting material that sells for 60 or so silver on the Trading Post? Yeah. That one. If I go complete three events in a row (I did it a few times, and it seems three is the magic number) I get the reward; it just shows up in my inventory. Other rewards in the current rotation are a Molten Core, a Molten Lodestone, and an Obsidian Shard; all very nice items, and now players can get them by doing something more engaging than simply grinding the same monsters (Snow Trolls, anyone?) again and again and again. For casual players who have always enjoyed the fact that GW2 is a game where one can just log in for an hour or two and go “do stuff”, these map rewards are now another sort of “stuff” to do, and a fairly rewarding one at that.

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One more change merits mention, while I am on the subject of events. Before the update, one could run around and “tag” events; run into an event area, whack a monster or two, and run off, and when someone, somewhere, eventually completed the event, you would get the rewards, as long as you were still somewhere on the same map. Now, if you leave an event’s area, you will no longer receive credit for the event’s completion, so the days of tagging an event, running off, tagging another, etc., are over.

There were lots of other changes too; new skins for weapons and armor, the jump pads that have been added in Lion’s Arch so you can now (literally) bounce back and forth between the bank and the trading post, a new PvP mode called Stronghold… you get the idea. Even without paying a dime, I got a lot of new content out of the update that accompanied the Heart of Thorns expansion. Yeah, I want to try the new mastery system, the new Tempest spec, and play in the new jungle zones, who wouldn’t? The point is that if you cannot get the expansion right away, that’s ok; there is still a lot of new stuff to do, and you need not pay a cent to get it. If you enjoyed Guild Wars II before the expansion, you still will enjoy it every bit as much. If you’re anything at all like me, well, you’ll probably even like it a little bit more.

I can see my house from here!!

I can see my house from here!!