HoT Thoughts – Part 2: The Jungle

DISCLAIMER: This post contains spoilers. If you have not finished the Heart of Thorns Story and Maps and do not wish for spoilers, I suggest reading after you’ve completed them.

Last week I took some time to write about the story in Heart of Thorns. Specifically, it was the most critical of this 3-part series about my HoT thoughts. This week I want to talk a little bit more about the story, as well as the open world, events, maps.

HoT Thoughts – Story (the good)

Last week you may have noticed that my views on the story were highly critical, and could possibly be mistaken as negative. While yes, I believe that there are some not-so-well-done elements of the story, there are some amazing things as well!

Recently I decided to bring my Necromancer through a bit of the story as a Reaper, and I remembered how much I absolutely love that your character speaks. This is huge. They converse, express thoughts, and vocalize their experience as they step through the journey to the Heart of Thorns.

Furthermore, I love that there are some minor choices that change the direction. Verdant Brink gives you this option with either going out with Tizlak or defending the Itzel village in Chapter 4: The Jungle Provides. Sure, it’s small, but it definitely lets you have multiple experiences of the story as you do it on alts.

Finally, I really love that not everything is instanced. You are engaged with the world around you, since the story itself isn’t just tied to the chapters you complete, but also to the meta events that take place. Each map itself is a part of what’s happening in the giant narrative of Heart of Thorns.

Moving on, HoT radically changed a lot of things in Guild Wars 2. Some for the better, some for the worse. I’ll step through some thoughts from each

Open World

Verdant Brink

This is probably my favourite map in terms of the meta event. If you haven’t played it, the Pact is scattered and need to set up encampments. During the day, you’ll be completing meta events to establish these encampments throughout the map. During the night, rally points are established that require that you claim them, deliver pact supplies, and escort pact soldiers to boost the supply level. Like the meta events in the day cycle, these contribute to the map meta level at night. After a certain point, choppers are placed at the rally points and encampments, and you can go up to the canopy and fight a set of bosses that also contribute to the map meta completion (up to Tier 4).

This is an astoundingly well done map meta because there is always something going on. I’d say of all the events, this is the one that’s done perfectly well. Sure, you may not get Tier 4 rewards if you’re not on a great map, but there is always something happening that’s worth doing. I find of all the maps, I end up back here the most.

Auric Basin

This is a beautiful map, and quite possibly the most beautiful of all of them. Exalted are all around the map, and Tarir is absolutely gorgeous. The problem that arises is the need to taxi into a good map to make the map worth the events. I won’t go into the detail of the rest of the map metas, but this one is a weird mixture of Vinewrath, Marionette, and the Ogre Guild Challenge.

It’s actually a really fun meta event that’s pretty easy to do if people cooperate,  but the issue is that the map is rendered rather worthless unless you do Hero Challenges every day for Aurillium (10 per repeatable challenge), or taxi to a better map. The good part is that of all of the meta events, this seems to be the easiest to get into and to do. The down side? Nothing else happens if it’s not the meta event.

Tangled Depths

As you get further into the jungle, you hit Tangled Depths. This is actually my favourite map in the entire game because of its complexity. It’s beautifully done, full of mobs to destroy, and has a lot of nooks and crannies outside of the Ley-Line Confluence Waypoint where the meta event happens. Some find it highly confusing, but once you’ve explored quite a bit, navigating gets much easier.

There are two issues I see with this map though:

1. Meta is Everything

Like Auric Basin, the meta event is all that matters here. You won’t find events worthwhile to do unless it’s hero challenges, which will net you some Ley Line Crystals, the currency for this map. To me, this is a huge down side though since the meta for this map isn’t ongoing. At least with Auric Basin, there’s a progressive meta with very little down time. You can always get in. This one? The meta builds up fairly quickly, only to end abruptly if one lane should fail (more on that in a minute here).

2. Wham-Bam, Thank You, Meta

Harsh, but that’s how I feel this meta event is. I actually LOVE doing the Chak Gerent battle. Problem? It’s every two hours, meaning I rarely ever get to attempt it. It’s also extremely difficult compared to all the other metas in HoT, and you need it for some collections. I’ll be blunt and say that this is a poor design, and should be looked at again.

The map meta starts with pulling different lanes together, consisting of Rata Novus, Ogres, Nuhoch, and S.C.A.R. These events pull together pretty quick. Then every two hours the event takes place… for a very brief time.

You see, multiple lanes gather to face the Gerent, each having a different mechanic to get the Gerent up for a burn phase. This happens a few times, with multiple opportunities to fail. Should one lane fail, the entire group fails. Some lanes like S.C.A.R. are simply DPS checks as opposed to being heavily mechanic-based.

It’s hard to explain my feelings for this. I honestly feel that Tangled Depths is too long between meta events, too insignificant in the grand scheme of the map (it runs for what… 20 minutes, if that?), is too important for collections when it’s that infrequent, and is far too difficult for how important it is. I enjoy the idea behind it, but it relies too much on way too many people doing it perfectly, when you don’t get enough time to practice.

Overall, I love the map itself… it just feels empty and purposeless in the grand scheme, as if it were forgotten about. Also, if you want to do the meta? Taxi in an hour before, other wise there’s no hope.

Yeah. I want to play the expansion by standing around, waiting for a 15 minute meta event that’s most likely going to fail. Thrilling.

Dragon’s Stand

This is the shining beacon of excitement in terms of the design of meta events. The entire battle pulls together the entire map meta stories and joins all the races and groups together (even the Nightmare Court) in a final assault against Mordremoth. Well, specifically, the Mouth of Mordremoth. If anything, this is one epic battle that culminates in an amazing raid-like boss fight with great mechanics. Is it hard? Absolutely not. Is it fun? Completely.

The big problem? That this expansion should have been called Guild Wars 2: Heart of the Taxi. You need to taxi into this map as well to make any use of it, and it has a two hour time limit to succeed. Reality is, I rarely get to do this one as well because of real life. I have a job, kids, and things to do, so when I have a few hours at night to actually play, I don’t get to touch Tangled Depths or Dragon’s Stand. It’s sad, because this place is amazing.

If you haven’t done DS, you need to. Take some time, sit down, and enjoy the giant war that is the siege on Mordremoth.

A Few Thoughts

I really do love Heart of Thorns, but the extreme need to taxi for events, the long wait time between many meta events, and the lack of maps outside of these four, is really one of the biggest down sides of Heart of Thorns. Yes, you get four maps that have some serious events to them, but if you don’t get into a good map, you don’t get to play a large chunk of the expansion. This type of taxi-gating is infuriating at times and has, in some moments, made me wonder why I purchased Heart of Thorns.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I bought the expansion and you’ll see why next week, but there are definitely some frustrations. This expansion is not perfect, but I think it’s a great start. When you do get to experience a lot of metas, you’ll find that they’re quite engaging and exciting, with some fun mechanics to them. Are they game-changers? Definitely not.

Thoughts on the HoT Expansion

Many of us can look back to the day at PAX, whether we were there in person or on Twitch, and remember that rush of excitement when Heart of Thorns was released. I mean, we could easily see it coming with how they ended off the Living Story. Still, it was a moment that I’ll probably never forget. Then came that release trailer and the explanation of all the amazing things we’ll get to discover! Mastery system, specializations, a brand new class called the Revenant… all of these things built so much hype and excitement and then…

Well, it’s gone.

For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I’m not a hyper-critical person. I generally don’t use my blog to vent frustration, and this blog post isn’t intended to be that at all. What I do want to spend a few moments highlighting is the reality of where we are today, and what I believe many players are feeling.

You see, it was all excitement and energy–the hype was real–until those words were spoken: “When it’s ready.”

Although that didn’t phase me much at first, I look back to that announcement and noticed a severe lack of direction. I honestly have taken the approach as “let’s show them lots of great stuff, build it up to be astounding, and then hope that rides us to when we can finally release it.” Frankly, I don’t think that’s a good approach at all. Guild Wars 2 is my favourite game, and I’m actually rather disappointed that ArenaNet has taken this route. No release date? Not even a release goal? No explanation as to what’s going to happen until then? Sure, we got a few minor festivals, but that hasn’t really done anything when they set the precedent of Living Story (which we know is done until Heart of Thorns).

On top of that, I notice the slow roll-out of purchasable things in the gem store to keep them going. I’m not against this at all, but for me it puts a bad taste in my mouth. I think this all could have been done better.

“Well, you’re complaining, so give some ideas on how it should have been better!” you might say. Well, I sort of have some.

You see, the reality is that I don’t work for ArenaNet and therefore, can’t really understand their situation. I also have never worked in the gaming industry. Heck, having a family member in the gaming industry has really opened my eyes as to what it looks like–nothing like I imagined. We often approach it from a sense of entitlement saying: “I’m the consumer! I deserve [insert thing here]” but sometimes it’s not that simple. Wait, actually, it’s almost never that simple. So yes, I understand that I don’t have the full picture. I’m just thinking…

  1. Expansions should never be announced without a projected release quarter.
    • Sure, this gives the challenge of being seen as having a “broken promise,” but people are going to have unrealistic expectations. Such is consumerism. Anytime you’re going to release something that’s game-changing, you need to at least have a projection for people to work with. Otherwise you end up with your players being disillusioned. Judging from many people I’ve encountered in-game, that’s growing at a rapid rate. At least, that’s been my experience.
  2. Be clear about your game plan.
    • This has been one of ArenaNet’s biggest challenges. When they tried to be clear, they felt they got bit, so they pulled back completely. I don’t think this was a smart move at all. I think they need to be clear about where they’re going from here. Even if they don’t give out a projected release date, they should at least say what they’re doing in-between. The problem is if they say “nothing,” then people will leave until the expansion. There’s due diligence that needs to be done on their part. At the moment, I’m left wondering if they even have a game plan until then, or if we’re just abandoned. The time between Living Story updates were painful enough, but we at least knew what would happen–we knew the game plan.
  3. Do small things to bring about a “freshness” in the game instead of “stagnancy.”
    • They’ve played around with quite a few things that used to be in the game as small updates. For instance, SAB was a huge hit among many (I’m highlighting that, in spite of the fact that I didn’t like it at all, most people did). Bring it back. Who cares if there’s nothing new? There’s an expansion coming. Is it possible to reactivate it? Well, I don’t work for ArenaNet but I would assume there is.
    • Perhaps starting another WvW Tournament would be an effective thing to keep things going for a bit?
    • Maybe even a few more basic “Festival” things that they’ve done before could work? I’m not sure how, as Dragon Bash had too much LS storyline in it to my understanding (I was absent during that time), and the Zephyrites are now grounded (no Labyrinthine Cliffs). Still, small things need to be done to keep people engaged when that was the premise of your game since near the beginning.

Now please hear me out. I’m not *complaining* per se. I’m simply pointing out that there are elements that I’m not pleased with, and I’m using this as a medium to hopefully open up some dialogue as to what people think could improve. I’m still committed to Guild Wars 2 and adore it. I’ve put lots of real cash into the game to support ArenaNet as I love what they’ve been doing. What I will say is that I don’t even look forward to logging in very often anymore, and that has a lot to do with the current approach–pure silence.

“When it’s ready.” <– That line right there? It needs to die. It feels rather insulting, to be honest. “Let’s give you lots of great stuff to look forward to, but you don’t know when you’ll ever get it.

Honestly, I was excited on that day for Heart of Thorns. Now? I honestly don’t feel like I care about it because I feel like it’ll never happen. I’m being shown snippets of stuff but none of it really feels complete. Yes, we got the Stronghold Beta (and I’m not a huge PvP guy, I’ll admit), and I think that was a very wise move on their part. Still, I think that things could have been done better.

The bottom line is that I hope ArenaNet starts communicating more openly and giving us something solid to work with. Why? Because I love Guild Wars 2, and I wholeheartedly want it to be even better than it already is!


What’re your thoughts on how the expansion has been handled so far? Post in the comments below and please, keep it respectful of others!