Guild Wars 2 finally gets an expansion and it’s, well, an expansion all right

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ArenaNet announced the Heart of Thorns expansion for Guild Wars 2 today. I suppose I’m as excited as the next person about some of the new features, but I’m also disappointed. The new features are exactly what you’d expect in an expansion, but I can’t help but feel a bit of an “is that all there is?” sensation. I blame Guild Wars 2 itself. It can’t be easy to expand a game this generous, expansive, and varied. There are already so many ways to play, and the classes feel so different, and there are so many options for what would normally be considered endgame grind: dungeons, fractals, exploration, legendary weapons, completing skills, pet collecting, achievements. Furthermore, with the living world storyline, ArenaNet has done such a great job adding new content and new places. And I say that having barely played any of season two. So what’s left for an expansion to do?

After the jump, what specifically is being added in Heart of Thorns?

* A new region called the heart of Maguuma, which fits alongside the existing Maguuma jungle, but is broken into three distinct biomes for the roots, the base of the jungle, and the canopy above the jungle. This is where the living world storyline picks up where it left off at the end of season two.

* A new account-based progression system called masteries, which seems tied mainly to the heart of Maguuma area. Earn points by adventuring in the Maguuma area to spend on abilities that will be unlocked for all your characters at the level cap. Examples included hang-gliding (which will probably only work in the new region), reading languages that unlock lore, more crafting options which include an easier way to get a crucial ingredient for legendary weapons, and combat options that weren’t specified.

* Each class will get something called a specialization, which is a subclass you can “turn into”. The only example given was how a ranger can turn into a druid, which lets him use staffs. Necromancers will be able to use greatswords, but the specialization wasn’t specified.

* The revenant is a new class that channels legends from Guild Wars lore. For example, a revenant can invoke the powers of Guild Wars’ long-lost dwarves. Revenants wear heavy armor, which implies they’re melee based. But no class is Guild Wars 2 is quite that simple. My guardian, a heavy armor class, loves using her staff for ranged attacks.

* A new borderlands map for the world vs. world mode will have more terrain variety, including themed keeps that give unique abilities to whichever faction controls them. For instance, controlling the fire keep will let armies teleport among pools of lava. Game director Colin Johanson said the new map, and the original map, will be tuned to incentivize holding onto objectives longer.

* Strongholds is a new mode in the team-based player vs. player. Earn supply points to recruit armies and heroes, then storm the enemy stronghold and kill its boss. This new mode will support guild teams who can compete for placement on a leaderboard.

* Guilds can buy and configure guild halls, which is like a larger scale version of player housing, and no doubt just as useful.

ArenaNet is remaining mum on when Heart of Thorns will be available or how much it will cost. The site for the add-on is here.

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