Somewhat to my own surprise, I bought and installed Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns on Saturday. The first thing I did on my Necromancer was spec the Reaper thingy and train the ability to use a greatsword. That was pretty cool. I enjoyed the greatsword on my Guardian so it’s nice to have it on the character that I actually play the most. The game was nice enough to give me an exotic Reaper’s Greatsword of Air to play with, too.
Before I jumped into any new zones, I resolved to use that new Greatsword to finish the rest of the Living Story Season 2, so that’s what I spent most of the weekend doing. It was a bit like gritting your teeth and choking down healthy vegetables, but I got through it. Fighting the final bosses in those Living Stories feels more like a punishment than a fun thing to look forward to. “Please god, let there be more dialog so I don’t have to fight through these aggravating mechanics.”
Finally on Tuesday night, I made my first real foray into the Maguuma Jungle in the Verdant Brink.
I didn’t like it at first. The map is a huge maze, filled with twists and turns and ramps and stairs going up and down and places you can’t go because there are yawning chasms everywhere that you can’t cross (at first). I spent quite a long time just trying to figure out how to leave the starting point. It takes a lot of painstakingly careful navigation to get from Point A to Point B, and there aren’t many teleports to help you get around. Also, after the first part of the story, it throws you out into the jungle on your own until you earn your Gliding Mastery, so you can’t even follow the green stars.
I’ve read reports that it’s hard to solo in the new zones, and to some extent that’s true, but I don’t think it’s any more difficult than Orr or Dry Top or Silverwastes. (I recall Orr being a very nasty place to walk around by yourself early on.) Unless you stumble across an event-driven horde of mobs by yourself, you can usually just run away from most encounters.
I was amazed to find myself walking around completely alone at first. Usually in an expansion there are crowds of people running around all over the map, but the places I went were completely deserted. I was thoroughly puzzled and starting to get a bit discouraged when I stumbled onto a revelation.
I was standing in one of the NPC campsites all by myself when suddenly a zerg of players arrived, having just finished some event. Then a new chain of events started and I followed along with the zerg. Suddenly I felt like I was playing GW2 again! The dynamic events were always my favorite part of the GW2 leveling process. Admittedly, it was a little more fun in the early days because there were only a handful of people doing each event. Now there are like twenty or thirty people in a mass roiling zerg of chaos flowing from place to place on the map. Typical of GW2 combat, you have no idea what’s going on, you can’t see anything you’re targeting, you can’t tell what’s killing you, and the group’s spell effects completely obscure the screen. But at least there are people!
So it seems that’s the way ArenaNet wants us to play GW2 now: Make your way to some spot on the map and wait there for a zerg train to roll through, then hop on board until you get killed. Then rinse and repeat. If you try to just wander around the map looking at things (like how you used to wander around going to the hearts, or like you might play, oh, any other MMORPG), you’re going to be all alone, you’re not going to find very much to see, you’re not going to find anything that gives you any rewards, and you’re probably going to get killed in the process. (Incidentally that is exactly my experience of WvW, too.)
Zerg trains are fun, but unfortunately they wear me out quickly. But it seems like it’s the best way to increase your Mastery Rank, which is the new leveling progression. (Not to be confused with Mastery Points, which are different.) They even put your Mastery Rank in your nameplate instead of your level. I can see where it might get grindy, but personally I’m happy to see something in the game that gives you a tangible indication that your time spent doing things at the maximum level is not completely wasted. Now there is an actual goal to work toward. (Other than arbitrary achievement points.)
Overall I don’t regret buying the expansion. By my weird entertainment value calculations, I’ve already played it enough to get my money’s worth, and discounting the Living Story Season 2, most of that time has even been enjoyable. I’m sure I’ll keep coming back to it periodically. That’s one of the nice things about GW2: It’s so easy to pop into the game for a short period of time and then leave again, no strings attached.
P.S. I made a Revenent too but I haven’t played it enough to have any opinions on it.