Well that was quite the rundown. I just got done with the preview of Guild Wars 2's upcoming build and I am swimming in changes. Changes to PvP maps, WvW linking, new legendaries, a Raid Lobby, LFG changes, and improvements to playability and rewards in Heart of Thorns. I don't have any sneaky tidbits of new upcoming content this time, but the existing content is getting some needed tweaks.
First off, I don't play PvP or WvW in GW2. As such, I can't comment too much on the impact of various changes being made in the new build. The changes sound positive, but I don't have my ear to the ground in that realm of play as I spend my time in GW2 running around in the underbrush and through caves haphazardly with reckless abandon. I don't have the experience and in game knowledge needed to make relevant comments on the potential impact of PvP style game changes. With all that in mind, I am going to focus on content changes to PvE. I do have to bring up the big new change in WvW first though.
The update rolls out World Linking for WvW. World linking was described to me as an attempt to create a population balance effect for WvW. Different worlds will be linked together to form temporary alliances for WvW in an attempt to improve matchups without increasing queues. The base description reminded me of the description of the megaserver system but unlike that system, world linking is done manually by the devs.
One of the downsides that had been brought up about the megaserver system was the fractioning of the communities that had developed on the servers before implementation. ArenaNet wants to avoid forcing the existing communities to rewrite and reorder themselves as these links are made and the system's manual nature allows them to stay cognizant of the interpersonal relations that exist between guilds and worlds. Honestly, I wish them best of luck. I don't envy those that take on the task of choosing these links.
WvW and PvP also have updates in the build to their reward systems and to some of the maps and borderlands. I suggest you check out the patch notes for specifics on those updates (though the update is going to be quite large). On to the PvE side of the world.
Level 80 boost.
Yup, an item that boosts a character straight to level 80 has been added to Heart of Thorns with the new build. Double click it and launch yourself into the expansion's jungle (which has been re-balanced with a more friendly reward and progression system) to your heart's content. An interesting feature is a "try before you buy" state where you get to effectively preview the level up on as many characters as you want before choosing which one to level up permanently. The boost is only available to those who have the expansion though, so the preview is limited to the expansion content.
The goal of the boost is to get players into the content as soon as possible. Heart of Thorns has a lot of gating in it progression wise and the boost allows players to skip the level gate entirely. The mastery progression gates are still in place, but you only need one level 80 character to begin unlocking those so the level boost is there to ensure that all players are able to begin that process.
With the level 80 boost making getting to the content a little less painful, most of the build then focuses on increasing the rewards for content, or makes getting to individual content segments faster. The HoT maps have large overarching metaevents that had their rewards tied to them. The build is going to decouple the rewards from the metaevent (mostly) to make a player's reward less reliant on the map state and when they were able to play.
Verdant Brink, for example, is a map divided into a day night cycle where players prep for the night battles during the day and are then rewarded. With the update, the two cycles are going to be further separated with the day cycle rewards being separated from the metaevent's reward coordinator. The Night Cycle events will largely be the same but the actual start of the event will be disconnected from the progress players achieved during the day cycle. This is to reduce players feeling like they ended up in a "bad map" and trying to ferry into a map that did better during the Day Cycle.
This schism continues for the other maps in the expansion content as well. Separating the major metaevent cycle into a smaller time slot with progression rewards while the "main" time slot is filled with more "explorer friendly" content that metaevent progression rewards. Roadblocks in maps that prevent players from accessing certain fun areas of the map except during the metaevent have been shifted around some, once again with the goal of allowing players to access the fun more readily.
Some changes to Raids, Dungeons, the LFG tool, and Daily Rewards focus on making it easier and more rewarding for players to participate in the content. More gold for repeatable reward achievements, a central meeting area for Raids, more flexible and rewarding dungeon tokens, and some tweaks to fractal advancement are all included in the update (but talking about them would quickly skyrocket this write-up's length to that of the update notes itself.Flying around the new Raid Lobby.
Instead, what are the impacts? For an established player, the build updates are largely just going to make the expansion's content more rewarding. If you have level 80 characters, the boost is nice, but it I don't see it having a large impact on your play time unless you are lacking in alt characters just due to not wanting to grind out levels. For a new player, the boost makes purchasing the expansion more attractive. While GW2 doesn't have an ever increasing gear gate, leveling up and unlocking masteries does take a lot of time investment that the boost helps with and more rewards makes it easier for new or less active players to kit out their characters.
I myself found the structuring of the expansion zones to be somewhat stifling. I fall in to the traditional explorer archetype in how I like to play GW2 and I look forward to seeing if the shift in metaevents improves my ability to play the way I prefer to instead of training around the map completing metaevents that don't interest me as much as getting to the top of that tree over there.
The build looks for be a Quality of Life improvement that sweeps across all aspects of the game to benefit all players, which is good to see.
Oh, and the LFG tool is now getting a search function for roleplayers and new players looking for mentors to find groups. I look forward to seeing those uses of the tool populate in the weeks after the update.
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