Welcome to the Scrying Pool, my Guild Wars 2 column here on Mattsta.Ninja.
There is a lot of talk in the community about how Heart of Thorns was bad. I have already done a review series of sorts, and while I do think there are areas of improvement—many of which are likely to be improved upon with the April Quarterly next week—I think the expansion was really good.
One of the complaints floating around of late is that Heart of Thorns only delivered half an expansion. Mike O’Brien already gave his points on the topic, but really the idea of HoT being half an expansion is just really dumb. The major points players will bring up are Legendary weapons, the Fractal Legendary backpiece and the lack of Legendary Armor. These three things apparently equal the four maps, personal story, WvW map, guild halls, new profession, elite specializations, masteries, new crafting discipline and all of the other little things like new weapon and armors that players can earn in-game.
I will agree that it sucks Legendary weapons were cancelled—especially when they were a bullet point on the HoT list of features. Legendary Armor however, was never expected to be out yet. They said that you would be able to make the armor once the first raid was fully released which they also said was being released as three separate wings. Before HoT launched I was expecting the last wing to land in late April which was only slightly off as the third wing isn’t expected until late May or early June. You can’t say they haven’t delivered on something when we haven’t even reached the estimated delivery date.
The last item on the community’s short list is the Fractal Legendary backpiece. I’m a bit sad that we don’t have this yet, but seeing as the wait means it won’t be tied to a leaderboard more than makes up for the wait. If you didn’t know, there was going to be a Fractal Leaderboard implemented with HoT. The details and rumors are a bit sketchy on how the leaderboard worked, but apparently the leaderboard ended up not being good at all and was scrapped. Before it was scrapped however, the leaderboard was going to be a source of one of the gifts required to take the Fractal backpiece precursor and turn it into a legendary. Never able to place on the Fractal leaderboard? Guess you were never going to be able to make that legendary.
So it does suck that we don’t have the Fractal Legendary yet, but I think the delay was for a good reason. The wait is almost over as the teaser trailer from yesterday confirmed that we are getting the legendary as part of the April Quarterly.
Something else that the April Quarterly is going to be changing is the amount of grind that is needed for everything HoT. I haven’t seen many complaints about grinding lately, which I think might be in part because of the quarterly hopefully fixing some things and part is just that enough time has passed.
I have already said that I don’t think the grind is that bad. In fact it seems somewhat comparable to what we have had in GW2 previously. Living World Season 2 gave us the Dry Top weapons and the luminescent armor. The latter was a boring grind as each new piece was a copy pasta grind of the previously released pieces. In actuality each subsequent release made it harder to get the RNG piece that you needed as we went from a guaranteed for the first piece to a 1 in 6 chance for the last—though the patient could wait for a special guaranteed method of obtaining them in follow up patches. Dry Top weapons were even worse as you would open chest after chest hoping for that fossilized insect in addition to the geode grind to buy the recipe for a weapon.
But at least those grinds didn’t have an end date on them—which gave players like myself time to finish them in the break leading up to HoT. We could go back to Living World Season 1, which had multiple times where rare items had high RNG or time investment to obtaining them during content that left after only two weeks. I ran the Molten Facility Dungeon multiple times a day for the entire two weeks it was out and never saw either the Mini Molten Firestorm or the Jetpack backpiece. Monocles, Mini Helmed Moas, Selfless/Thoughtless Potions, Sovereign weapons—and probably more that I can’t recall at the moment—all fall into this category of burst grinding.
But we could go back even further. Legendary weapons have always been a huge grind since the game launched. We could also talk about those dungeon skins and how each path only gives 60 tokens for the first completion of a path. Want to collect all the armor and weapon skins from a dungeon? It’s going to take you a couple months farming the dungeon paths for those tokens. We could even go back farther, to when dungeons would only give about 20 tokens when you completed a path. That couple months of farming was going to be closer to 6 months of farming if you still only did each path once per day.
Less than four months after HoT launched I was about 3/4ths of the way completed with collecting everything directly obtainable from the first three maps. This includes all of the weapon and armor skins, tonics, miniatures and all of the collections in some way tied to the maps—I had all of the elite specialization weapons, both of each of the three order backpieces and both of the luminescent backpiece collections all completed. This however doesn’t include RNG items such as the handful of unique weapon skins and items like the Chak Egg Sac infusion. Currently I am not all too interested in these items, though the Lightward’s Battlestaff is pretty cool.
So I was on track to average 2 months for each of those first three maps which puts them on par with the dungeon skins and in the realm of the living world season 2 maps. I was undoubtedly farther along than the average player, but I also wasn’t the furthest along out of anyone. A player on reddit posted that he completed everything I was going after and did it when I was just reaching the halfway point.
Overall I don’t think the grind on the first three maps were that bad, but I have all but stopped progress to wait and see how they are fixing the grind. I originally planned to farm up a bunch of map currencies to buy up everything once the update went out, but then decided to wait as it’s possible that the fix to the grind isn’t to make things cheaper on the merchants but make the currencies easier and faster to get. I’m guessing this is the case for Verdant Brind especially, where 3 airship parts always felt lower than what those cargoes should have been dishing out as the base amount.
If there is one thing that I think that ArenaNet truly messed up on the expansion with, it wasn’t with the expansion itself but with the lull in content before and after its release. In the AMA they mentioned that they have 70 people working on the next expansion. I think it was a mistake to announce this, as when anything happens negatively the community is quick to comment how ANet could take developers off of the next expansion. I do however, think that it is good to have a good amount working on the expansion already.
I think this sets up nicely for a lot of the expansion to be worked on while we are still getting Living World updates. With HoT, it seemed like a skeleton crew was working on the expansion up until Living World Season 2 was completed at which point everyone was moved over to work on the expansion. This would have left a lot of work to do on the expansion without anyone to really work on anything else both leading up to the expansion and for anything to be released shortly after the expansion. I think at some point we will still see developers being swapped—where instead of the current approximately 70/30 Living World/Expansion split we will see it go to 30/70 Living World/Expansion—but that core Living World team will still be able to release content leading up to the expansion and get content ready for after the expansion’s release. ArenaNet just threw too many resources at HoT which left a desert of content before and after the expansion.
Something else that has me really hopeful is the setup that was most of HoT as ANet made comments that HoT was setting up for the future with getting systems in place. With the next expansion, ANet doesn’t have to worry about decorating the house while it’s still being built. The mastery system is in place and ready to be expanded upon, the balance team isn’t trying to convert all of the old traits into the new specialization system while also making the new elite specializations, Guild Halls and Missions are in place and ready to be expanded upon and even WvW is getting its overhaul before the next expansion comes out.
So while GW2 is in a shaky place within this desert of content, I think that the game will be in a sustainably better place once the next Living World season starts up in the next couple months and will remain so up and through the next expansion.