Welcome to the Scrying Pool, my Guild Wars 2 column here on Mattsta.Ninja. Last week I went over what I have been working on since Heart of Thorns launched almost two months ago. This week I will start diving into the different areas of the expansion and what I thought of them.
It seems only fitting when talking about an expansion to start with the story. Picking up from where the Living World Season 2 left us, Heart of Thorns had us journeying deeper into a Mordremoth infested jungle, meeting old and new allies along the way to defeat the next elder dragon that threatened the citizens of the world.
Overall I thought that the story was good. Something that tends to happen in games is the feeling of the story being heavily scripted as if someone is stiffly reading lines in a play for the first time. Instead, story flows from one step to the next in Heart of Thorns as the story weaves into personal instances and back into the open world.
Something I really liked that ArenaNet did was constantly splitting the player’s group of NPCs into various subgroups. In the HoT story, our NPC allies were not pets that needed to be tied to a leash that the player held. In place of that we were able to allow Braham to mourn his loss without us looking over his shoulder and allowed Taimi to go off and find clues to a lost Asuran city that gave us a valuable hint to defeating the Elder Dragons.
This also gave the story good transitions when needed. Braham and Rytlock scouting ahead helped to pull us away from the Itzel village and back to the more direct fight against Mordremoth. After leaving the egg in safe hands and wondering where we needed to go, Taimi pulled us further into the jungle and closer to Mordremoth.
While the expansion’s story was ultimately to defeat Mordremoth, the majority of the player’s course is not directly tied to this goal. Most of the story is us trying to rescue our friends—Trahearne and the majority members of the original Destiny’s Edge—from capture after the Pact fleet was scuttled. Then beyond that we start seeing layers of story being told.
As we venture across the first map, Verdant Brink, chasing down our allies, we are constantly reminded of the end of the Living World Season 2 when Caithe stole the egg from us. We ask scouts where our allies are and after they mention a strange Sylvari sneaking through the forest and we have our egg storyline put into motion.
While I think the story was really good, I don’t think it was a great story. There are very few moments when we get to make choices in the story and the majority of those felt like very hollow choices. You are defending the Itzel village with either choice and the follow up just involves different NPCs leading you back into the same point. Near the end of the story you must pick which Destiny’s Edge member to rescue, which just results in one being a bit more banged up once you successfully rescue both.
There are a couple cool things that were done with the story choices. If you pick to aid Tizlak and go on the offense during the defense of the Itzel village, Tizlak gives you a warbler item that will call the Nuhoch scouts out from hiding in the following open world quest. In the Tangled Depths part of the story, players need to collect chak enzymes and turn them into Tizlak. While most people head straight out to defeat chak for a more direct method of acquiring these, another option is to talk to Nuhoch and do favors in exchange for what you need. One of these Nuhoch will tell how he lost his family’s warbler and has an amazing bit of dialogue if you are still holding the warbler Tizlak gave you.
If you asked what my favorite parts of the story were, I would say there are two specific bits of the story that I enjoyed the most. The second of the two is the dialogue between your character and Tizlak when you meet him in Tangled Depths. Every player will see this dialogue, but the pacing and delivery between the two characters felt amazing. Your character is asking if Tizlak knows of an Asuran city nearby and the delivery of Tizlak followed by your character’s delivery of “That doesn’t sound promising” felt perfect. Not really a big story bit, but the combination of good writing and voice acting made this small bit of dialogue stand out.
What I thought was the best of the story was actually in the first instance once players enter the jungle. If you are on a Sylvari and choose the option to help reinforce the camp, you will come across a Sylvari that is desperately trying to resist the call of Mordremoth. The dialogue between this character, your Sylvari character and Canach is amazing. Canach is actually a really amazing character throughout the story when you are on a Sylvari character as you both journey deeper into Mordremoth’s domain.
The other big complaint I have about the story is it’s length. The story felt a little short. I think part of this is because I thought the story was so good this time around that I actually wanted more, something that I wouldn’t have said about the original personal story and to some extent the living world seasons. This story was good and left me wanting more.
Which is where another problem with its length comes into play. The entirety of the second season revolved around retrieving Glint’s egg, yet we end on two cliffhangers in regards to it. First we leave the egg behind after it awakens the city of Tarir, but that teaser after defeating Mordremoth only solidifies that we still have not received any form of resolution to this item that was the driving force behind a large chunk of the recent Guild Wars 2 storyline.
We also get a similar cliffhanger in regards to Rata Novus. While there wasn’t a teaser at the end of the expansion for the Asuran city like there was for the egg, it seems really obvious that it was a setup for the next living world season. Not only do we leave Taimi there, but one of the achievements in the Rata Novus story instance puts us in front of a door leading further into the city. The name of the achievement is fittingly titled New Horizons to further state that we will be back soon.
I also really liked how the story in this expansion wasn’t just a series of personal instances, but was woven into the same story that was being told in the open world and that the open world reflected what was seen in the instances. I will save talks of the open world maps for the next article when I go more into the maps and their metas. Just talking about the personal storyline of the expansion, I think it was really good and the best story that ArenaNet has delivered thus far.
The Scrying Pool Reviews Heart of Thorns:
- One HoT Story — Personal Story
- Map Meta — Open World Maps and their Meta Events
- The Grind — Open World Rewards
- Guild Wasteland — Guild Halls and Scribing
- Guild Hall…Rewards? — Rewards Purchased Through Guild Halls
- Bucket of Elite Specs — General look at Elite Specializations
- The Mattsta-ry System — General thoughts on the new Mastery System
- The Fractals and a Raid — Some simple thoughts on the instanced group content of HoT
- Fix-r-Upper — The small stuff ArenaNet can still fix with HoT