Heart of Thorns: Impressions

Having (painfully) unlocked mounts in my prior session, I felt ready to unlock Gliders in this one. Once again, I limbered up the Elementalist, and got ready to trek into the jungle.

…if only I could figure out how.

I think one of the most enduring legacies of WoW that no one gives much thought about are the seamless transitions between zones. Guild Wars 2 has big and beautiful zones… inside very defined silos. Mountains and invisible walls grid everything so that the only way to get to A is through the single zone gate B. Assuming you can find said gate.

So, I teleported to the zone next to the expansion content, mounted up, and road my way down the perimeter. Then, 15 minutes later, I looked up where the fuck the portal was supposed to be. Ah, that little brown smudge on the map.

After a cool cinematic, I started working on the directed quests. They referenced a bunch of stuff I never did – apparently I killed some dragons, like you do – but it was easy enough to follow. After a bit of follow-up, I was dumped into the jungle and told to unlock Gliders to progress further.

It’s been several days since that moment, but I still have a look of incredulity all but permanently affixed to my face. Nothing was explained how to unlock Gliders, just that I needed to. No map markers, no quests, no “Hearts,” no dialog, nothing. Hell, even doing searches in Google and Reddit turned up next to nothing. What, exactly, were the devs wanting me to do?

In case you ever follow my footsteps, here it is: to unlock Gliders in Guild Wars 2: Hearth of Thorns, you must mindlessly grind XP in the expansion zone. That’s it. There are no Hearts in the beginning section, so you must rely on Events you don’t know about or Champion trains filled with mobs that will one-shot you without warning. There is a Day/Night cycle in the jungle that ensures a steady stream of Event-ish things to do, but again, you have to complete enough of them to fill your entire XP (i.e. Mastery) bar before you can unlock Gliders and get on with the rest of the story.

It’s tough to imagine a dumber way to design an expansion, but there is still time to surprise me.

Anyway, my dilemma remains. For sure, I do not want to continue doing anything on my Elementalist. Perhaps either of the two Elite Specializations might make the class more fun to play, but that requires gaining 100% of all your standard abilities, e.g. grinding out additional Hero Points. I’m pretty sure that also means hitting up all the Hero Point challenges in all of the default maps, but who knows. That means I’m either going to continue progressing through the vanilla GW2 story on my Necro, or boosting the Necro to 80 and doing the same thing. Not sure if there would be an advantage to the boosting immediately – I’ll have to research if the XP at the cap turns into Mastery XP or whatever.

I dunno. I’m going to have to look at Thief and Mesmer again, as those would be good candidates for my free level 80 boosts. There is also the Revenant, of which I have only looked at in the PvP lobby. Having permanent Swiftness seems cool, but is less relevant now that I have a mount. The Necro is good, and mostly feels good to play, but I’m concerned about the fact that it seems to hold no relevance in group play basically anywhere. Chronomancers, Druids, and Warriors or bust, is what I’m reading.

I suppose it’s no different than any other MMO: the struggle is always finding that class that is both useful and fun to play. And how do you do that, if not playing for hours and hours and potentially burning yourself out with an unfun or non-useful class in the meantime?

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Posted on January 5, 2018, in Guild Wars 2, Impressions and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. GW2 still sounds like a really fun game to play… /s

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve false-started with GW2 at least three different times. Every time I get the urge to try again (I mean I “should” love it, right? Maybe I just didn’t give it enough of a chance last time), I’m going to come to your blog and read these types of posts. Then I’ll realize it’s not worth it and move on to something else.

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    • It is if you play it like an actual MMORPG and expect to take months getting anywhere. It has a very inappropriate reputation as a “casual-friendly” game, largely based on the face-roll difficulty of much of the basic open-world stuff up to around level 70. Which is about 2-3 weeks for a genuine, never played before player.

      It’s a surprisingly unforgiving game for people looking to jump in at the supposed “horizontal level” plateau at the level cap. Like most multi-year MMOs its both complicated and layered and there really is no short cut to easy success. You have to play through the hours, whether you do that from 1 or start at 80.

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  3. The Glider thing is a microcosm of the whole game and the problem it has these days. For some reason (and ANet do nothing to dispel this point of view) GW2 is regarded as some kind of easy-mode, casual MMO. It’s not. It’s opaque in its systems and harsh in its expectations. Under the flashy surface is a very old-school ethos – you really are expected to put in the hard hours and earn your dues, much like you would have done in EQ or Vanilla WoW.

    Most things are designed to be achieved organically over long periods. Gliding is a great example. If you start at the first camp in Verdant Brink and begin to explore the zone and follow the storyline, you will become involved in many events that seem unconnected or meaningless. As you open more of the map and time passes you’ll begin to make out a structure behind them, which is the map meta. As you gain clarity on that you’ll start to follow specific event chains and work with others towards bringing the map into a particular state. The whole process will take hours and you will repeat the process many times.

    As you do that you will gain XP. As you gain XP you will level your Masteries. As you level your Masteries your gliding (in this case) will improve and the map will become easier to navigate and thence to understand. In something not far from the time it takes to complete the map, kill all the bosses, gain all the achievements and finish that part of the storyline, you will find you have also earned most of the gliding skills you need. The ones you don’t have (Ley Line Gliding for example) you won’t need in either that map or the next – plenty of time to get those.

    And so on. Which was fine when the expansion was new. The problem now is that players just want Gliding (or Mounts) and they want them right away. Actually plenty of players wanted that when HoT was new, too. Personally, i always thought that once the expansion was no longer new ANet should have added Gliding to the Gem Store as a separate purchase, letting you buy it fully completed without having to buy HoT. They haven’t done that, though, so there are lots of frustrated players who don’t want to play through a whole expansion just to get the one ability they bought it for. Even more so with HoT and mounts.

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    • Azuriel’s not the first player to encounter the glider issue. I recall watching a Twitch stream of a new player trying out HoT and he had no clue what to do either to unlock gliding, Twitch chat walked him through it.

      Y’know how we figured it out at the point where HoT launched? Essentially by comparing our memory of the old UI and the new UI and looking for what changed. I remember that I had no clue how to bring up my Masteries panel until I found the lil bar and the mysterious colored icon at the bottom of my UI.

      We understood earning XP to buy Masteries by a) out of game info and b) applying the leveling logic that we had experienced by playing through core Tyria open world.

      A boosting new/returning player skips through b), has probably not encountered a) and has no prior knowledge base of what GW2 likes to do and where info is usually found in the UI (H for Hero Panel, and so on.)

      One thing that I think doesn’t register fully to a new/returning player is that GW2 has some fundamentally structural differences with your standard WoW MMO.

      Now whether the onus should be on the developers’ part to communicate those differences and forewarn said player, or whether it should be on the players’ part to realize this and be patient with both themselves and the game, or both, is debatable, but it doesn’t change the fact that there’s a progression learning curve of player knowledge and skill replacing the ye olde numerical progression of character gear.

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      • That’s entirely true. ANet are appalling at explaining and documenting mechanics and there was considerable confusion at HoT’s launch over just about every new feature. However, the point about how “old school” that makes GW2 stands, I think, because the way those issues were resolved for most players was by conversation with other players, in game, either in Guild or Map chat.

        That’s exactly how EQ or DAOC operated fifteen years ago. New players had no clue what to do and the games provided virtually no useful instruction so the available chat ewnvironments were a never-ending stream of queries, questions and explosions of frustration. These in turn earned answers that were sometimes helpful, sometimes less so.

        Personally, this is a big part of why I play MMORPGs. I love open chat, be it map, zone, global or guild. I have always been one of those players who jumps at the chance to answer any and every question, often even if it means I put my own character at risk while typing while something is trying to kill me. ANet love to claim that GW2 has the best community in MMOS which is pure hyperbole but it’s not bad and questions will usually get helpful answers.

        Of course, the answer these days is often “check the wiki” but even that isn’t unhelpful because the wiki is well-maintained and pretty comprehensive. Anyone coming back with “I already did and I still don’t get it” will usually spark a lengthy and useful discussion, or that has been my experience (and not just in GW2).

        I like the fact that MMORPGs are both a learning experience and a team effort in that regard. It’s a major factor in why I can’t enjoy single player RPGs any more. That said, it really doesn’t excuse the very poor level of in-game documentation in GW2 or the often counter-intuitive (or just plain poor) mechanical design. The Mastery system is particularly badly configured. It’s fiddly and it makes little logical sense. In that, however, it’s not dissimilar to many systems in many MMOs and it’s a problem that feels much worse to people who parachute in either as complete newcomers or returnees from a very long break.

        I still think GW2’s biggest problem is the image it has managed to foster for itself as a very easy MMO-lite, suitable for very casual players. It’s a dense, convoluted, not particularly well-designed aging MMORPG, with all the baggage that brings. Unsurprisingly ANet don’t choose to publicize that aspect.

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