If I’m honest with you all, I haven’t really played much of Guild Wars 2 this year. After spending countless hours in the Maguuma Jungle, repeating area events and collecting masteries, my enthusiasm dissipated. Sure, I returned for a few weeks when The Shatterer got a much-needed makeover, but I couldn’t stay interested. The reason was simply because Guild Wars 2 now felt more like a chore than a world I could dip in and out of. Gaining the best rewards from the day / night cycles in the Maguuma Jungle meant spending a good couple of hours constantly following a zerg, and in the end I just didn’t have the time to keep doing it for what were, at that point, cosmetic upgrades for my Engineer. With no raid group and not really liking the new Desert Borderlands in WvW, I eventually just stopped logging on.
Thankfully the Spring update, which Lead game designer Mike Zadorojny described as getting rid of the grind and “getting to the fun faster,” has been taken so seriously by ArenaNet that they pulled everyone from working on the next expansion to get it ready. The end result is a number of changes that fixes many of the problems I was having. Well, I say “a number of changes” – the patch notes are reportedly over 16000 words, which should give you an idea of how much has been tweaked across the board.
So, with that in mind, here’s a rundown of what you can expect in today’s patch – which is now live – and why I consider it a return to what made Guild Wars such an accessible and fun MMO title back at launch.
Level 80 boost that’s try-before-you-”buy”
This announcement was a surprising yet sorely needed new feature. While the more obvious benefit of being able to go straight into the Maguuma Jungle content are there, it’s the way the boost works that makes it such a great addition to the game. Firstly, anyone who owns Heart of Thorns will get one. Secondly, you can sample your new Level 80 character in the Silverwastes before committing to it. So, if you are trying to decide between boosting your Necromancer or your Thief, you can try out both before confirming. Alternatively, you can cancel the whole process and revert your character back to whatever level they were before.
And as someone who likes choice, all of this pleases me.
It also comes with a bunch of useful items to ensure newly boosted characters hit the ground running, including a few gold, harvesting tools, and appropriate gear. Sure, for veterans such as myself who have many an experience scroll it’s a nice little extra, but it’s not really for us. It’s for the newcomers who jumped in for Heart of Thorns, who will finally be able to unlock everything Guild Wars 2 has to offer without having to level up first. Perhaps the best thing about the boost is that it doesn’t negate the importance of ‘old world’ content, as newly-boosted characters can sample the glider-based delights of Maguuma before going back to somewhere like Queensdale to do some Area Events. After all, that’s what Guild Wars 2 was always meant to offer – choice.
Maguuma Jungle events are now more accessible & rewarding
As previously mentioned, the map-wide events in the Maguuma Jungle ended up being far too time intensive if you wanted the good stuff, but the Spring Update changes this for the better. For example, each mini-event during the day cycle now provides rewards upon completion instead of having to wait for night time to arrive. There’s also new events at outposts that are captured, meaning there’s always something to do and get rewards for. Speaking of which, rewards have been consolidated so that the inventory strain that used to be an issue has been vastly reduced.
What this means is that the meta-progressions during the day has been removed, but is still there during the night time cycle where players are tasked with taking on the various bosses. With new rewards for besting these tough enemies, it means that those who are only able to do one or two bosses still get rewarded for their efforts, but those who are in it for the long haul will get the good stuff as they always have done. Again, it’s a level of accessibility and rewarding gameplay that was what drew me to Guild Wars 2 in the first place, so rebalancing the Heart of Thorns content to mirror those ideals is a great move.
In fact, accessibility is a running theme here, as night events are now automatically unlocked regardless of how the day cycle went. So, for example, players don’t need to worry about unlocking all the pylons in Auric Basin for the defence of Tarir. Perhaps most importantly, waypoints will no longer be locked based on map progression, allowing players to jump into the action exactly where they want to. One of my favourite changes to the Maguuma maps is the reduction of enemies on the main paths, as it now means players can explore the map without needing backup alongside them. Likewise, the increased unlock time for the Adventures dotted around the map is something I applaud, as in some cases I was never able to access them due to time constraints. Hopefully, this will mean players will be able to get Mastery points that were elusive up until now.
Oh, and those diminishing returns on doing the same events? Gone. If that isn’t worth cheering about, I don’t know what is.
Improved Group Finder & introducing the Raid Lobby
Again, I refer to my opening statement where I explained that raid content was out of my reach, but with the Spring Update that will be a thing of the past. The Group Finder has received a hefty update that now includes the ability to form Raids, allowing people like me to join a team in need of one or two more players to get going. However, that isn’t the only sub-category to be added, as sections for Mentoring, Achievement hunting, and roleplaying are now available. I expect this will be great news for roleplayers who have found organising large scale events difficult in the wake of the megaservers.
Anyway, back on to Raids. The new category in the Group Finder is one thing, but those looking to tackle Heart of Thorns’ most difficult content can now congregate in the Raid Lobby – a brand new instanced area in Lion’s Arch. Here players can find a “one-stop shop” for all their raiding needs with vendors, practice dummies, and portals to all the current ,(and future) raids. For someone like myself, this is an absolute godsend as I can not only get involved with other raiders but gauge how ready I am for them. Again, it builds upon the foundations of accessibility and choice Guild Wars 2 started from, so I’m very much for these additions.
Making dungeons and Fractals rewarding again
If there’s one thing I missed out on over the years, it’s the dungeons. Annoyingly by the time I was willing to go through them most people had stopped, and it was down to the dungeons no long being rewarding enough. With the Spring Update that will change thanks to a brand new repeatable achievement. By completing eight different dungeon paths players will get 5 gold and 150 tokens from the dungeon of their choice. In addition to this, bonus chests now give 80 tokens instead of 40, giving yet another incentive to go through them.
Meanwhile, the Fractal of the Mists have also seen some tweaks for a much more balanced progressions experience. The introduction tiers are now 1 to 25, followed by 26 to 50 for intermediate players, while tiers 51-75 and 76-100 are designated for the “hardcore” players. This is addition to brand new fractal achievements, which are tied to completing specific islands within a tier. We were told that these are retroactive as well, so if you complete a higher tier first because you’re a more advanced player, you’ll get the achievements for the lower tiers as well. Perhaps most importantly, certain Mist-based abilities have been nerfed or telegraphed more clearly, meaning players won’t feel as cheated by the system as they fight their way to glory.
Daily Achievements revamp
While some players may find the daily achievements constant reminder that they will never be finished doing things ever, I quite like the randomisation that sends you all over Tyria to do various things. With the Spring Update, the achievements will be shaken up to not only include specific versions dedicated to the Heart of Thorns’ maps, but there are now categories as well. Those include getting a medal in an Adventure, doing a specific jumping puzzle across the world, and even completing specific dungeons.The meta-achievement for doing three out of the list remains, but now players will get 2 gold in addition to the XP gain and achievement points. To me, these additional activities mean that I can mix things up in a much greater way than I could have previously, and while the extra gold may not seem much to veteran players I can imagine newcomers being grateful for the cash injection.
World Vs World – Marching towards its former glory
While the previously mentioned changes are all good in my book, my most anticipated changes are actually for the World Vs World battlegrounds. While I would never say I lived in them, I certainly enjoyed logging in to help out my server in the ongoing 3-sided war. The addition of WvW-centric progression was a step in the right direction, but it’s quite clear that the Desert Borderlands (and their PvE “gimmick” mechanics) never quite gelled as ArenaNet had hoped. While the Spring Update won’t fix everything (immediately), what changes are there should entice the punters to return to the fray.
The first major addition is that of World Linking, which addresses the population issues. From the next WvW reset on April 22nd, servers that are under-represented in WvW will be teamed up with this new system, allowing them to become a formidable force for the duration of the WvW session. The devs made it clear that they will monitor the situation as it progresses, and heavily populated servers won’t be eligible for World Linking (so you won’t have to worry about the WvW powerhouses teaming up for a super nation of death.) As someone who has found their WvW side somewhat lacking in forces every time they’ve ventured into the Borderlands, I think it will do wonders to rejuvenate the mode.
One aspect coming over from PvP to WvW is the reward tracks, which will work in a very similar manner. So, by killing enemy players, escorting Dolyaks, or capturing keeps, players will get rewards based on their participation. However, my favourite change is that scouting will now be a viable role for players. Whereas previously they would not have gotten any kind of reward for watching out for enemies, designated Scouts will now get a share of any participation points generated by their squad mates. While this role will only become available for every five players in a squad, and the Scout itself will not be able to contribute towards participation, I think legitimising it is a great move. Hopefully, it will lead to more even sided assaults and defences, as the Scout warns players of imminent trouble.
Elsewhere, a new ability line called the Provisions Master will be coming with the update, which allows those who progress down it to unlock the ability to purchase siege weapons, traps, and consumables, as well as increase the amount of loot gathered from foes. This is done from the Portable Provisioner who will become available and placeable anywhere in the WvW battleground. I suspect budding tacticians will already be planning out how best to use this for surprise attacks.
We were told of a few of the weapon balance changes for WvW to avoid what is referred to the “Pirate Ship Meta” (ie. each zerg bombarding the other from afar.) Examples we were given were how Stability has been revamped so it can’t be removed as easily as before, and how crowd control abilities such as Static Field will now be capped at 10 enemy players instead of affecting all who pass through it. Meanwhile, abilities such as the Dragonhunter’s True Shot has been nerfed, as has the Warrior’s Rifle Berserker skill, which will no doubt annoy those who play the class but have everyone else rejoicing at a more balanced fight.
Perhaps the most important changes were left to last, though. The first of these is the removal of PvE “gimmick” mechanics that would buff your side or debuff your opponents in WvW. At long last, these will finally be removed with the Spring Update, allowing WvW to get back to all about fighting your opponents on the battlefield. The second change won’t be happening immediately, but will no doubt have veteran WvW players jumping for joy – the Alpine Borderlands will be returning “a couple of weeks from now.”
Of course, I’ve only given you a vertical slice of what will be on offer in today’s patch (and you can sample it all yourself right now by loading up the game) but I feel optimistic that the Spring Update will steer Guild Wars 2 back on course again. The overarching theme of balance and freedom of choice across all of the game modes brings it all back to how the game felt back at launch, but without regressing too far. Admittedly I’m eagerly awaiting the Living Story to return in the summer, but this should definitely do the trick to get lapsed players like myself to venture back into Tyria.
You can learn more about the Spring Update by heading over to the Guild Wars 2 website. Don’t forget – Guild Wars 2 can be played for free, and you can read our review for Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns here.