If there’s one thing that strikes me about the Heart of Thorns expansion, it’s that ArenaNet has been really trying to up the scale on this one.
Everything is larger than life and supremely gorgeous. There may be only four maps, but they are probably some of the world’s most dense and tangled maps that an MMO has ever produced.
Perhaps LOTRO’s Moria might try to compete, but your typical MMO’s maps are merely only spacious but barren – this area is for that quest hub, kill 10 such-and-such named mobs, pick up 20 blah items and the rest are just mobs to grind through or run past.
Also, you cannot glide over or down to various scenery in Moria, and thus it loses by default to any MMO that offers flying or gliding.
Funny story about an item fetch quest that an NPC on GW2’s Heart of Thorns personal story sent me on. He told me to go get 6 ‘Chak Enzymes,’ either by talking to various other NPCs that had various ways which you could obtain said item, or by running around the open world killing said Chak, which are really annoying bug monsters that apparently eat ley line magic energy or something. Sorta like karka on magic steroids, triply annoying.
I talked to two NPCs, attempted to go in search of some items they wanted in trade, stumbled into some Chak bugs and thought, oh well, may as well kill them and get some enzyme that way…
…and then I followed a tunnel down, another tunnel around, slipped and fell and glided to safety somewhere, killing a bunch of Chak along the way, and realized “Oh, I have 6 Chak Enzymes now, I can go back.”
Except that I was thoroughly turned around by this point and made about six or seven abortive attempts to get back to the NPC, cleaving through a whole bunch more Chak along the way…
…By the time I found my way back to said NPC, I had about 27 Chak Enzymes on me. Oh well. Let’s just pretend I’m an over-achiever and say nothing about my sense of direction. Or lack of.
I digress. Let’s talk about scale. I poked my head into the new Desert Borderlands WvW map today. (Confession: Not to WvW, just to use a crafting station quickly without moving from where I was in the PvE world.)
This map greeted me when I hit ‘M.’
After swearing a little, I scrolled down to see the rest of it.
Well, -that’s- going to take a while to learn how to get around, and what all the special spots/events are… when I get to it eventually.
My NA guild claimed their guild hall a couple days ago, and fortunately nabbed Lost Precipice, so I have access to ogle both map variations.
Yeah, well, we say “guild hall,” we really mean a wide swathe of territory in which you can build multiple buildings. The scale of it may not be obvious in a map, so just take a look at the circular formation in the southeast corner of the map…
It’s this thing. A coliseum. I presume it can eventually be upgraded into a place where small PvP duels can take place (the space within looks comfortable for 1 vs 1 PvP, or 2-3 players to dodge around), and spectators can gather on the bleachers above to watch.
The guild banners on display around the map are really cool.
Random scenery around the map. I think half a pumpkin is sticking out of the right hand side. One can apparently place guild decorations in the zone, but I haven’t had time to check out that functionality yet.
I think it’s lovely that our community’s decorator types (you know who they are, there’s bound to be a few compulsive ones in every guild or community) can step up and prettify the place for those of us with somewhat less interest in investing lots of time making things look nice aesthetically. (And you just know there’s gonna be a few jumping puzzles and other displays of creativity eventually.)
And this is the other map, Gilded Hollow (courtesy of one of the OCE TTS guilds)…
…yeah, the mind boggles.
(The draw of Lost Precipice – while seemingly slightly smaller in map size – is gliding, supposedly. There are apparently jump pads around the place that one can activate for updrafts to glide on. Unsure of just how it all works right now, whether stuff has to be unlocked or whatever.)
No other screenshots as yet, I’ll have to find the time to run around both maps in depth eventually.
I do have a few more screenshots I want to show off, but this is where I lay out a certain amount of spoiler warning:
There will be three pretty pictures from the Heart of Thorns story. I do not place them in any context, but they may show off some environments which you may prefer to stumble on yourself.
IF SO, STOP READING NOW. GO AWAY. COME BACK LATER.
If you have very little plans to ever complete the Heart of Thorns story, or don’t feel that you will be spoiled by seeing alien environments with no context or commentary whatsoever, then proceed on.
I’m still trying to be quite careful about revealing major story spoilers at the moment, because I think the story beats are pretty good this time around.
It still won’t make everybody happy, but they are probably the ones not happy with Guild Wars 1’s story as well, so there’s probably no pleasing them.
I believe I’m at the last chapter and final fight now, but unfortunately what had been shaping up to be an extremely epic fight is currently marred by quite a few technical glitches – including a rather crucial part of the floor disappearing if you die and have to respawn and start the fight over.
I’m sure the fixes will arrive shortly within the next couple of days, and then I can get on with the fun fight and the ending. Whatever it is.
Speaking of endings and extremely epic fights, the whole of this expansion seems to be centered around that theme. There are some really really fun and epic encounters all over, from small scale ones to the really big map-wide ones.
I have one last set of screenshots from the last map’s final meta-event boss. This is larger than Marionette and extremely awesome – even if my computer had to be cranked down to semi-potato graphic settings in order to prevent out-of-memory crashes.
(Can’t wait for that to be fixed so that my graphics can go back up again to something much nicer and do this encounter justice. I’ve been doing Teq and Triple Trouble on non-potato status for a while and haven’t had problems.)
It is also most definitely absolut-effing-lutely a spoiler on a gargantuan scale.
SO THIS IS YOUR LAST SPOILER WARNING.
DO NOT PROCEED BEYOND THIS POINT IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED REGARDING THE FINAL MAP BOSS OF HEART OF THORNS.
It is the only thing I can say that can do it justice.
We ought to have more of this, rather than 10-man raids.
What other game has an engine that can stand up to so many people working in a coordinated fashion together?