The Scrying Pool went to ArenaNet last week and got an early look at the PAX East HoT demo.
Last week I had the chance to visit the ArenaNet studios to get an early look at the Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns demo that players will be able to play at PAX East this weekend and again at EGX Rezzed in London the following weekend. Alongside being able to play the demo, I had a chance to interview Jon Peters and John Corpening, which you can read right here on ZAM.
The demo starts off with the end of Season 2 cutscene before dropping you into one of the early personal story steps of HoT. You can check out the following video where I play through the story step with some additional commentary.
Most of the demo had been seen on various Points of Interest and Ready Up livestreams as details of content and features were revealed. So being able to play this story step came a bit out of nowhere, but what really surprised me was how good this story step was and how it drew me in.
The personal story of the original Guild Wars 2 launch tended to be this slow, meandering story that didn’t really feel epic as we fought against this massive dragon and its forces. The story step in this demo however, was very focused in both the storytelling and combat. A big part of this is the return of the player character’s voice, this time now out in the open world as the player moves through the instance. Right from the beginning the player character is taking charge and reprimanding Braham as the leader of this group. Later on your character finds a clue while following the trail, instead of running through an instance with a companion giving a running commentary pointing out things along the trail you have already walked through.
The other thing that was really cool was to see player decision make a return. Even this is seeing an improvement over what we had in the original personal story. Decisions are followed through within the same instance and, according to Jon Peters, will not affect the overall plot of the expansion as steps will end up in the same places no matter how you choose to get to that end. And did I mention that you will be able to replay past story steps in HoT?
I was of course looking forward to the expansion’s story, but after playing this single story step I really want to play the story in its entirety and not just rush through to discover how the story ends. It felt epic and now vies for the top billing of what I’m looking forward to in this expansion, which is impressive with how awesome everything else is that ArenaNet is delivering.
One of the other big inclusions of this demo is the first look at the new profession: the Revenant. It is a first look as there is a lot to the class that isn’t there. The demo only includes two of the Legends available to the class – Legendary Dwarf and Legendary Demon – and two weapon sets – Hammer and Mace/Axe.
What is in the demo, however, feels really good. The hammer is a nice ranged weapon where all of the skills feel useful and have their place and mace is a good melee weapon. Axe is a bit of a mixed bag in my opinion. The first skill for axe, Frigid Blitz, is really cool as you throw your axe through enemies and teleport to catch it once it hits the last enemy in the line. The other skill, Temporal Rift, however feels odd. Between the visuals and the small range of its delayed effect, it feels awkward to use as I was more surprised when it did work than when it didn’t.
Both of the Legends were really fun. I imagine that players who play the demo at the conventions these upcoming weekends will gravitate toward Jalis and potentially find Mallyx not as good or interesting. Mallyx is interesting in that its heavy use of conditions and the displacement caused by Unyielding Anguish makes it feel like a little bit of a trickster. While Mallyx is fun, it takes a little more time to understand and get used to I thought than Jalis which has very apparent skills. When you want to drop the road you are literally dropping a road. Likewise, Forced Entanglement is a good introduction to the new Taunt mechanic as the player throws out this chain and it feels like you are actually pulling the enemy toward you.
The energy mechanic of the class feels like it could use some more balancing. The only time I was ever really in need of energy was when I was using one of the upkeep skills: Vengeful Hammers on Dwarf and Embrace the Darkness on Demon. While skilled play will probably revolve around using these upkeeps at the right time, it felt more worthwhile to just not use them so that I always had the energy to use the other skills available to me. Vengeful Hammers almost never got any use during my time with the demo and Embrace the Darkness I was using less as an upkeep and more as a normal condition transferal skill.
The last thing really to note about the Revenant is a couple of things involving the last half of the bar where the skills are changed based on the Legend the Revenant is currently channeling. In the demo there is only one heal, one elite and three utility skills per Legend. This is something I talked about with Jon Peters about and he says nothing is final, but the lack of options here gives a great synergy that we both agreed feels really good. The other interesting thing is that the utilities seemed tied to each other across the legends. When I swapped the 7th and 8th skills on the bar while in Jalis’s stance, I found that the 7th and 8th skills had also been swapped when I channeled Mallyx.
The small “vertical slice” of Verdant Brink, the first map players will see when they enter the Heart of Maguuma region, was also really cool. The story of this part of the map really did feel connected to the story instance that I had just finished at the start of the demo. The single adventure available in the demo had seemed a little underwhelming when watching the devs play it on the livestream, but it was a really fun piece of side content as I raced to kill as many vines with the flamethrower as I could in the short time allotted for the challenge. If you are at PAX East or EGX Rezzed and get a chance to play the demo, stop by the adventure and give it a go. My high score for the demo was 77 vines killed. I’m throwing down the gauntlet for anyone who wishes to challenge my record setting demo score! (Note: It may not have actually set any records, but good luck to anyone attempting to beat my personal record!)
Later on we were shown the PvP demo featuring the new game mode Stronghold. This was actually a completely separate demo client, so at the conventions I imagine there will be two different lines for each half of the demo. Stronghold was really fun. There isn’t too much to say about Stronghold, as it seems really simple at face value, but still has a lot of depth to see some interesting strategies and builds come out of it. As I had brought up in my interview, there are a couple things that feel odd such as how few places there are to transfer between lanes, but overall the game mode feels amazing and will easily become my favorite map in sPvP.
Matt "Mattsta" Adams is excited for all things Heart of Thorns.
The trip to ArenaNet was amazing. It was really cool to get to play the demo, but the best part was meeting the developers and all of the other press, Youtubers and Twitch streamers that were invited. GW2 really has an amazing community.
If you have a question for me or a topic you would like to see talked about here, leave a comment below. You can also tweet your question and topics to me on twitter @MattstaNinja. Also, check out my site Mattsta.Ninja that focuses on guides and more for Guild Wars 2.