The Lonely Mesmer #1: Heart of Thorns Beta Preview

“The land was eclipsed in flames. Roots, cliffs and remnants of ships burned as one. The lone man looked up at this, all of this, and he whispered under his breath; “Damn. I just wanted pistol/pistol to get a buff.” — 101 Reasons to Travel Dolyak, Aetherieus, 1328 AE

Welcome to The Lonely Mesmer, me and Chris’ newer Guild Wars 2 article series that covers, well, whatever we feel like covering about GW2.

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Today I feel like covering the closed beta/stress test sessions from the 26th, with impressions on the specific beta itself as well as thoughts overall on its relation to HoT. I’m not trying to be overly negative, nor too positively biased, so if you came here for rants, I will disappoint you. Being that this is also the introduction article to The Lonely Mesmer (which was not my original intent), I will also be introducing our fictional comedy persona, Rebecca Blindspam.

I played all three stress-tests, so six hours total of gameplay. I played as Revenant, like most of the players there. (There were other classes there, but for obvious reasons Rev was in the spotlight)

The first cool thing

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Dang speedbumps.

One of the first things I noticed — and ArenaNet had mentioned this — is that my character was talking during the story and in the open world. And I don’t mean during a cutscene or the dialogue menus, but she was talking as I moved around the world in normal gameplay. Also, this isn’t limited to just the story, but open world events and other things, and it was hella immersive.

My character suddenly became an actual person — I didn’t see that coming. As I’d go around to do events at the Strongholds, my character would respond to event NPCs as I went by them. It’s fully voiced, and it’s not only quick lines but there’s larger dialogues and conversations that are presented this way.

Zone design

Verdant Brink is actually a pretty cool zone. From the initial streams I worried that the whole zone would be entirely the “woo everything’s on fire much very dreary have some dark fantasy m8 get sum more”, but the zone does have a good amount of contrast. There are some really pretty places with it, and a lot of the zone design feels… “new”. There’s some really cool caves and secret things, the more jungle-like region in the north, the large ruins in the south, and much of the map that we didn’t even get to see.

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The zone is definitely vertical, and it made it so that it felt like you were finding entirely new places where you thought you had already been, such as the case with the cliffs on the northern half of the map. However, both me and Chris (he was watching the stream, thus he isn’t giving much input for this article being that he didn’t play it himself) thought that portions of the zone were confusing, and more so than that, what events were actually happening.

Obviously most of the content in the zone isn’t even in there yet, just the Strongholds and some of the Mastery points sprinkled around the map. I’d expect it to be a lot easier to find stuff to do once the expansion is released and there’s more than just that system holding it up. I personally liked the zone more than I thought I would, and its verticality worked very well for gliding, making it so that even if you were technically going over the same places if you just looked horizontally, you were finding new paths and entire areas stacked above and below each other. The actual art was very nice, and there were lots of cool canyons and scaleable cliffs.

Rebecca Blindspam says: “It totally felt like, how Firefall has like, the cool up-and-down terrain and stuff, but this is better because it takes place in like, the gardening section of Home Depot… totallaaay.”

Events

I mean… there was… killing stuff, defending stuff, and defending stuff by killing stuff? I liked the progression with the day/night cycle, and the need to take and defend capture points spread around the map. it reminds me of the zone-wide events from season 1 of the Living Story, where you’d have zergs but they had to spread out and take on different objectives, and there’d be roaming groups as well. Silverwastes is okay-ish with that, but even with only a portion of the zone and content available, Verdant Brink felt more large-scale and more like there was progression, both because of visual things like day/night cycle and because of each location having its own specific events, as opposed to SW’s modularity (defend fort, escort caravans, rebuild fort, enjoy).

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It’s quite HoT in here… huehue.

Up north by the Itzel village, there was a really cool event where a bunch of wyverns attacked the village (which itself was elevated in the trees, Ewok-style), pulling strafe runs on the village and lighting the pathways on fire. Wyverns would land, and you could attack them and they’d take off when they started taking heat. These were not clumsy creatures, which was awesome because most games (including much of GW2) just make large creatures clumsy and they’ll stand there and take it as you wail on them. Here, these creatures felt much more dynamic, and they were hauling arsecakes through the trees. Their strafe runs felt dynamic and randomized as well, and they’d make very odd patterns with them, making it seem that the paths they took to strafe run weren’t entirely scripted.

Rebecca Blindspam says: “It was kinda like… going to the garden section at like, Home Depot. No idea what is going on or like, how this is laid-out… but there’s plants everywhere, some tall spikey things, and you really just want to like, maneuver paper airplanes through the whole place, totally, true story.” 

Revenant

We were given pretty meh gear (1k damage on a crit was even asking for a lot), but I still found the actual designs and gameplay of the Revenant fun. I personally enjoyed the mace/axe combo the most, which was the melee choice in the beta. Two-handed hammer was the ranged, and it was still fun, but it felt a bit less active and slow.

Revenant seemed to be big on fields, at least with those weapons. There were things that negated the effects of conditions, like if you had the demon Legend active, and an interesting thing was that many skills, at least on the Demon line, also made you apply conditions to yourself (such as your heal giving you weakness, and your condition removal blinding you). Cooldowns, as well as resources to be separate for the Legends (including for the heal skill), so you could rotate them.

As Thief burns Initiative on weapon skills as opposed to cooldowns, Revenant uses Energy to fuel the heal, utility and elite skills. Even weapon skills use up a bit of Energy, but weapon skills have cooldowns. Most skills use a chunk of Energy, some skills are channels that drain Energy until you run out of it or you deactivate the skill. When you are out of combat or you switch Legends, your Energy is reset to the default of 50%. You gain Energy by smacking stuff it would seem, and you can burn it up quickly-ish by spamming skills.

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People were talking about the Revenant being slow. I do agree that — especially with the hammer — it doesn’t always feel entirely mobile because of some skills having long cast times or rooting you in place, but I found it pretty fun (mace/axe is much more mobile than hammer is). However I didn’t feel like I was running out of skills to keep pressing, as well as that many of the skills are (combo) fields — or the paths (the mace fire path and the Dwarf Legend stone road) which are lengthy rectangular AoEs that lay out in a wide line — meaning that I was focusing on positioning to get the most effect out of my weapons, especially being that Verdant Brink seemed much more difficult (although I’m sure the unspecialized crappy gear didn’t help). I feel that the balance to the situational immobility of the Revenant is that it is fun in the sense that you get to aim cool stuff and you are hardly restricted in how much you can lay down relative to some other classes.

Rebecca Blindspam says: “So… playing Warrior is like, meat-sloshing through all the things for the fun of it, mkay? Revenant, is totally like, like playing XCOM but getting to use the rocket launcher all the time. You just gotta be sort’ve-ish tactical about spamming ‘splosions…”

Masteries

I only was able to delve into basic gliding, and I was working towards mushroom lore but didn’t complete it because I was screwing around too much… basically…

In that initial Twitch stream, gliding just looked “eh, it’s alright”. However, after getting to try it, even with only the most basic mastery in it, it was pretty enjoyable. It was fun finding new places to glide to and from, being that you can deploy it anywhere in the HoT zones. Since being back to normal GW2, I miss my glider, and that’s the sign of a good mechanic.

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The Mastery lines themselves covered several types of lore, including using ‘shrooms, as well as the gliding. There were also precursor Masteries.

I’d imagine this isn’t all of the Masteries yet, so they’ll probably have more exciting stuff to add in the full release (I’d hope). The Masteries that are already here are fun though, and it’s a cool take on progression that makes it feel similar to skillpoints but where you’re actually getting a lot more out of them.

I would like to say, that at first, figuring out the Masteries was slightly unintuitive in the interface, and I had to explain it to some other people I ran into after I figured it out by randomly clicking stuff myself. You don’t just spend the Mastery points that you acquire, you have to as well unlock each Mastery piece by setting it as the active Mastery and then doing events and general things to fill up your EXP bar. After it’s filled, you unlock the Mastery and then you can spend the points on it to gain it.

Overall I like this idea for progression, though, and it could let people specialize into different things (although I’m certain things like gliding will probably be a default for most people).

Rebecca Blindspam says: “I don’t know why they need Masteries to prove that I’m like, a really good player, but like, whatever ya know? They’re very creative to have like, Masteries for paper airplanes and portobello… oh — yeah yeah I mean like, gliders and mushrooms.”

Won’t you… follow me?

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To clarify some things, many people seem to be missing that the content showed in the beta is only a portion of the expansion content. Many people have been disappointed in only one zone, which is good, because there is supposed to be more than one zone being added in the expansion — the betas so far have only covered one zone, and only a portion of that at most.

ANet seems to be balancing letting people try it out with being secretive. To be clear about this, the betas have only been a likely very small portion, focusing only on a specific region of a specific zone and specific types of content — not even the majority of content in that small area, only a set type.

I know they’ve said they want to focus on having better zones and replayability over having more and more zones, but I expect that the space added in HoT will be decently significant. I had always wanted to explore the Maguuma Wastes just because of how cool it looked on the map, and I’m excited to see how much they include, and if they’ll include locations like Magus Falls. Remember also that Living Story Season 3 will be adding onto the expansion, and with the feedback from both previous seasons, they could make both the expansion and the Living Story a really good experience.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you’ll return next time. We have many articles planned for both new and veteran players, lore fans, exploration and style fans, etc. We haven’t figured out what the publishing schedule will be, but I thought I should pilot this with a beta impression for the meantime. Thank you.

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2 responses to “The Lonely Mesmer #1: Heart of Thorns Beta Preview

  1. Rebecca Blindspam’s comments are like listening to a 13 year old valley girl.. Use words besides “like” every sentence…

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