I assume most of you have heard about “Heart of Thorns” by now. I will try to keep this mostly spoiler-free, but if you haven’t played the latest story bit, you will at least not want to click on the play button of the video. Other than that, I’m not mentioning the latest story bits in this post.
We will get to hear more – or anything other than the title “Heart of Thorns” – on January 24 (either at PAX or online on Twitch). Until then, there’s not much left for us to do than speculate. I guess in my case, it’s not so much speculation as rather a whole lot of wishful thinking. :p
Who here remembers World of Warcraft’s Cataclysm? In case you have no idea what that was, it is their third expansion. And not just any expansion. In the beginning when the game launched, there were two continents (Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms). With time, new zones, raids, instances etc. were added. Every bit of that also added story and continued the world’s timeline. But the old zones remained mostly static and stayed in its original time. So, if something big happened with the introduction of a new zone, this mostly did not reflect on the old ones. NPCs were still going around their daily routines just as if time stood still. Quests you did there stayed the same and were set “before” whatever happened in a new zone. Cataclysm changed that. Not only did the whole world get changed in appearance, Blizzard also used this opportunity to bring all zones to present time. No more confusing “this zone was here before the other zone, so what happens here is actually taking place 2 years before what happens in that other zone”. For one short moment, it felt like Azeroth was “alive”. It changed and evolved.
With the Living Story in Guild Wars 2, we have already seen something like this. Lion’s Arch got destroyed and is now slowly getting rebuild (look here for several screenshot galleries of the old, intermediate and destroyed Lion’s Arch). At the same time, however, when we do a Personal Story part that takes place in Lion’s Arch, we get to see the present time Lion’s Arch and not the old one anymore (this is due to technical limitations, actually, which doesn’t make it easy for them to have the new LA present as a map and an old LA present for when you enter that zone for your personal story). This makes it quite confusing, but it also shows that ArenaNet is dedicated more to the living story and the world evolving than in keeping the personal story in its own time frame.
Now wouldn’t an expansion (I am certain that this is what “Heart of Thorns” is going to be) be the perfect opportunity for ArenaNet to bring all zones to the current time again? Again, I don’t think personal story – which can’t just be brought to the current time – is a limiting factor for ArenaNet, as can be seen with story bits taking place on the Lion’s Arch map.
Lion’s Arch (and parts of other maps) has been changed already, but other parts of the world haven’t been. NPCs are still concerned about Zhaitan, even though we already killed him. Scarlet came and left. ArenaNet could bring the whole world to a post-Scarlet state including new dynamic events everywhere which would make the whole “old world” much more interesting again for those of us who have seen everything by now anyway. They could change all NPCs accordingly, so the stories, concerns, thoughts reflect what has happened in the last 2,5 years. I think this would definitely make the game world feel much more alive than it currently does.
Other than that, I guess I am hoping for “the usual” that other MMOs offer with their expansions. A new race would be nice, but even though everything seemed to hint at the Tengu in the beginning with them hiding behind their wall near Lion’s Arch, I’m not sure they are still in the focus and I don’t know what other race could become playable. A new profession would be great. I always loved the dervish in Guild Wars (I started with Nightfall, after all) and would love to see something similar in style in Guild Wars 2. But even though I am wishing for a new profession, I do not think we will get one, to be honest. Instead, I think we will rather get new weapons for existing professions. Maybe even only already existing weapons – I have wanted my mesmer to be able to dual-wield pistols from the very beginning. And why can’t my engineer wield a hammer or a spanner? New weapons for the professions or existing ones but new to that specific profession, I don’t really care. I just want more choices! :)
I am also expecting them to deliver guild halls. This is a feature that’s been asked for even before launch. I don’t know what they will include or what we’re going to be able to do there, but there you go. Guild halls! :p I would love to see housing, but to be honest, I don’t think we will ever see it in Guild Wars 2. It just doesn’t really seem to fit the direction they are going with the game.
More legendary weapons is another thing I would love to see (mostly because I don’t like any of the current ones enough to get into the grind). But again, I am not sure this is their focus now.
In the end, I think the expansion will mostly be about new zones and more living story. I like to keep my expectations low, so that I won’t be easily disappointed. Anyway, we will know more soon! Less than a week from now.