The Demon Hunter Starting Experience Is Wonderful

Demon Hunter is the newest Hero class in World of Warcraft and their starting experience offers a unique and compelling story experience. In fact I’d say this new starting area story is even better than the Death Knight starting experience. Obviously there will be story spoilers ahead, but I’ll try to keep them at a minimum. It’s pretty impossible to discuss this without any spoilers.

The Demon Hunter story-line picks-up, in the past, as the attack on The Black Temple begins. In fact I think what we see is the fight in the training grounds which leads to Supremus. Illidan sees all of this happening and sends a group of his Illidari off to retrieve a Sargerite Keystone. This keystone is apparently super important to defeating the Legion. I love the concept of this happening while we were raiding The Black Temple.

Desktop 8-10-2016 9-17-28 PM-232We earn our skills from completing various quests and killing specific demons and stealing their power… which is a fantastic mechanic as a Demon Hunter. Previously this system seemed fairly arbitrary and it never really related content of the quest with obtaining abilities before. It’s wonderful to see this concept folded into the story much more smoothly. It also played up how the entire reason Demon Hunters exist is to defeat the Legion.

One of my favorite aspects of the starting zone is the inclusion of a couple of spots where the player has a choice to make. The first one is during the “Enter the Illidari: Shivarra” quest. You need need to either sacrifice yourself or Sevis Brightflame (who you’ve been working with for a bit) to power a portal and bring in some much needed allies. I was quite surprised we could volunteer to die. If you do sacrifice yourself, Illidan will talk about how you are similar to him and have an immortal demon soul. Nice to have an explanation of why the player can’t truly die. Either way the choice isn’t a huge one but it was really nice to be able to make it.

Desktop 8-10-2016 9-22-11 PM-88The second choice will color the rest of the the Demon Hunter experience throughout the expansion. We have to pick either Kayn Sunfury or Altruis the Sufferer as your second in command of the Illidari. This is an interesting choice especially for people who played during Burning Crusade and met Altruis previously. They represent the choice between having faith in someone/something and trusting your own judgement above all else.

Kayn Sunfury, perhaps the more “boring” of the two options, is someone who always stayed loyal to Illidan. We first encounter Kayn right after entering Mardum and he’s the main questgiver. He cares about duty and honor and trusts Illidan implicitly… which is a bit disturbing. He’s an interesting character though and it’d be nice to interact with him more. Also worth noting if you pick Kayn as your second in command you’ll end up with the Shade of Akama, instead of Akama, as part of the Illidari.

Desktop 8-10-2016 9-22-50 PM-849For my money Altruis the Sufferer is much more interesting. Players from the Burning Crusade will remember him from a questline in Nagrand. His story is he felt Illidan had succumbed to the influence of the fel and didn’t trust Illidan’s judgement anymore. He didn’t stop there though. As a direct result of his interactions with us four Illidari are killed. So it’s a pretty extreme example of betrayal. Altruis stands by his choices as he didn’t agree with Illidan at all.

Altruis being the in the jail with me was really surprising. There seemed to be no good reason for him to be locked up. The Wardens just decided to jail him right along with all the other Illidari. I wish I could have a conversation with Maiev about how that happened. It’d probably just be something like “all beings with fel are a danger” which would be super disappointing. It just seems sort of messed up to jail him along with everyone else.

I also have to mention the Pool of Remembrance which starts a fantastic cutscene about what it means to be a Demon Hunter. It’s quite interesting but It also reminded me of why the whole “victory at any cost” mantra is incredibly troubling. Unfortunately, it really did nothing to help me make a choice between Kayn and Altruis. In the end I went with Altruis because the concept of having blind faith in anyone is just disturbing to me.

After losing Gul’Dan, Khadgar shows-up to take us to the appropriate capital city. I expected to arrive right before the Broken Isles Scenario. Instead we arrive right after the events of the Broken Isles and we are the one who informs the leaders about the infiltration of the Legion. I mean how weird would it be if a different Illidari showed-up to say the Horde/Alliance have been infiltrated? It’d be super weird and I’d feel dumb for not using my spectral site to check.

I also need to take a moment to recognize how awesome the voice acting in this entire section is. I was consistently impressed, especially by Gul’Dan’s VO. Everyone sounded authentic and compelling which is just about the best thing.

Overall it’s a fantastic experience with a new class and I honestly couldn’t stop playing once I started because I was enjoying it all so much. World of Warcraft has really up’ed their game with the Demon Hunter starting experience. If you have interest in the story at all you should play through this content at least once.

Celebrate 20 Years Of Tomb Raider With Square Enix

Tomb Raider first came on to the scene in October of 1996 and was an instant success launching multiple sequels, movies, and reboots throughout the years. It’s a game series which has been important to many people in multiple generations who have love not only the for the game, but for Lara Croft as well. Now, 20 years later, Square Enix is celebrating this success and asking the fans to participate directly.

Square Enix is asking fans to consider “What does Tomb Raider mean to you?” and make a video with your response. These videos can cover anything from talking about how the games have influenced your lives to recalling favorite moments in any of the games. Maybe Lara Croft somehow inspired you to do something or sparking an interesting something new and different; this would be a perfect time to share the story. This isn’t a contest but the best submissions will likely be included in something in the future because before submitting your video you have to agree to an image/likeness release. Video submissions can be submitted at this website. No deadline was given on these, but I’d do it sooner rather than later because there will be a cutoff at some point.

For fans who have taken their love of Tomb Raider to another level by creating fan art, Square Enix is running a contest just for you. They are looking for any fan art relating to Tomb Raider both old games and new. Entries could be landscapes, tombs, enemies, or even of Lara herself. The prize for this contest is $1,000 and the art will be featured in a special print offering which will be revealed later this year. There’s no word on how many winners there will be, but it does look like they are looking for more than one. Go to this website to enter the contest, and good luck!

Sherlock Holmes Delves Into The Supernatural

There’s not a whole lot of information available on Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter yet, but I can’t deny the trailer has seriously piqued my interest as it looks like a bit of a  mystical and supernatural story.

After the delight Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments was, I really am excited to see where Frogwares Studio takes things. Sadly Kerry Shale, who was the voice of Sherlock in Crimes & Punishments, will not be reprising the role. As sad as I am about this, it also makes a bit of sense because this will be a wholly different incarnation of Sherlock than what we have had previously. Changing the voice actor up will help to keep the distinction between Sherlocks more firmly in mind.

I’ve also heard the world will be more openly explorable which is a big improvement as the random invisible walls were one of the few things which bothered me with the previous game. I constantly found myself wanting to wander off and see what else was around, but the player was really given a limited amount of area to explore.

Also in Crimes & Punishments there was a background story going on at the same time the player is working on other cases. There were little bits of info dropped throughout the game about this side story, but everything didn’t come together until the last case was done, at which point the side story came to the foreground. I wouldn’t be surprised if something similar was done in this game, but maybe the smaller cases will be more directly pieces of the larger whole?

I also very much hope this new installment will also let the players get things wrong and show consequences of these things. The ability to be wrong, and to have it affect the game directly was one of the best aspects of Crimes & Punishments.

Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter will be released on May 27th for PS4, XB1, and PC.

Review: The Division, More RPG Than Shooter

This review is based on playing the PC version of The Division.

The Division is a complex mixture of third person shooter with RPG basics, topped off with a dash of MMO. One thing players need to know right away though, The Division is not really a MMO. Most of the time you will only see other players if you are in a hub or if you have grouped with them to do a mission… or in the Dark Zone, but I’m mostly going to leave the DZ to the side and just deal with the PvE aspects of The Division for right now. As far as “end game” content goes there isn’t a whole lot currently. It is mostly just Challenge Mode missions and dailies. However, we do know there will be 3 expansions (DLCs) this year, so more max level content should be coming soon. In fact there are also two free content updates and the first of those should be hitting in April.


Overall the gameplay for The Division is straight forward and intuitive both for mouse and keyboard control and if you choose to use a controller. Players can rebind any keys to have their preferred set-up if the default isn’t to their liking. Unfortunately this isn’t true if you decide to play with a controller as those keybinds can’t be changed. The only controller keybind I found particularly annoying was for running you have to hold in the left stick, which is really sub-optimal.

20160320175107_1The Division is a cover shooter, which helps to avoid the “just run in and shoot everything” monotony. Moving around from cover to cover and placing yourself in optimal spots is a huge part of the game, and the system works pretty flawlessly. It can also be a danger, especially on some of the harder missions. I would occasionally move to a place which seemed like a good spot only to find out I now have mobs running in behind me and I’m caught in a crossfire. Part of the learning curve is to really think strategically about how you are going to accomplish goals… also learning which objects aren’t so good at providing cover.

The Division also has some fairly basic RPG elements in it as well, but even though they are basic you can’t really ignore that aspect of the game. There’s only three stats to pay attention to, but if you don’t pick one to really focus on you’ll be really limited on your effectiveness. Also which abilities you choose to equip are also important because, obviously, they affect what you can do. These things become particularly important when working in a group because if everyone is packing the same strengths and abilities, your group will be pretty limited.

One of my favorite aspects of The Division is how simple it is to switch up the build on a character. Talents and special skills can be switched out at a whim, which makes making adjustments when needed pretty simple. While switching these things around will have a pretty big effect stats still are also important and the only way to switch those up are to keep extra gear around. It is possible to change one stat on a piece of gear, but it’s expensive and not really a good solution for a temporary switch.

Unfortunately the gameplay quickly starts to get a bit monotonous as the game settles into a familiar set of mission types. You are either trying to clear out an area of hostiles, trying to rescue citizens, or defending an area. For the most part no matter what you choose to do while leveling you’ll be doing one of those three things consistently. Hopefully when we get the content updates more mission variety will be added.

There is a little bit of variety provided through side missions, though those do tend to also  be clearing out an area or rescuing hostages. However, occasionally there is a side mission where it changes things up a bit. For instance there is one side mission where you are trying to find out happened to a scientist who worked for a local company right when the outbreak was first happening. This mission is an entirely non-combat mission where you just explored and searched for clues. It was absolutely refreshing to take part in something different and these sorts of missions sprinkled around really does help.


One of the most rewarding experiences in The Division is gathering some friends together and tackling the harder missions together, and you really shouldn’t shy away from doing this whenever possible as it really adds another dimension to the game. One thing I will point out though, whenever possible use an out of game voice chat program because there are many great options when playing PC which make the in game voice system feel especially frustrating to use in comparison.

All of the missions have a way to queue up with other players fairly easily, which really can be a big help. Additionally all the main missions have the normal difficulty and they also have a hard mode. In general the hard mode versions aren’t too hard especially if you go in with three other people. All of the mobs are tougher, on hard modes they all have a secondary healthbar which needs to be taken down before you can start diminishing their actual healthbar, and sometimes there will be more of them.

The real downside to multiplayer is only the main story missions can be progressed for everyone. Since they were trying to preserve the feeling of being alone in a hostile area, each player has their own map. When you group up with players everyone will then join one player’s map. While on that map any side missions or encounters which are completed will only be done for the player whose map you are on. It’s a bit of a pain because doing these things multiple times can really increase the feeling of monotony, so players are sort of encouraged to only group up for the main game.

TheDivision 3-21-2016 4-18-26 PM-983Setting

The way this post apocalyptic world is rendered is nothing short of amazing and done with meticulous attention to detail. They’ve managed to not only accurately capture what various parts of New York look like but also the look and feel of what would happen if chaos broke loose in the city.

Time of day and weather also make a pretty big difference as well. Since the game is set in late November/December snow is the most common form of bad weather, and it is isn’t just a binary snowing/not snowing. Snow can range from small flurries to a full out windy mess where it is actually difficult to see where you are going let alone try to fight anyone else. Night is also much darker than daylight as well and really adds to the feeling of danger no matter what you are doing in game.

TheDivision 3-16-2016 10-12-58 PM-194One particularly nice addition which helps to make this game feel more authentic is the radios playing in each safe house. They will often have news reports or someone broadcasting their (some might say paranoid) take on events, but then interspersed will also be music. The music is particularly nice because occasionally I’ll recognize something.

For instance one day I was in a safe house and realized The Moldau was playing on the in game radio. I stopped what i was doing and just listened… and there was background noises (like coughing) as if it was a broadcast of a live performance somewhere. That particular moment really surprised me and really made an impression. Since then I have started listening to those radio broadcasts more and have recognized even more music. It’s a really thoughtful and interesting choice to include these little real world auditory references.

The overall attention to detail in everything from how things look to how everything sounds adds a really important layer to The Division. It is one game where I’d argue if you aren’t playing with the sound on you are definitely robbing yourself of a huge chunk of the experience.


Overall The Division is a pretty solid game where players are put in the role of trying to bring order back to a city which has fallen to fear and chaos. The missions can get pretty monotonous at times, but there are random side missions and a lot to explore if you just take a moment to look around and venture off the main path a little. Additionally multiplayer can be a ton of fun and add even more interest to the main game. It is definitely worth a look if you are interested in a RPG with the feel of a shooter.

Runic Games’ Hob Is A Thoroughly Enchanting Adventure

Originally posted on Gamebreaker.

Runic Games — known for their Action RPG games Torchlight and Torchlight II — are going in a completely different direction and tackling the adventure genre with a game called Hob.


During PAX Prime I got the chance to get a hands on with the Hob demo and discussed the game with Runic Games CEO Max Schaefer.

According to Schaefer, the team has been inspired by games like the Zelda series and Journey. It’s easy to see the mark of both of those without ever feeling as if Hob is trying to copy them. For example; the story in Hob is told entirely without dialogue or text. Additionally, when in need of health the player character can cut down grass to find what looks like strawberries to regen health. But the differences are also abundant, even in the short demo I played.

The player is meant to navigate their way through the various levels of Hob in order to discover what is causing the world they reside in to be sick and find a way to fix the issue. There are little sprites throughout the levels who serve as sort of guideposts and help the player know where to go. However, exploring off the obvious path is also very worthwhile and offers the player a glimpse of some of the game’s beautiful vistas.


The world map changes and reforms itself as the player solves various puzzles to move forward. Different areas will rise up while others fall away, sometimes platforms will even rotate to form bridges to new areas. The sweeping vistas, aside from being beautiful, also give clues about where you’ll be heading or what is coming up soon. Some puzzles will require the player to make use of multiple abilities in order to solve them.

The demo at PAX Prime took place in one of the levels still fairly close to the beginning of the game. In the full game players will have to find the sword and giant glove on their own, but for the demo I had these items to start with.

At first the glove mostly just helped me climb around, but after I found an upgrade station I was able to use it more like a grappling hook which worked with magnets and electricity instead of a rope and hook. The upgrade also allowed me to pull far away items to me, and allowed for a new dynamic in solving puzzles.


There was one boss fight in the demo and I personally felt like it had some high stakes because the first thing the boss did when he appeared is he picked up a sprite and bit its head off. Hurting cute animals is pretty much a guarantee I’ll have a vested interest in beating a mob.

Dodging seemed like a pretty big part of fight mechanics and I was able to avoid taking any damage while in combat with the boss. The magnetic ability of the glove was also super handy because I was able to strip the boss of his metal boots right in the beginning, which severely weakened him.

Sadly the demo ended soon after this point, I would have quite happily played for many hours longer. Everything felt very polished and looked as if it could be in a live game right now.

The current plan is for Hob to be available on both PC and consoles as making it available to players as widely as possible is definitely a goal. Hob is still pretty early in the development so sadly we won’t be able to play the full game anytime soon but I’ll be eagerly waiting for the next chance to play!

This Carrot Is Looking A Bit Moldy

It’s no secret many MMOs lock desirable things behind content, it’s a normal practice and not inherently a bad thing. However, after the recent 6.2 patch for World of Warcraft the carrot which is being dangled for me is looking less and less worth the effort. The whole concept of forcing players to do different types of content just to be able to be fully prepared for the content they want to do is a bit ridiculous.

First let me give some brief personal history so you can understand where I am coming from on this issue. I started playing wow back February of 2005, at first I was just focused on PvP but I switched to raiding after attaining the Commander rank. I kept actively raiding through every expansion except MoP. I was never in a World First guild or anything crazy like that, but I do enjoy raiding and theroycrafting a lot.

Highmaul and Blackrock Foundry were both raids I enjoyed a bunch, though I like Highmaul a bit more but that might be due to just getting back into raiding again. I didn’t mind doing garrison missions as they seemed to have mostly taken the place of doing dailies, which is something I appreciated. In general I don’t usually like doing dailies very much as there are normally other things I’d rather spend my time on, so being able to send followers out to do those things instead was awesome. Plus finding followers through questlines and dungeons was also a ton of fun. Gave each of them a backstory I could relate to and I felt a bit of attachment to them.

Given all of that you might be thinking I love the shipyard… well you’d be wrong about that. Shipyards have so many issues for me it’s hard to know where to start. I’m not a fan of how completely separated shipyards are from the rest of the garrison. It makes me feel like all my hardwork with my followers was completely pointless. Sure I still send them out for oil. gold, and garrison resources but that’s about it, most of my followers now stand around idle with not much to do. I don’t even feel like there was much point to getting them to 675 ilvl at this point.

Failed a 93% chance mission and lost a ship -_-

Failed a 93% chance mission and lost a ship -_-

The really sad thing is most of my ships also sit around idle with nothing to do. The problem is if a mission is failed there is a chance to lose a ship. The goal of this risk was probably to make succeeding feel much better and to add a bit of excitement. Unfortunately what it does is add a ton more stress and frustration. Losing any ships feels bad but losing an epic ship or a ship with a buff you don’t have on other ships is especially painful. Also losing ships on missions with a 90%+ chance to succeed feels exceedingly punitive.

To mitigate this I have started sending out my ships on missions only if the percent chance is at least 70%, though I know others who don’t send ships out on missions with less than 90% chance to succeed. The upshot is we are severely slowed in progressing through the Legendary Ring quest, which is the only reason I am doing any of the shipyard stuff in the first place. Sure I could be more cavalier about it and just send my ships out on all the missions… but holy crap that would be expensive in terms of resources and would mean having to do even more of the Taanan Dailies.

As I mentioned earlier I don’t generally like doing dailies very much. I’ve slogged through the rep grinds and dailies in all the expansions and at this point I can’t help but wonder why this is a thing. I’m not practicing skills useful for raiding by doing these dailies, I’m pretty much for the most part just out running around on my own which is completely different than raiding. I’m just doing random quests to get oil or rep for things I need for my shipyard just so I’ll have a chance of succeeding at the legendary ring quests.

It’s not like I haven’t enjoyed daily areas in the past. Molten Front dailies were interesting because the story involved with them was rather interesting. I was more personally invested in it and the payoff with the storyline was well worth it. The Argent Crusade was a ton of fun because it was completely different than anything in other parts of the game. I’ve reached the point in WoD where I just don’t care about the story anymore and the quests are just more of the same. Which is sad considering heading in I was really into it and the payoff in Nagrand was awesome. Sort of funny though Gul’dan is now a problem… Like it wasn’t obvious letting him go in the beginning was a bad idea.

I don’t mind having rewards being gated behind doing things, after all that’s the basis for most games. What I do mind is having a reward which is only useful in one sort of content gated behind doing completely different unrelated content. It’s almost like requiring PvE people to take part in PvP just so they can remain competitive (or vise versa). The Legendary Ring is only really useful for raiding, sure it can be used outside of raids but its effects are minimal in those settings. Of course I could get into a whole thing about how legendaries are being done now… but that’s a whole different post.

The only argument I’ve heard for having the legendary ring quest be tied to the shipyard and doing things in Taanan Jungle is if they weren’t tied together no one would do them. Well that’s the point isn’t it? If the only way certain content will be done is to tie highly desired things behind doing it, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the content. I mean yes, locking raiding gear behind non-raiding PvE stuff is one way to get all of your raiders participating in the content… it is the easiest answer. But come on Blizzard, you can do better than that.

Going back to the subject of Taanan Jungle for a minute, mob tapping and racing for resources is so ten years ago. There have been improvements, sharing rares and some of the harder mobs is a thing and it’s great. I know I can start attacking one of the gronn in the Iron Front and multiple people will automatically help. That’s great, why are we still fighting over the other things? It’s much nicer to see other people out in the world and want to help them as opposed to having to worry about people being jerks and taking an objective from you while you are killing a mob. Honestly this would be a huge QoL improvement which would personally make me much less annoyed about trying to get stuff done out in the world.

Anywho, that’s where I am on things with WoW right now. raiding things should deal with raiding things, out in the world things should be out in the world and don’t try to strong arm people into doing content they aren’t interested in.

Everything We Officially Know About Heart of Thorns (Updated 10/20/15)

As more information gets revealed about the upcoming expansion to Guild Wars 2 some of the information has started to get lost and forgotten, which has lead to some rather depressing debates on various forums. I have put together the following list (and sources) to help everyone keep track of the information better and help the general discourse be a bit better informed. All of the information I am including here is information Arenanet has either released themselves or has confirmed as being true. As a result some information we only know from datamining is not listed.

Aside from questions about what we do know for sure a big sticking point for many people has been “what content will everyone get and what content will only be available if you buy the expansion?” To help with this I have come up with the following color coding system:

Things you can only access if you personally have the expansion

Things you can experience if you play with someone who has the expansion or can have limited access to without buying the expansion

Things I think will be locked to the expansion but Arenanet hasn’t confirmed yet

I’ve done my best to gather all the official information I could find, if  I missed anything please let me know (and ideally give me some way to find the official source). I haven’t had time to go back through the PoIs and Ready Ups so anything revealed on those isn’t currently included.

Launch date October 23, 2015! (source)

The Heart of Maguuma Region (source)

  • Four new maps, all with increased virticality (source)
  • Jungle made up of 3 biomes (source)
    • Roots, Floor, Canopy
  • Find Glint’s Legacy (source)
  • New types of content and new challenging content (source)
  • The Verdant Brink is the map where the expansion will start (source)
  • The first map (source)
    • Handles what happened to the Pact Fleet
    • Build defenses during the day
    • Mordrem will come out at night and it will be a fight for survival
  • Each map will be focused on 3D play space and provide high replay value (source)
  • Outposts (source)
    • Events will be tied to what is happening at a specific site
    • Results of localized events will be shown through what happens at the outposts
    • The night phase challenge in the first area are wyverns
    • Make as much progress as possible during the day to have a chance during night time
    • Some out posts will have multiple upgrades which will make them stronger and offer new rewards
  • Adventures (source)
    • Repeatable on-demand bits of content
    • Will require practice, mastery, and skill to master (source)
    • Will unlock as progress is made at an outpost
    • Have their own UI and offer some amount of active challenge
    • Progress through an adventure will be tracked and scored; players will be able to see the scores of friends and guildmates
    • Will be displayed on the world map
    • If an adventure isn’t currently open, there will be an explanation of how to open it in game
    • Other players will have no impact on success or failure, ie won’t have to compete for resources or objectives (source)
    • Will be reliant on patterns and systems players can figure out to improve their play (source)
    • Players will be able to quickly quit and restart with minimal downtime (source)
    • Each adventure has its own distinct separate leaderboard (source)
      • Each leaderboard has daily participation rewards
      • Leaderboards will be divided into three tiers and the first time a player moves into one of those tiers they will receive a bonus reward
      • Higher tiers have higher rewards
  • Story instances will be replayable and players will be able to make different choices when they replay (source)
    • These will also have difficult to obtain achievements (similar to Living Story Season 2) and they will yield Mastery Points
  • Player character will be speaking in the open world as well as in story instances (source)
    • Lines will also vary depending on race of the player character
  • Two new armor sets to work on in the open world content, 5 new weapon sets, 60 additional unique skins, miniatures, and more (source)
  • New map rewards (source)
  • If you own the expansion you’ll be able to gain access to upcoming new living story (source)

Raids (source)

  • First raid will have three wings, the first of which will open up a few weeks after HoT launches
    • The delay gives time for balance passes to be done on professions and the new elite specs
    • Also players will have time to earn some of the mastery abilities they’ll need to beat the bosses
  • The remaining two wings will be opened in sequence after, depending on how quickly players are moving through the first wing
  • The first wing will have three bosses
  • First wing will require players to have unlocked gliding and a few different ways to interact with mushrooms (source)
  • 10 Player instanced content
  • Uses the event system which allows for greater variety of mechanics and tactics to be used
  • Players will need to be highly coordinated to beat these bosses
  • There won’t be a traditional raid frames set-up, players will have to communicate and pay attention each other to make sure they can down bosses
  • There will be new Mastery Tracks and Abilities which will be tightly tied to boss mechanics
  • Will be how players get Legendary Armor (source)
  • Old raids won’t become a wasteland of irrelevance
  • In addition to boss fights there will be event styled things for the group to accomplish IE holdouts, assaults, captures, defends, etc (source)
  • Encounters are designed to push players to use a variety of builds, weapons, and armor types (source)
  • Groups will use the squad system (source)
  • Can earn unique rewards once a week (source)
  • Some types of rewards exclusive to raids are special minis, weapon skin, titles, and a special trophy for your guild hall (source)

Mastery System General (source)

  • Account bound PvE progression system
  • Reinforces the idea the journey is the main goal (source)
  • Gain Mastery Points as you complete content (source)
    • Completing elements of the Story
    • Reaching hard to find & hard to reach locations
    • Defeating “incredible” challenges and “incredible” group challenges
    • Map completion
    • Challenging achievements “across the jungle and beyond”
    • Each point can be obtained once per account (source)
    • Players will be able to earn Mastery Points before lvl 80, but won’t be able to spend them until after (source)
    • Points gained in an area can only be used to unlock Masteries in the same area (source)
    • A good number of points earned before HoT will be awarded to players with the release of the expansion (source) (more info)
  • Experience bar will change to the Mastery Training bar at lvl 80 when in PvE zones (source)
    • To train a Mastery you will have to first unlock it by spending a Mastery Point
    • Each unlock will have multiple tiers with more powerful abilities in each subsequent tier
    • Select the Mastery to be slotted on the Mastery Bar and then any experience gained will be put towards increasing the mastery level
    • Players will set their active Mastery by region and the bar will automatically switch when the player changes regions
  • Exploration Mastery (source)
    • Hang gliding
      • Higher tiers allow for longer flights, ride wind currents, jump higher, and launch into the air with greater force (source)
    • Ability to use mushrooms to move around The Heart of Maguuma faster (source)
  • Lore Mastery (source)
    • Learn to understand the languages of civilizations deep in the jungle
    • Gain access to hidden locations only people who understand the language will be able to access
  • Combat Mastery (source)
    • Will allow players to learn new abilities which will help them overcome challenges
    • Master abilities to defeat champions (source)
    • Become more deadly to the new creatures in the jungle (source)
  • Legend Mastery (source)
    • Learn to craft current precursors (source)
    • Learn to craft new precursor for the new legendary weapons
    • Current precursors (source)
      • Three tiers
      • Visit Mastery vendor to pick which to start
      • First tier focuses on one theme of the Legendary
      • Completing the first collection will unlock the ability to craft a “distressed” version of the precursor and won’t be tradable
      • The second collection will focus on doing research about the legendary, which will unlock another exotic non-tradable version of the precursor
      • The third collection will focus on the secondary theme of the legendary weapon and will yield the recipe for the final version of the precursor
      • Will be tradeable
      • Skins will be updated to look like “lesser” versions of the legendary weapon they create
      • Having any version/step of a legendary will automatically unlock all previous skins attached to it
      • Will only be able to craft one of each precursor per account this way
      • All current methods of obtaining a precursor will remain intact
    • New Legendary Weapons and their precursors will not be tradable (source)
    • New precursers will not drop anywhere in game (source)
    • New Legendaries which will be available to make shortly after HoT launches along with raids (source)
    • The first three will be Astralaria (Axe), H.O.P.E. (Pistol),and Nevermore (Staff) (source)
    • Recipies to craft the new legendaries will be the specific precursor, a Gift of Maguuma Mastery, a Mystic Tribute, and a unique gift associated with each legendary (source)
  • Fractal Mastery (source)
    • New depths in the Fractals
    • Gain new abilities for use in the Fractals
    • Get better rewards
    • Unlock more powerful infusions

Specific Mastery Lines

  • Gliding (source)
    • Glider Basics
    • Updraft Use
    • Lean Techniques
    • Stealth Gliding
    • Advanced Gliding
    • Ley Line Gliding
  • Itzel Lore (source)
    • Bouncing Mushrooms
    • Itzel Language
    • Blazing Speed Mushrooms
    • Itzel Poison Lore
    • Itzel Leadership
    • Adrenal Mushrooms
  • Exalted Lore (source)
    • Exalted Markings
    • Exalted Acceptance
    • Exalted Assistance
    • Exalted Purification
    • Exalted Gathering
    • Exalted Honing
  • Nuhoch Lore (source)
    • Nuhoch Hunting
    • Nuhoch Language
    • Nuhoch Wallows
    • Nuhoch Stealth Detection
    • Nuhoch Proving
    • Nuhoch Alchemy
  • Legendary Precursor Crafting Mastery (source)
    • Revered Antiquarian
    • Magister of Legends
    • Historian of the Armaments
    • Scholar of Maguuma’s Secrets
  • Tiers in Fractal Mastery (source)
    • Follows Advice
    • Agony Channeler
    • Mistlock Singularities
    • Recursive Resourcing
    • Essential Singularities
    • Hyperactive Singularities
  • Pact Commander (source)
    • Pact Mentor
    • Productive Downtime
    • Supply Line Management
    • Noblesse Oblige
    • Advanced Logistics

Elite Specializations (source)

  • Every profession will get an Elite Specialization/Secondary Profession
  • General Elite Specialization info (source)
    • Will always introduce a single new weapon type for a character
    • To use the new weapon or skills, players will have to both unlock and equip the Elite Specialization
    • Almost every Elite Spec will get a new heal, utility skills, and elite skill
    • Will make core changes to how a profession is played
    • Has a full set of new traits
    • When HoT hits each profession will get one Elite Spec
    • Only one Elite Spec will be allowed to be equiped
    • Unlocking an Elite spec will also grant new runes and sigils, a fancy weapon skin for your new weapon type, and an armor skin for a single matching piece of armor (usually headgear or shoulders)
    • Elite Specs will automatically be unlocked in PvP
    • Will need to have core lines completly unlocked before being able to unlock any of the Elite Spec (source)
    • It will take 400 points to unlock an Elite Spec fully (source)
    • Hero Challenges in the Jungle award 10 points instead of one (source)
  • Ranger’s elite specialization will be Druid (source)
    • Allows use of Staff
    • A new heal skill
    • A new elite skill
    • A new set of utility skills
    • New resource called astral force which is used to enter the new Celestial Avatar form (source)
    • Celestial Avatar substantially boosts the healing abilities of the Druid (source)
  • Necromancer will get Reaper (source)
    • Allows use of Greatsword (source)
    • Grants a completely new set of abilities in death shroud and creates a shadowy scythe when entering death shroud
    • Death’s Charge replaces Dark Path and causes the Reaper to dash forward dealing damage as you go and releases a poison cloud at the end
    • Shivers of Dread inflicts chill whenever fear is used
    • Cold Shoulder increases the duration of chill and reduces the amount of damage chilled enemies do to you
    • Most attacks will be slower, but will also hit much harder than you might otherwise expect
    • Gravedigger is a slow skill which delivers a devastating blow to all enemies nearby
    • Reaper will also get a full set of shouts focused on harming foes
    • Rise is a shout which will hit all enemies in the radius for a small amount of damage and will summon a jagged horror for each foe struck
  • Mesmers will get Chronomancer (source)
    • Will gain use of Alacrity which will speed up skill recharge times
    • New weapon is off-hand Shield
    • Tides of Time – destroys projectiles, stuns enemies, and granting quickness to allies
    • Gain access to time themed wells
    • Well of Precognition – causes the attacks of allies to become unblockable and when it ends allies can evade all incoming attacks
    • Continuum Split/Continuum Shift is a new Shatter mechanic which allows the Mesmer to revert time and undo everything which happened to them during that time
  • Guardian will get Dragonhunter (source)
    • Focuses on ranged combat and back line support
    • Allows the use of Longbows
    • Spear of Justice – Virtue of Justice becomes a thrown spear which will tether enemies as long as they remain in range
    • Wings of Resolve – Virtue of Resolve will become wings of light which will allow the player to leap to an area and heal allies and can be traited to also deal damage
    • Shield of Courage – will allow attacks to be blocked for allies
    • Abilities will retain passive properties conferred by traits
    • Will have trap skills
    • Heal trap will heal allies while simultaneously heal allies when the Guardian triggers it
  • Elementalists get Tempest (source)
    • Allows use of Warhorn
    • Adds full set of 6 shouts
      • Wash the Pain Away – heals allies and cleanses conditions
      • Feel the Burn – Causes flames to erupt from a specific location
      • Eye of the storm – calls down a storm which breaks stuns and grants superspeed
      • Aftershock – creates a force around the Tempest which will cripple enemies and after a delay it will immobilize them
      • Freeze – freezes air around enemies damaging and chilling them
      • Rebound (elite) – causes all allies around the Tempest to have a 25% reduced recharge on their next ability used
    • Adds Overload mechanic to attunements
      • Overload Fire creates an infernal tornado which continuously damages and burns enemies while giving allies might
      • Overload Water creates a bubble which will grant regeneration and cleanse conditions from the Tempest and allies, when it end the bubble will burst and provide a large heal to allies in the area
      • Overload Air creates a nimbus cloud which strikes enemies repeatedly, at the end of the ability it will leave behind a lightening field
      • Overload Earth rends the earth and grants protection to allies and cripples enemies, at the end of the ability it’ll deliver a large blast of damage
    • Overloads will cause a longer than normal lockout of an attunement
  • Revenants get Herald (source)
    • Allows shield as an off-hand weapon
      • Envoy of Exuberance – Glint’s energy shoots out healing allies and grants protection on the way back
      • Crystal Hibernation – Channel a shield that renders the player immune to damage and gives a heal
    • Legendary Dragon Stance (Glint) – Support via boons, utility, and personal defense
    • Facets of Glint Utility Skills (all are upkeep skills)
      • Facet of Elements – Grants a pulsing swiftness buff
      • Elemental Blast – Ground targeted skill which consumes Facet of Elements and applies conditions to foes
      • Facet of Chaos – grants nearby allies protection every few seconds
      • Chaotic Release – consumes Facet of Chaos and grants super speed to allies while also damaging and knocking back foes
      • Facet of Nature – Pulses every few seconds and increases the outgoing boon duration for allies
      • One with Nature – Consumes Facet of Nature and applies boons all the other facets would apply to allies
  • Warrior gets Berzerker (source)
    • New weapon is torch
      • Blaze Breaker – send a cascade of rock and flame which travels to your target, crippling and burning any foe in the way.
      • Flames of war – Light yourself on fire burning off any conditions and creating a fire field that follows you. When the effect ends it explodes a applies more burning to foes around you.
    • At max adrenaline the bar will change to a single bar with only 10 adrenaline (instead of the normal three tiered bar with 30 adrenaline)
      • Give new weapon burst skills which can be used more often
      • Scorched Earth (longbow) – leaves a trail of fire on the ground in a straight line, is an aimed skill
      • Skull Grinder (mace) – short disrupt and applies multiple conditions to your target
    • Primal bursts are considering tier 3 bursts for traits
    • Feel the Rage – new type of utility skills called rage skills
  • Thief gets Daredevil (source)
    • Gains the use of Staff
    • Highly mobile fighter who is capable of taking on multiple enemies at once
    • Will have an extra endurance bar
    • Grandmaster trait line enhances dodge options
      • Lotus Training – each dodge throws daggers which cause bleed, torment, and cripple to foes and additionally functions as a whirl finisher
      • Bounding Dodger – gives the ability to leap in a specific direction and deal crushing damage where you land, additionally it functions as a leap finisher
      • Unhindered Combatant – Dodge becomes a dash which increases the distance you dodge and removes cripple and chill effects from you
    • Channeled Vigor – pulses heal and endurance regen, also heals for an additional amount if endurance is full

Revenant (source)

  • Ability to channel and control the Mists (source)
  • Heavy Armor
  • Uses energy as a resource (source)
  • Will use Hammer as a ranged weapon (source)
  • Can us Mace in the main hand (source)
  • Can use Axe as off-hand (source)
  • Can use Staff as a melee weapon (source)
  • Will be able to use Sword in main hand and off hand (source)
  • Will have weapon swapping (source)
  • On swap sigils activate when switching Legends (source)
  • Will use Spear underwater (source)
  • Use of Great Legends of Tyria
    • King Jalis – Tanky, Brawly Playstyle
    • Malyx – Conditions
    • Ventari – Support and Healing
    • Shiro – physical mobile dps

New WvW Borderlands Map (source)

  • Each Keep has a separate theme
    • Earth keep will raise up to defend itself against attackers
  • Fire Keep (source)
    • Located entirely underground
    • Has lava pools surrounding it
    • Fire imps and charred fleshreavers guard it
  • Air Keep (source)
    • Cut into the walls of the cavern
    • Has Tengu guarding its heights
  • Earth Keep (source)
    • Corrupted asuran complex
    • Has rock formations and boulders floating in the air
    • Golems are the guardians
  • Holding a keep will give buffs to the world which has it
  • There will also be changes to core WvW
    • Holding objectives should be a bigger component of victory
  • Will have 3 Keeps, 4 towers, and 6 supply camps (source)
  • The towers are an ogre outpost, a charr military depot, an academy of magic, and a necromantic spire (source)
    • Towers will actually create choke points and be of strategic importance
  • The gates of towers and keeps will be more lethal to attack head on (source)
  • Shrines (source)
    • Outside each keep
    • Three shrines of matching elements to the keep they are near
    • Can be capped by a single player
    • Capping the shrines will give buffs and bonuses which will make taking and keeping their keep easier
  • Oasis (source)
    • Located in the middle of the map
    • Multilayered and full of all kinds of hazards (including dinosaurs)
    • Players will collect cores to charge up the giant cannon
    • When the cannon fires it will start to fire blasts of energy at all enemy towers and keeps, gradually obliterating their gates
  • Dolyaks will gain significant buffs if a friendly player is near them (source)
  • Sentries will be guarding tiny outposts and will have a cripple skill to hamper enemy dolyaks (source)
  • Players will also be able to pick-up medkits at their outposts and use them to heal dolyaks, gain some health, or grant swiftness (source)

Changes to all WvW maps (source)

  • Upgrades will have no gold or supply cost
  • Less supply will be held and transported
  • There will be upgrade tiers instead of tiers
  • Upgrades happen automatically over time
  • Camps will have 2 tiers and all other objectives will have 3 tiers
  • Higher tiers take longer to upgrade than lower tiers.
  • Dolyak shipments will reduce the remaining upgrade time
  • Total time needed should be about the same as before the changes
  • Changes to WvW Abilities (source)
    • Guard Killer and Defense Against Guards will only have 5 ranks instead of 10
    • Applied Fortitude and Applied Strength will be removed
    • Ability lines which increased percentages from 1% to 5% will increase percentages from 2% to 10%
    • Siege weapon lines and the Supply Capacity line will have a reduced cost
    • All lines which have 5 ranks will cost 35 points per line
    • All lines which have 4 ranks will cost 15 points per line
    • The main player XP bar will change to track WXP when the player zones into WvW
  • Players will be able to buy Notarized Scrolls of Heroics and Notarized Scrolls of Maguuma Heroics which will allow players to unlock Hero Challenges through WvW play alone (source)
  • Changes are being made to prevent players from stocking up liquid world experience for launch day of HoT (source)

Strongholds (source)

  • Fight for Supply
  • Spend Supply to help your team
  • Players will be able to choose is they prefer Conquest, Stronghold, or Both and will be able to queue for the type they prefer (source)
  • Join with heroes to help in the fight
  • Kill the Guild Lord
  • More Mist Champions will be added through new reward tracks in the future (source)
  • Unlocking a Mist Champion reward champion track will also allow players to unlock a second track which will reward that champion’s mini (source)

New sPvP Ranks (source)

  • Everyone who owns the expansion will start at Jungle Rabbit rank
  • As a rank reward track is unlocked the next one will open up until you reach your current rank, all the way up to Dragon
  • Jungle Dragon rank has a new finisher which is Heart of Thorns themed

sPvP Leagues (source)

  • There will be six divisions – Lowest level is called the Amber Division and the Highest is the Legendary Division
  • Players will be matched up with other players in the same divisions
  • Players will earn pips from winning, and when enough are earned they will move up to the next division
  • If players are matched against a team outside their skill bracket they will have to reach a certain score threshold to get awarded their pip
  • Crossing into a new tier or new division will earn bigger and more prestigious rewards (the first time in a season this is done will give the biggest rewards)
  • The Amber Division will only award pips, it won’t take them away for losing
  • In divisions two and three players can lose pips but they won’t lose tiers
  • Starting in division four players can lose both pips and tiers
  • During a season players will never fall back to a previous division
  • The sixth division (Legendary) is a repeatable division which plays can fill out for repeatable rewards
  • Different divisions will have different badges for player nameplates
  • Badges are earned for each current season; as soon as a new season starts all badges are reset and must be earned again
  • Anyone who makes it into the Legendary Division will earn a permanent title
  • League Tokens are a reward for crossing into higher divisions and can be used to buy the first level of the “Wings of Glory” back item and can be used to upgrade it
  • New items will be added in the future and the newest items will always be at a discount
  • League play will also unlock the ability for players to craft a precursor and eventually craft that item into a legendary back item
  • Dishonor system will be returning
  • Guild Teams in sPvP (source)
    • A guild team is a named five player group who compete in sPvP together
    • Each team will have their own rating and place on the new guild leaderboard
    • A single guild can have multiple teams but each must have a unique name
    • Each team will have one captain
    • Must have 3 members of a team queuing together in order for a match to be counted as a team match
    • Matchmaking will use the team rating instead of personal rating when playing as a team
    • Guilds can unlock perks, for example the guild anthem can play at the end of a match the team wins
    • Will be active during all league seasons (source)
    • Ratings will decay with time (source)
    • Rewards will be given at the end of season based on where teams end and will also be used to determine who will be invited to higher-tier tournaments (source)

Guild Halls (source)

  • Home base to build & grow
  • Core hub for a guild
  • Guilds will choose between Lost Precipice and Gilded Hallow (source)
  • Claiming your Guild Hall (source)
    • Guilds will register themselves with the Guild Initiative
    • Guild Initiative Headquarters is an instance shared by guild members (sort of like a mini hall)
    • After clearing out the Modrem a Guild Leader will interact with a crystal to claim the Hall
  • Building the Hall (source)
    • To upgrade Halls guilds will use a combination of specific crafting materials, favor, and aetherium
    • Aetherium is generated automatically over time from the guild mine
    • Buildings form instantly when you pay for them
    • Six main buildings Tavern, Mine, Workshop, War Room, Market, Arena
  • Consumable upgrades which have been purchased should be used before Heart of Thorns goes live (source)
  • Once the Guild Initiative Headquarters opens Guilds will be able to trade a limited amount of Influence for Favor everyday (source)
  • Influence will also be used to purchase a small increase to aetherium production, once a day (source)
  • Guilds will also be able to convert as much influence to resonance as they like (source)
  • Merits will be retired (source)
  • Heart of Thorns will introduce the ability to view and talk in any guild chat of which you are a member even if you aren’t currently representing (source)
  • Guild Mission changes (source)
    • Will be how guilds earn favor
    • Missions will be free to run as often as wanted, but rewards will still be once a week
    • Guilds will start with a few missions available, and as the guild levels up more missions will open up
    • Guild Challenges and Guild Puzzles will be instanced
    • Only one mission of a given type can be active at a time
    • A guild portal in the guild hall can be built and will transport guild members to the start point for each guild mission available
  • Guild Crafting (source)
    • Guild Items will have a build time requirement
    • This time can be shortened by using resonance
    • Resonating shards will drop while playing grouped with guildies and is the main source of resonance
    • Scribes can create guild consumables, improvements and tactics for claiming in WvW, and guild hall decorations
  • War Room (source)
    • The ability to claim objectives is unlocked through the war room
    • The guild with the most members present when an objective is taken will have first priority in claiming
    • If three guilds pass then anyone can claim
    • Guilds can only have one objective per map claimed (source)
    • Objectives can be claimed by clicking on the objective in the map (source)
    • Claimed objectives will be marked by a shield on the map (source)
    • Upgrades are upgrades to an objective that give it better defenses and new functionality
      • These improvements last for as long as your guild has the objective claimed
      • Tier I unlocks after guild has objective for 10 minutes, Tier II at 30 minutes, and Tier III at 60 minutes (source)
      • Each tier offers options for the upgrades and it will take 3 minutes for the upgrade to be built (source)
    • Tactics are objective-based abilities that players can activate to temporarily boost or defend an objective

Changes to Fractals (source)

  • Each fractal run will consist of one fractal from a static list instead of three random fractals with a random boss at the end
  • The static list will be dependent on the scale of the fractal (source)
  • Lower scales will be adjusted to help new players learn the mechanics
  • Maximum fractal scale will be raised from 50 to 100
  • Past 50 the difficulty curve will not only adjust health and damage of creature but will also adjust other stats (ex toughness and precision)
  • Existing mistlock instabilities will either be updated or replaced
  • In the higher scales there will also be multiple mistlock instabilities active at the same time
  • Dessa will also have new consumables for fractals available which will stack with other existing consumables
  • Fractals will have their own achievement tab and will have special rewards for completing them
  • Daily fractal achievements will be divided into three level ranges 1–20, 21–50, and 51 and above
  • The final chest in every fractal will be a tradeable lockbox called a fractal encryption which has the chance to contain the following (in addition to other things):
    • Mini Professor Mew
    • new ascended aquatic-breather recipes
    • high-level crafting materials
  • Mini Professor Mew can be combined with a fractal ingredient to create the full set of cat golem mintures
  • Changes to fractal weapon skins
    • Addition of a collection for obtaining all the skins and a new reward
    • After completing fractal scale 50 golem BUY-2046 will sell a fractal weapon crate for pristine fractal relics and players will be able to pick which skin they want
    • New skins will be added but will only be obtainable at the 50+ scales
    • Will be able to take any of the new fractal skins and convert it, in the mystic forge, to a new fractal weapon skin of the player’s choice
  • BUY-2046 will also start selling Ascended Salvage kits
    • Salvaging any ascended item will have the chance to yield a ball of dark energy which is needed for crafting new legendary items
    • Salvaging rings will yield stabilizing matrices, useful for legendary crafting or can be traded in for fractal encryption keys

Legendary Backpacks (source)

  • Will be account bound
  • A guide in Mistlock Observatory will help point players in the direction of new types of challenges, timed boss encounters, and collections of items to obtain both inside and outside of the fractals
  • Those achievements along with armorsmith, leatherworker, or tailor profession will enable players to build their precursor back item
  • The last step to making it a legendary item is called Ad Infinitum

Other sources:

About Guild Hall availability:

About needing HoT to make a Revenant:

The ability to train Masteries is unlocked at level 80 for all players that own Heart of Thorns”:

“While elite specializations will be available to everyone who purchases the expansion, the upcoming core specialization changes will affect the base game.” :

About Leagues being tied to HoT, I talked to John Corpening about it at the GW2 Pax party, I’ll update with a link when his new post about Leagues gets posted.