Last weekend at PAX South, Arenanet announced the first expansion for their mightily successful MMORPG Guild Wars 2. The buy-once-play-free-forever (with optional purchase extras) game has gone from strength to strength in recent months, with overarching world storylines for players to participate in, in addition to their own personal storylines.

The expansion opens up a whole new section of the Maguuma Jungle, and gives players the chance to explore from below the ground in the root system, right up to the very top of the canopy, where there will be information to be found from Glint, the last good dragon. “And what do we do in Guild Wars 2 when we reach the highest point of something? We jump off it!” says Heart of Thorns game director Colin Johanson. And the resounding response from my guild is, “Not if you’re Minxie, you don’t!”

New features in the expansion will include a higher mastery ability, meaning that a player has more to do with their level 80 character, including the ability to hang-glide through the jungle setting that the new world storyline will be set. Colin Johanson hinted in the release announcement that there would be more mastery reveals in the future. He has also added that “the mastery system will allow you to build collections that send you on epic journeys across the world of GW2 that, once completed, will reward you with precursor weapons to set you on your journey to building your legendary.” He explains that the developers are working hard to keep GW2 a “no grind” game, and the announcement regarding the precursor weaponry was met with great delight from the audience.

The expansion will also be offering profession specialisation, giving each profession the chance to craft a profession-specific weapon once mastery is achieved, as well as giving Rangers the opportunity to specialise and change themselves into Druids, as Colin Johanson stated that the jungle has a strong druidic influence within. If a Ranger chooses to specialise as a Druid, they will gain new abilities and mechanics.

There is also to be a new profession by the title of “Revenant” which, from the interviews and information I can gather, appears to have some similarities to the Necromancer, but instead of using magic to create golems and using spirits based firmly in Tyria, the Revenant will channel spirits directly from the mists, mimicking their abilities, which to me would mean they would practically be able to change their use from DPS (damage per second) to Tank (front-line fighter). There are rumoured to be more information to be released regarding the Revenant.

Another new feature will be that of Guild Halls, giving guilds a whole new way to interact, to see and be seen, and to work together. Colin Johanson describes the Guild Hall as not only a place to gather with your guild and socialise, but a place to literally build from the ground up as a home base core hub for the guild members. He has said that with the Guild Hall, it will be easier to prepare the guild for more adventures and guild missions to take on the new challenges in the jungle.

Unfortunately my knowledge of current PvP (Player vs Player) and WvW (World vs Worlds) systems are lacking, as I currently solely play PvE (Player vs Environment) so although I am aware that the PvP and WvW systems will be upgraded, there is slightly less excitement from me regarding this side of the expansion. However, the changes that are going to be made have piqued my interest, so perhaps once the expansion is released you may find me on WvW! Changes for WvW include a modification of the core mechanics, meaning that not only is the fight to take a stronghold important, but holding the objective is equally important. There will be a brand new WvW Borderland map, which will include Earth and Fire keeps, each giving the holding side boons. The Earth Keep will raise the ground up beneath enemy armies, helping in its defence, whilst the Fire Keep gives its holding army the ability to travel across the map with greater speed by utilising lava pools.

In PvP the expansion will introduce “Stronghold”, which to me sounds a little bit like a Real Time Strategy (RTS) game. In PvP Strongholds, you and team fight for supply, gather supply, build a stronghold, hire troops, then go for the enemy and try to destroy their stronghold. On the way across the map you will meet hero NPCs that you can attempt to recruit to assist you. The RTS side is negated slightly by the fact that you will be playing in Guild Teams, working to kill the Guild Leader of the opposing team whilst keeping your own Guild Leader intact. There will be a new ranking system, titling which guild within the game has the highest score for Stronghold.

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