April 10, 2014

Guild Wars 2 is Getting a Massive Feature Update in Five Days

Guild Wars 2 has always pushed the envelope in terms of revolutionizing and rethinking the foundations of the MMORPG genre, from day one. Even so, the developers at ArenaNet have never been content to rest on their laurels. Since the game's launch about a year and a half ago, there has been a constant flow of tweaks to skill and stat mechanics, new play modes in PvE and PvP alike, episodic "living story" chapters, comprehensive reward systems for achievements in every area of the game, and myriad enhancements to convenience and "quality of life." Even by its own high standards, though, GW2's April Feature Pack is promising to really shake things up.

Come April 15th, there will be a vast array of improvements and new features to fool around with. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Forty new Grandmaster-level traits are coming, across all professions.
  • New characters created after the patch will earn specific traits by hunting them down in the world, rather than simply getting points at level-ups.
  • Traits can be reset at any time, for free, as long as you're out of combat. In my opinion, this will be a fantastic chance to experiment with new builds and combinations on a whim, leading to a broader understanding of the full potential of one's profession and skills.
  • Runes and sigils are being reworked, with bonuses like chance-on-hit mechanics being vastly improved across the board. All those hidden conflicts between different sigil procs and cooldowns will be gone, with many overlooked strategies becoming far more viable.
  • Two-handed weapons will be allowed two sigils.
  • Critical damage will now be augmented by a "Ferocity" stat, and the maximum attainable Critical Damage will be reduced somewhat. On its own, this may not sound like much, but in combination with all the other changes it could go a long way toward dethroning a maximum-DPS "berserker" build as the current over-used, cookie-cutter status quo.
  • The jack-of-all-trades "Celestial" gear will be getting a boost, for players who like a balanced approach.

  • Through the new Wardrobe system, any piece of equipment you've attained will have its skin saved to your account, and available to apply to your gear as easily as you would a dye. The looks can be applied to PvP mode as well. Collecting all the different skins and experimenting with new looks is going to eat up so much of my time, it's not even funny...
  • Speaking of dyes, they will now be account-bound rather than character-based. So, a colour you've acquired on one character will now be usable on your other characters. And crazily enough, any pre-existing redundancies in dyes across your alt characters will be refunded to you in the form of unidentified dyes!
  • WXP earned for participating in World vs World will be account-wide, rather than per character.
  • Legendary and Ascended tier equipment will also become account-bound.
  • Equipment repairs will be free.
  • PvP will become more rewarding, with themed, cycling "Reward Tracks" offering gear, crafting materials, skill points, and tons of other prizes.
  • A "megaserver" system will automatically unify players across different servers in cases where certain maps are underpopulated -- making it far easier to find allies to participate in some of the less-popular areas, or at non-peak times of day.
  • The previously spotty "world boss" encounters (such as Tequatl or the Shadow Behemoth) will be set on a much more reliable timer, occurring at specific times across all servers. In addition, guilds can earn Guild World Event upgrades to trigger these encounters at their leisure (provided it won't interfere with an event in progress).

Even that much is merely scratching the surface. For the details, head over to the Guild Wars 2 site, where there are detailed articles about each topic. All in all, it sounds like there will be a lot to do and play around with, both in terms of "meta" theory-crafting and preferential niceties, but also in exploring all kinds of game content in new ways and getting the most out of events, dungeons, PvP and WvW. The new ability to earn traits by tackling certain objectives is clearly a framework to set up future additions -- and with the first "season" of the episodic living story capping off with the impending awakening of a new Elder Dragon, the main plot is primed to ramp up in intensity soon. I'm stoked, not only for the chance to play around in the April 15th update, but also that it's clearly in preparation for some great things to come.

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