Can You Find Love with a Heart of Thorns?

Today is the day.  The easily predicted, even when ArenaNet was still denying it, expansion to GuildWars 2 launches today.  Today it is Heart of Thorns day.


I have no real stake in the game or its expansion at this point.  I played GW2 for a bit, but it never really hooked me.  It is very pretty, and there was nothing really wrong with it, I just never settled in and felt at home.  I think that was, in part, because a lot of people I knew who played the game got in, made a character, played up to level cap, and left.  There didn’t seem to be much hanging about for some, and while I do a lot of things solo in MMOs, I do like to have friends around to share the experience with, even if it ends up with us being involved with parallel solo play.

But it is a major MMO, lots of people do still play it, and it launching an expansion seems worthy of note here.

I have been interested in the reactions to the expansion as well.  They have not been… wholly positive.  I find interesting because it stirs within me my own conflicted view of expansions.

Part of me, of course, loves expansions.  Who wouldn’t want MORE of a game they already enjoy?!?!  I find enthusiasm for expansions easy to stir up within myself.

But in my gut and in the back of my brain and lurking in other dark recesses of my being, there is an aspect of me that believes expansions aren’t all they are cracked up to me.

When I am channeling that particular bit of myself, I am apt to say that EverQuest Ruins of Kunark was the only good expansion EVER.

Expansions, by there nature, tend to be dividing lines in the game, before and after points where the game changes, sometimes significantly.  Sometimes the changes are good, or at least not bad, but sometimes they are very disruptive and completely change your relationship with a game.

I hold Ruins of Kunark in esteem as it is one expansion that seemed to extend what we already liked about EverQuest without changing the game too drastically.  That is a rare case indeed, at least in my experience. (And I will admit to time perhaps distorting my view of Ruins of Kunark, but I’ve held to that opinion for a long time now. 2007 me seemed to be in full agreement with 2015 me.)

But I think of all the times that expansions… or the hype for expansions and the accompanying build up of expectations… changed my relationship with games for the worse.

As an example, I was totally a fan of Rift for a stretch, played through to level cap on four characters… including a mage type, and I never play those… and was totally down with their system and tight, well designed zones.  And then came Storm Legion, and the game just stopped clicking with me.  I gave it a couple of runs, but it just wasn’t the same.  The game had changed.  They opted for huge, sprawling zones, new quest mechanics, and a few other items that just broke the game’s hold on me.

Not that a game can’t get past that.  I’ve been back to World of Warcraft since Cataclysm alienated our group.  But each expansion brings change.  Mists of Pandaria was actually quite good in the end, despite my skepticism.   Then Warlords of Draenor kindled some hype in me again, only to crush it later by endless garrison labor.  And now we’re looking towards Legion.  Should we trust another expansion from Blizzard, especially one with a single word title?

Sometimes I think we might be better off without expansions.  Sometimes I think companies should just make their 1-50 or 1-60 or 1-80 level game and be done, moving on to the next game.  Maybe add some new classes or some new end game content, but otherwise let the world be.  Because expansions just add complexity, move your core user base further away from any new players if you choose to raise the level cap, trivializes old content, and otherwise bring as many problems as they may solve.

Or such is my dour mood this morning.

How about you, how are you feeling about expansions today as we see a new one launch?


7 thoughts on “Can You Find Love with a Heart of Thorns?

  1. Malcolm Shinhwa

    I think Arenanet has done pretty well with the expansion. No level cap increase. No gear level increase. Some new abilities added that have to be earned, but add flavor to classes without being 100% required. WvW got some much needed attention. It does feel like a “more of what you love” expansion. Since gw2 dynamically alters your characters level based on the zone you are in, it even makes revisiting old content, or helping newbros, enjoyable.

    All that said, I haven’t bought the new expansion despite being a gw2 player since release. I’ll be waiting for the inevitable sale :).


  2. bhagpuss

    I just got in from work. I managed to log in and look at a couple of things, including the gorgeous new Lion’s Arch Guild Hall For People Who Can’t Get A Guild Hall and II was very excited despite all my well-rehearsed reservations. Now I’m just in from work with three days to play and I’m off to do just that.

    I’ll tell you how it goes later.


  3. Athie

    Heart of Thorns feels pretty bad to me so far. The intro zone feels like an emptier and slower paced iteration on the Dry Top zone they added a year or so ago. It’s a bunch of mostly disconnected meta events that you go through in cycles. And you sometimes open chests to get a currency that I haven’t figured out yet — and other times you just kill stuff for prizes. I don’t hate this kind of grindbox zone, but it’s more irritating to navigate and events seem to spawn less often than in Dry Top. Not to mention that the zone is severely level-gated. Until you’ve leveled (post-80) enough times to open up a good set of glider and mushroom powers, much of the zone is simply locked off.

    There’s a good chance that I’ll change my views somewhat as the zones etc become more familiar. But wow, this isn’t shiny right out of the box…


  4. HarbingerZero

    I’m wracking my brain trying to think of a time an MMO I was playing put out an expansion and it ended up being a good thing for me personally. I can’t think of one. Content iteration and expansion? Fine, great even. But anytime I am being sold a new package of goods, it never seems to work out for the better.


  5. Pendan

    I stopped playing WoW 3 months before the first expansion because I knew from reports all my raiding was going to be invalidated. Greens gotten in a few days of play would be better than the raid gear spent 6 months getting. Did eventually play 1 month of first expansion and 1 week of second.

    I did buy the first few EQ expansion but then decided I was tired of paying a monthly fee and paying for expansions every 6 months so quit playing.

    I did like the Moria expansion for LotRO mainly because I was impressed by the huge underground dungeon with real 3D environment. Have continued to buy the expansions with my life time free monthly coins but have not played since level 65. Every time I have thought to go back I decided I don’t want to figure out how things work now like the legendary weapons.

    Have not liked any other expansion I can think of.


  6. Ferdinand Richter

    I actually really like it when an expansion comes out after a game has already been released for a while and you can see that the devs are putting in things they really didnt think of or have time for in the base game.

    I do get annoyed when the devs announce an expansion for a game before its even released. In the latter case it feels like they are making a complete game then removing a bit of it and charging extra.


  7. saucelah

    So far I’m pretty well on board with this expansion. If anything, I just feel unfocused, slightly overwhelmed, torn in multiple directions at once.

    I enjoy the new zones, don’t hate the story, and want to advance my masteries. I also want to stick to PvE in the new zones to hit hero points to fully unlock my main’s elite spec faster. But I also want to spend a lot of time on the new WvW borderlands, and I also want to ignore all of that and just keep advancing my PvP reward track for fun and (some) profit.

    It’s not a bad thing.


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