The second Beta Weekend Event (BWE2) for Heart of Thorns has come and gone, and like pretty much everyone else, I played as much of it as possible. Now where have I heard that being said before? There were a few new elite specialisations to try out (the berserker, daredevil, and herald), but I spent most of my time playing either a reaper or revenant, along with a lot of stronghold. Below are my thoughts and feedback on the BWE2.
This time around, we got to explore a new part of Verdant Brink. Like everything seen so far in Heart of Thorns (HoT), Verdant Brink is stunningly beautiful. The environment artists have done an amazing job. The verticality of this new area is awe-inspiring, but also rather deadly. I really like the way that masteries open up the map to you. Gliding becomes a necessity whilst exploring, as does mushroom jumping. Your back piece still shows through when gliding, unfortunately, but I guess that’s just a minor issue that won’t be fixed any time soon. Despite that, gliding is the greatest thing to do in HoT. I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of it! That feeling of soaring over the terrain is like nothing else.
Mushroom jumping is VASTLY improved compared to BWE1. The animation is smooth, you jump to a precise location, you don’t suffer damage upon landing; it’s overall a much better experience. Hopefully the mushroom jumps in the first area of the map that we explored in BWE1 have improved as well. One minor issue I found with the revenant’s elite specialisation (the herald) was that on some jumps, the upkeep skills were disabled, so you had to re-cast them upon landing. I think this happened more often on the longer jumps, especially the ones that sent you high up.
I enjoyed the two new daytime event chains that were introduced in this map. They spread players around, were interesting and varied, and actually had meaning in the world (although seriously Faren, put on some clothes!). One issue though was that if an event chain was pushed to completion fairly quickly, there was not a lot else to do during the daytime, resulting in a lot of hanging around.
The night events made a lot more sense this time round compared to BWE1 and the first map. I understood where the bases were, and escorting the NPCs had more meaning. Finding Pact Supplies and handing it into the base camp made more sense too, but I feel you could earn a bit more experience for doing so. Felt more like a side thing to do whilst waiting for events to spawn, rather than something that you should actively be doing. Overall, the day and night events felt a lot more polished in this area of the map compared to those of BWE1.
The mobs are cool: challenging, varied, interesting, but not unfair. They all have active attack tells, which signal to you when to dodge or move away. Smokescales are not OP any more, as you can lure them out of their smoke field and damage them, which didn’t happen during BWE1. The little mushrooms can deal a lot of damage when they explode, but it’s an easy tell (dodge out of the red circle when you kill them) which only punishes you if you’re not paying attention. The fire wyverns were a little odd. They are very squishy, but unless you kill them quickly (in under a second or two), they become invulnerable and do a large fire field attack (easy to move out of and wait for them to land). I couldn’t really tell with them when they would do that attack though, and their breakbar seemed a bit pointless. Whether you broke it or not seemed to have no effect.
I really liked the new bad hylek mobs. They had the stealthy archers with poison, and the big guys who tongue-whipped you close to them, then body-slammed into the ground dealing massive damage. However, I didn’t find the mobs unfair, as the tells on them were good, so if you’re paying attention, you should be fine. I like the new mechanics of these mobs, how they evade and dodge and stealth and pull and cause conditions and deal heavy damage; makes it far more exciting to fight them.
I really like the mastery system, and its evolution since it was first introduced is very neat. The first mastery available in each track is pretty quick to earn, but as you progress further into each line, it takes more and more experience to advance. I like this, and the feel of progression it gives you, as it provides you something to work towards. I know I will be aiming to master each mastery eventually, and I hope that it doesn’t become too easy to master them all. The fact that each mastery track is separate is cool. It retains the progress you’ve made in one track even if you switch to another one. I assume that once you’ve maxed a mastery line, it will automatically change to the next line down in the list that you have yet to complete, to prevent you gaining experience in a mastery line that you’ve already completed.
During the course of the BWE2, I managed to reach mastery rank 21, and advanced a bit of the way in all four mastery tracks available. I got to gliding lean techniques (3rd level of the gliding mastery track), blazing speed mushrooms (3rd level), exalted lore (1st level), and Nuhoch hunting (1st level). Gliding and mushroom jumping are vital, and I know I’ll be advancing these two first of all, just to get access to these mobility skills. Nuhoch hunting gives mobs a chance to drop Nuhoch hunting stashes, which you can open to get airship parts. Unfortunately, these did NOT stack, when I think they should, as there is no reason for them to be separate.
Another point concerning mastery points: the actual symbol on the minimap / main map was hard to see (much like current hero point symbols; the colour is difficult to distinguish against the background), and some mastery points that you could commune with did not show up on the minimap at all.
Ah, the revenant. I wrote a lengthy post on my experiences of the revenant back during BWE1. My experiences this time? The revenant is awesome! Great fun to play, and perhaps even a little too overpowered now, especially with their elite specialisation, the herald. Concerning weapons, swords got a huge damage buff, and they are really powerful now. This is very cool, and you can get lots of big numbers. I really, really love the fact that sword 3 now evades during the animation. I didn’t play around much with the shield, as in general open world PvE in Verdant Brink, playing as a zerk revenant, I found sword / sword or sword / axe more useful. I usually used hammer as my second weapon set, and the ranged damage of this is great in a zerk build.
My choice of build for a zerk revenant was going Shiro / Glint, using the herald elite specialisation. The Shiro legend provides a lot of mobility, and a well timed Impossible Odds can decimate your foe. The trait line associated with it is nice as well, providing damage and lifesteal. Glint (with the associated herald trait line) is far too effective and overpowered. It makes the other legends feel weak in comparison. The skills are like signets, so when you initially activate them (requiring an energy cost), they provide a constant buff to you. For instance, the heal skill gives regeneration, whilst the three utilities give fury, swiftness, or might, and the elite provides protection. You can’t have them all active at once, as that would drain your energy quickly, but it’s easy to maintain regeneration, fury, and swiftness, whilst still having enough energy to use your weapon skills. You can activate your skills a second time to unleash a powerful effect, and then putting the skill on cooldown. These effects are perhaps a little too strong, and have such a low cooldown that it’s easy to spam them during combat. Maybe the CD needs increasing?
My usual playstyle as a zerk Shiro / Glint sword / axe revenant was to stay in the Legendary Dragon Stance, have my heal, fury, and swiftness utilities up, and spam F2 on cooldown for an extra burst of buffs. With the way it’s currently setup, it’s easy to get 30+ seconds of buffs of swiftness / fury / regeneration, so even when you activate your skills for their active effects, you aren’t really losing their passive effects at all. If you run low on energy, switch stance to Shiro, use the heal and a couple of utility skills (namely Impossible Odds), then switch back to Glint and re-apply your boons. With the herald trait line, you can gain might when applying a boon to yourself, so as a herald revenant, you have permanent regeneration, fury, might, and swiftness. PERMANENTLY. This is… overpowered, I think. There is literally no reason NOT to play as a herald, and I think 99% of revenants will use this specialisation.
Despite every revenant taking herald, I think the choice of builds is much greater now than when the revenant was initially announced. With the trait lines, Invocation is no longer a must-take trait line. Instead, Herald is! It is now possible to take three different legendary stance trait lines, and be effective. I ended up using Devastation (the Shiro trait line), Retribution (the Jalis trait line), and Herald (the Glint elite trait line) on my zerk revenant. Retribution provided some extra defence, though I did try going Corruption (Mallyx trait line) for more damage as well. Ventari is still in the position where you will only ever take it if you have healing gear and intend to go down the healing route.
Underwater combat is new to the revenant this BWE2, and I tried it out. The weapon seems cool, with a good combination of power and condition damage. Unfortunately, only Shiro and Mallyx legendary stances are usable underwater. Also, going underwater doesn’t remember your skill setup from the previous time: if you are Shiro / Glint on land, you stay like that when entering the water, even if previously you switched Glint for Mallyx. Also, the Glint upkeep skills stay as upkeep skills underwater, even though your utility slots are blank.
Gravedigger. That’s all I need to say about the reaper. Gravedigger is now amazing! Does insane damage and instantly recharges if you hit foes below 50% health. This is especially powerful against elite and champion mobs, as you can just set Gravedigger to autocast, and see huuuuuge numbers pop up. I felt squishier than my current necro, but I guess losing the blood magic trait line and spending more time in melee does that to you! Overall, I really enjoyed playing as a reaper, and it is so satisfying seeing those big numbers.
I really enjoy the Stronghold game mode. The UI improvements are a nice touch, and the mode is looking better and better each time. I keep saying this, but the trebuchet is so vital to a successful defence. You can two-shot doorbreakers and archers with it, plus prevent enemy players from summoning heroes. Ignore it at your own risk!
I played solely as a mesmer on Stronghold, which was great fun apart from one minor niggle: using the staff skill 2 Phase Retreat next to the supply depot or the doorbreaker / archer doors puts you into combat. Why? It’s very frustrating, especially as I use this skill as a mobility skill, but it actually slows me down because it puts me in combat. Hopefully this will be fixed.
I had a blast playing the BWE2, and can’t wait to try out HoT again during BWE3. Verdant Brink is beautiful, the mastery system is coming along nicely, gliding is amazing, the revenant goes from strength to strength (and perhaps too strong now with the herald), and the reaper is just a beast to play. I didn’t try out the other elite specialisations, as I was having too much fun on my reaper and revenant, and playing in Stronghold!
Did you participate in the BWE2? What were your thoughts on it? Do you think the herald is too powerful? Did you try the other specialisations, and if so, what do you think of them? Let me know in the comments below!