The first Beta Weekend Event (BWE1) has come and gone, and like pretty much everyone else, I played as much of it as possible. I tried out the new and improved revenant profession, as well as the elite specialisation of the necromancer – the reaper. I explored Verdant Brink as much as possible with both the revenant and the reaper, and dabbled in the new PvP mode Stronghold with my elementalist.
I’ve split my thoughts up into three parts. In Part 1, I’ll discuss my time in Verdant Brink, alongside everything you can do in there, including the mastery system and Adventures. In Part 2, I’ll be talking about my experience with the revenant, and in Part 3, I’ll focus on the reaper, as well as give my thoughts on Stronghold.
Verdant Brink is the first map that we encounter in Heart of Thorns (HoT). Some of us played it during the previous closed beta, but this time, everyone who had prepurchased HoT got access to the map. First things first, the map looks stunning. The artwork and design of the place is top notch. I’m hoping the rest of the maps released in HoT maintain the high standards of this map. The mobs you encounter also look unique and amazing, and have brilliant animations.
Mentioning the mobs… They are tough, but in a good way. You can no longer faceroll them by autoattacking, which is great. You are required to use your skills strategically to overcome their challenge. The ones I had the most trouble with were the Mordrem Guard Hunters and Snipers, who both did insane ranged damage to you (can down players in one volley), including leaving lingering damaging fields on the ground, restricting where you can move. They died quickly once you hit them, but if you get several of them in a group, timing your dodges, invulnerabilities, and blocks is vital to staying alive. The Mordrem Guard Stalkers were also tricky to deal with, phasing through the mists to surprise attack you.
However, these were a piece of cake compared to Smokescales. These evil blighters rapidly phase to you, attack you multiple times whilst evading all your attacks (even if you double dodge, you still get hit hard by their attacks), and if they remain in their mist circles, they are impossible to hit. They even remain unhittable after leaving their smoke field, which is odd. They may need to be toned down a bit for release, because as they are, a single veteran smokescale can take out a few players with ease.
Due to the number of players doing each event, the upscaling was quite drastic at times. This resulted in champions spawning at several events, and they hit very hard. An amusing example of this are the little walking mushroom mobs, who explode on death. When a champion one of them explodes, you need to move away, or else you’ll get downed instantly. Although the tell is fairly obvious (move away as soon as the mob dies, avoid the big red circle), it can be hard to get out when several are dying and bursting all over the place.
Day and Night
Verdant Brink has two cycles: a day and a night. The day events across the map had a nice and clear progression to them, although some upscaled too much (here’s looking at you, burying the wyvern eggs event) and took too long to complete. The event in the lower left corner of the map, in the ruins, bugged out several times as well, with Laranthir and company just standing around instead of advancing. Despite the odd bug, these events were fun and varied, and had clear goals.
When night time arrives, however, the map became incredibly confusing. You’re often stranded in random places on the map after completing the day events, and it takes too long to get back to where the night events are occurring, almost forcing you to waypoint unless you know the layout of the map. The Mordrem come out in force, making moving through the map even tougher, which I guess is partly the point of the night time. The defend and escort events seemed random, and I didn’t know where I should be heading when, and to help whom. For example, get Pact supplies to Pact soldiers: I found there were not enough supplies, the soldiers were in odd locations, and it was unclear what exactly we were aiming for. I’ve heard that the night time events are not fully complete yet, and I hope that’s the case, as I was not having fun during that time. It felt pointless doing the events, as the defend missions seemed too tough, the escort events too difficult to reach, and I had no idea why I was running supply to the camps, and what it was used for. Perhaps after a bit more time experiencing the night time events I’ll come to understand it, but from this BWE1, I wasn’t enjoying them.
What I did enjoy though was gliding. Gliding around in Verdant Brink is perhaps the greatest things you can do on the map. It is so much fun to leap off high ledges and soar through the air, watching other players and mobs fight below you. Really changes the perspective of the map. One improvement upon the closed beta test is that the glider doesn’t open now when you just jump normally, which is a relief. One thing I would like changed is that when you do deploy your glider, your back piece gets turned off. It’s a little jarring to see the black feathered wings or the flapping undead wings clipping into the glider, for example.
The bouncing mushrooms mastery (in the Itzel Lore track) allows you to use bouncing mushrooms to get to higher areas faster, or traverse across chasms quicker. It’s a great idea in theory, but in practice, it is just horrible to use. Why? Because it acts just like Lightning Pull (ugh) – it launches you to a set location, but in a laggy, not always correct way. If you have any sort of lag or high ping, bouncing on mushrooms is a nightmare. Often when you land, you take fall damage (which is so silly), and it’s possible to actually fall to your death using these mushrooms. Once in the air, you can’t do anything at all (like deploy your glider, which would be cool: use the bouncing mushroom to jump high in the air, then deploy your glider and soar over obstacles in your way. Would be a neat combination of masteries). I feel I will use the bouncing mushroom jumping only when absolutely necessary, and avoid it at all other times. I understand why the mushrooms launch you in a pre-determined direction, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating to use.
Adventures are neat little mini activities that are actually rather tough. They are only active during the day, and only once you’ve completed certain events, making some events time consuming to actually witness. To do well in Adventures (and to earn the gold reward), you need certain masteries unlocked (most notably advanced gliding and mushroom usage). I tried out three of the Adventures during my playthrough: the flamethrower / vine one, the collecting the bugs one, and the collecting gear cogs one in the ruins (odd bug: somebody had died inside the arena and wasn’t respawning. Their body lay right next to a gear cog, so you couldn’t just run up to it and pick it up, you had to actually click on it with the mouse, and even then, it didn’t pick it up straight away). With the incentives of the leaderboards, I can picture myself trying to perfect the Adventures once HoT is released. Hopefully maps will remain populated enough to advance events during the day to unlock the Adventures, allowing players to participate in them.
I really like the new mastery system. During this BWE1, it was only active in Verdant Brink, not in central Tyria. Since the last closed beta, they’ve added popup hints when you gain your first mastery point, and use these popups to explain how to choose a mastery line to train, and how to spend your mastery points. It’s a vast improvement over the closed beta, which left many people confused, me included. To advance through Verdant Brink, you need to unlock the gliding mastery line (and why wouldn’t you – it’s so much fun!). The bouncing mushrooms is useful, though not immediately essential (except for some Adventures). I like the feel of progressing masteries, and it’s incredibly rewarding to finally unlock a new mastery and be able to explore the map in a new way. From my play time, I unlocked three masteries in total (two gliding ones, and the bouncing mushroom one). I’m hoping it takes a while to unlock all the masteries, and isn’t something that is possible to do in a couple of weeks. They should be a long term goal, achievable to obtain without severe grind, but hard enough to keep you working at them.
A little hint for those wanting to advance their mastery lines faster: Experience banners, boosts, and food work on masteries. This finally makes experience meaningful again, and should incentivise people to use food buffs more often, for the +10% or +15% experience gain from kills. Makes food worthwhile now in open world PvE, rather than just in dungeons and WvW.
End of Part 1
Part 1 of my thoughts and feedback of the BWE1 ends here. Part 2, concerning the revenant, is coming soon.
Did you participate in the BWE1? What did you think of Verdant Brink, the mobs, Adventures, and masteries? Let me know in the comments below!