Heart of Thorns: Beta the Second

Second_Beta

I was fortunate enough to get a Portal to the Heart of Maguuma, so I was able to get in on the second closed beta test. I was curious to see how it differed from the first, especially since ArenaNet said a second outpost would be open this time around.

I made a Revenant again, because honestly, the only opportunity we get to play the class is during these tests, so I’ll gladly take it. After a short cutscene explaining the situation in Heart of Thorns (wrecked airships, stranded Pact troops, etc.) I expected to get dumped straight in the same story instance as last time, but instead found myself in the Silverwastes. It was just a portion of the map, but there were other players there. It felt almost like one of the starting tutorial areas during normal character creation. You had to help with one of the events near Amber Sandfall, then you could move to a Pact staging area nearby then go into a story instance.

This story instance started off much the same as the one from the previous test; you’re entering Verdant Brink with the gang of Braham, Rox, Marjory, Kasmeer, Taimi and Canach, looking for Pact survivors. Braham, concerned for his mother, expresses a particular interest in finding Destiny’s Edge. You meet with Laranthir of the Wild and some other Pact troops, and again you get to choose between helping Laranthir or the non-sylvari Pact soldiers. Unfortunately, in the demo you’re still locked into choosing Laranthir. The part where you go to rescue captured Pale Reavers is largely the same, though the Mordrem Guard Punisher boss seemed harder than last time, and took place in a different area.

When you return the rescued Pale Reavers to the Pact camp, things become different. Night falls, and you have to fend off waves of attacking Mordrem. The attack culminates in a Mordrem Guard Cavalier boss riding some kind of Mordrem dinosaur-looking mount. The Cavalier takes very little damage while mounted, so once you whittle his health down to a certain point, a cutscene triggers. I won’t spoil anything, but someone makes a timely arrival and knocks the Cavalier off his mount, which runs away leaving the Cavalier much easier to kill. Once he’s dead there’s a bit of dialogue between the new arrival and the other NPCs present, but then the instance ends.

Now we’re back in Verdant Brink. There’s a whole lot more map open this time, and the event structure has changed. There’s a 75-ish minute time that’s “day” which consists of event chains at each outpost building up to “nightfall” lasting 45 minutes, which is when Mordrem attack a set of rally points. In between attacks, players are supposed to gather Pact Supplies and escort stranded Pact soldiers, bringing both to the nearest rally point. I’m honestly not a huge fan of the nightfall phase, since it’s literally just defend, gather, defend, gather for 45 minutes. It’s repetitive and seems largely pointless; gathering supplies bolsters defenses at rally points but there’s no way to track how many supplies you need until the next upgrade. Nightfall felt like a punishment, not just because it was challenging (it was, but that fit the theme of night being more dangerous) but because it was boring and people were not evenly distributed at the rally points. I hope they do something to make nightfall more interesting, because as it is now I have little to no incentive to do those events.

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Part of the Shrouded Ruins near the Pale Reaver outpost.

The Pale Reaver outpost event chain starts largely the same, with players clearing Mordrem Breachers, then setting up explosives at the colossal vines, all with fire support from Pale Reaver snipers. Then, instead of taking helicopters to the wyvern fight as in the first beta, an event to escort Laranthir and other Pact troops to the Shrouded Ruins begins. The Shrouded Ruins are southwest of the Pale Reaver outpost, and there are several events involving securing the area and fighting the Colossal Vine that previously attacked the outpost. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time there, so I’m kinda fuzzy on the details. I did spend a little time exploring around there, and it’s somewhat confusing to get around. There are sets of stairs throughout the ruins, but it’s not clear what leads where. There are important events at the top, but the path to the top is not at all obvious. That’s one reason I didn’t spend a whole lot of time there.

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Another view partway up the Shrouded Ruins.

The other reason I didn’t spend a whole lot of time there was because I was having a blast at the other outpost: the village of Jaka Itzel.

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Part of the village while there’s no event going on.
Though three of those Itzel hylek are hunters getting ready to head out.

Jaka Itzel is home to some of the Itzel tribe of hylek. The Itzel worship the jungle, whom they name Ameyalli, and their belief is evident in much of what they do. They believe the jungle provides all they need, but with the Mordrem invasion it feels like the jungle is turning on them. And there are other hylek there to capitalize on that: the Zintl.

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Even if they are bad, it is cool to see a hylek riding a giant beetle.

The Zintl hylek worship the sun god, Zintl, and seek to convert the Itzel by any means necessary. More on that later.

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The Kaana, which seems to be analogue to village chief,
and the High Priest of Ameyalli.

The Jaka Itzel event chain picks up at daybreak, with the village overrun by Mordrem Trolls and other Mordrem, and the village’s food stores are completely gone. Once the Mordrem are cleared out, players gather up insect larva and put them in food baskets. Hungry bats try to stop you, but you can revive starving Itzel and feed them, then they help defend the baskets. Afterwards, a team of Itzel hunters go out and players help them survive while killing mobs like jungle boars, raptors, and beetles.

During all this, the Zintl hylek near the village are offering the Itzel eggs to eat, saying that the jungle is unreliable but Zintl will provide for them. Unbeknownst to the Itzel, what Zintl provides is suffering: the eggs turn out to be wyvern eggs, and a wyvern attacks the village, setting it ablaze. Players help extinguish the village, but there is still a spiritual attack underway. The Zintl capitalize on the wyvern attack, attempting to convert villagers to the sun god. Players intervene, persuading Itzel to return to the village and killing the Zintl hylek that object. The final confrontation in the event takes place in the Temple of Ameyalli, where you get to throw rotten fruit at a Zintl priest until he snaps and orders the hylek to attack.

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The Temple of Ameyalli. Awfully pretty, isn’t it?

Once the Zintl hylek are defeated, you join a Nuhoch hylek (the more warlike tribe that’s native to the jungle) named Lore Seeker Utogi on his mission of revenge.

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He means business.

He leads the players to the cliffs below the wyvern nests with the mission to gather more wyvern eggs, this time so they can be planted in the Zintl hylek camp. This event involved climbing up natural stairs to the top of the cliffs, as seen below:

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Another pretty area, too.

The stairs were laden with little mushrooms that exploded on contact. They do minimal damage… unless you’re carrying an egg. If you have an egg, the egg explodes and does a fair amount of damage. That makes it tricky to get the eggs down to Utogi. There is, fortunately, an easier way. If you have the glider mastery unlocked, you can grab an egg, jump off, then simply glide to the ground unharmed. It makes the event so much easier. Utogi even hints that the player should try gliding, as one of the things he says during the event is “Can you fly as the wyvern does?”

Once you have the eggs collected, Lore Seeker Utogi makes his way to the Zintl hylek camp. He asks the players to plant eggs in the camp and try not to be seen. The event starts off with just two of four quadrants active to plant eggs in, but unfortunately when I tried this event it was bugged. We weren’t able to progress the event past the first phase, so I don’t know what the rest of the event chain is like. It was pretty disappointing, but it is, after all, a beta.

All in all, aside from a couple disappointing things I did have a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to the next beta, but I sure hope it’s easier to get in! Perhaps it’ll be an open beta and all of you can come. Until then, hopefully my experiences will suffice.

5 thoughts on “Heart of Thorns: Beta the Second

  1. Very nice post indeed John. It’s good to see you had fun.

    And what a great catch about that hint the Nuhoch gave for gliding. That’s genius!

    I won’t comment further as I’ll get into more details of my personal experience of the Beta in an upcoming post I’m preparing. Like I said already though, you’ve got a great perspective.

  2. Great review, well written! Plus it’s nice to see there was a lot more to experience if you had time to sit through all the beta sessions. I only caught the first, so my impressions will come in an article a bit later today. And then more on an overview level of what we face in Verdant Brink.

  3. This is an amazing post! Almost reads like a walkthrough of the area and its events! Kudos John 🙂

    What I find even more exceptional is that I didn’t get a sniff of any of these events! In all honesty, I believe most people didn’t…. The beta, running only for two hours, was over all too soon. Personally, I spent no more than 10 mins to create my toon and find myself in the first, linear and guided, part – in the Silverwastes. The first 60 mins of the beta went by too quickly, this way. The living story instance, interesting and intense as it was, playing with a new character with new skills… Pouf! The second part (next 60 mins) I spent trying to explore as much of the jungle as I could – and also reach some impossible-to-reach mastery points. And taking screenshots. And gasping for breath at the incredibly beautiful scenery!

    I find it no less than an achievement that you managed to stay as focused on the content as you did 🙂

    1. I think the problem Nick was the general lack of direction in game. Personally I found some things to be rather confusing if not chaotic.

      I plan to talk about that in a post I’m preparing regarding my own hands-on with the Beta.

    2. I’ll play devil’s advocate here: what if the lack of direction was intentional? To enhance the feeling of “what the heck is happening here? It’s a jungle and I’m thrown in the middle of it without a clue!”

      Just a thought 😉

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