It seems fairly easy to choose the Online game from 2015 with the most impact. This year we had GTA V Online, Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns, Call of Duty Black Ops III, Star Wars Battlefront, Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void, Rainbow Six Siege and many others, including many MMOs changing business model and even some going free to play.
Guild Wars 2 Heart of Thorns is the first expansion released by ArenaNet after three years of providing free content for the core game. Not only the expansion is great bringing by enough new content to keep the players going for quite a while, but the core game has become free to play in such a nonrestrictive way that puts the actual free to play games to shame.
Heart of Thorns adds four new large areas in the Jungle of Maguuma. The new areas are difficult but interesting to explore and very rewarding. To help with the exploration an upgradeable glider has been added to the game that said NO to mounts repeatedly which seems like a great choice by the developers. The glider is fun and easy to use but has a bit of skill cap if you want to arrive safely in the harder to reach areas of the new maps or if you want to score high in the new challenging adventures.
Following the expansion’s release Heart of Thorns has received an extremely challenging 10man raid to give the hardcore PvE players more things to do. The PvP players are enjoying a rebalancing of the maps in WvW with the addition of a new map. The Structured PvP has received a new map and mode inspired by MoBAs, but more importantly the long waited Guild vs Guild is here and so is the ranked system.
There is also a new profession, the Revenant, while all professions now have an elite specialization which allows the usage of a new weapon and new abilities. A lot of balancing has been done between the professions to make them more competitive and equally strong in PvE and PvP.
Heart of Thorns a new personal story continues from where the Living Story has left and does a lot of things right compared with the original one. The story feels rushed and a little too short for what it has to present skipping on information that should tie some of the story episodes together. Even so, it does a great job for an MMO and opens up loads of possibilities for future Living Story Seasons and expansions.
There are a ton of new interesting things to do in Guild Wars 2 and the previous politics for gear quality and the maximum level haven’t been changed as the old gear isn’t outdated and the level cap remains at level 80 thus validating the player’s work. Instead the expansion added a new mechanic named Masteries which acts as a new progression system.
The list of new additions, improvements and changes is gigantic. What it’s important is that most of the things on that list are great news for the game and its players including those who continue to play the core game. The life span of Guild Wars 2 has been extended tremendously and not in the artificial carrot on a stick way which most of the MMOs use.
ArenaNet will continue to support the game with free content and probably a new Season of Living Story proving once again that high quality MMOs can exist with a non-subscription based business model.