Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns is ArenaNet's first expansion for Guild Wars 2. The story takes place immediately after the second season of the Living World, the ongoing story development delivered in free updates every two weeks, and focuses on the aftermath of the Pact fleet's first assault on the jungle Elder Dragon, Mordremoth. Pursuing the dragon, the collapsed Pact enters the Heart of Maguuma, adding four new maps with an emphasis on vertical movement and the introduction of gliders.
The expansion also provides the following additions to the game:
- The Mastery system for character progression after level 80.
- A new profession, the Revenant.
- Elite specialisations for all professions.
- A new map for World vs. World: the Desert Borderlands.
- Guild halls, reclaimed from the Mordrem.
- Raids, a set of elite missions for teams of ten players.
The Mastery system
In an interview, designer Matt Wuerffel described the Heart of Thorns expansion as "laying the foundation for where Guild Wars 2 is going." The mastery system is a prime example, as a contextual progression system that allows players to unlock specific abilities for specific areas.
The mastery system works as an extension of the experience bar after level 80. Players fill a mastery with experience and then train the mastery with enough Mastery Points. Mastery Points are obtained by completing certain achievements, finding difficult locations, or reaching certain chapters in the story.
Masteries can include unlocking collections for obtaining legendary weapon precursors, learning hang gliding techniques, or becoming able to speak the languages of the various races in the Maguuma jungle.
The third soldier profession, using heavy armor, the Revenant uses the power of the Mists, and the legends of past Guild Wars lore, including Shiro Tagachi, Jalis Ironhammer, and the dragon Glint.
Revenants use energy as a profession resource, which regenerates over time. Activating skills uses energy, with some adding degeneration, making energy management an emphasis for players.
In addition to swapping between weapons, the Revenant also can swap between channeling two legends. The active legend replaces the last five skills on the skill bar and subtly changes the user interface.
In order to adapt to the hostile environment of the Maguuma jungle, characters have adopted new ways to fight the Mordrem forces: the Elite specialisation. Each specialisation significantly changes the way pre-existing professions play by adding a previously unavailable weapon, and with it, new skills and traits. Only one elite specialisation can be equipped at a time by a character.
The elite specialisation system was preceded by a revamp for skill and trait unlocking a month before the expansion launched: characters now train all skills and specialisations by obtaining hero points, and can equip three specialisations at a time, with each specialisation containing a tree of trait choices.
- The Dragonhunter is the first elite specialisation for the Guardian, introducing longbows and traps.
- The Herald is the elite specialisation for the Revenant, which adds the shield, as well as the stance of the legendary dragon, Glint.
- The Berserker is the elite specialisation for the Warrior, which adds the torch, as well as primal bursts, which expend adrenaline, and rage skills, which add adrenaline.
- The Scrapper is the elite specialisation for the Engineer, which adds the hammer, as well as gyros, which follow the player and accomplish various tasks.
- The Druid is the elite specialisation for the Ranger, which adds the staff, as well as the glyph, a skill type traditionally associated with the elementalist.
- The Daredevil is the elite specialisation for the Thief, which adds the staff, as well as physicals, a skill type associated with controlling foes' location and applying direct damage. The Daredevil also gets a third endurance bar.
- The Tempest is the elite specialisation for the Elementalist, which adds the warhorn, as well as shouts. The Tempest is able to overload their attunements at the penalty of a longer recharge.
- The Chronomancer is the elite specialisation for the Mesmer, which adds the shield, as well as well skills. By manipulating time, the Chronomancer can reduce skill recharge timers and unlock a fifth shatter skill.
- The Reaper is the elite specialisation of the Necromancer, which adds the greatsword, as well as shout skills. The Reaper can also access the Reaper's Shroud, which replaces the Necromancer's Death Shroud. This replaces the skill bar with new skills as they assume the form of a Reaper.
Each Elite specialisation is accompanied by ascended weapon collections for specialisation-specific weapons, exemplifying each.