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6 Things You Need Know about Guild Wars 2's Massive Spring Update

ArenaNet has finally dropped its long-awaited Spring Update for Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns and there are a lot of changes. The patch notes are more than 17,000 words long this time around; the developer has gone back and looked at everything in Heart of Thorns.

"This update is about reducing grind, increasing rewards, and getting to the fun faster. It's a rework of many parts of Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns-sort of a second take on the expansion," wrote ArenaNet president Mike O'Brien. "It's the result of an effort we undertook across all parts of the Guild Wars 2 team to pause new development for a while and instead focus on improving the existing game."

So here's a brief overview of what you can expect when you load up Guild Wars 2 this afternoon.

When you boot up the updated Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns client and open your inventory, you'll be greeted by your new Shared Inventory slots. These slots are shared across all characters on your account. They're only for special items, so you can't use them like you would your bank slots.

Inside your Shared Inventory, you'll find your free Level 80 Boost, which will bring a single character to Level 80. You receive the item on your first login after the Spring Update goes live, or after you purchase Heart of Thorns if you haven't yet.

"We're looking to give players more access to the wide variety of content in Heart of Thorns, without requiring them to have 80 hours of investment," explained game designer Link Hughes. "We have a number of players who haven't finished going through the 1-80 progression. Since the Mastery system gives us a broad progression system instead of a leveling ladder, once you have a single level 80 character on your account, that's really the passport to all the content that we'll be releasing going forward."

Once you click on the item on any character, that character will be teleported to the Silverwastes, on the frontline of the war against the Elder Dragon Mordremoth. Your character will be given all the gear needed for level 80 and a default build for your profession. Once you're there, you can change up your build and then head out to the Silverwastes to explore. You can access all Silverwastes content with the exception of Hero Challenges and there's no time limit. ArenaNet wants you to get a feel for what your character will be like at level 80.

If you try to leave the Silverwastes or click on the Level 80 Boost in your inventory again, you'll be given a choice: lock in this character at level 80, or return to your starting city at whatever level you were previously. You will keep any rewards you earned while you were in the Silverwastes regardless. If you do lock it in, you'll get a bag with high-level harvesting tools and salvaging kits, some dyes, food, and some weapons. You can use the boost item on as many characters as you want and experiment, as long as you don't lock in the boost on any of them.

You only get one boost. ArenaNet will not be selling the boost on the in-game store and there's no way to earn another one. Choose wisely.

Getting around the Maguuma Jungle sometimes felt like getting around a real jungle. You had to fight, it took some time, and you probably needed help. The Verdan Brink, Tangled Depths, and Auric Basin regions have gotten a hard look and ArenaNet has improved the Day cycle of those maps. The Reward Coordinator, which tracked your participation and offered rewards at the end of a full cycle, is gone during the Day cycle now. Now, any event you do during the day will net you a chest with bonus experience, currency, and chest keys. Movement is also streamlined, with more Waypoints being unlocked when you access a map for the first time. On the Night cycle, the Reward Coordinator is still there, as ArenaNet wants you to participate and work with others to complete objectives.

Dragon's Stand has also been changed. Outside of the region where the final encounter takes place, all areas of the map are accessible.

Did you like Adventures? These open-world challenges were limited-time engagements with leaderboards. Unfortunately, those time limits meant you frequently had to drop what you were doing and make a mad dash to reach one. Now those adventures are accessible for longer periods and you have a little bit more time to complete them. The experience gain is boosted as well!

In a huge change, killing any creature in Heart of Thorns increases the experience you gain by 50 percent.

"We really wanted to make the experience a lot smoother when players are trying to earn Mastery Points," said lead game designer Mike Zadorojny.

Diminishing returns has been looked at as well. The original intent of the system was to prevent botting or players endlessly grinding the same content over and over. The problem is the way Heart of Thorns maps worked, you'd be clearing the same area multiple times and diminishing returns would kick in. So diminishing returns is gone. Completely. If you like a map, you can just stay there and play it again and again.

ArenaNet has also readdressed the Looking for Group tool. First up, it now supports Squads and Raids. If you have a squad in WorldvWorld, you can now find people via the LFG tool. Raids can set up 10-man groups via the LFG tool and there's two separate categories: the first is for solo members trying to find groups, while the second is for existing groups that are looking for additional members.

There's also new categories in the tool. There's one for mentoring, if you happen to be an experienced player who's willing to help some newbies out. If you're trying to tackle a specific achievement and you want help, there's now a category for that too. Finally, if you're a roleplayer and you want to find like-minded friends, LFG has you covered.

Even better, ArenaNet has added a new raid lobby in the southern area of Lion's Arch, with merchants, repairs, and NPCs players can practice with to prepare for raid mechanics. All of the raid portals will be right there, so you don't have to stand in each map anymore, taking up space with your useless self.

There's new dungeon rewards, like the 5 gold and 150 dungeon tokens (of your choice) you get for completing any eight unique paths. If you're a dungeon fiend, that acheivement is infinitely repeatable. Daily dungeon completion chests now drop twice as many tokens. Really, ArenaNet just wants you to have more stuff if you're tackling Hearts of Thorns' group content.

There are two major changes to WorldvWorld, but ArenaNet feels that one deserves to go first. World Linking is intended as a fix for WvW population issues, bringing together shards based on player activity and peak queue times. These merges aren't permanent and will change as the populations change. The system goes live this Friday.

The second feature is probably the one that players will care about the most: WvW Reward Tracks. Just like PvP Reward Tracks, you get rewards based on your participation in each match. WvW matches are a week long though, so instead of waiting until the end of a match, you'll be evaluated in 15-minute chunks. Your participation score will be based on killing other players, capturing map objectives, and killing NPCs. Many of the Reward Tracks are ported from the PVP side of things, but there is a new Triumphant Armor Reward Track that offers WvW-specific armor. There will be a Gift of Battle Reward Track at some point, which will be the only place you can grab the crafting component from now on.

With the addition of Reward Tracks, Shards of Glory will be going away, but you'll still be able to pick up Tomes of Knowledge. (I know you probably have a ton already.)

WorldvWorld also has a new system that rewards Scouts for their contribution. A commander can designate squad scouts and those scouts will receive a portion of the overall gained experience. A commander can select one scout for every five squad members. There's no way for squad members to overrule a commander's decision though, so if a commander is playing favorites, you simply have to grit your teeth or find another squad.

ArenaNet wants WorldvWorld to feel suitably epic, but certain systems have bogged that down. The first is Stability, a boon that protects players against interrupts, roots, and snares. Stability now has a increased cooldown for removal: the frequency has been increased from .05 seconds to .75 seconds. Also, Wall-type control effects now have hit caps, meaning they'll affect a maximum number of players, instead of every enemy that walks through them. That cap is 10 players for most abilities. Together, these changes will prevent one well-placed ability from stopping a whole army in its tracks.

ArenaNet will also be tackling changes to WvW's current Desert map, based on feedback from players.

"The feedback has really revolved around reducing the amount of PVE gameplay and gimmicks in World v World," said associate global brand manager Joshua Davis. "It turns out the WvW players really just want to play WvW and have their group of players go against the enemy without any added distractions."

This means the Desert Borderlands are seeing some significant changes. Barricades around the map are going away. Turrets around each keep are being reduced or removed. There will be fewer obstacles like lava in your way. There are also hay bales around to reduce falling damage from certain jumps. Despite these changes to Desert, the Alpine Borderlands will be making a return "within the next couple of weeks."

There's the new legendary short bow, one that has a full legendary path that sends you on a hunt for two great tigers, Chuka and Champawat. The final weapon shares their name. Players can finally complete the Fractal backpack, Ad Infinitum, as well; just craft Unbound and you can unlock the fourth collection to finish the backpack.

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