announced a reduction in the number of Hero Points required to complete the new Elite Specializations I was mildly interested. The option to add a new weapon type to each of my characters and strut about calling myself a Dragonhunter or a Herald might be fairly low on my list of Things To Do When The Expansion Arrives but at least it's on the list.
The fuss and fury over the 400 HP requirement was frenzied for a while. It would have been almost impossible to play and not at least be aware there was an issue. Still, I hadn't really given much thought to what it would actually be like to try and get those four hundred points. More specifically, it hadn't hit home to me that the 400 came in addition to the 398 required to complete all the skills and specializations in the main game.No wonder people weren't happy.
Theoretically, those of us who've been paying attention have known for most of this year that we'd need all the Hero Points we could get when Heart of Thorns arrived. We've had the best part of nine months to go round all the maps, doing all the Hero Challenges and filling everything out. Unfortunately, doing that would have gone against all my instincts and preferences; so I didn't bother.
I have asbestos pockets. I don't like to spend anything unless I have a very good reason. I'd always rather have money in the bank and that attitude transfers to just about any and every kind of in-game "currency". As I level my characters in any game I tend to look at what they have to have to progress and leave it at that. I see spending any points on skills or traits I'm not using as a waste even though in practice those points rarely have any other function beyond being spent on a set range of options.
Consequently I came into HoT with a whole load of level 80s that appeared to be sitting on a pile of unspent points. When the requirement for Elite Specs was reduced to 250 several of my characters were there or thereabouts already. So I thought.
The extremely salient fact I'd overlooked, of course, was before you can start spending the 250 points on the Elites you must have spent the full 398 points on all the other stuff. That came as a bit of a shock, particularly since I only worked it out when I went to spend the 250 points I had in the bank. In a bleak moment of clarity my Ranger went from job supposedly done to finding himself still well over a hundred points shy of becoming a Druid.
Hero Challenges in Heart of Thorns maps are worth ten Hero Points each (Core Tyria challenges give just a single point per) so on the face of it that doesn't sound so bad. In practice, though, it's not as easy as it appears.
It's not entirely because of the supposed difficulty of the challenges themselves. It's true that some of them do spawn Champion mobs that are unlikely to be within the capabilities of most soloists but as previously discussed you generally aren't alone in GW2 even when you do solo. Someone will usually be along to help within minutes at worst. And in any case many, perhaps most, of the "Challenges" turn out to be "Communes", which require you to do no more than press F and wait for a few seconds.
No, the main problem is finding the darn things. Exploring in the new maps is incredibly good fun in and of itself providing you are doing just that and that alone - exploring. Set out to get to a series of specific objectives with anything like comfortable efficiency, however, and your patience can wear thin. Not only is it hard using a two-dimensional map to traverse a three-dimensional space but many of the locations require specific Masteries to reach, some of which I don't yet have.
Also, I'd already picked off most of the readily-accessible ones as I wandered about over the preceding few days. I spent about four hours hunting HPs I'd missed across all four maps on Saturday with some success but come Sunday morning I was still fifty-five points short. Diminishing returns had kicked in and I rationalized that it would be faster to find fifty-five single-point challenges in the Old World.
Which is how I came to spend eight hours in Orr. Over much of Sunday my Ranger found and completed every Hero Challenge in Straits of Devestation, Malchor's Leap and Cursed Shore. He'd done a few already but it still clocked in at nearly forty. And it was a real pleasure.
Orr may have been a nightmare in the old days but now it feels like a holiday. With time to stop and admire the scenery it becomes unmistakably clear that these are heart-stoppingly gorgeous maps, something Jeromai tried to tell us long ago. The art design is as good as anything in the game, which means as good as anything in gaming I'd say. Just stunning.
I took over seventy screenshots as I roamed and I could have taken 700. Or 7000. After a while you realize there's just no point - the wonders are never going to stop. When the HPs ran out I flipped around a few more maps and cherry-picked the ones near waypoints until I had my 250. Since that character had barely 40% map completion even after Orr there was no shortage of options.
So now he's a Druid, which seems fun so far. In more than three years I've never felt the least need or desire to work on map completion and I don't plan on starting now but the coming of Heart of Thorns has perversely kick-started a fresh desire to see more of the maps that came with the base game.
Just as well. I have half a dozen more level 80s lining up to be next and a couple more wannabes behind them. What with that and all the new collects and crafting it looks as though ANet's plans to keep the original maps alive has legs. And, as a result, the whole game feels more solid than it has for an age.
The Joy of Pugging
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