Guild Wars 2 is free to play! Heart of Thorns release date.

At Pax Prime, ArenaNet announced Guild Wars 2 (the base game) was going free to play (effective NOW!) and their first expansion for GW2, Heart of Thorns, will be released Oct. 23rd.

Why did they do this? Their payment model is buy to play – buy the game and there are no subscription fees. This is a win/win situation for both the player and the developer. Players feel they have more freedom to play (they don’t get locked into feeling obligated to play because they are paying a subscription) and of course, who wouldn’t like not paying sub frees? Gaming companies make money on the sale of the expansion and they can release other items (not pay to win) to supplement income. The problem comes in when there are multiple expansions – that can be a lot of money for a new player to invest. Making the core game (and outdated expansions) free will make it easier, more affordable and more convenient for new players.

What about players who bought the game? Free players do have some restrictions:

    • Free accounts have fewer character and bag slots.
    • Free accounts can use local chat and whispers, but not map chat.
    • With whispers, they can both start new conversations and reply to existing conversations but are limited to starting new conversations no more than once every 30 seconds.
    • Free accounts can buy and sell common goods on the trading post.
    • They can’t mail gold or items directly to other players, trade gold for gems, or access guild vaults.
    • Free accounts have some restrictions to prevent them from skipping ahead to places where they could be used to disrupt the game. They must play to level 10 before leaving the starter zones, to level 30 before using LFG, and to level 60 before using World vs. World. They can play PvP immediately but must get to rank 20 before using custom and unranked arenas.

 

 

I think these are fair restrictions and they do prompt a player to purchase the game. Considering Amazon is selling it for less than $25.00, I think it is a good deal.

Heart of Thorns

The expansion (Standard) is $49.99, Deluxe is $74.99 and Ultimate is $99.99. It comes with the expected benefits for each tier. Heart of Thorns brings with it a new area to explore, a new profession, a new mastery system which changes player progression after level 80 (they mentioned they won’t be extending the max character level over 80). There is a lot to the expansion that I’ll be covering more over the next couple of months.

Note: If you registered your core Guild Wars 2 game before January 23, 2015 and register a pre-purchase serial code for Heart of Thorns any time before the expansion is released, you’ll receive a free character slot! Once you apply a pre-purchase serial code, you’ll be eligible for the slot regardless of where you bought the core game.

If the serial code you used to register the core game came from a retail vendor and was applied to your account between January 23, 2015 and June 16, 2015, you’ll also be eligible for a free character slot if you apply a Heart of Thorns pre-purchase serial code before the expansion release.

All accounts that become eligible by July 9 will have their free character slot applied by July 10. Eligible accounts that are upgraded with a pre-purchase serial code after July 10 will receive their slots on a weekly basis after that.       

Raids

Players who purchase Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns will get access to their first raid, with the first of the three associated raid wings to be activated shortly after launch. They will be looking at balance between the new profession, specializations and masteries. The remaining two raids will be released shortly after the first. Raids are 10-player, instanced content that will also tie into the new mastery system of progression.

In the first Raid wing, players will face three awesome, diverse, and very challenging bosses as well as an epic event that will leave players literally running for their lives. Each encounter will introduce different mechanics that require unique strategies to overcome and will be a big accomplishment if defeated. For each encounter, our goal is that you’ll need to face it many times to learn how to defeat it, continuing to develop your strategies, refining your communication and honing your tactics through practice, in order to execute to a high degree with the hope of eventually conquering it and moving on to the next encounter in the wing.

Altogether, players can expect to face big challenges in all three wings that will stretch the abilities. If even our most battle-hardened adventurers. Raids will also become a key part of our live strategy for Guild Wars 2 in the future, but we’ll discuss that more down the road.

As part of rewards for raids, we’re introducing legendary armor. Conquering raid content will earn you the pieces to build legendary precursor armors, which can be forged into legendary heavy, medium, and light armor sets. Like legendary weapons, these pieces will have the same stats as ascended armor; you’ll be able to change the armor stats out of combat and dazzle your friends with your sense of style, but you won’t have a statistical edge. Endless tiers of gear grind to stay raid relevant have no place in Guild Wars 2.

Guild Wars 2 does not use the holy trinity model for grouped content, where players play a specific role (healer, tank, etc.). In truth, they have their own trinity – damage, support and control. All players have the ability to heal themselves and, to my knowledge, there are no taunts in the game. You can’t easily control mob/boss behavior. Add on to that every player can play each role and you can change these roles on the fly. And that ticks a lot of people off. Many players like to be a tank, for example, and “tanks” in this game do much more than absorb damage, which is why they call it control. ArenaNet wants to make a game where people play WITH each other not alongside each other. It will be interesting to see how Raids play out.

I am VERY new to Guild Wars 2. I got into GW2 back in May when a certain MMO that shall remain nameless talked about removing flying. I figured if I’m going to play a game that doesn’t have flying, I’ll play GW2 but I did not consistently play because I was waiting to hear more about the expansion. In the upcoming months, I’ll be sharing more about the game because I know I can’t be the only one new to Guild Wars 2. 🙂

This was a nice surprise coming out of PAX and it was wise to do this at PAX, a smaller gaming venue, so it was not buried in the other gaming announcements coming out of E3 & Gamescom. It makes sense to make the base game free as they are hoping the expansion brings old and new players to GW2. Why put barriers in place to make it harder for players to play together and enjoy the game?