Essential Elements of the New Borderlands

by Tyler Bearce on March 17, 2015


Hello, my name is Tyler Bearce, a Game Designer here at ArenaNet, and I’m here to tell you about the new World vs. World desert Borderlands map that we’ve been hard at work creating for the Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns™ expansion. This map will replace the map used for each of the three current Borderlands.

So, why the new map? Well, we’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t in the time since releasing the original game, and we decided this would be a good opportunity to create an even richer WvW experience. We know players are hungry for something new—after all, you’ve been waging war over the same Borderlands map for years now, and it’s time to give you a new battleground to learn and conquer.

Before I go into what’s new in the desert Borderlands map, I’d like to first tell you about the things that will still be familiar if you’ve played the current Borderlands map. At the highest level, much is the same as what you’ve grown used to. The map has the same number of keeps (3), towers (4), and supply camps (6) as the existing Borderlands. These objectives are also in roughly the same positions on the map. Capturing and holding these objectives still awards points per scoring tick for your team’s Mist War score, and dolyaks still travel on the roads, shuttling supply between supply camps and other objectives.

Now to tell you how we’ve spiced up the experience!

“The terrain is more complex, the cliffs are higher, and the paths are windier…”

Increased Verticality

The desert map is much more layered and vertical than the existing alpine Borderlands map. As an example, you may run across a span of rolling sand dunes, find a gap in the sands, follow a shadowy obsidian staircase plunging deep into a massive cavern, and lay siege to an entire fiery keep hidden within. The terrain is more complex, the cliffs are higher, and the paths are windier, resulting in an even deeper field of battle.

Thematic Objectives

Keeps and towers are more distinctive than before. They all have unique architecture, unique guards, and a unique lord protecting the capture point. The three keeps are elementally themed—air, earth, and fire. The air keep was inspired by the historical city of Petra. It is a keep cut directly into the rose-colored stone canyon walls, with tengu guarding its heights. In contrast, the fire keep is our first entirely underground objective. Lava flows outside the keep while fire imps and charred fleshreavers guard its gates. The earth keep is a corrupted asuran complex. Rocks jut strangely from the walls, and massive stones float in the sky just out of reach. Only golems remain to guard the ruins of this technologically advanced structure. The towers you’ll encounter include an ogre outpost, a charr military depot, an academy of magic, and a necromantic spire.


More Strategic Layout

We’ve made towers more strategically important. Rather than simply being isolated landmarks for invaders to easily sidestep, towers now wall off larger sections of the map and create real choke points. Controlling one of these towers not only allows your team to pass easily into another section of the map but also creates a noticeable impediment to the movement of enemy armies. The gates of towers and keeps are now more dangerous to attack head-on. Invaders must pass underneath a kill box of arched walls, putting them at risk for attacks from above on all sides. Even the terrain itself is more geared toward giving players the opportunity to make intelligent—or foolish—tactical plays in nuanced terrain.


Along the outskirts of each of the three elemental keeps are three shrines of matching elements, making a total of nine shrines. Much like a sentry post, these can be captured by a single player. Controlling shrines gives you two important advantages. First, by interacting with a shrine that your team controls, you will gain a five-minute elemental blessing effect. This effect increases both your movement speed and either your attack damage, critical-strike chance, or defense, depending on which elemental blessing you received. More importantly, the other reason to control shrines is that they confer important strategic bonuses to the team that controls the keep of the same element. And for each shrine controlled, the team controlling the keep gains an additional benefit. For example, for each Shrine of Air controlled, the defending team gains access to things like jump pads, wind turrets that can blow invaders off the cliff face, and even immunity to falling damage while within the region. At the fire keep, controlling Shrines of Fire grants the defending team the ability to transform into fiery hounds, turns on fireball-spitting gargoyle turrets, and grants immunity to burning and lava damage. The earth keep gains automatic defenses like lodestones that impair enemy movement, pop-up rock walls that block off sections of the canyons when invaders approach, and a sandstorm that provides stealth for allies within.


The center of the map is a giant jungle oasis. It’s filled with complex rocky terrain, winding streams, bamboo walkways through the trees, an enormous golden temple, and dinosaurs. This is an environment that caters to roamers, ambushers, and gankers. Once every three hours, an event begins within the oasis. An energy cannon of great power sits atop the golden temple, and naturally that means your team will want to be the first to charge it up and fire it! Players will scatter throughout the oasis, defeating dinosaurs that have swallowed the weapon’s power cores and returning those cores to any of three Durmand Priory research camps located on the outskirts of the oasis. It’s not as easy as it sounds; enemy players will try to attack your team’s carriers and steal the cores for themselves. Once a team has collected enough cores to power the weapon, the cannon will begin firing blasts of energy at the outer gates of all enemy-owned towers and keeps in the map, gradually obliterating them. Even if your team already controls all of these objectives, you’ll still want to control the weapon, if only to prevent the enemy teams from using it against you!


Dolyaks and Sentries

Dolyaks have gained a new defensive ability. As long as an allied player is near the dolyak, the dolyak gains an effect called Protected Caravan. While this effect is active, the dolyak is greatly resistant to both damage and conditions. Undefended dolyak caravans are just as vulnerable as ever, but if players are escorting a dolyak, enemies are now forced to either deal with the players or spend significantly more time attacking and wearing down the dolyak to ultimately kill it. Sentries have also had a few tweaks. They now guard tiny outposts and have a skill that cripples enemy dolyaks for several minutes, noticeably increasing the time it takes for the dolyaks to carry supply to their next objective. Friendly players can also pick up temporary med-kit bundles—which are very similar to the Med Kit engineer healing skill—at allied sentry posts. These can be used to cure a crippled dolyak, quickly gain some health, or grant swiftness on the fly.

We want to give players solid reasons to keep their keeps, so you might find that running up to knock on your enemy’s front door with a big group isn’t the most efficient path to victory. In turn, you’ll have plenty of new strategies to discover and important decisions to make when using the landscape to your advantage. We’ll be back to tell you more about how we plan to apply these concepts to World vs. World as a whole, so be on the lookout between now and the launch of Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns.

Even though this will initially replace the existing Borderlands, we have plans to bring back the classic alpine Borderlands. More information on that will come in the future.

I hope you folks enjoyed this peek at what’s to come and are excited to try out the new map and mechanics. See you on the battlefield!