Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns™ is introducing a feature we’re very excited to share with our sPvP community, a brand-new game mode: Stronghold. The team has been eager to share with you what they’ve been working on, and it’s our honor to give you an overview of some of the high-level concepts of Stronghold and its inaugural map, the Battle of Champion’s Dusk.
In Stronghold, you and your allies will attempt to infiltrate enemy lines, break their gates, and kill the opposing lord. If you succeed in defeating the lord, the game ends. Champion’s Dusk features NPCs you can hire for supply to help your team tear down the enemy’s gates and take down their defenses. You can battle for control of powerful heroes that become available through channeling mist essence at timed intervals. These heroes support the players as they push through the enemy base and—if they survive the battle to the lord’s room—trigger a devastating attack.
While Stronghold does have NPCs, we were very cognizant of keeping the focus heavily on player-vs.-player combat. The hired NPCs have specific purposes, engage in limited combat, and their abilities aren’t as powerful as a player’s abilities. The heroes are more powerful NPCs, but their abilities are centered on helping a team push rather than replacing a player. The NPCs in Stronghold provide new tactical and strategic opportunities and create new roles and a greater diversity of builds for players. The focus remains very solidly on player skill and teamwork to be successful at Stronghold.
One of the goals for Stronghold was to put more gameplay in the map. There is always something exciting to do in a Stronghold match. Whether you’re fighting over supply, pushing or defending a lane, getting your doorbreakers to your front line, or blasting your enemies to smithereens with a trebuchet, you’ll never find a time where you’re not actively engaged.
Some of our favorite moments in Guild Wars 2 PvP are huge shifts in momentum…
The team also set out to make Stronghold fun to watch. With the objectives in the map, it’s easier from a spectator’s point of view to understand how the game progresses and when the big moments happen. Some of our favorite moments in Guild Wars 2 PvP are huge shifts in momentum—moments when the entire battle shifts based on the strategic decisions made by teams and individual players. Stronghold is rife with opportunity for such moments: a supply runner being downed and his supply stolen; a player shepherding NPCs and being wrecked by a player on the trebuchet; players desperately fighting over which team will spawn their hero; a crucial trebuchet being wiped out; a desperate rush on the lord’s room; and the lord being downed and stomped in a game-winning assault. These are just a few of the big moments players and spectators can look forward to.
The primary objective of every Stronghold map is to defeat the enemy’s lord. Storm the enemy base, break through their defense, and kill the lord to win the game!
Lords have above-average health and a potent set of skills. The enemy lord is protected by their elite guards. When an elite guard is defeated, they won’t respawn, so even if your team’s first push into the lord’s room doesn’t end in success, any guards you take down in the process will make it easier to achieve victory on your next attempt.
Although the primary objective of every Stronghold map is to defeat the opposing team’s lord, getting to the lord won’t be easy. You must break through the outer gates and fight your way through the base to break down the doors of their inner sanctum, the lord’s room.
In order to keep players focused on tactical combat and strategic decisions rather than beating down a door, gates in Stronghold are reinforced against player attacks; as a player, you cannot damage an enemy gate. Fortunately, there are some soldiers at your disposal to do the dirty work for you while you complete more important objectives, such as operating a trebuchet or engaging in glorious combat.
To break through enemy gates, the attacking team can gather supply from a central supply depot and spend it on two types of NPCs: doorbreakers and archers.
Gathering supply involves a two-second channel that can only be interrupted by downing the channeler or by crowd-control effects such as fear, knockback, stun, and pull. A player can carry a maximum of two supply. If they’re defeated by an enemy while carrying supply, they drop one supply that anyone can pick up.
Once supply is gathered, a player can return it to their barracks and choose either a doorbreaker or an archer to aid in their offensive push. Your attacking forces are summoned by another short channel that can be interrupted in the same way as gathering supply.
Attacking Forces: Doorbreakers and Archers
The two basic units that will aid you in your team’s assault of the enemy stronghold are doorbreakers and archers.
Doorbreakers are highly trained skritt bomb carriers. In fact, they are so highly trained that they’ll ignore all combat and focus exclusively on destroying gates. The damage they deal to doors is massive, and defending players must always be wary of a doorbreaker slipping through their ranks. Attackers need to protect their doorbreakers; doorbreakers don’t defend themselves.
Archers stop to attack opponents in their path. They do a small amount of damage to gates and a small amount of damage to players, but they do a large amount of damage to defending NPCs. While they’re only slightly effective at taking down gates, they are handy at helping the push through your enemy’s defending NPCs and elite guards.
Defenses: Guards and Trebuchets
To help repel the onslaught of the opposing team, each stronghold on Champion’s Dusk has a small number of guards and a powerful trebuchet.
Defending guards will stop doorbreakers in their tracks. They instantly kill any doorbreaker they attack. Sending a wave of doorbreakers at your enemy’s stronghold while guards are still alive is pure folly. If you’re on offense, take the guards down first or draw their attention to give your doorbreakers a chance to deal their massive damage to enemy gates. If you’re on defense, defend your guards and keep them healed. Like the elite guards in the lord’s room, when a guard goes down, they’re out for good. They don’t respawn.
In addition to guards, each team on Champion’s Dusk has a powerful trebuchet to aid in the defense of their stronghold. The trebuchet rotates left and right and can charge a shot to lob across the map. Use it to annihilate an offensive push from the other team, gain area control of the supply depot, or support team fights around the map. If a trebuchet is destroyed, it can be rebuilt instantly with supply from the supply depot. If the other team has the supply depot locked down, the trebuchet will respawn after a few minutes.
In Champion’s Dusk, each stronghold has a barracks, and opposite your barracks is the opposing team’s outer gate. Spawning attacking forces with supply at your barracks will send them from your barracks to the enemy’s outer gate. This creates two lanes in Champion’s Dusk. One lane is where your team attacks, and the other lane is where your team defends. To switch from offense to aiding a defending teammate, all you need to do is move into the other lane. Once the threat has been neutralized, you can transition back to the offense lane to rejoin your push forward with your other attacking teammates.
Heroes in Stronghold are the superweapons. They’re the keys to breaking through a tough defense and giving an attacking team the edge they need to take down the enemy lord.
At key intervals, a mist essence will begin to form at one or both of two locations in Champion’s Dusk. Mist essence takes 30 seconds to take shape, and once it’s active, players can channel it to summon their team’s hero. Channeling to summon a hero takes 10 seconds to complete and can be interrupted by stuns and interrupts in the same way as channeling supply. Taking down an enemy player is, of course, always an effective way to end their channeling.
Heroes are singularly focused on your next objective. They will avoid combat until they reach the farthest point to which you have progressed, whether that be the outer gate, the inner gate, or the enemy lord. Even though heroes avoid combat until they’ve pushed a lane as far as they can, they always provide nearby players powerful bonuses. Join a hero who’s storming your offense lane to gain the upper hand against your opponent’s defenders.
Once at that next objective, the hero will start their assault, using their skills on any enemies or gates in the area. Heroes are especially dangerous in the lord’s room. If the defending team allows a hero to get into the lord’s room, the hero will use their ultimate attack. This ability will damage the lord and all defenders in the room for a percentage of their maximum health and knock them all down. A hero’s ultimate attack has a long casting time, giving defenders a chance to stop the attack by killing or interrupting the hero.
Heroes are a force to be reckoned with. While they can’t replace a player on a team, they’re effective at supporting players, and they can turn the tide of a battle if the defending team doesn’t deal with them effectively. Get them into the enemy lord’s room for that final push. If you’re a defender, don’t let a hero get near your lord, or be prepared to quickly deal with them if they do.
The mechanics found in Stronghold and Champion’s Dusk support a number of different play styles. This provides opportunities for players to tailor their builds to specialize in one of numerous roles or use a more general build to shift between roles more readily. Here are some examples of roles that have developed in testing.
Assaulter—This player clears the way of enemy players, trebuchets, and NPC guards, giving doorbreakers a clear shot at the gate. A high-damage build for bursting down NPCs being healed by defending players and the ability to go one-on-one are a must.
Smuggler—Smugglers gather supply and spend it at the barracks. They keep an eye on which unit best suits the current situation and then send that unit down the offense lane. Swiftness, stability, and evasion are a big help when gathering and running supply, but be prepared for a team fight at the supply depot when being quick and sneaky isn’t enough. Smugglers will also be well positioned to compete against enemy players to channel mist essence and call forth a hero, thus possibly turning the tide of a battle.
Shepherd—The shepherd meets up with units spawned by the smuggler and shepherds them up the lane to where the assaulters are keeping the lane clear. This is a role perfectly suited for players who love to play support. They keep their doorbreakers moving, buffed, and—most importantly—alive as they protect them in face-to-face confrontations against enemy defenses.
Defender—The defender’s job is to stop the enemy and their doorbreakers from breaking down their gate and advancing. You can play a high-damage dueling build to kill the enemy assaulters and shepherds in order to pick off doorbreakers as they come through, or you can take a more defensive approach and focus on keeping your guards alive so they can stop doorbreakers in their tracks.
Trebuchet Master—The trebuchet master operates their team’s trebuchet in order to rain fiery death on assaulters, shepherds, troops, and anyone else who dares approach their stronghold. They also exert control on distant parts of the map, such as the strategically important supply depot. An effective trebuchet master must be prepared to fight duels to maintain area control and prevent opposing players from summoning a hero to gain the upper hand.
Roamer—The roamer is a jack-of-all-trades. This role is for the generalist who fills in wherever needed, in any number of situations, by bouncing constantly between lanes, the supply depot, and hero channels to fight enemy players all over the map.
Slayer—This player tries to break apart and destroy other player roles. They hunt down players who are smuggling, shepherding, defending, or manning trebuchets to wipe them out while mostly ignoring NPCs.
These are just a few examples of some of the roles we’ve seen emerge as we’ve tested Stronghold, but we’re looking forward to players creating new ways to play the game once they get their hands on it.
A New Take on PvP
Champion’s Dusk, our first Stronghold map, is a new take on PvP in Guild Wars 2. We’ve added more ways for people to play, created more reasons to try different builds, and kept the focus on PvP.
Be sure to join Josh Davis and Hugh Norfolk on Ready Up, our biweekly competitive Twitch livestream, this Friday at 1:00 p.m. PST (21:00 UTC), as they take us through a Stronghold match. For those of you who are joining us at PAX East, stop by our booth to play a match or two!