Many features that have been vocally requested by GW Community have finally been introduced, most - if not all of them - positive, although I can't stop thinking they are at least 2 years late...
One of the most advertised changes to come is the ability to fill up your party with your own Heroes, rising the limit of Heroes a single player can add to a group from 3 to 7.
This feature has been requested by players since Heroes were introduced. While highly disputable (it's hard for me to name an objective that can not be completed by a single player alone now) for making the game a single player online game with co-op mode now, in the end I guess it's a good decision. The population of Guild Wars has declined and it became harder and harder to find a group for some activities, this will ultimately help players.
Mercenary HeroesAn unexpected addition is one to create your own Heroes, based on your existing characters' profession, name and armor look.
While this option requires a purchase of "Mercenary Hero Slots", it caters for other Community requests concerning Heroes - there's always been a need for more Heroes of certain professions, ones that had a better AI/Build combos. Especially now that a player is able to form a party out of their own Heroes, many would desire to have more than 3 Necromancers or more than two Mesmers (Me! Me! Me!).
While I see the mechanicts itself and the linked (one-time) fees reasonable, one characteristics of the new system is hard for me to accept. Namely, the "original" character who was used to create a Mercenary can not use it's own clone to prevent "Clone Wars". While I understand the reasoning behind the decision, the lose and complication involved is bigger than the immerion gain it provides.
Lets say I want to make my Mesmer character a Mercenary Hero because I like to run around with Mesmer Heroes and until now I could only use two.
With how the things are right now, every other char on my account can have 3 Mesmer Heroes except for my Mes herself.
Unless I make 2 Mesmer Mercenaries or use a phony character to create one in the first place...
Same for every other class that I'd find useful.
The problem of Clone Wars is, in my opinion, negligible - we already can have more than one same Hero in our parties (think of 1 Gwen and 5 Vanguard Mesmers in the Deep or in Urgoz) and players ale not really bothered with it - it's a price you pay to use the system. If it breaks your immersion and it's more important for a player to retain it, he will simply not take duplicates.
What's more, the name of a Mercenary Hero can be changed if the original is present much like default heroes' names are already, for example to "[Personality] [Profession]" ("Arrogant Mesmer", "Born Leader Paragon" etc) to further limit the problem.
Also, players can protect themselves from having exact clones if it bothers them - they can change their armor.
I simply find it hard to accept that if I want to be able to use a 3rd Me Hero on every of my characters, I can't register my Main, or I have to register two...
Legendary Defender of Ascalon title changeThis is one I am undecided about at the moment.
The main change is that it is no longer required to employ use of an exploid (so-called Death Leveling) to achieve the title (to level a character to 20 in Pre-Searing Ascalon), making the achievement less grindy and - I think - faster and easier to achieve.
Also, a Legendary Defender of Ascalon doesn't have to leave the Pre-Searing anymore to immortalise their achievement (to put it to Hall of Monuments in preparation for Guild Wars 2), they can record it with a Historian in Ascalon.
While I find the second change simply put awesome (the fact that one had to leave Pre to get a monument ultimately ereased the whole effort of leveling a character to level 20 in a starter zone), the change of the title is more difficult to judge for me.
LDoA was always a special title, it did not come out from the developers, it was a reward for the ingenious players that devised a method to do something devs thought impossible. With lots of hard work involved. Thus, it was unique, not to say elite. Hence I see it as sad that this characteristics of the title was removed... I understand however that it made it unobtainable for many players and was widely requested to be changed... A pity the legacy of it will suffer, but ultimately it brings more life to the Pre-Searing community.
My only regret is that I did not finish my LDoA before the update (for boast-reasons ^^) - I am currently 3k short. With the new quests, I should be done in 3 days!
Assorted thoughtsThis big update leaves me worried about the release date of Guild Wars 2 as it gives the current game new life, simply put. I can't help but think that all the features - a few years late in their nature - were brought in to artificially prolong the wait time (Survivor, LDoA and Drunkard titles being made obtainable for players who disregarded them for their problematic nature before, for example).
This, the halt of new GW2 features and remaining profession released to the public and the fact that year 2012 is the year of the Dragon in Chinese calendar (with GW2 focusing on mighty dragons' reawaking) in the light of so many epic releases GW2 would have to combat for players this year, I think 2012 is ultimately the best bet for release right now. Regretably.