Guild Wars 2's next expansion will add its first new raid in five years, as well as 'the most player-friendly housing system in an MMORPG'

Characters point spears at a distant Titan.
(Image credit: ArenaNet)

We're just two weeks removed from the conclusion of Guild Wars 2's fourth expansion, Secrets of the Obscure. But thanks to the MMO's recent switch to an annual expansion cycle, that means we're only a couple of months away from the launch of the fifth expansion. 

It's called Janthir Wilds, it's arriving on August 20, and it's bringing two oft-requested additions to the game.

The first major new feature is Homesteads, a housing system that will let players decorate their own, personal space. While there are few details currently, ArenaNet is calling it "the most player-friendly housing system in an MMORPG". That's a bold claim, but this is an MMO that prides itself on more casual, player-friendly design systems. Check back later this month when PC Gamer will bring you an exclusive first look at Homesteads.

The second big check off the community wishlist is a return to raiding. Guild Wars 2's last raid, The Key of Ahdashim, released back in 2019, after which ArenaNet shifted to strike missions as the de facto end game for 10-player squads. Strike missions are more LFG friendly—each is a standalone, raid-like boss—but players have been wanting a return to the more intricate design of the game's raid wings for some time.

Guild Wars 2's eighth raid won't launch on August 20 with the initial release of Janthir Wilds, but will arrive in a follow-up update as part of the expansion's lifecycle. This is in part due to a tweak being made to the annual expansion plan, as revealed last week in a post by game director Josh Davis. In it, Davis addressed some of the frustrations players had with the new expansion model as seen in Secrets of the Obscure—specifically around the story and the way the expansion's final map was released a third at a time in quarterly updates.

Janthir Wilds

(Image credit: ArenaNet)

On the story front, Davis admitted that Obscure was trying to fit too much in—making the progression of the chapters, specifically the demon war of the quarterly updates, feel rushed and underdeveloped. In response, Janthir Wilds is set to tell a more grounded, focused story, hopefully avoiding some of the same pitfalls. Here, then, we're off to the islands of Janthir, far north of Queensdale, and making contact with a Lowland Kodan.

In terms of map design, Davis admits that having a single map be the focus of all of an expansion's updates is not ideal. Instead, Janthir Wilds will again release with two maps, but the first major update will instead include the raid. The third map will then be released in two halves in the second and final update. While this might seem like a minor shift, my hope is it will make a difference. The gold standard here is Icebrood Saga's Drizzlewood Coast map—itself released in halves, and still one of the best (and most profitable) meta events in the game. In his post, Davis specifically calls out Bjora Marches and Drizzlewood Coast. Hopefully the design on Janthir Wilds' third map is more akin to those than the more recent Gyala Delve.

As for the other features announced for Janthir Wilds, an old weapon type is getting a brand new use. Spears—one of Guild Wars 2's three underwater weapons—are being updated to work on land. Each profession will be able to wield the spear above water, each with their own set of skills. A beta scheduled for June 27 will let players try out the new weapon.

An old mount is also getting some new tricks. While you technically can ride a Warclaw outside of the World vs World game mode, there just isn't any point. In Janthir Wilds, the Warclaw is getting a double-jump ability designed to help traverse the mountains and river valleys of the Janthir region. I'll be interested to see how they make this a useful pick over the Skyscale, which can also traverse mountains (because it can fly).

Janthir Wilds

(Image credit: ArenaNet)

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the announcement, though, is the reveal that one of the quarterly updates is bringing a new PvP mode. Arguably, structured PvP players are even more starved of new updates than raiders. Given how PvE oriented Guild Wars 2's playerbase appears to be, it'll be interesting to see if ArenaNet can successfully persuade players to return to the competitive salt mines.

In terms of rewards, ArenaNet is promising the usual suite of new armour and weapon skins, as well as refresh to the Wizard's Vault daily system. We're also getting new legendaries—a new legendary spear and a new back item. So if you've yet to craft Kamohoali'i Kotaki or Ad Infinitum, maybe the new designs will be more to your fancy.

Like many players, I was left dissatisfied with the ending of Secrets of the Obscure. The initial launch showed plenty of promise, but the third map—Inner Nayos—struggled to sustain my attention over the course of its major updates. By the end, it felt like the demon war should have been pushed to its own expansion—given the time and resources needed to do any justice to its premise. Instead what we got felt much smaller in scope and spectacle than it deserved. But here ArenaNet is saying all the right things—admitting the flaws in Obscure's development, and promising improvements that make sense.

Nevertheless, I'm surprised to see raids are back. The suggestion has always been that raids just weren't popular enough to justify their continued development, and I'm interested to see what has changed on that front—whether this marks a change in attitude at the studio, or if the push into strike missions has given players the confidence to tackle the more daunting challenge of a full raid. Whatever the reason, I'm glad for the change—especially as the older raid wings continue to be diminished by the power creep of the last few years. The last couple of wings have some of my favourite combat encounters in the game—I'm a serial QtP kiter—and I'm looking forward to seeing what ArenaNet is cooking up for the next one.

Phil Savage

Phil has been writing for PC Gamer for nearly a decade, starting out as a freelance writer covering everything from free games to MMOs. He eventually joined full-time as a news writer, before moving to the magazine to review immersive sims, RPGs and Hitman games. Now he leads PC Gamer's UK team, but still sometimes finds the time to write about his ongoing obsessions with Destiny 2, GTA Online and Apex Legends. When he's not levelling up battle passes, he's checking out the latest tactics game or dipping back into Guild Wars 2. He's largely responsible for the whole Tub Geralt thing, but still isn't sorry.