Meaningful character progression after reaching the level cap is something that Guild Wars 2 players have arguably been without since the release of the game, but with the new Mastery system—soon to be introduced as part of the Heart of Thorns expansion—ArenaNet think that they have found the answer.
Tracks and training
Unlocked once a character hits level 80, the Mastery system will reward the completion of PvE content by unlocking account–wide abilities and bonuses. Split into area–specific tracks in much the same way as PvP reward tracks are now, Mastery points will be earned by completing various game content, such as completing personal story chapters, overcoming difficult encounters, or getting 100% map completion in a zone. Points will be used to unlock reward tracks, at which point progress is earned and displayed on the Mastery training bar, replacing the experience meter. While they can’t be used before reaching the cap, Mastery points can be earned between levels 1 and 79, and ArenaNet have already stated that these will be awarded retroactively for existing content when Heart of Thorns is released. Given this knowledge, now is the perfect time to make that Guild Wars 2 bucket list to ensure that you reap as many Mastery points of the day of release as possible.
Skill points will no longer be earned by level 80 players who level up, but they will continue to be given as rewards. There should be no net change in the number of skill points rewarded, so it is unlikely that there will need to be any kind of rebalance of items that are sold for skill points, such as those sold my Miyani that are required in many Mystic Forge recipes.
While details are thin on the ground at present, it has been announced that Heart of Thorns will launch with two Mastery regions: the Heart of the Maguuma jungle, and the core game map that we’ve all come to know and love. Progression can only be gained on tracks when you are in that region of the world, and a system will be in place to auto–switch between reward tracks as you traverse Tyria. A recent official blog post gave a high level overview of the kinds of Masteries that we can expect to see available, including allying with new races to learn their lore and language, learning to create legendary precursors, gaining new movement skills (including gliding and mushroom jumping), unlocking new abilities to help in defeating new creatures, and—perhaps most surprisingly—gaining access to new abilities and infusions in the somewhat neglected Fractals of the Mists.
Walking is for chumps
A bonus episode of Points of Interest was streamed today in order to show off the two new ways of exploring the deep jungle: gliding and ‘mushroom jumping’. Gliding will unlockable as soon as players first set foot into the new expansion zones enabling players to gently float down from high places, expending an endurance bar as they do so. When the bar is empty, you’ll fall towards the ground, unless you manage to hit an updraft which will propel the glider skywards and refill the endurance meter. This is going to allow for some seriously interesting zone exploration, and could well open all sorts of flight related mini–games and activities.
Mushrooms, it turns out, will be useful for more than just jumping. Expansion designers Nellie Hughes and David Webb explained that the idea is that they will give the player in–world abilities—such as healing, jumping, speed boosts, and skill recharging—that can be used to overcome certain challenges and events in the depths of the Maguuma Jungle. They added that it won’t be possible to get the highest reward levels in some cases without using the Mastery system to unlock access to these abilities, which should do much to improve replayability, with upgraded Mastery abilities giving players the tools that they need to gain more points and unlock further upgrades: the ‘Metroidvania’ style of character progression.
I love rep grinds (this is a lie)
Our soon-to-be-newfound ability to locate and woo certain civilisations in the Heart of Maguuma has people harking back to the ‘good old days’ of reputation grinding in other MMOs; those halcyon days of grinding out the same small set of repeatable quests, and item hand-ins, usually in order to gain access to otherwise inaccessible items or mounts. I’m not convincing you, am I? No. People who can hold their hand on their heart and honestly claim to miss this process are almost certainly lying to themselves and others. Thankfully, it sounds like ArenaNet’s implementation of this time–honoured routine will be something rather different, enabling us to progress our ‘reputation’ (read: Master lore track) by filling the Mastery training bar through completing any PvE content in the new expansion zones that we choose. Take that, Cenarion Circle.
The prospect of proper horizontal account progression through the Mastery system has been widely met with excitement; one side-note from the aforementioned blog post did cause a few raised eyebrows on Twitter:
In fact, once you have unlocked the ability to train Masteries, your nameplate will display the number of Mastery points you have gained rather than your level.
Described on Points of Interest as being like the gold star that appears next to the names of players with 100% world completion; the hope is that this will be seen as “an open world leaderboard”. No screenshots of this have been released (or escaped) so far and while it is usually dangerous to jump to conclusions, it does seem like concerns about the possibility for this UI change to prop up elitism in the community are valid. Despite the usual sarcastic tweeting, it would definitely be an issue if this visible Mastery rank became another way for players to be excluded from group activities; hopefully something that ArenaNet will be keeping in mind.