As ArenaNet released Heart of Thorns, the first expansion for Guild Wars 2, they made a promise that they wouldn’t raise the level cap simply because they didn’t want to raise the gear tier or make the previous levels gained seem irrelevant, or something like that. I may be the only one who thinks this, but it is my opinion that they did, in fact, raise the level cap and left it hidden in the Heart of Thorns Mastery system. Is this a problem? Not really, in fact, all of the masteries are very useful and they are needed if you are going to navigate the labyrinth that is the Maguuma Jungle. ArenaNet has taken the liberty of introducing areas you just won’t be able to access unless you have the Masteries earned, the first one being gliding. Let’s take a look at the Mastery system and all it has to offer you.
One System, Two Tracks
There are two different parts involved in the Mastery system, and it is designed to be useful even after you leave the Maguuma jungle. The first part involves the Maguuma jungle Masteries, of course, and the second is Central Tyria. Each track has their own individual features and abilities, though I would say that the Maguuma Masteries are definitely a little more interesting.
Maguuma Mastery Tracks:
Central Tyria Mastery Tracks:
Training up your Masteries
Earlier in this article, I mentioned that Masteries looked an awful lot like the same old leveling system and I really do stand by that, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some differences. The Mastery system is a bit more hands on than the older leveling system in that you need to choose which skill you want to level up, and you do not lose the points that have been accumulated in that section, even if you switch to another skill that you wish to train.
Once you reach level 80 and unlock the Mastery system (you have to own Heart of Thorns in order to unlock it), the system will be visible on your Hero panel at the lowest point, but it can also be accessed by clicking directly on the XP bar. You will need to activate the track that you want to add experience to, and once it is active, all of your experience points will be filtered into that particular Mastery. Keep in mind that if you activate training for a different Mastery track, you will still keep your experience points, and they will be there once you switch back.
Each Mastery has five different levels of learning, each one requiring an increasing amount of Mastery Points. As I played through the expansion I quickly found that hero points are plentiful, but XP seems to be highly elusive – it definitely makes for a more interesting experience.
The Story of Gliding
One thing I was kind of put off by was the fact that unlocking the first Mastery track required actually completing a part of the story, but I wasn’t quite as annoyed when I found out that unlocking it once would actually unlock it account wide. That is definitely one thing that Guild Wars 2 is great at – account wide unlocks and inventory. Some might put this down, but if you think about it, all of the masteries are the same, so once you level up to 80, you know your class, so what’s the point of grinding out all of the masteries again?
The first Mastery I obtained through my travels in the Maguuma jungle was the ability to glide using a sort of attached hang glider. At the first level of this Mastery, you are able to jump off of a higher elevation, press space, and glide gently across the landscape. This is very helpful because the Maguuma jungle is nothing like the rest of Tyria. Instead of flat, accessible landscapes, the jungle features a plethora of impassible terrain that can only be traversed using the Masteries that you earn along the way. The glider, for example, can help you significantly once you obtain the ability to use updrafts. This gives you more control and most importantly, the ability to fly upwards, reaching once inaccessible locations. The same goes for the Itzel lore, which contains an ability that allows you to use mushrooms as jump pads. Once again, doing this will allow you to jump to inaccessible locations.
Throughout some of the story sequences, gliding comes into play pretty hardcore as you are required to complete jumping sequences that involve a mixture of using temporary abilities in combination with the new gliding abilities you have received. I will say that during one of these sequences, I died at least eight times and ended up having to complete the section wearing nothing but the pair of default blue shorts that the character wears after their armor is damaged. You can imagine my amusement after popping out of the instance and into a group of players almost completely naked and holding a bow. It’s like “Hey guys, wow, you really don’t want to go in there, I literally lost my pants!”. Of course, considering I never lost my pants once during the original game’s campaign’s story, and I’m assuming no one else did either, it had to be disconcerting for someone who hadn’t worked on the HoT storyline yet to see someone run by with no pants that early on because you know something went down, and you know it’s coming your way soon enough. Congratulation’s HoT on actually managing to make Guild Wars 2 difficult. It only took like what…four years? On the subject of gliding, if you want to make it more interesting, you have the option of buying bat wings or other glider skins on the marketplace if you feel that the current wooden glider wings clash with your current outfit.
At the beginning, you are required to use gliding, but soon you will need to upgrade to the Itzel lore in order to use mushrooms, and eventually you will need to move on to language skills that will allow you to read the writing in various ruins. Keep in mind that these skills are absolutely required in order to advance the story and you may have to wait for long periods in between as you do events and such. If you feel like wandering outside of the Maguuma jungle then you will begin working on the Tyria specific Masteries.
Central Tyria Masteries
Within the main (non-expansion) areas of Tyria, you can gain access to several different Masteries, from Pact Mentor to Supply Line Management. I found supply like management to be a very helpful Mastery as it not only gives you access to special merchants, it actually increases your swiftness bonus in cities, just in case you feel you need to run across Lion’s Arch like a cheetah. The other one I really, REALLY like is advanced logistics, one of the perks being that you automatically pick up loot from fallen inventories, as if your inventory wasn’t already full enough. I kid, of course, it will be very helpful in dungeons, and especially the upcoming raids.
Legendary crafting, another Mastery to unlock will allow you to craft Legendary weapons using precursor weapons. For those of you that didn’t know, Precursor weapons can be obtained from virtually any drop, though they have a very low drop rate. Also keep in mind that only high-level players can get exotic weapon drops, leaving us to wonder if those high-level players will be more likely to get a precursor weapon as loot.
There is no telling right now if the current Mastery tree is complete, though given ArenaNet’s history with add-ons and updates, it probably won’t be. We can probably expect another living world story that will not only call for the use of these Masteries but the use of brand new ones as we expose more secrets of the jungle that require new tactics and abilities to reach. Hell, knowing the way these people work we’ll probably find a world beneath Tyria that’s just as big as the primary map, maybe even bigger. Hey, maybe for the next expansion we can finally explore the sewers beneath Divinity’s Reach! Wouldn’t that be a novel idea? No? Well, all I can do is ask and make pointless suggestions. I kid, of course, I’m happy to say that I’m pleased with the current Mastery system and can’t wait to see what they do with it over the next few months as people complain about it and force them to make small changes that they think we won’t notice.
Overall, the Maguuma Jungle is different, it has some amazing challenges and to be honest, it is exactly what Guild Wars 2 needed to clear up the stagnation that it was clearly experiencing. The game had a strong start with the integration of Guild Wars 1 trophies/achievements, and it certainly did well with the Living Story updates, but we were all waiting for something new and exciting. Well, it seems that Arena Net has pulled it off, and we all eagerly await what they come up with next.
Related: ArenaNet, Expansion, Features, Guild Wars 2, Heart of Thorns, MMORPG, Review