Scrying Pool Feature

Scrying Pool: The Mattsta-ry System

Welcome to the Scrying Pool, my Guild Wars 2 column here on Mattsta.Ninja. This article is the next in a series of reviews for everything Heart of Thorns. In each article I talk about one particular area of the expansion and what I thought of it. Today I’ll focus on Masteries.

Masteries are really interesting. They provide a way to get a lot of varied passive bonuses thought training each line. As you train through the line you get access to more bonuses or in the case of gliding upgrade the original bonus. I think the mastery system is really neat and could introduce a lot of unique things to the game that wouldn’t have really been possible otherwise.

That isn’t to say I think they are fantastic. The biggest concern I have with them is the simplicity of the entire system. Select a mastery track, earn experience and then unlock it if you have enough of the appropriate mastery points.

There are two problems I have with this simplicity. The first is the lack of choices with only four lines in the jungle—not including the relatively short raid-dependent line—and three lines in core Tyria. The second is the inability to choose exactly what you want to pursue.

With the way the mastery lines are set up, you aren’t really choosing a specific mastery but which line to make progress in. For example, I’m not choosing to work on ley line gliding but to work on the gliding track. This might mean that I’m actively working on the ley line gliding upgrade, but it could also mean that I might be working on lean techniques currently. Even if I wanted to be progressing on ley line gliding, I’m relegated to whatever upgrade is the current tier for the line I have chosen.

So while there are 23 masteries in the jungle—again not including the two raid masteries—you never have more than four options to pick from. If you are interested in getting the Exalted Purification to work on a collection, you can’t actively work on that until after you have completed Exalted Assistance—the mastery in front of purification on the Exalted line and honestly an almost completely worthless mastery.

I think the masteries would have been better set up more like a typical rpg skill tree. Instead of progressing the masteries in a predetermined line, players could forge their own path and select the order in which they want to unlock the masteries. This would also give more choice as instead of those 4 lines to choose between, you might have 20 individual mastery choices available to you.

Having this more free approach to the order of masteries would also allow for some better unlock management on the part of ArenaNet. Instead of the masteries requiring more experience and mastery points than the upgrade before it, masteries could be more individually assigned experience and mastery points.

I don’t like the way masteries ramp up each tier. While at the beginning this is a nice ramp into the line, the later upgrades end up getting a bit crazy. The last Nuhoch mastery—Nuhoch Alchemy—costs 12 mastery points and over 4 million experience, but is the least useful out of all of the Nuhoch masteries. With the more open system, masteries would be given the amount of mastery points and experience more relative to what the mastery is giving in return. From here players can start making their own choice, to go after the easier and cheaper masteries first or work toward the more expensive, but more useful masteries. This would also help even out some of those later masteries that while more expensive are comparatively not as enticing to players as some of the earlier ones in a line.

While I want this more open mastery tree system, I still think that players would need to unlock the first of a line before being able to freely choose. This is obvious for the gliding line in which the player would first need to learn gliding before continuing on to upgrade the glider. While the other lines are not dependent on that first upgrade in a line, they can be extremely useful—almost required—as they are all mostly focused on getting players around the jungle.

The real reason I want this first mastery to be the stop gap before pursuing the others however, is that I don’t want the first mastery in a line to be unlocked like all the rest.

Players go into the jungle and complete the first story instance Torn from the Sky which unlocks the entire mastery system for the account. At this point the player still doesn’t have any masteries. After unlocking gliding—which the game forces players to unlock first in the jungle—and continuing the story, the NPCs act like gliding is a super common thing that the player has always had.

I would have rather had these first masteries in a line be more connected to the story. Instead of talking to an NPC after unlocking gliding that makes it seem like a common practice, I would have liked to see an entire instance focused around why gliding is so important. Instead of making it seem like the most common thing in the world, have the pact also incorporating it into use alongside you. I don’t recall seeing any NPCs using gliders at any point, so there could be a story behind how gliding is risky and the pact has already lost enough at this point. The commander however, no longer has anyone to override his or her decision and can decide to take the risk anyway—introducing us to a jungle where only the player is ever seen gliding.

Completing this instance would instantly unlock basic gliding without need to go gain more experience or mastery points to do so. Now the rest of the gliding tree is available to choose and progress in. The other trees would still be locked until players did the relevant story that unlocks each line. Bouncing Mushrooms would be taught by the Itzel. Likewise Nuhoch Wallows could be taught by the Nuhoch—which would be a slight rearrangement as currently Nuhoch Hunting is the first mastery in the Nuhoch line. Exalted Markings is the first in the Exalted line and would make a great lore instance as you learn how to read the Exalted language and their history from the Exalted themselves.

While many of the lines are tied closely to the jungle—with three out of the four lines being named after one of the inhabitant races within the jungle—the mastery system feels far too disconnected from the story running through the Maguuma. While having all of the masteries tied into the story would remove any progression this system creates, I think they should each start rooted in the story before branching out into their own trees.

The other large concern I have with the mastery system is the future. I wasn’t really a fan of bringing gliding into core Tyria. None of the maps were specifically designed for gliding. While there are some areas that would be neat to have gliding, overall it was going to not feel nearly as awesome and useful as it does in the jungle.

The biggest problem I had with it was the idea of crossing the invisible line between different expansions. The masteries were set up nice and neat where masteries were tied to each region. These four lines are for the jungle while these other three are for core Tyria. While it didn’t bother me that core Tyria masteries were crossing the line—for example the auto loot from Pact Commander working everywhere in PvE—I thought the expansion masteries needed to only affect that expansion’s areas.

What happens when we get to the next expansion. Will gliding just automatically work in that expansion like how it automatically worked in Core Tyria? Speculation has us going to the desert to fight Kralkatorrik next. What if there is new potentials for gliding such as needing to train to be able to glide through large sandstorms or use dust devils to get height like updrafts currently do? Will players be required to go play the HoT content to unlock gliding before being able to learn some of these masteries in the desert?

With the separate approach, if ArenaNet did want to bring back gliding for the desert they simply add another gliding line for the desert region—something I was really hope they would do when bringing gliding to Core Tyria. Then if they had the story unlock approach for the first mastery in a line, they could explain in a story instance why gliding in the desert is different from the jungle.

A long time ago I talked about mounts in GW2 and how I think it should be something that only happens in a specific area. The desert was the area I was thinking about and masteries are the perfect platform to introduce them. If masteries don’t keep to their own regions however, sliding mounts in as a mastery might not work.

Then there are some of the other masteries which seem almost too good. Adrenal Mushrooms from the Itzel line seems perfect for raid instances and Nuhoch Stealth Detection is really neat for just about any open-world PvE area of the game. While stealth detection could be easily copied to a different line, how are you going to explain mushrooms from the jungle popping up in the middle of a desert? Of course you could always have something else do the same thing as the mushroom, but how long before there ends up being a ton of things in the world of Tyria that all magically do the same thing?

With all of that said, I really like the mastery system. It gives some really cool passive upgrades that wouldn’t have been obtainable anywhere else and really opens up the “what will they do next” speculation that wasn’t really available before HoT.

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