During our recent preview of the upcoming Guild Wars 2 expansion, Heart of Thorns, we had the opportunity to explore a small sampling of what the new Mastery system has to offer. To see some of the specific masteries available in the current demo build and an overview of the UI, be sure to check out the preview video below. For more details on how the system works, read on!

Mastery System Overview

The mastery system kicks in for level 80 characters right away in the new expansion. Our demo dropped us in immediately at the start of the new content, following the events at the conclusion of Living World Season 2. A short story instance helps set the stage for many of the major story elements, and upon completion gave me enough experience to unlock my first Mastery Point.

The mastery system takes over for normal XP which is significant for a few reasons. Chiefly among them is the fact that you will no longer be using the XP system to earn skill points. Instead, you’ll need to earn them through things like champion bags, PvP reward tracks, or pretty much any of the other current sources. Considering that you'll still need quite a few skill points for things like crafting legendaries or ascended gear, now would be a good time to begin building them up while the normal XP channel is still open.

As soon as you unlock your first mastery point, you’ll be prompted to click on the XP bar to open up the mastery system UI. As you can see in the screenshot below, you will have a number of different mastery tracks to choose from. Spending the first point unlocks that particular track, and from there each successive tier will require a scaling number of points to unlock.

The whole thing is very reminiscent of many Alternate Advancement systems seen in previous MMOs, combined with aspects of the Reward Tracks system in GW2’s structured PvP. Much like those reward tracks, you’ll be able to actively select which mastery track you want to earn XP towards completing.

In the current demo, it appears as though many of the mastery options include placeholders, but we did have the ability to spend points in Gliding and Mushroom Lore. Gliding has been discussed quite a bit following the initial expansion reveal, and functions exactly as it sounds.

The first tier gives you the basic gliding ability which you’ll be prompted to use whenever you leap off of high enough points. Running down a steep incline and jumping, for example, won’t allow you to glide. However, leaping off the edge of a plateau will let you glide by holding down the space bar. You’ll only be able to glide for a set amount of time, indicated by a gliding meter that appears in the middle of the screen (shown below).

The current tiers to the Gliding track include:

  1. Glider Basics (1 point) – Gain access to the glider so that you can glide like a squirrel across the highest points of the Heart of Maguuma.
  2. Thick Wings (1 point) – With practice, you learn to treat the wings on your glider, strengthening the flaps, allowing you to stay in the air longer.
  3. Updraft Use (2 points) – Improved design to your glider handles and slits in the wings let you confidently fly into updrafts, allowing a boost to your flight height and the ability to travel to never-before-reachable locations
  4. Stronger Bindings (5 points) – You learn to bind the wings of your glider with stronger binding straps. The result is longer glide times without tearing apart your wings!
  5. Fast Deploy Wings (7 points) – Through a series of high-tension springs and quick-release levers, you’ve rigged your glider to be able to deploy its wings more frequently.
  6. Powerful Leap (10 points) – After intensive leg training, you have learned to boost yourself into your glide with far greater force.

As you can see, this particular path is fairly straightforward, offering improvements to glide time and reuse, along with the ability to use updrafts which should help traverse what appears to be an insanely tall map if the demo area is any indication of what we can expect further into the expansion.

The other movement-based track we could make immediate use of in the demo is Mushroom Lore. Poking around a bit, I did find one conveniently placed mushroom that would allow you to spring up to the top of a nearby plateau rather than taking the longer route of running around the outside to the top. I didn’t get the chance to explore this track much further, but it basically is a major improvement on the vertical movement in maps like Dry Top in the sense that you can use the mushrooms to leap rather than having to deal with temp skills overriding your skill bar the way the Aspects do.

Mastery Tabs

Across the top of the Mastery GUI, the demo also includes a representative second tab with a separate grouping of mastery tracks. While the Heart of Maguuma tab offers masteries based specifically on the expansion, the second tab has some basic info that points to masteries that will be more of an overarching benefit. The two tracks listed at present are Fractal Attunement Mastery and Legendary Precursor Crafting Mastery.

Unfortunately there was no info available on Fractal Attunement, with the tooltip simply displaying “Details are obscured by the Mists”. Likewise, Legendary Precursors was similarly vague, but did at least hint at how it will work with the first tier description “Grants Access to the First Tier of Precursor Collections”. While I couldn’t get the folks from ArenaNet to expand on what this means, it does allude to a system very similar to the Luminescent armor collections found in Silverwastes.

On the subject of legendary weapons, I did touch on the revamps in an interview with Jon Peters during my studio visit, so be on the lookout for that as our Heart of Thorns preview series continues this week. In the meantime, let me know what you think of the mastery system or if you have any additional questions down in the comments.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Guild Wars 2 Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Sardu 1
Reuben "Sardu" Waters has been writing professionally about the MMOG industry for eight years, and is the current Editor-in-Chief and Director of Development for Ten Ton Hammer.