Since ‘Heart of Thorns,’ Guild Wars 2’s first expansion, was announced back in January, a lot has been said about the Masteries system, a new type of endgame progression for the MMO. With a post on the game’s website today however, ArenaNet has finally given the clearest explanation of the Masteries system so far, along with some details about the goals and design philosophies behind it.

“Many MMORPG fans are familiar with the idea of a vertical progression system. In a vertical system, players must continually earn more levels and better gear so that their stats remain high enough to take on new content. This is commonly known as a gear treadmill—instead of truly becoming more powerful and effective, players have to work to keep up with new enemies’ increasing health pools and higher damage… Older content—including the open world—eventually becomes trivial and obsolete as new gear outclasses it.”


The Masteries system offers something different. “Masteries are contextual… The abilities you’ll gain through the Masteries system can be employed in content designed from the ground up. This provides a better sense of progression by letting players power up their character to challenge specific content instead of building generalized, stat-based power through gear and levels.

Giving an example, “Fractal Masteries will provide combat perks and more rewards within the context of Fractals [a specific type of dungeon]. As you play specific content, you’ll become more effective within that content, reflecting your increasing skill as a player and opening up new possibilities.” Overall, this system is meant to make it so “earned abilities and the content they synergize with will always remain relevant.”

Lead Designer of the system, Crystin Cox added, “I think the primary lesson we have learned is that successful progression systems are those that feel meaningful and have a tangible impact on play… Visual progression, expanded options, and difficulty progression are all important, but without real changes to how the player interacts with the game, progression systems are much less motivating.”

‘Heart of Thorns’ still doesn’t have a confirmed release date, but it seems increasingly likely we will see it much sooner than later. ArenaNet has already shown off extensive amounts of the expansions new class, the revenant, and just recently spoke about the efforts going into connecting narrative and gameplay in the new content. For more on ‘Heart of Thorns’ as we near its inevitable release, keep checking back here on Gamespresso.

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