Specializations: The Traveller’s Take

Everybody is full of speculation and excitement over the new specialization system that’s going to radically change our current trait system. My thoughts on the changes to the trait system by causing us to unlock them were… less than pleased. If you check my post at this link, you’ll see that I wasn’t the happiest over the changes.

Still, it appears that ArenaNet have heard the cries of many and have been secretly working on something completely new.

Recently in this ReadyUp episode, a lot of new information was given about specializations, and a lot of great things were shown. Mind you, I honestly haven’t had the chance to sit down for four hours and listen to it all, but a few things have stood out to me from what I’ve read, seen, and heard.

Simplicity is Good

Now, several hardcore players may hate how the new system is going to look. Currently, you can put points into as many trees as you want, so long as the points add up to no more than 14. 14 shall be the number. 15 thou shalt not count, neither shalt thou count to 13 excepting that thou then proceedeth to 14. 16 is right out.

With each tier, you can then add one of the previous traits to a new tier. For instance, if you put four points in and unlock a Master level trait, you can slot it with either a Master trait from that line, or even an Adept trait. Grandmaster gives you the option to slot any of the traits from that line.

Well… that’s going to change.

If you look at the image that I’ve linked from the Guild Wars 2 website, you’ll see that you only get three trait options per tier instead of the current five bajillion (I ran the numbers).

At first I thought: “this is insanely restrictive,” but my impression is that they’re amalgamating a lot of current traits that aren’t used, as well as some that have become overly necessary. For example, the Necromancer’s Focused Rituals which allows them to select where they cast their Wells will become baseline. It will naturally happen without the need for a trait. This then frees up the Necromancer to choose where he’s going to specialize without feeling forced into a certain trait line or specific trait–in theory.

I’m a skeptic, so people may still feel forced into it, especially if you’re a hardcore speed runner. That’s not my deal, so I’m not concerned about ‘meta.’ Players will still find their favourite combinations and favourite traits, and I think that’s ok. I do think that there are quite a few benefits to this sort of system:

  • It allows new players to understand the system much more efficiently.
  • It will become even easier for ArenaNet to balance on a PvP-level because of the simplicity.
  • It becomes even easier to change traits on the fly due to the visual patterns, the beautiful artwork of every unique trait, and the simplicity of only three trees.

Yes, you heard me. Only three trees at a time. No more 22442 builds (because you know how often we all run those). I’ve heard some people concerned, but I think limiting yourself to three trees isn’t all that crazy anyway. My Guard build is usually 00446, my Necromancer is 62006, and my Engineer is now 62024, which is my only one that branches into four trees. So honestly, I don’t think I’ll be too hurt, especially from some of the amalgamation, which is officially my word of the day.

So I’m excited for what’s to come with the simplicity of the matter.

1337 Specs

So the elite specializations are what intrigue me the most. So far we know that Ranger will get “Druid” and will be able to use a Staff. Many suspect Engineer with a hammer (well, it’s unconfirmed but you can see it in the Heart of Thorns trailer), and Guild Wars 2 released a beautiful work of art with what looks like a Mesmer holding a shield.

Every single specialization is going to receive a new weapon, so long as they are using that specific specialization. Now, this sort of concerns me.

Does this give an edge to those who don’t purchase Heart of Thorns? Is it too hard to balance a Ranger using a staff if they haven’t specialized into Druid? I’d be curious as to why they are approaching it the way they do. Many people will feel pretty compelled to be specced into the elites. Of course, if they’re that powerful, that will be very identifiable in PvP and WvW. If you see a Necromancer running at you with a Greatsword equipped, you know that he’s using the elite specialization, “Marjory Wannabe.”

Until I have more information on the elites, I don’t think I can make any calls on all of this, other than “my Engineer will be amazing because Juggernaut.” Insta-win. I’m happy!

I digress.

Pre-Expansion Release

One of my favourite things that Jon Peters said in the entire ReadyUp is that the specialization system (not the elite specializations) is going live before Heart of Thorns releases. This is extremely important, in my opinion.

  1. This gives the opportunity for working out bugs and issues that inevitably will come up. Reality is, nothing is bug-free at first, and it takes a lot of time and effort to work those things out. Even if they seem to be working perfect in-house, until it’s released, they won’t know for sure.
  2. This allows the players to get a good feel for the new system before we end up getting into Elite Specializations. If anything, it’ll allow us to build on what we’ve already developed (because these are fairly different than the current trait system).
  3. It may even compel people to buy Heart of Thorns, given that the elite specializations will be locked behind it.

Bigger Than We Could Imagine

One thing I’m realizing is how complicated it really must be to balance this game and make decisions on what should be baseline for the specializations. What things should be tweaked? What things should be eliminated? It’s a lot of work for the developers to go through and there’s a lot of contradictory feedback to work through along with trying to work through what metrics to go by or not.

So here’s a huge shout-out to ArenaNet to keep up the good work, keep moving in the direction of greater communication (this ReadyUp was very transparent in a lot of areas already from what I’ve seen), and keep working through feedback along with your metrics, because nothing can replace the experiences of people.


There are so many things I didn’t cover about specializations, and I’ll leave that for the experts. All I can say is that my thought so far is that there is a whole lot of potential to improve the game, balance things even better, and create Guild Wars 2.1–something I’m very excited to experience with Heart of Thorns!

  • Be sure to check out the full list of notes found at Dulfy’s website.
  • Check out a great Q&A with Jon Peters from Lewis aka @PersistentWorld at TenTonHammer!
  • Finally, don’t forget to keep your eyes on news updates about HoT on the Guild Wars 2 News page.

Got a few thoughts on what you’ve heard about Heart of Thorns? Be sure to comment below. I’d love to hear what your impressions are!

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