The initial furious dust of an MMO expansion launch is beginning to settle in Guild Wars 2. People are beginning to claim about the PvP meta more. Lore delvers are finding hidden nuggets and putting things together. And, Mrs. Ravious and I have moved from the immediate to the long-term.
There are only two immediate goals in Heart of Thorns. The first is the story, which does have some very soft mastery walls, but I felt getting through the story was as available as going from level-limited quest hub to quest hub in any conventional MMO. The other, which was changed on the fly, is getting the elite specialization. It is interesting because initially getting the elite specialization would have been more of a mid-range goal. Now, it is much more accessible from the beginning.
The rest of the goals feel really sticky. There is one reason for this: masteries.
Masteries are… something. On one hand they are genius. I actually care about XP now, possibly more than I ever have in Guild Wars 2 or any other game. I get a hit of endorphins for every rezzed player. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to see them back on their feet, but that hit of sweet XP makes it all the better.
It gets even better because Guild Wars 2 has always [tried] to be about events. Events give a ton of XP (and karma). Add on the walking pinatas full of XP for the winning combination. It’s amazing how much difference this makes. Defense events in Cursed Shore become glorious floods of XP whereas defense events in Heart of Thorns don’t give mob XP. There’s an even in particular in Auric Basin involving skritt scavengers and unending, overscaled mordrem trying to make sure nothing is scavenged. When there appears to be only three of us active in the event area and elites are scaling… well that’d be oookay if I got XP for the trouble of an elite. But, no.
My progress is currently slow as I am working on a mastery that requires about 3 million XP, which is roughly 30 level 80 levels. This is the other hand. Masteries can be grind.
I saw an interesting conversation on Reddit the other day (link now lost to the quagmire) where players were arguing about grind. “Don’t tell me what grind is,” spoke one as the other tried to talk about repetition of action. The latter is correct. Repetition of action creates the worst grind especially coupled with randomness (RNG) in the form of loot tables, or what have you.
Under the “repetition of action” definition of grind, masteries are not it. One has so many options available to gain XP. Events are on top of the list. Adventures also provide a very fast hit of XP, especially if you are good at it. Finding mobs that have lived too long provide a better chunk. Gathering provides XP. And, it is largely area independent. If I really like Auric Basin, I can stay there for my Heart of Thorns XP mastery gain. I really think that ArenaNet went back to the “just play” theory of game design.
Yet, 3+ million XP for a mid-level mastery is daunting. It begins to feel like I am grinding away at that bar. It’s weird because it seems like my mind splits. I enjoy playing. My current apple is Auric Basin. I am really enjoying the event quadrants and the meta-event. The immediate play is a lot of fun. I am gaining a lot of gold (see Part 2, hopefully posted tomorrow for that). Mrs. Ravious and I are learning new tricks, understanding new mobs, etc. The immediate play is a lot of fun, and then I look at that bar at the bottom. Did it move? Much?
A friend who plays World of Warcraft says that this is par for their course. He says with each expansion in that MMO that he loses a few more alts because he just cannot get himself to grind out the last few levels to get each alt to the new level cap. Seeing the leveling bar move too little for each quest is just part of things, he says.
I feel that masteries is a great system for Guild Wars 2. I am very excited about seeing what they use it for after this initial onslaught. I like that value has been brought back to XP. I can only hope they do the same the karma… perhaps even adding a karma-based mastery, hmmm. I don’t like the feeling of grind that is creeping in to my mindset. The masteries feel so powerful and helpful. Why of course I want to have no endurance bar while gliding and auto-loot!
n.b. I wonder how much different masteries would feel if a 6-mastery point mastery was split in to 6 XP bars so the bar moved faster while the amount of required XP remained the same?