While the announcement of the tiered trait system created a bit of a stir in the community, comparatively little has been said about the tiered skill system. I went into the last beta weekend without knowing exactly what this would mean for us, and it caused me a bit of frustration.
As I said in my video, the goal of this article will be to enlighten you to the specifics of the system and how it affects our chosen profession. Like the new trait system, skill tiers will limit your freedom and customization options as you level. There’s an upside to it that I’ll explain later in the article, but first we need to cover the basics.
One important caveat I should mention is that I won’t cover racial utility and elites in this article. Two of the five races haven’t had their racials fully fleshed out yet, so any information I’d provide would be incomplete. Believe me, we’ll cover racial skills in the future once they are finalized.
For now, let’s look at each of the skill categories. While the official Guild Wars 2 wiki has functional tables that indicate how the tiers work, they aren’t specific to any profession. I took their design a bit further and added all the information for Guardian skills.
|Skill Name||Skill Points|
|Signet of Resolve||1|
|Tier||Skill Points||Skill Name|
|1||1||Wall of Reflection, Smite Condition, “Retreat!”, Bane Signet, Signet of Judgement, Hammer of Wisdom, Sword of Justice|
|Hallowed Ground, Sanctuary, Merciful Intervention, “Hold the Line!”, Signet of Mercy, Shield of the Avenger|
|Tier||Skill Points||Skill Name|
|1||10||Renewed Focus, Tome of Wrath|
It’s a fairly simple layout, and the specific skills are logically separated between tiers, with each utility skill tier containing a mix of Consecrations, Meditations, Shouts, Signets and Spirit Weapons. The catch is you’ll have to unlock a prerequisite number of skills on each tier before gaining access to the next one. This will almost invariably mean picking “filler” skills you may not be enthusiastic about in order to fulfill those requirements.
For utility skills, you’ll need to buy five skills in Tier 1 to unlock Tier 2 skills, and another five Tier 2 skills to unlock Tier 3. That’s a total of twenty six skill points just to access and purchase your first Tier 3 talent.
For elite skills, it gets even more expensive. Not only will you have to wait to level 30 to unlock your first elite, but if the elite you’re looking forward to happens to be on the second tier, you’ll have to spend another FIFTY points to access it. I can tell you from personal experience that this can be a very frustrating revelation if you’re not prepared for it.
Truth be told, I’m not a fan of tier systems for either traits or skills. The unprecedented freedom offered by the previous unrestricted systems did a lot to set Guild Wars 2 apart from other MMOs. I can see why ArenaNet chose to implement tiers, however, as they solve basic problems from a game design standpoint. They may be necessary evils in a sense, but they smack of Deus Ex Machina.
Trait tiers solve the problem of balance by making higher tier traits like Grandmaster traits mutually exclusive. Eliminating the ability for players to load up on the best trait from each line at the expense of all others seems like a good route for a developer to take.
Skill tiers, on the other hand, seem to be put into place just to create a skill point sink. Skill points are a currency the same as karma or gold, and with the invention of the Mystic Forge, we have even more ways to spend them than before. You gain a skill point at every level after the first, giving you seventy-nine skill points in all from your journey from level 1 to 80. Without skill tiers, you could easily unlock your preferred skills without ever participating in a single skill challenge, effectively bypassing one of the key game activities found in PvE and WvW. That’s not good for anyone. It robs players of motivation to engage in a number of challenging and fun events, and eliminates one of the major reasons to participate in PvE in the first place. ArenaNet needs you to need skill points just as much as you need karma or gold, and skill tiers are the carrot on the stick used to drive that need.
While I typically dislike mechanics put into place to pull our strings as players, there is an upside to skill tiers that I didn’t expect until I experienced it for myself.
As I commented in response to my friend Xerelin’s article on Tips and Tricks for Ascalonian Catacombs, by forcing us to pick a handful of utility skills as we level, ArenaNet guarantees that we’ll have a number of them at our disposal by the time we hit level 30. If my brief adventures in the Catacombs are any indication of the dungeon experience in Guild Wars 2, players will need these diverse abilities to draw upon to survive the deadly traps and lethal creatures waiting inside. You may think you’re favorite three or four skills will work in every situation, but I can almost guarantee they won’t. Not in every case. You’ll need to be creative and adaptive in order to succeed, and the larger your arsenal of abilities, the more flexible you’ll be.
The system encourages experimentation, and those same abilities which you grudgingly spend points on one day may save your life the next. My advice is diversify your skills early. Take advantage of the fact that you aren’t “wasting” points by picking different skills – you’re just playing the system. There will be plenty of time to specialize more and more as you level and perhaps pick traits which only benefit specific skill groups.
In a future article, we’ll dive into utility skills a bit deeper and discuss their strengths and weaknesses. I’ll break down each of the skills by category, complete with a video reference of their spell effect animations.
In the meantime, just knowing ahead of time how many skill points you’ll need for those top tier talents will put you ahead of the curve. With the number of skill challenges scattered across Tyria, you should have no trouble accumulating enough to unlock almost all of the ones you really want by the time you’re level 30 or 35. Don’t overlook the fact that skill point challenges have been added to WvW either. If your server is dominating a portion of the map, make knocking out any skill challenges it contains a top priority. You never know when the next chance will come.
Until next time…