If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past week, all the news has been centered around the GW2PCB event. Dozens and dozens of videos, articles, anecdotes, and analyses later, there is still a huge amount of information being revealed to us daily. I don’t know if it’s even possible to cover all of it in one place shy of simply linking to most of it, but GuildMag and GuildWars2Guru already have that covered. I wasn’t in the beta myself, so all that I can comment on is content that has been published by others, but honestly, that’s what I do anyway, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Over the course of the next few days/weeks I will try to cover the news that really stood out to me aside from the obvious. Of course, today (the 22nd) ANet officially put up the registration for regular people to get into the beta events in the future, but aside from excitement, there isn’t actually much else to say. Good luck! Anyway, as indicated by the title, this post is going to be about the revamped trait system.
What were they?
In their first (revealed) form, traits offered very specific customizations for a variety of trait lines. Each profession had 5 sets of trait lines with 1 or 2 of them as weapon traits (by weapon set equipped), and the other 3-4 being based around themes like Blood Magic and Soul Reaping. Each trait line had one major and two minor trait slots that were to be chosen from a pool of traits related to said line. Here is a picture in case you have forgotten:
With this setup, every profession would always have 5 major traits and 10 minor traits to apply to themselves. There were distinctly two flavors of each category of trait: passive stat boosts and ability modifiers. As an example, a Necromancer might have a minor trait for Soul Reaping that gave 25 to vitality; that is the former passive type. Alternatively they had traits that would prevent CC on you while using Death Shroud, or allow you to gain Death Shroud faster. Basically, it was a trade-off between added functionality vs raw power. The most interesting aspect of this system though was the weapon traits. Weapon traits could modify the specific skills granted by that weapon. An example of this behavior was a sword trait for Warriors that made Savage Leap recharge twice as fast, or another that made sword attacks add bleeding stacks.
This latter set of traits made the weapon skill system seem much more interesting to me at the time. Sure, two sword Warriors would have the same 5 skills, but because of traits those skills would actually change their functionality and act differently than one another. That was a huge part of making two otherwise identical Warriors stand out from one another when matched directly against each other. Further, this system had separate traits for each weapon set, so no matter what traits you had selected, they would always complement your equipped weapons. Overall it was fairly interesting and elegant, but it did lack one thing: depth. You always had 3 traits per line and always filled all of your lines. There were different permutations, but specialization was largely impossible because you always were shallowly invested in all lines.
Oddly enough though, often times I felt that the minor traits were more powerful than the major traits in their line. Compare “Entering Death Shroud creates a blast of energy” (major trait) to “Prevent knocked back, knocked down, launched, slowed or stunned while in Death Shroud” (minor trait). That second one sounds a whole hell of a lot stronger to me, and you get two of those. Regardless though, not only was that a matter of balance, it’s also a moot point because this whole system has been reworked. And by “reworked”, I actually mean completely scrapped.
What are they now?
Traits are radically different now from the model previously described. First and foremost, players no longer have access to all trait slots at all times. Instead of slotting 3 traits into each of 5 lines, players now have trait points to spend on trait lines. At max level a player will have a total of 70 points to distribute among their trait lines. Each trait line maxes out at 30 points, meaning that you can choose to max out 2 trait lines and dabble into another with 10 points, or you can max one and get two to 20 points, or any combination in between. Perhaps not coincidentally, this is very close to the attribute spreads possible in GW1- 12/12/3 or 12/9/9. Further, you unlock trait slots based on how many points you have in a line. Every 5-point-mark (5/15/25) you get a minor trait, and every 10 (10/20/30) you get a major trait slot. Unlike the previous model, minor traits are static and you don’t have any control over them aside from choosing which trees you specialize in. However, at max ranks, one trait line will have three major traits in it chosen in any order that you want. Here’s a newer picture of the trait system:
As you can see in this picture, there is yet another added element to this equation. Each trait line is associated with two static bonuses to your character in addition to the traits you unlock. Every point you put into one line translates directly into some bonus amount of two stats. These stats include but are not limited to: vitality, toughness, crit damage, condition duration, boon durations, and others.
This system is actually way more complex, and it also offers a lot more distinct build paths. The fact that you can diversify or focus where you could not before makes this system much deeper and allows you to focus on what you really want rather than be stuck with traits you didn’t care about. The biggest downside I see here is that this system largely eschews the ability to tailor specific skills to behave differently. Gone are the traits that make one skill recharge much faster or make another become ranged instead of melee (though that one is sort of still around, but stronger). In this way, two characters of the same profession with the same weapons will have basically the exact same skill sets, but to be fair their traits will potentially set them apart even more than before.
Is this iteration an improvement?
Overall, I would have to say yes. This system allows you to really focus on one or two build styles without the excess baggage of “wasted” traits that someone else might be using. It also takes away the “boring” traits that just added to an attribute because they are automatically factored into the system. Even beyond that, many of the bonuses transcend one specific weapon because they give bonuses based on situations or concepts (like conditions and positioning). Just looking at the traits on some of the professions got my mind reeling with what kinds of combinations synergize more with one another and which ones did not.
My biggest beef is that certain trait lines have minor traits that are obviously geared toward one set of skills but have some major traits that have unique effects but don’t necessarily mesh with the minor traits. A perfect example of this is with the Death Magic trait line. All three minor traits revolve around minions, which is understandable given the name. Several of the major traits though do really neat things with marks. You can improve the area effect of marks as well as increase their casting speed (faster casting). So… if you want to focus on marks and not minions, which seems like it would be perfectly legitimate strategy, you have to waste three traits that would have otherwise benefit someone with the same investment. It seems like investing in marks is just a waste because you won’t be using the minion traits and you sacrifice the better minion major traits that synergize with the minor traits to start with. Similarly, the weapons have been pre-determined which attribute they belong to, and often that isn’t particularly logical IMO. For example, Spite traits can give bonuses to axe and focus skills whereas Curse traits give bonuses to scepters and warhorns. In my view this is kind of backwards; axes and warhorns tend to fit together more thematically with their playstyles, as do scepters and focuses, but for some reason they are at cross-trait-lines. Others however are paired together “logically”, so using that appears to be more effective but for no real reason other than that’s how it was pre-defined. This was not an issue in the old system, and I don’t really like that aspect. Regardless, there are a lot of traits to choose from, so you can totally just not even invest in the weapon-specific skills and still end up fine.
Let’s take a look at some specifics now. Consider that you can only max out two trait lines at one time. Let’s say that you want to beef up your Death Shroud as a Necro so that when you use it you become a force to be reckoned with rather than a survival tool. This means you should max out Soul Reaping because it’s primarily all about Death Shroud. Now you have the choice of the following traits:
|Soul Reaping||Minor||Adept||Gluttony||Life Force fills faster|
|Master||Last Gasp||Gain spectral armor at 25% health (60 second cooldown)|
|Grandmaster||Strength of Undeath||Gain more power based on how much Lifeforce you have, up to +100|
|Major||Speed of Shadows||Move faster while in deathshroud|
|Foot in the Grave||Gain stability while in deathshroud|
|Unyielding Blast||Life Blast pierces|
|Near to Death||Death Shroud cooldown is reduced by 50%|
|Reaper’s Blast||Life Blast does more damage|
|Path of Midnight||Dark Path recharges 25% faster|
|Master of Terror||Fear you cause lasts 50% longer|
|Vital Persistence||Life Force drains slower while in Deathshroud|
Make Death Shroud last longer, move faster, become unable to be knocked down, recharge your teleport-blind faster, make fear last longer… pick 3. That’s already tough, but in the good way. Where it gets really tricky though is what to spend your other 30 points to max. Do you want to make yourself harder to kill by buffing your vamping, thereby allowing you to gather more life force? Look at Blood Magic:
|Blood Magic||Minor||Adept||Vampiric Precision||You steal life when ever you critical|
|Master||Deathly Invigoration||Area heal when you leave Death Shroud|
|Grandmaster||Blood to Power||+90 Power while health is above 50%|
|Major||Vampiric Rituals||Your Wells also steal life|
|Focused Rituals||Wells become ground targeted|
|Vampiric Master||Minions steal life and transfer it to you|
|Ritual of Life||You create a well of blood when ever you resurrect an ally|
|Transfusion||Life Transfer heals nearby allies|
|Bloodthirst||Life steals are more effective|
|Dagger Mastery||15% reduced dagger cooldown|
|Quickening Thirst||Move faster while wielding a dagger|
So these traits will make you harder to kill, give you more damage, and make your Death Shroud heal. Good picks… but what if you would rather buff Death Shroud even more? Take a look at Spite:
|Spite||Minor||Adept||Parasitic Bond||You gain life when ever you kill something|
|Master||Death into Life||Power is converted into Healing|
|Grandmaster||Siphoned Power||+90 Power under 25% health|
|Major||Axe Training||Extra damage with Axe skills|
|Signet Power||Each non-recharging signet adds attack power|
|Death’s Embrace||Deal more damage while downed|
|Spiteful Talisman||Increased Focus range|
|Chill of Death||Cast Chilblains at 25% health|
|Spiteful Spirit||Gain Retaliation when entering deathshroud|
|Death Shiver||Apply spinal shivers to enemies near you when entering deathshroud|
So, now you can gain Retaliation and apply Spinal Shivers when you enter Death Shroud as well as buffing your power up with the minor traits. Obviously investing in Spite or Blood Magic will give very very different outcomes, but both look very viable, and even within those investments you make a lot of choices. That’s not even taking into account the possibility that you could instead invest in something to diversify rather than enhance your Death Shroud. Sooooo many options, it feels like GW1 all over again, but in a great way. Oh, and that’s not even counting the passive attribute bonuses you get for investing in one tree over another. For the record that would be +300 Healing and Vitality (Blood) vs +30% Condition Duration and +300 Power (Spite). Again, really big difference. Is your head hurting? Mine is, and it hurts so good~
Overall, I’m pretty impressed with the new trait system. It provides a far more GW1-esque feel for building. There is much more depth of customization with very meaningful choices, and that can only be a good thing. It personalizes your character, it makes you able to hone a role, and it adds huge layers of strategy. Are all of the new traits balanced among one another? I actually don’t quite think so, but that’s something for the devs to work out later. Those problems are numerical rather than systemic, and that’s the good kind of imbalance because it’s easier to fix. Their biggest challenge will be ensuring that all professions have an adequately interesting set of choices and that nobody is just stuck with “do more damage” style traits.