I'm going to save time and make a little preface here. Cologne was hot. Way too hot. For anyone whom I met with, for example ArenaNets lovely Crystin Cox, I apologize for being sweaty and generally cranky about the heat.
For everyone else, the aforementioned Crystin Cox was kind enough to overlook my myriad failings and talk to us about Guild Wars 2 : Heart of Thorns and the masteries system we can look forward to.
On Silent Wings
Anyone who played the Beta weekend this past weekend will almost certainly have earned enough progression on the new mastery system to at least try out the gliding system. The presentation in Cologne and the beta weekend both had the same panel for the masteries, only we were lucky enough to have a Dev with sneaky dev build cheats for unlocking all of the progression possible at the moment.
What can we look forward to in the heart of the Maguuma jungle? Well they've said on record the thing I have been thinking myself for a long time, there's definite Metroid influence here. The new system operates in a way to maximize the replay potential of the various zones coming. First time gliders will have a little bit of gliding time and that will let them get to interesting places.
People who have really maxed out gliding? How about gliding while stealthed so sharpshooters can't clip your wings in a lethal fashion? How about diving into ley lines for rapid travel to another point? Gliding is strictly a jungle operation for the moment. Tyria herself wasn't designed with this amount of verticality in mind so there'll be no BASE jumping from the Shiverpeaks with the new release.
If anyone played in the Revenant only beta, there has been a little bit of tidying done on the lines as I couldn't find the Mushrooms anywhere. Mushroom jumping and all things fungus are now in Itzel Mastery. Between the two travel systems, jumping higher and further than before as well as gliding, there will be many paths that people fresh into the jungle just cannot take, not until they train up.
Naturally no presentation on the new modes of travel would be done without something very Guild Wars 2. After all if you have a new gliding system, why not apply it to a "jumping" puzzle? Updraft puzzles will exist in the jungle, challenging players to manage their flight carefully to get from air column to air column and eventually on to hard to reach places.
Samus would have to get her bomb jump before she could go certain places and this is no different.
Don't Talk To Frogs About Tongues
There are two new races coming in Heart of Thorns that have mastery lines for people to well... master. We've already seen the tree frog inspired Itzel and their affinity for mushrooms, but there will also be the more bullfrog like Nuhoch. The two races will have languages to learn which in turn will give people more options both in terms of lore and in access to NPC stores. After all if you can speak the tongue, they'll be more inclined to be friendly to you.
It's not all language barriers of course. Where the Itzel teach you about jumping mushrooms, speed mushrooms and skill refresh mushrooms... why do I know they'll only show up in terribly unpleasant areas...
Sorry. The Nuhoch will teach players about two important things. The first is yet another means of getting around if bouncing high or gliding far weren't enough. There are Nuhoch tunnels running around on the jungle floor to help people get around. Where there are tunnels though, there are pests. The Nuhoch can teach you all about the Chak, insectoid foes from the forest floor who really like to goop enemies. The more sticky blue goop they get on you, the slower you move until you get entirely encased. Anyone who hasn't learned the lore will have to punch their way out of their sticky setting prison. Players with the investment in time and mastery points however will be able to use their heal skills to clean off the goop and get away. There will be other uses of course for Chak and the lore, but you'll have to ask a Bullfrog about them.
Back To Basics
While I personally was excited to hear about the Legendary Precursor crafting mastery line, it was overshadowed slightly by something else in my opinion. Legendaries first.
Legendaries as poor idiots like myself know are works of serious investment in time and materials, to say nothing of gold. The greatest hang up though has always been the Precursor weapon. I myself need the Leaf of Kudzu to finish off my legendary bow. In the current game, I am at the mercies of grinding and the Dice God. Either I'll make enough money to go to the market for my precursor or in an even more unlikely situation, it will finally drop. In the Heart of Thorns, players can follow mastery lines that will have them performing certain tasks and gathering certain materials which will eventually lead to an untradable precursor that players can use to finally forge that legendary they always wanted.
Of course there's another option... there will be new legendary weapons that we haven't seen yet. There will be the option to go one further step on the mastery journey and turn that precursor into one of the new legendaries. We'll have to wait and see what they look like.
With that out of the way, lets talk about the other mastery line in Tyria. Some players may have enough scrolls and other items lurking in their banks to autolevel their new baby Revenants (or other options, clearly Engineers are the best and everyone should have one) up to 80 in a shot. For anyone who has to slog it the old fashioned way, the mastery line will give higher level characters who play in Tyria the ability to assist lower down friends to an even greater degree than before. Effects for example include removing some of the armor damage from being defeated when resurrecting an unlucky soul as well as a faster resurrection speed when dealing with someone lower level than you. There will be both added incentive and ability for higher level players to assist their lower level kin and get everyone up to speed before heading out to fight Mordremoth.
Crystin Cox was, as I said, an absolute delight and patient in taking us through all the mastery particulars coming to us later this year. Before I left though I had to ask, after all Engineer players are as amazing as we are humble. Could she tell me what the specialization would be? Would she spill the beans?
Sadly for me and thankfully for her job, she didn't. As a result I can only assume the rumors are true and the Engineer specialization is the Happy Fun Ball.