As the dust settles

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As the dust finally settles on the first season of the living world, we had an extremely brief epilogue to tie things up in the form of Aftermath. We found ourselves back in the Dead End Bar for a quick chat with our friends of these past 15 months. The dialogue between the characters wasn’t great, apart from Taimi, of course, but it did the job. We also had a proper introduction to Majory’s big sister, the Seraph Belinda Delaqua, and learned that she’s soon headed to Brisban Wildlands, the same part of the world that we now believe to be the home of the newly awakened Mordremoth. Season two, here we come…

I was left feeling a little disheartened after the epilogue. We knew that there was a quality–of–life patch on the horizon, but there were no specifics, until ArenaNet were kind enough to bombard us with a packed schedule of new information about what we now know is a huge feature pack coming on April 15. New blog posts are going up almost daily to uncover changes and improvements, and have so far covered a major rework of traits, and the feature that is pretty much at the top of everyone’s wishlist: a wardrobe!

The Charr, the Blood Witch and the Wardrobe

Oh yes, my friends, it’s actually happening. Go and read the announcement and the follow–up FAQ right away, if you haven’t done so already. I don’t need to go on about any of the details, but it’s safe to say that the new wardrobe is something that will completely change the way I play the game. Dyes are going account–bound to boot.

Those little faded icons showing me what I don’t have unlocked yet will encourage me to go out in the world to collect every possible skin I can. I’ll run dungeons to unlock sets now that I only need to do so once. I’ll finish levelling all of the crafting skills to unlock those skins. I’ll actually talk to karma vendors and heart vendors when I level up alts in the hope that they’ll have some cool skin that I don’t have yet. All of it. Heck, I might finally even go for a legendary weapon. Please donate all T6 materials to… ehhh, I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Come back!

Just knowing that the wardrobe is coming soon already has me looking at armor and weapons that I have on a character and suddenly remembering that soon I’ll be able to use it on all of my characters. Cue wave of excitement and joy. Any skins unlocked in the PvP locker will also now be available in PvE, which is great for those of us who got lucky with PvP skins from achievement chests.

Town clothes are going away as a separate switchable set and will now be able to be used in combat, with a limitation being that outfits will become a single item slot, stopping people from picking and choosing individual parts to customise their appearance. This doesn’t affect me much because I’ve never given town clothes much thought, but it is concerning for people who do. I think that this is probably something that we’ll just have to live with, although it sounds like we’re going to be getting information soon about crafting town clothes, which might go some way to bringing back the mix and match approach.

The one thing that I’m still keen to learn about is how we’ll go about gaining the transmutation charges that power the new wardrobe. We know that we’ll be able to convert the current transmutation stones, crystals and splitters into charges, but what about after that? Will we still get these items and need to convert them? Will we start getting charges as a daily/monthly reward? While ArenaNet obviously need to keep character aesthetics as a source of income, I’m hopeful that giving us the wardrobe is a step towards making the customisation of our characters less painful. If so, having transmutation charges tightly controlled or hard to acquire without spending lots of cash or gold would be less than ideal.

Easier traits

The simplified trait system looks good, with the biggest changes being the number of points gained, when you get them, how major traits are unlocked, and that we’re now able to retrait for free any time that we’re out of combat. There will also be a new grandmaster trait for every trait line of every profession.

We’ll now have a total of 14 points to spend at level 80, instead of 70 as we do now. Each point in the new system will be worth 5 in the old system. Pretty straightforward. The levels at which these points will be given to characters levelling up has been changed so that they feel more meaningful, but I’ll leave it to you to read about the specifics. I’m witholding judgement until I actually try it out, but what is being implemented seems like a good starting place.

You’ll no longer need to buy trait books to unlock the next tier of traits. Any characters created before April 15 will have all major traits unlocked and ready to select, but any new characters after that point will need to unlock them via trait guides: “You can find trait guides by completing specific content in the world, like story dungeons, minidungeons, WvW, personal story, specific bosses, and discovering certain areas on the world map”. For people who don’t want to do this, you’ll be able to spend a combination of gold and karma to buy the trait guides, but personally I’m really excited about being given another reason to get stuck into all of the various content that the game has to offer.

Finally, you’ll no longer need to visit a profession trainer to reset your traits. The reset button has made the trip over from sPvP and is now available for all, allowing traits to be reconfigured any time you’re out of combat. This is a fantastic change, and I’m happy that I’ll be able to play around with new builds out in the open world. This new system is going to make it much easier for players to switch their builds up, and would go hand–in–hand with the ability to save build templates, which hopefully we might see before the year is out.

The ability to change traits out of combat should open up lots of possibilities for optimising builds per–fight in dungeons, although without templates I’m probably going to need laminated build cards stuck to my monitor for each character so that I can do it quickly. Regardless, I’m looking forward to seeing how the top dungeon speed runners use this to their advantage to get even quicker. On the whole, anything that increases the scope for optimal (but not mandatory) playstyles is a good thing in what is a broadly casual MMO.

The new grandmaster traits are a bit of a mixed bag, but in every case I can see that the intention is to give players more choices when it comes to builds, and not necessarily to give players a new default best choice. Not all of the traits impress initially, but you guys are clever and I’m sure that it won’t be long before we see some really interesting builds coming out. Probably not condition Guardians though.

I’m putting off using up my last two character slots to level an Elementalist and Ranger after the feature pack is released so that I can get the full effect of the levelling changes, so should be able to speak about that more in the future. So far both the trait and wardrobe changes will encourage players to get back out into zones and explore, which can only be a good thing. It will be interesting to see if this becomes a common theme in the remaining feature pack announcements.