If you haven’t read our Overview of Guild Wars 2 and our breakdown of the Classes and Races of Guild Wars 2, you’ll need to do so before you can understand what’s in this detailed look at skills and traits in the game.
We’re just days away from the official release of this game – two days if you’ve purchased a pre-release copy, five days if you haven’t. Of course, if you’ve bought the Killer Guide to the game, then much of this information is already in your hands.
At every ding point (the first is level 5, the next is level 11), your character in GW2 will gain a skill point. A big red exclamation point will alert you, so don’t worry if you don’t know every level that you gain a skill – the game makes sure you know that you have points to allocate. You also gain skill points when you complete specific quests or tasks in the game, which appear on the map as little teal (that’s a fancy way of saying “not quite blue, but still blue”) chevrons. If you’re familiar with renown hearts and vistas, these are similar.
There are several in the game and they are generally level-appropriate for the zone that they’re in or the time they become available to you. They range in difficulty from requiring you to drink something (easy.. usually) to communing with a place of power (harder) or defeating a specific NPC (difficult).
Each of these challenges only appears once. From then on, if you go back to attempt to kill the NPC again or drink from the filthy mug on the innkeeper’s counter top, it won’t do you any good.
Once a skill point is earned or gained, the exclamation icon appears in your UI and on your hero panel’s Traits & Skills tab. Clicking on the icon will open that tab and a list of unspent points will be shown. There are three choices for points:
For now, we’re going to be concerned with the first two. We’ll get into Traits in a moment.
Weapon skills are pretty straight forward. These are the skills you can use to learn or become better with specific weapons or weapon types. What is listed with depend on your current path in the game (profession) and some will remain locked until you are of appropriate level to have them. Basically, you unlock the skill slots by leveling and activate them by assigning skill points to them.
This is also true of Utility skills. Healing opens right off the bat, then more slots open at 5, 10, 20, and so forth. At level 30, you can begin using Elite skills.
Unlike Weapon skills, Utility skills are in tiers. Each of the three tiers requires that the previous tier have enough skills filled in in order to advance. So you’ll need five first-tier skills in order to get a second-tier and five of those to get to the third.
Elite skills only have two tiers and fewer requirements to get from one to the next. The only exception to the tier list are healing skills, which merely compound on one another as you gain them. This is because healing is available to all professions and is thus separated from the other skills.
So… if this isn’t confusing enough, you still don’t get a skill just because you assigned a skill point to it. Some skills require multiple skill points and will have a little number next to them indicating how many more are required. In the above graphic, you can see this illustrated by the three blackened skills that have a 1 and an up-arrow next to them. The center skill has a red X as well, indicating that it can’t be learned yet. These skills can have points assigned to them, but won’t be available until you are of appropriate level.
Trait points are gained exclusively by leveling. Your first appears at level 11 and then you get one per level after that until level 80, at which point you’ll have 70 trait points. Hopefully assigned trait points.
In your Hero Panel you’ll see the trait tab, which has five slotted rows of trait lines. Each row has a big white number on it indicating how many points have been given to that line of traits. Two symbols next to that indicate what the trait line affects and how much. Most of these are self-explanatory, but you can hover over them for a quick description. Crossed swords, for example, are combat and a “+15%” means your traits have added fifteen percent to your combat rolls.
Every five points invested in a trait line adds a Trait Perk and you can put in up to 30 points per line. So at max level, a character could have two filled trait lines and another 1/3 of the way done (70 points total). Most will likely have only one maxed out and others with differing levels of investment, depending on play style and your strategy with the toon.
Making this even more complicated, though, are the trait tables. When 5, 15, and 25 points have been allocated, predetermined minor traits are gained. At 10, 20, and 30, however, major traits can be chosen from a table unique to each trait line. Once you’ve unlocked all three major traits in a line, you have accessed all 12 traits in that line.
Profession trainers can unlock your allocated points so you can move them around if you don’t like where your choices are going.
Traits and skills are extremely important to game play in GW2. The above descriptions are probably pretty confusing to you unless you can open up your game and look. There’s really no simple way to explain them without breaking copyright laws posting a lot of screen captures.
Still, once you can see them, the above descriptions of how they work should make sense. But once you know that, how do you strategize your best options for them?
Weapons are largely predetermined by the profession chosen, so the real money is in the Utility and Trait options. Your play style and plans will have a lot to do with how you allocate points here.
Generalists and those who often solo will want to focus on spreading their points around to balance their abilities so they can be adept in most situations, but not excel in any specific one. For most professions, this means evenly distributing points, probably starting with damage dealing at low levels and then adding in healing and protection next.
Other players may wish to specialize. A Warrior, for example, could focus on damage and leave healing and protection to others. Or perhaps you’d like to focus on tanking most of the time, so you’d put most of your points into damage avoidance and health.
Although GW2 doesn’t have the Holy Trinity of play types like other MMOs, players do still tend to end up in one of those roles as a natural consequence of play style. Some are toe-to-toe fighters, so protection is important, while others are bouncing ninjas, so damage is best. Still others hang back and don’t engage directly, focusing on healing instead. Your style will decide how you allocate points more than anything else will.
The Unnoficial Killer Guide to Guild Wars 2 has much more detail on how each specific profession and play style can build a strategy for point allocations.