With Season 3 and the expansion there is an overhaul of the gear progression and acquisition systems.
- Expertise is being removed.
- Upgrading gear via umbral shards is gone.
- Gear score cap is now 700.
- Max level is now 65.
- Loot will now drop at an intended gear score and not require upgrading.
- Loot bias will now be applied; loot will match the type of gear you have equipped when looting in.
First, it is fan-freaking-tastic that expertise is being removed. It was a pointless grind gating players from using items they acquired or making items they acquire effectively useless because they were not yet high enough expertise to get end game drops. This also means no more having to run new players through content to get "expertise bumps".
In the place of expertise gear will simply drop at it's intended gear score level. Thus if you do the hardest of hard content you can expect gear to drop at or close to the new max score of 700. Progression in gear score will be based off acquiring better gear.
The only thing I worry about with this new model is how fast crafters will be able to start making 700 gear score items. Once crafters are making them then players will immediately be at 700 gear score. I expect well funded companies having crafters cranking out gear fairly quickly after launch. I hope this doesn't trivialize all the other methods to acquire gear. I love crafters having a role to play but not at the expense of everything else.
The last piece is "loot bias" whereby loot that drops will now be biased to be close to the gear you are currently wearing. Playing a tank? Expect tank drops. Play a healer? Expect healer drops. The developers did state for chest rewards that you can change your gear before opening the chests/caches to influence what will drop. So as a healer you could change to DPS gear before opening a series of chests to get DPS drops or vice versa a DPS could swap to healer gear to get healer drops. I am hopeful this will work as advertised because I play oddball builds and if I can get more rewards targeted more at that oddball build then it's a win!
Also a brief mention that the new level cap will be 65 and the extra 5 levels should go by fast. I am fine with this change but it will be locked to those that own the expansion so players that don't buy the expansion will be left behind. I hope AGS reconsiders that and lets everyone reach max level regardless of expansion ownership. New World is much closer to Guild Wars 2 than it is games like World of Warcraft; it doesn't make sense here to tie level ranges to expansions.