SW:TOR’s Talent System – Outdated Already?
As you may know, I’ve been avoiding the SW:TOR beta lately (and thus this entire post might be complete crap) but one thing I haven’t been able to avoid is reading a lot of information about the game. As much as I tried to resist, curiosity got the better of me and I started checking out the SW:TOR skill tree (aka talent) system to see if I could decide what class I wanted to play. Suffice to say, I was pretty shocked at how outdated, inflexible and unoriginal it was.
Praise for World of Warcraft is not something I dish out easily (or frequently) but I do hold Blizzard’s designers in high regard for their constant attempts to try and make the game more enjoyable, reflected through choice and personal decision, rather than mindlessly following pre-set configurations. The forthcoming revamp of the talent system in Mists of Pandaria is a perfect example of this. They’ve concluded, and rightly so, that traditional talent trees don’t work because you just end up with a bunch of ‘must have’ skills that everyone picks and then only a slight variation in everyone’s build after that. Being 2% better at swords than someone else is unnoticeable and, frankly, pointless.
So yeah, I’m all up for Blizzard’s new take on talents and look forward to making meaningful decisions rather than just filling out talent trees as another form of reward driven gamification. And it’s with that in mind that I feel slightly disheartened when I explore SW:TOR’s skill trees. Aside from having a class specialisation system (which is really just like the old class archetype system that games such as EQ2 employed and then ditched… but I digress) that you can’t change once you’ve picked anyway, the skill trees are incredibly similar in set up to WoW’s talent system. Y’know, the system that Blizzard are now abandoning.
Playing around with the Commando skill tree (one of the classes I’m thinking about playing at launch), for instance, reveals very little room for differentiating oneself from everyone else… kinda the entire point of any sort of talent system. Assuming I want to obtain the highest level skill in Gunnery, I spend 31 out of 41 points in the tree and end up with only six possible points unaccounted for. Essentially the only difference between my character and another of the same spec would be 6% aim, 2% endurance and a 30% Full Auto crit damage bonus. Wow, how exciting.
That was sarcasm, by the way.
Again, I haven’t played SW:TOR yet so maybe I’m entirely off the mark here but they do seem to have fallen into the same trap as oh so many other MMOs by copying existing mechanics from other games without really thinking about why they should exist in the first place. Talent systems shouldn’t be about having a slightly higher passive effectiveness in one skill area than another but about customising the way you play and differentiating yourself from everyone else.
I’m sure SW:TOR is great, it looks fun and no doubt I will enjoy it but I can’t help but feel that maybe Bioware should’ve funnelled some of the cash they spent on voice overs into game design instead.