One of the big announcements at BlizzCon 2011 was a talent system overhaul coming in the World of Warcraft expansion: Mist of Pandaria . The WoW talent system overhaul is so big that it is barely recognizable compared to the existing talent system and was referred to by Blizzard as Talent System 2.0.
Blizzard stated that over time they have become less happy with the existing talent system than they were at the start. They felt that it did not offer many real choices in how to spend points, since to get the most out of a talent tree you needed to spend most of your points in a certain way. Their design goal for redoing the talent system was to make a new system that allowed players to make real meaningful choices as to how they wanted to play while still allowing all talents to be valid, useful, and fun.
To do this they moved many of the talent based abilities that were key to a specific spec and build out of the talent system and instead will just give it to that spec. Also many talent abilities that were fun and interesting, but limited to a specific spec are now available to all specs.
How Does the Talent System Overhaul Work?
Looking at the new talent system overhaul you will see that it can no longer really be called a talent tree at all. It is a list of tiers that each has 3 talents, that you get to pick from.
Your character will gain access to a new talent tier every 15 levels. This means you get a talent at levels 15, 30, 45, 60, 75, and 90. As you can probably see, this also means that you only gain 6 talents by level 90 instead of the current 41 at level 85.
Each time you gain a talent you can pick one of the three talents at the current tier that you just earned access too. Thats right, no going back and picking a lower level talent. This means every 15 levels you get to pick one of three talents, and there is no way to ever go back and get a second talent from that tier. You can of course re-spec and pick a different talent from each tier, but you will only ever have 1 from each tier and 6 in total.
Blizzard has also stated that each of the three talents at each level will do the same type of thing but in different ways. For example a tier could be about AOE, or CC, or Healing, or mana regen, or any number of other things. Their goal is to give interesting choices on how you do something in a few different ways to fit different play styles and goals.
Lastly, Blizzard also stated that talents will be able to be changed on the fly in a method similar to the way glyphs can be changed. This means that you will likely be able to change you talents between fights if you really need a different talent for some reason and really feel it is worth it. So far we know that you wont be able to do change talents while in combat, and there may be other restrictions as well. All these items and the exact method of changing talents is still under discussion.
Does the New Talent System Overhaul Really Provide More Choice?
This is a tricky question, since at first glance it seems like fewer choices (only 6) are available for players. However when you look at it closely I believe you actually end up with about the same, and the choices you can make are more important in the new Talent System. Follow my logic for a minute here
With the Cataclysm system sure you had 41 talent points to use, but really you didnt have much choice with how they were spent. To start with you had to put 31 points into your main talent tree before you could put any of them anywhere else. In addition the 31 points really had to be spent in a specific way if you wanted to be at all competitive, and most builds only had 2 or 3 points that you could realistically move around. Even aside from that most talents required 2-3 points in them to fully gain the talent, so 31 points really only means roughly 13-16 talents for most builds.
With the new talent system you appear to have valid choices that mean a lot yet should not be automatic choices at any level. This means even though you only have 6 choices to make at maximum level, they are 6 meaningful choices that you can make based on your likes and play style without someone saying oh, that build is crap, you cant raid with us. That may still happen, but it looks like it should be significantly less often than currently.
Additionally, the new talent system doesn't limit choice to specialization. The fun, powerful, and interesting talents that were once locked into one specialization can now be used by anyone, as long as they meet the level requirement. For example previously only Retribution Paladins could get Repentance and therefore only they could provide CC in a group. However Repentance is now a 2nd tier talent for all Paladins, therefore a Holy or Protection Paladin could also choose to take it if they felt they needed to be able to provide CC in a group.
As you can see from the new Paladin Talents above, there are a lot of interesting choices at each and every level, and no single ability just screams "Must Have". They appear to be real choices based on preferance.
The Messiahs take on the new Mists of Pandaria Talent System
I have some mixed feelings on the new system, but I think that might be because it is vastly different from the old system. I would like to think that smart players had an advantage with a complicated system with more points to spend (and to miss-spend) over the less attentive player. However, over time that has proved to be false on the talent build front, as pretty much everyone just looks up best classX specX build and copies it onto their character and goes merrily on their way.
Therefore the spec stopped mattering a while ago as a way to distinguish players. Their ability with that spec is a whole other matter and very easy to see a difference from a hardcore to casual player.
This new system at first glance offers some really exciting opportunities to players to match their build to their play style and play method. For example, while tanking in 5 player instances I often wish that I had a CC as a Paladin tank, because few of the friends I play with have CC. The new system allows me to do just that, without giving up much in other areas. I see lots of opportunities for players to get abilities that would work well for them, that are interesting and fun, but not necessarily game breakers.
While I will really miss the fun of picking talents every few levels, and trying to figure out a new talent tree for myself, I believe this new system may be significantly better for players in the long run. We will just have to wait and see for sure though, as it is still a long way from being finalized.
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