A Post-Mortem on the Cataclysm Talent Tree Post-Mortem

Updated Mon, Jun 20, 2011 by Messiah

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Roughly two weeks ago Ghostcrawler over at Blizzard posted a new discussion article on the Dev Watercooler blog talking about the Class Talent changes that were made when World of Warcraft: Cataclysm was released. Specifically, the post discussed what he and the other developers felt went well and poorly with the talent tree changes. Topics included the change to a 31 point talent tree, granting abilities key to that spec when chosen at level 10, being locked into a tree until you have spent 31 points, and more.

Like most of you I read the article and thought, “Huh, maybe they do actually consider the changes they make!” I thought it sort of tongue in cheek as I know they do consider things pretty closely, however, since then the topics discussed there keep percolating around in my mind. I keep thinking about what was said and the issues that it raises for me. I kept thinking, ok this is how the devs feel, but what about the rest of us?

Looking at the talent trees as they are now, what do I think of them as a player? What is positive and negative compared to the old systems? What would I change or suggest for the next major revision?

Being the soft spoken, calm, behind the scenes personality that I am, I would never be vocal about what was wrong… LOL, who am I kidding. None of those adjectives describe me even remotely. Of course I would spew my opinion on all these changes and make them known, and what follows is just that, my take on the Cataclysm Talent system.

If you have not yet read the original article by Ghostcrawler outlining Blizzard's take on the Cataclysm Talent Trees we have reposted it at the end of the article here: Calaclysm Talent Tree Port-Mortem.

Messiah’s List of Positive Aspects of the Cataclysm Talent Tree’s

Let’s start with the good things, meaning what’s better now with a 31 point talent tree, rather than the old WotLK 51 point talent trees.

Overall, I like the new 31 point trees, simply because they feel right. Maybe it is just because that is what I got used to since it all started that way in WoW with 31 point talent trees, but again that number just feels right. When it went to 41 points it seemed a bit stretched, and then when it went to 51 per tree it was just way too much. It was just way too many points and talents to work with to get to the final talent that you wanted in that tree.

Even at 31 points in a tree it still feels like there are some talents that are just filling space, but few enough that it's not a huge issue. When it was up at 51 points per tree, it felt like each talent gave so little that it was almost "why bother".  The leaner, meaner 31 point trees offer more substantial talents that make you feel like you are getting ahead with each point, at least for the most part.

Overall there are far fewer crappy talents in the new 31 point talent trees, and each talent there generally offers more benefit per talent point than the old 51 points trees did.

Tanking Build

A typical Paladin Tanking build, but one that shows how few points there are to play around with in other talent trees and how few talents are not used in the primary tree.

The smaller trees are also far easier to manage for new players to the game, class, or spec, as it offers a more condensed version of the larger trees that is easier to see the flow and interaction through.

A great step forward was that as soon as you pick a talent spec you gain many key abilities for that spec. This means that you can immediately start getting used to that spec’s core abilities and start playing as that spec. In the old days (WotLK and earlier) you would have to wait many levels to earn a lot of those abilities, sometimes almost until end game. Giving them out right away makes they specs play better right from the start.

Messiah’s List of Negative Aspects of the Cataclysm Talent Trees

There are also some negative things about the smaller talent trees that bug me, and others I am sure.

My biggest complaint is that, now that the trees are smaller, you need to spend 31 points in a tree before you are able to move onto spending points in another talent tree I feel really locked into that single tree. Sure you can get a few points into another talent tree late in the game, but not many.

This means that a lot of control for hybridization was taken away. Granted, as Blizzard states, hybrid builds rarely worked well, and were sub par in general, however many people did play around with them and had fun with them while leveling, goofing around, or for specific fights or situations. Even if they suck, we should have some freedom.

Next up, the way the trees are designed, there are very few options. Each tree has many KEY talents that no one intelligent is going to miss, and then a group of situational abilities aimed at either PVP, PVE, CC, Buffs or whatever. This means that if you are playing mainly PVP you don’t really have that many choices, there is essentially one build.

This is because the trees are locked down pretty damn tight right now per spec. Most players playing a spec have the same build with the difference being 2-3 points allocated differently in their main tree and a few in the alternates. That implies that there really are not many “choices” to be made, but rather an organized progression through the tree. Players are not choosing the talents, they are being forced to take certain ones.

Given all of the above, do we really have any choice left? Most talent trees have roughly 38 points that could be assigned into them. Since you have to spend 31, that leaves a measly 7 points that you do not have to spend in the tree. Really, just 7 points not taken in a tree? Considering you max at 41 talent points the max you ever have available to spend elsewhere is 10.

Continued on page 2 with suggested improvements to the talent system

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