Cataclysmic changes to the talent trees

I was going to rant about RealID but then this caught my eye:

Talent trees will have around 20 unique talents instead of today’s (roughly) 30 talents, and aesthetically will look a bit more like the original World of Warcraft talent trees. The 31-point talents will generally be the same as the 51-point talents we already had planned for Cataclysm. A lot of the boring or extremely specialized talents have been removed, but we don’t want to remove anything that’s going to affect spell/ability rotations. We want to keep overall damage, healing, and survivability roughly the same while providing a lot of the passive bonuses for free based on your specialization choice.

While leveling, you will get 1 talent point about every 2 levels (41 points total at level 85). Our goal is to alternate between gaining a new class spell or ability and gaining a talent point with each level. As another significant change, you will not be able to put points into a different talent tree until you have dedicated 31 talent points to your primary specialization. While leveling, this will be possible at 70. Picking a talent specialization should feel important. To that end, we want to make sure new players understand the significance of reaching the bottom of their specialization tree before gaining the option of spending points in the other trees. We intend to make sure dual-specialization and re-talenting function exactly as they do today so players do not feel locked into their specialization choice.

The full post can be found here.

My first reaction was one of negativity. Losing talent points seemed like a bad design until I had a think about how much garbage makes up the  Holy priest tree. As long as it’s the bad filler stuff that vanishes, this can only be a good thing. Take the current version of the priest talent tree as an illustration. All the first tier are basically things which could easily be built into the spec or given to the class across the board. 5 percent crit, anti-pushback for healing spells and a slightly larger renew, none of which are exciting or class defining. Yet if you were to spend points in all three of them, that would be 10 talent points gone.

Tier 2 isn’t much more better. We have 5 points to get 10 percent less spell damage taken and 5 points to knock 0.5 seconds off the cast time of various spells. Spell warding could be either knocked down to one point or combined with other PvP talents further down the tree. As for Divine Fury, again it could simply require less talent points or be removed as a talent all together. Would there be any harm in allowing all holy priests or even all priests to have a marginally faster casting smite for example? Probably not. Shadow priests wouldn’t use it and if Disc gets penance at lv 10, they probably wouldn’t use it much either.

Basically it’s tier 3 before we get any new abilities at all. Desperate Prayer and Inspiration are the first at all interesting points in the tree. Everything up to that point is utilitarian and frankly fairly dull. There is plenty of room for manoeuvre at the moment. For me, it all depends on what they remove and whether the bits and pieces we lose get baked into the talent tree or to the class as a whole.  I would much rather spend all my talent points in cool, fun stuff and I hope that’s what we get to do in the future.

However I don’t like the concept of having to spend 31 points in one tree. I can understand why Blizzard are implementing it, they don’t want people cherrypicking abilities from two trees but it relies on the whole of your primary tree being worth taking. For example for much of vanilla, the Priest cookie cutter build was something like 25/26. Not because that made us overpowered, but because it was the best of the dubious options available.

The initial talent tree selection unlocks active abilities that are core to the chosen role. Our goal is to choose abilities that let the specializations come into their own much earlier than was possible when a specialization-defining talent had to be buried deep enough that other talent trees couldn’t access them. For example, having Lava Lash and Dual-Wield right away lets an Enhancement shaman feel like an Enhancement shaman. Other role-defining examples of abilities players can now get for free at level 10 include Mortal Strike, Bloodthirst, Shield Slam, Mutilate, Shadow Step, Thunderstorm, Earth Shield, Water Elemental, and Penance.

My future Dwarf shaman is bouncing gleefully at the thought of thunderstorm at lv 10. Wonder if that means Holy Priests will get Circle of Healing at level 10? My cynical side says welcome to a world where you get the current version of Lightwell at lv 10 and have to spend around 20 talent points to make it at all usable. Although Ghostcrawler has made noises which suggests it won’t be Lightwell but I’m not going to get my hopes up just yet. So what  are Holy’s defining spells?

  • Circle of Healing
  • Lightwell
  • Spirit of Redemption
  • Guardian Spirit

None of which are particularly good for an ability you gain at lv 10. The other abilities Blizzard have mentioned are useful in all aspects of the game. Take Earth Shield, it helps you grind as a low level (pushback reduction and passive healing), it helps you heal dungeons and it helps you PvP. What does Holy have which fulfils a similar function? Well certainly none of the four “iconic” spells I covered earlier. After all one requires you to die, which isn’t particularly effective when solo, although it can be useful in low level dungeons and PvP. Lightwell lacks mobility and fails a bit in group content because the group usually refuse to use it. Guardian Spirit requires you or else to come close to death and circle of healing is only efficient when you are in a group. Desperate prayer perhaps but again, it’s hardly exciting or spec defining. One possible solution would be to use the chakra system if it makes it into the game as it would provide both a buff to healing and dps.

All the rest of the points in holy are pretty much modifiers to our existing spells. So as long as their effects are baked in as passives or merged with other points, I don’t see us missing out and hopefully we’ll gain something new and funky as well. Fingers crossed for a interesting Lightwell that’s actually worth using please. I’m definitely interested in seeing what they plan on giving holy priests, holy paladins and resto druids. Particularly paladins, my mind is kind of blank on that front, especially since they said that holy shock would be baseline for all specs.

I fully admit Blizzard are not my favourite people at the moment (RealID grrrr) but if they manage to get this working by the time Cataclysm ships, I’m potentially fairly excited (assuming I overcome my dislike of the way they are forcing us to choose between privacy or posting on the forums and actually buy the expansion). To me they are making all the right noises, wanting to get rid of all the five point talents and add the dull modifiers in as passives is a good thing. Whether they have left it a bit late to get right remains to be seen.


2 Responses

  1. I read about that, and I’m not quite sure what I feel about it yet. I guess I will hold out and see how it works out.

    A guildie/friend of mine is irritated because while he can see the logic behind it and that it might turn out just fine with him getting everything he wants.. he can’t get away from the feeling of being robbed of his points.

    I think the odd bit will be where we used to have more points at 80 and then suddenly the trees are smaller and we have less points.. and you will in fact have to level 5 levels to get back to where you were.

    As an example.. say you spec all the way down in Holy.. then you go into Disc and you get.. hmm.. imp inner fire and inner focus at 80.

    Since you will have less points you will no longer be able to spec as far down into your alt-tree as you did at 80 until you hit 85.. so you would lose inner focus and possibly the other talent you might be getting in there until you get the last 3 points back by the time you hit 85.

    So basically.. they’re taking something away for us.. and we have to level to get it back.

    I know the trees will look different, and the talents I mentioned may be obsolete.. but just trying to pain the picture I guess 🙂

  2. It all depends really on whether they shrink the trees properly to ensure people don’t feel they are missing out. Given their current track record for giving people that they want, this of course is a very big IF.

    But given they have said that improved mortal strike will just be baked into mortal strike as an example, I would expect improved inner fire to be standard if they follow that model across the board.

    Going to try to stay optimistic until I see the trees.

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