The great thing about online games is that they’re always changing. The horrid thing about online games is that they’re always changing.
Part of the inevitable fate we assign ourselves to when we sign up to any kind of MMO is that things are unlikely to stay the same for very long. If not for the illusive spectre of balance which appears only briefly before claiming another victim, or for the promise of new content, or new levels, then for the fact that if it doesn’t change it’s rather boring. Right? Maybe. It’s a long standing point of speculation as to whether changes are actually harmful to your health and in some cases- given the reactions- they seem downright fatal.
But we’ll do something crazy- we’ll assume that they aren’t all bad.
Even though I’ve only been with Star Wars: The Old Republic for a short spell I’m faced with a rather exciting update in the next pre-expansion/post-expansion game update with the new Discipline system. Now, let’s clear the air here. I don’t pray to Pointsy the God of Skill Trees. I like them but they aren’t actually required for me to enjoy a game as long as what is in the place of them is fun enough.
Now World of Warcraft embarked upon a very similar journey with their pre-release patch for Mists of Pandaria by removing skill trees and implementing a talent system that promised “meaningful choices.” Personally I disliked the new system so much it eventually stopped me playing the game all together. If it wasn’t bad enough that they removed many of the unique benefits to classes, removed any need to go to a city pre-85, removed any reason to leave a city post-85, and removed a great deal of the levelling experience- they took my skill trees. I loved those trees! But I was optimistic. Until I saw the Paladin and Shaman specialisations and realised that most of the talents were worthless or very small utility that didn’t benefit you particularly well.
The Discipline system is… interesting. It provides a sort of visual class progression which offers powerful utility points at various levels to add a bit of extra spice to your class. You gain many of the skills you would have invested points into automatically, while the new utility skills are interesting extras, which allow you to invest points and not invest points in varying measure.
There’s a lot of discussion around the loss of hybrid-tree builds and it’s fairly obvious they won’t/can’t exist unless you don’t reach the level cap in just one tree with the full release.
However, having seen bits of this system, and piecing the rest together from forum posts, I am fairly optimistic. I don’t lament the loss of the skill points as really I don’t care much for them while levelling as I know roughly what each role needs and so I automatically glance over them and invest appropriately. This just means I’ll save a few mouse clicks but when I do need to click I’ll get something interesting for it. Most intriguing of this is that while utility skills have three tiers it’s not a case that you need to invest in all three. You can focus in just one area. Or all three. Or two. It’s up to you. Which is nice as there are likely to be a few utilities that you’re going to want and some that are just nice additions to your build. Not being restricted on how/where you get them is a positive point.
Not saying that there won’t be negative points. But hope springs eternal and all that.
Many successful adventures, all!