Since I don’t do photoshop and I don’t have a paid staff to make my blog look all pretty and professional, just imagine there’s a graphic at the top of the page of a Bear Druid standing upright, gazing with confusion at an open Talent Tree, with little question marks over their head. Okay? Thanks bunches.
Okay, now that that’s out of the way…
Coming back to World of Warcraft after the end of Legion feels a bit strange, as you can probably imagine. It’s been a while. Everyone else is 120.
Why are we here, anyway? Who’s the big bad of this episode?
Every other expansion has had a clear ‘sell’, a concept meant to get you pumped up and ready to claw that tree one more time. Fight the Burning Legion! Fight Deathwing! Fight Arthas! Fight the evil Warchief! Fight the ‘Mirror, Mirror’ evil goatee versions of the Horde! Fight the, er, um, Burning Legion again, but this time for sure!*
*That’s a Rocky and Bullwinkle joke, for those of you who are also ready for the nursing home. Ah yes, random access memory bear, it’s all coming back to me.
Anyhoo, what was I supposed to be pumped up for this time? Fighting the Horde (or the Alliance)? Um, wait, what? We put aside our differences and fought together to save all of existence from the Legion. We literally JUST proved the power of friendship. You want me to, what, go claw the face off of my fellow Druids just because they’re factionally challenged? Yeah, no, I think that would make things a bit awkward around the watering hole in the Druid Grove later.
You know, that bipartisan Druid Grove we all hang out in? Sure, YOU might call it a hippy commune, but just because we sit around a campfire smoking weed, drinking homemade wine, growing mushrooms, nurturing the surrounding wildlife and telling stories about what we did to protest the war against OMG we ARE a hippy commune.
I’m saying, just because Blizzard Ex Machina says our faction leaders did some evil crap doesn’t mean us war heroes with godlike power have to give in to their stupidity. I’m not above using a faction leader as a scratching post if they tell me to go commit some random atrocity to ‘get even’ with those mean old baddies that we trusted with our lives on the front lines last month. Sure, burning a tree is bad, but my buddy Druid JimmyJoe Hordebob didn’t do it. I should know, he was puff puff passing it on to me, bub. Wasn’t anywhere NEAR that dang ole tree. Want a shroom?
Okay, but expansion! New hotness! FUN!
Meh to Horde vs Alliance, but if Blizzard is true to form, we only THINK this is what the point of the expansion is and sooner or later a new patch will bring a real big bad earth shattering faction uniting challenge to get all up in arms about. So in the meantime, log in for the first time in a year and OH SHIT MY TALENTS WERE RESET.
MY TALENTS WERE RESET
—– The point of the post. Yes, it took 400 words to get to the point of the post.
Logging in after a long time away (remembering to update addons first, I’m not a total noob) and finding my Talents were reset is, well, a tragedy. Or a comedy. Comedy is tragedy happening to other people, right? So for you, the reader, this is a comedy, but for me, ugh.
A blank slate, a long list of Talent choices to make, and I’ve been away long enough that I’m looking for clues on my action bars as to what the HECK I used to have.
Hmm, that Talent icon looks like that icon on my action bar, what does that do. Hmm, I don’t know if that sounds like something I would have chosen. Aw, heck with it, what does Icy Veins say?
It’s exactly like seeing all of the Talent Tree choices for the very first time, evaluating each one on what the description implies it MIGHT do and then trying to figure out if I want it.
What’s that? Choose some Talents, test them out at the targeting dummies, mix them around and actually, like, TEST them to see what I like? You’re new here, aren’t you.
Never resort to sense what you can hyperbolize into a blog post.*
*I used hyperbolize in a sentence at work, and I watched as one of my coworkers, a boilerman, stopped, pulled out his phone and Googled it. Kinda made me sad. What IS my life, after all, if not a living tribute to the joys of hyperbole?
What I’m reminded of is, not all Talents are created equal. Or at least, equally exciting.
At their best, I love the Talent choices that add a new ability that synergizes off of a core ability.
I know I didn’t explain that right, so let me try again, this time using my words.
I like Talents that activate when you use a core ability, and do something to further personalize your chosen playstyle.
See, I like the idea of creating your own chain combos tailored to YOUR playstyle. Having a set of core abilities, and then other, choice driven abilities that can activate as a free option during a fight.
At the most basic, say, you get to choose between three options in the Talent tree to see what happens when you cast Judgment; a new ability triggers that does an AOE damage or effect, does a big single target strike or stun, or gives you an enhanced or instant-cast self or targetable heal.
Now, that was only an example. Being given a choice between AOE, single target damage, or support options aren’t really having a true choice. You’re going to feel driven to select what best enhances your assigned role in a raid or group environment. It’s a non-choice.
But you know what kind of Talents I mean. Passives and stuff are all fine, but they feel like a cop out to choose them. If you choose one they’ll just sit there in the background and do their thing no matter what you do. You don’t get to click a shiny new button, and I like shinies, dangit!
Or to put it another way, I like to have options that will change the way I play my character, change how I react to a given situation. If I have the option to choose a Talent that gives me defensive buffs that increase in strength if I’m surrounded, selecting that will change how I view a fight. I will start LOOKING for large groups to pull to get myself surrounded to take advantage of it. Wouldn’t you?
And THAT is exactly the kind of Talent I love. Something that, once you choose it, changes how you view your tactical approach to encounters, whether solo or in a group. It’s a choice that excites me, because you have to make a conscious effort to play differently to best take advantage of it.
I like to read the descriptions of the Talents, imagine the kind of playstyle and ability synergy you’d need to flow with to best take advantage of them, and make my decisions that way.
The only problem?
Talking to Cassie (my lovely Paladin wife) highlighted the issue perfectly.
She resubbed a week ago, ahead of me, and she tells me, “They reset my Talents, so I went to Icy Veins to find out what I’m supposed to take.”
That. That right there. Have you ever felt that pressure?
That feeling (or assumption) that there is a ‘right’ Talent to choose, and two wrong Talents that ain’t near as good.
If it’s true, do you ever wonder why there are two extra bad choices? Are they there because the designers had to fill out a tree?
Do you ever wonder if the developers honestly thought all three choices were equally valid, valuable and vital? Or do you think they secretly knew that one would be the ‘good’ one, and the others were, well, kind of meh?
In a world of gearscores and playtesting in a sandbox environment, someone will ALWAYS have a ‘approved’ Talent list. One reason I like Icy Veins is, the authors of their class and spec suggestions always make a point of only recommending some of the key Talents that have a direct impact on raiding or groups, and specify that the rest are flavor Talents you can feel free to enjoy as you like. I’ll choose what I like anyway, but you like that reassurance that you’re not going to have everyone that inspects you 0.2 milliseconds after joining a random group kicking you from the party for noob Talent choices.
But wouldn’t it be cool if with each set of choices, you got the feeling the designers brought their ‘A’ game and wanted to give you an actual hard choice with each tier of Talents. Where you’re having a hard time picking among three things you really want, rather than trying to pick the least bad of a group of three meh Talents? Or worse still, trying to pick the one Talent out of three choices in a tier that you might actually get some use out of.
I’m just coming back from being away and looking at it cold, so what do I know?
What do you think, having played the game to this point? Has Blizzard done a great job with your Talent choices? Do you have a favorite that actually stands out and means something great to you, the way old school Stampede did for Hunters when it came out?
Let me know in the comments, especially if there is a particular set of Talents you like to use as a Kitty Druid, Ret Paladin or BM Hunter. Not that, you know, I’m selfish and want advice on fun choices to try out or anything. Just because, uh, hey look at the time!