World of Warcraft Dragonflight's reveal yesterday promised many features myself and other community members have been clamoring to get for years. Even if we ignore that the game's cross-faction update was announced a while ago, we also got a first look at an adorable playable race of humanoid dragons called the Dracthyr.
To add even more excitement to this upcoming expansion, Blizzard is promising the return of a key feature that was removed from the game during Mists of Pandaria in 2012: in-depth talent trees.
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Dragonflight's return to talent trees
Back in the days of Vanilla WoW, talent trees offered an in-depth combination of passive bonuses and active abilities to spice up gameplay. Unlike modern versions of the game, players didn't select a specialization by choosing between one of three subclasses. Instead, they were presented with three skill trees and had the opportunity to select talent points within any of those trees through a semi-linear path with branching options.
Keep in mind, the image above represents what these trees looked like back in the days of Vanilla WoW. This was prior to all the additions made to each class. Blizzard has had 18 years since then to continue iterating upon each specialization and make this skill tree even more robust, which they kept up with through Cataclysm.
But ever since Mists of Pandaria, the image above represents the general structure of the talent tree. Rather than awarding a talent point at every level, it was happening every 15 levels (until Shadowlands' level-squish brought this down to reasonable 5 level gaps). The goal of this change was to make the selection of each talent feel more impactful, and to not overwhelm new players with too many little skills to micromanage at once. It's also a nightmare to balance classes when giving them so many little choices.
Truthfully, the removal of this feature has been something I've hated for a decade. The ability to go in-depth with customizing my character's passive stats and multi-spec out into different categories always made me feel more attached to my class. It's no secret that World of Warcraft has been aiming to simplify the game over the years, but this change was something I never appreciated.
After 10 years of waiting, Dragonflight is finally taking a step back toward these talent trees. As seen in the image above, a Restoration Druid has access to a plethora of different special abilities and passive modifiers that will allow them to modify their class in detail. However, the key difference between this new iteration of talent trees and old-school WoW's approach is that players will still have to select their specialization.
Instead of having all three specialization trees available to a class, players will get access to a unique set of talents that adheres to the specialization they select. Every Druid has the Druid Talent Tree, but only once Restoration is selected will you be able to see that unique list of talents. This is a great way to imbue in-depth class customization within players without making them feel locked to one, rigid tree.
Blizzard Entertainment also made it clear that this change was a way to counteract the past three expansions introducing a new class-based progression before stripping it away from the player by the next. Legions' awesome Artifact weapons, Battle for Azeroth's Heart of Azeroth system, and Shadowlands' Covenant Bonds gave players deeper ways to customize their class, but two years after each expansion, these elements were made redundant. Players are sick of having their progression taken away, so the return of in-depth talent trees could be exactly what we need to retain our class-depth.
However, we still have no confirmation that these talent trees will stick around. We can only hope that Blizzard will continue to iterate upon them with every expansion, but we ultimately don't know for sure until it happens.
After all, back in Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard would continue expanding these trees with every expansion but they were ultimately stripped when Mists of Pandaria launched. It's possible that this will happen again in the next eight years, so lets enjoy it while it lasts.