I feel a bit like a parrot at the moment, constantly talking about some new Cataclysm announcement that was already discussed elsewhere, but I guess I should be glad that interesting things are happening. Beats the lull any day.
The most recent revelation has been that Blizzard decided that they actually agreed with the feedback they got about the talent trees they released roughly a month ago, saying that they still contained too many passive and uninteresting filler talents. So they decided to start over completely and build an entirely new talent tree system based on the idea that players only get half as many talent points to begin with.
I for one am extremely pleased by this. The idea of halving the amount of available talent points was actually one that came up in the comments to the post I linked above and one that I considered a viable option myself, so... wow! It's a strange feeling to get pretty much exactly what I wanted. Plus I have to give Blizzard credit for still being willing to completely redo something if they don't think it works, even if it's already relatively late in the development cycle. I also have faith in them to get it right this time.
My only concerns about this new system are comparatively minor. The first one is simply one of balance. Judging from past experience, every expansion messes up class balance big time - that's something I'm used to - but completely revamping all talent trees from scratch has the potential to make this worse than ever. And I'm not just talking about PvP here, also about balance against the environment.
After all, our characters have become more and more powerful with every expansion as it is, and that includes the levelling experience. My newest low-level alt, a dwarf paladin, turned into a veritable killing machine the moment she learned Hand of Reckoning at level sixteen, as it can take nearly half the health off a same-level mob the very moment I pull (and that's without any heirlooms I'd like to point out). It's fun to be powerful, but there's a fine line between the fun of being powerful and the boredom of being overpowered. If they start to give out what used to be signature abilities hidden deep in the talent tree as early as level ten, I can only see this getting worse - unless they also decide to give all the outdoor mobs a healthy buff at the same time.
My other concern is about the fact that you'll be locked into a single tree until you've spent thirty-one points in it at level seventy. Mind you, I think that's a great change for new players, to guide them down the path of efficiency and correct specialisation right away instead of having them spend their points willy-nilly across all three trees as I'm sure many of us did when we were new and clueless. On the other hand it will also eliminate the option to experiment with hybrid specs that skip the top talent of their main tree. Mind you, most specs like that weren't really viable in WOTLK anyway, but there were some that had their uses. No more of that in Cataclysm.
There's also the issue of levelling talents to consider. For many classes it's currently beneficial to dip into a different talent tree than their main at least briefly early on, for example to improve mana regeneration. (Holy and discipline priests like to take spirit tap for example, and balance druids love their omen of clarity from the resto tree.) Hopefully Blizzard will make sure to compensate for this kind of thing across the board so people don't feel like they are missing out by being locked out of the other trees early on.
Other than that I'm really looking forward to this change. Hopefully it will make gaining and spending talent points more meaningful, as well as allow the different specs to come into their own much sooner than they do now. Yes, enhancement shamans, I'm cheering for you. And I'm looking forward to seeing what's in store for priests of course.
Innovation through core-shell design
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