SW:TOR Advanced Classes… WoW Talent Specs?

The internet has been a-buzz with talk about Star Wars: The Old Republic’s newly announced Advanced Class system. It looks neat, in a lot of ways, but I guess I’m a little disappointed. The system looks like a carbon copy of WoW’s talent trees, without the third option.

Here’s a look at the comparison my mind drew right after seeing the picture on Bioware’s website.

Visual similarities aside, maybe I’m being a little unfair here. I mean, there’s really no problem with WoW’s talent system. Actually, it’s pretty great. So, who can really blame Bioware for taking Blizzard’s system and building on it? It’s not like WoW’s innocent of that crime.

It also looks like they’re making it their own. Have a look at the full image from their site.

Here, we see an example of a the two advanced class paths a Sith Warrior might choose. From the way that their website reads, it sounds like one’s tanking and the other is DPS. What’s interesting here, is their choice of verbiage. Each one of the trees is referred to as a “skill set.” I don’t know about you, but when I think about “skills” I think of abilities to add to my hotbar. You train skills. You equip skills. You use skills.

Now, that’s not to say that I think every one of the talents TOR will have you speccing into will expand your hotbar. They even say that some might give you the ability to expand upon the armor and weapons you’re able to use. Still, we know very little about how your character acquires new skills. This system could be it.

They’re also breaking from WoW in that each class, no matter which advanced route you specialize in, will share one skill set. It’s not pictured in the image they’ve provided. Could it be below, leading us to assume that you must first complete one of the trees above? Or, is it simply on another tab and represent basic skills like those you begin with?

That’s an important distinction because it will decide whether they’re building upon WoW’s exceptional system or dumbing it down by removing the third path.

A lot of people like to cry “WoW clone!” when we see things like this pop up. Look at Alganon. They’ve rebuilt the game to avoid that label. But, I’m here to say that I don’t think copying is always a bad thing.

In my opinion, there’s a big difference between simulating WoW’s art style (an arbitrary factor) and incorporating its best systems. That’s the difference between being derivative and shamelessly trying to look like something you’re not. I’m reminded of the term “poser” teenagers and rock stars so often get labeled with. If you’re not WoW, don’t try to fool people into thinking you are. At that point, playing your game is like getting smacked upside the face with a wet fish.

WoW’s talent spec system is a good system. It’s also open enough where Bioware could simulate its function and customize it so completely that it works totally different from Blizzard’s. I enjoy creating my build in WoW and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it in TOR too, but I can’t say the same for many of the other AAA MMOs I’ve played.

Before you become disheartened by the fact that this doesn’t look like anything new and exciting, ask yourself how well you think it works. Advanced Classes and talent specs give us a means to continually tweak and perfect our characters; it is a means to a theorycrafting end. That, my friends, is a means towards depth of character– even if you play the Dark Side.

In closing, let’s remember how WoW got big in the first place. They assessed the market, took what worked, scrapped what didn’t, and built upon it. That’s what it looks like TOR is trying to do, and, if they succeed, the market will be better for it.

Happy Monday, folks!

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