Power Escalation In TSW
Posted by Player Versus Developer [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 January 2013, 8:52 pm
I'm currently about halfway through the Savage Coast zone in TSW, and I've had a bit more time to play around with the game's skill system.  One of the things that I find very interesting is how the developers try to expand your skill options as you gain more ability points without blowing the power curve out of the water. 

A key part of this plan is that higher end abilities tend not to do more damage/healing/etc.  Rather, they offer different and often more advanced secondary effects which might eventually add up to better performance if combined appropriately.  For example, sword-based finishers: 
  • Balanced Blade, the basic AOE attack that everyone gets to start with, does AOE damage around the player and then gives back some sword resources if any targets were impaired (a debuff that happens less frequently because it also blocks actions by the victim)
  • Five Petal Lotus, a mid-range ability does the same damage, but can center the attack anywhere the target happens to be, rather than just on the player
  • Clearing the Path (CTS), a few steps further down the tree, still does the same damage but also always counts as an armor-penetrating hit against targets that are afflicted with damage over time
CTS is more powerful in that you can combine it with one set of abilities that make all your enemies afflicted, and then use your passive skill slots to load up on benefits that trigger when you penetrate armor.  All the secondary effects do a lot for your survivability, and even some additional damage.  All of this is incidental to doing the same damage as your base entry level skill.

No Respecs - good or bad?
One other point that seems to annoy some players is the lack of a respec option.  There is no limit on how many ability points you can get (well, until you run out of abilities to buy), and there is no increase in the amount of exp required to get ability points.  (The high end abilities do cost more ability points, but higher difficulty content awards more exp.)  As a result, the claim is that there is no need to refund spent points, because you will always have that the abilities you unlocked available as future options (including passive abilities, some of which are beneficial even if you do not use the weapon you got them from). 

I was a player who would completely switch soul builds in Rift every few levels just to see what I could do with more soul points.  As such, this system does not bother me much - I'm more than halfway through unlocking all the basic "inner wheel" abilities for all of the weapons (even the ones I'm not using often), changing out my weapons as I go (I've stuck to blade and experimented with pistols, fist, blood, and now rifles).  Because of the relatively flat power curve, I don't think I'm suffering too badly from this - someone who power-burned straight to an optimal cookie cutter build may be objectively more powerful, and I do occasionally hit a wall (usually prompting a build swap) but in general I'm not having problems.

That said, I can also see how someone who picked a single pairing early and did not spend any points outside those two choices could end up frustrated at mid levels with no way to jump ship on a build that is no longer cutting it.  If you just straight up swap into two weapons you have never used before, you'd in principle have to go all the way back to newbie land to start repeating content - though it's probably faster to take a step down in difficulty and bank up enough points using your existing gear to get started with your new combo.  Then again, if you really dislike your current build that could get frustrating, especially if you are similarly disappointed with your second attempt.

Overall, I don't think it's a bad system because it offers an incentive - but not a requirement - to try different things (you can always buy abilities for weapons you never intend to use if you need a specific passive ability).  Increased options are a fun reward that is probably worth the price to me personally... but then I guess I like the system to begin with.  


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