30 More Days: Character Progression

This is part of a series in which I try to write a post every day on silly video game topics.  For the list of topics, click here.

TFG went a surprising direction, stealing my thunder, as it were, with her pick of Link.  Though, in full disclosure, that was never even really considered in my thoughts.

When I think of character progression, the very first thing that comes to mind is the talent system of World of Warcraft.  As with the case with many elements of WOW, the talent system was not an innovation, but rather a refinement of what had proceeded; Diablo II‘s skill trees, Dark Age of Camelot‘s point-a-level progression and even Everquest‘s AA system.  WOW did it well though, for the most part, balancing 3 trees across 9 classes with only a few terrible mistakes.diablo2

It’s hard to pick a progression system that I like the best.  WOW’s talents were easy to understand for the most part, the trees themselves clear in their focus (again, for the most part, not everything works the way a designer might think) and you knew for the most part, what you were getting and could easily reset your talents and try again if it didn’t work out the way you wanted to.

There are games on the other end of the spectrum, though – Anarchy Online infamously comes to mind with their convoluted IP system, though, once mastered, was a joy to abuse with buffs.  The Secret World (also by Funcom) has an open-ended, no-classes system where you build out decks of abilities, both active & passive.  Both are very complicated, though, and daunting to newbies.

So which is the best?  I think I’m going to return the favor (maybe it’s Freaky Fri… Saturday? in blog land) and take a pick that you’d be more surprised to see on TFG’s site: Diablo II.  Why D2?  You can’t respec (bad!), cookie cutter builds abound (bad!) but in the end, nothing felt better than finally getting to level 18, 24 or 30, unlocking the key skill in your target build, and gleefully owning the minions of hell.

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