The concept of borrowed power in World of Warcraft involves the player being granted access to items or abilities which increase in power as the player advances through the story. The system was utilized for the Artifact weapons in Legion, Azerite armor in Battle for Azeroth and Covenant Soulbinds in Shadowlands. The controversy surrounding borrowed power is that it is just that, “borrowed.” The powers will enviably be turned off for the next expansion, rendering the player’s time and effort into its progression moot.
In a Preach Gaming interview, Game Director Ion Hazzikostas suggested borrowed power may not be used going forward. Replacing borrowed power with a dynamic talent system offers the player power progression and customization to enrich the game experience, and ability to transition through expansions.
Talent Tree Evolution
The original World of Warcraft talent system activated when the player reached level 10. The player was awarded a single talent point per level, for a total of 51 points at max level, 60. These points could be applied to an individual tree or spread out between them. Additional abilities and talent points were added in the Burning Crusade and Wraith of the Lich King expansions, increasing the total points to 71. Then, as now, there were websites detailing the optimal builds depending on the player’s focus.
The talent trees were streamlined in Cataclysm with the introduction of Specializations, reducing the total talent points from 71 to 41. Selecting a specialization restricted a player into the chosen talent tree for the first 31 talent points. The other trees then opened for the remaining 10 points to be used as desired. Mists of Pandaria replaced the talent tree system with the current tiered format, simplifying the layout and shifting popular talents to class abilities.
Blizzard has yet to reveal the future of borrowed power or what features will be introduced in the next expansion, but if their plan is to provide a meaningful power progression system which continues beyond max level, a dynamic talent system makes the most sense to me. Large talent systems are a common feature in modern RPGs, enticing to the player to continue playing the game after finishing the main story with the promise of increased ability and the challenge to achieve full completion.
The Diablo IV development team recently previewed their paragon skill rankings system, which activates after the player achieves max level 50. The goal of their paragon system is to provide players expansive and continued customization of their character’s abilities. Adopting this philosophy of build customization into World of Warcraft flows along with Shadowlands focus on character customization and would provide lasting rewards for replaying content.
Proposed “Champion” Talent System
Ask a million WoW fans how to improve the game, and you’ll receive a million different, passionate answers. With this in mind, the Champion Talent system is one possible direction. The foundation of the system includes:
- Maintain Specializations: Class and spec identity are core components of playing World of Warcraft. A new talent system would strengthen these identifies and can expand into new directions.
- Tier Talents: Unlock at level 10 and add new talent choice every 10 levels to max. The current tier talent system works well enough to keep. Shadowlands Covenant Abilities showed Blizzard can still create new and interesting spells and abilities.
- Enhancement Talents: Unlock at level 15 and add new enhancement every 10 levels. Enhancements incorporate the existing system of receiving passive upgrades to spells and abilities as the player levels up. This addition to the tier talent chart offers a choice of passive upgrades, and incremental increases to primary and secondary stats (+2% to Stamina, Agility, Haste, Movement Speed, etc.). To make these choices meaningful, mobs and encounters would be more challenging, and the leveling curve increased.
- Champion Talents: Unlock at maximum level. Diablo IV shows there are many ways to formulate talent systems. I liked the format of Fallout 4 perks and used it for inspiration.
Champion Talents offer a broad selection of PVE choices to improve not only primary and secondary stats, but reputations gains, vendor pricing, movement speed, damage (melee and spell power), health and mana regeneration, item rarity from crafting and drops, and whatever aspect of game play you can imagine. Each talent has several ranks and progresses to different and stronger talents. Progressing to new talents only requires one ranking of the previous talent. The player decides how deep into rankings they want to go.
Champion talent experience gain follows the Reputation Paragon system (not to be confused with Diablo IV’s Paragon system), in which the player continues to earn reputation points after reaching Exalted, resulting in rewards every 10,000 points. Champion experience points are earned by performing activities which award leveling experience; quests, exploration, killing mobs, crafting, gathering, etc. Lower level quests and previous expansions would award experience, providing a wider range of opportunity. Players receive a Champion talent point when they hit 100,000 points, for example, and the experience counter resets. There is no maximum as long as there are rankings to be filled.
Since the goal of Champion Talents is to reward max level game play and customize the player’s character, points are easily refundable and not transferable to alts. Though a maximum ranked talent which increases experience gains account wide is an interesting idea.
A Vision Of The Future?
I do not know what direction World of Warcraft power progression will take, but I believe they want to move past borrowed power and find a way to energize players. What do you think? What are your ideas for a possible future state of WoW?