Way back in my early days of WoW, before I knew what raiding was, who Ciderhelm was, or even before I knew what I was doing at all - I leveled a little warrior. Now, while this warrior would grow up to be big and strong and have little itty bitty warrior babies of his own - at the time he was just a representation of my new self.
The talent trees were something that were completely alien to me, for more than one reason. First, this was my third toon - so the trees looked nothing like the ones for my rogue or paladin. The only thing I 'knew' was that protection was supposed to be for tanking. Outside of that base knowledge, I didn't know anything.
Given that, and given the way that skills/talents were learned back in early Vanilla, you might forgive me for what was the first of many "noob" mistakes I made as a warrior.
My first talent points went to rend.
Yeah, I'll sit back and let you think about that. Now this wasn't points in rend in a day when Arms warriors were given a talent that proc'd overpower off of bleed ticks. No, this was a day and age where mobs could only have eight (yes - that's eight) debuffs. Putting rend (or, heaven forbid, mortal strike) on a raid mob was a grievous sin. Rend didn't scale, or well - do much of anything, even while leveling. It was generally mocked and considered to be a useless skill/talent. The only real use was in PvP, and that was only on a rogue to prevent them from vanishing. After all, despite my screenshot to the contrary, nobody ever died to rend.
How was I supposed to know any different? The talent increased the damage of rend by x%, and as any Vanilla leveling warrior could attest - any damage done was good damage.
Fast forward to Wrath
Since I'm not raiding any more, I'm pretty much just playing alts and enjoying some of the social aspects of WoW. The toon that holds my attention currently is an itty bitty Discipline Priest. The play-style is great, and I thoroughly enjoy the class. Here's my current problem though. I'm sitting at level 55, dying to get my hands on Penance (just five more levels!), one of the truly defining spells of a Disc priest. Sure, my bubbles are a signature spell, but right now I just look like a priest. I'm fairly certain the only difference between me and a Holy Priest right now is that I don't have CoH.
My other issue is that I'm doing something completely awesome with my talent points. I got to spend my first five talent points increasing the damage/healing of my instant spells. Whooptie Doo! Yeah baby, I'm feeling like a healer now alright. It's even worse as a Paladin leveling as Holy. Less pushback baby! Heck, it's generally quite a ways up the tree before any healing class truly needs to spec into a healing tree in order to get through some dungeons.
Uh - so what's the point here?
My point is, it takes too long to feel like a beautiful snowflake - and knowing that your next four talent points are going to something that increases your intellect by x% just sucks. Look, I just hit lvl 55, no new spells (or even levels of spells) to train, and my talent point is going into 2/3 Divine Aegis. Look at my snowflakey self go.
Fortunately, it seems like I'm not the only one who feels this way, so Greg and the gang have revamped the talent trees quite a lot. Cutting your overall points from the expected 76 to 41 (just as a start) is in and of itself fairly drastic. The second step in this nefarious plan is to force you to spend 31 points (note you don't have to get the 31pt talent) in a single tree before you can branch out. This means common builds will probably be 31/10, 31/3/7, etc. They want us to branch out into other trees, which means the lower tiered talents will have to be enticing without being over powered - but we won't be seeing any 21/20 builds running around.
Supposedly there will also be more instruction as to what each of the talent trees do. This is great for the new player coming into the game, especially for classes like Warlocks, Rogues, and Hunters.
While this may reduce some of the specialized one off specs that we've encountered over the years, let's be honest. Most high end raiding is done in a few select specs. While it would be nice to have every spec/build be viable in the end game/PvP, that is just unrealistic. There will still be cookie cutter builds, and there will be some (if reduced) playing with alternate specs.
There is some argument that this is a rehash of Vanilla WoW, especially given our return to Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms (plus Ragnaros coming back, and the final boss being a dragon, BWL style). I suppose there could be some merit in this line of thinking, but I'm fairly certain that unless you've got on some Coke bottle sized rose colored glasses, you'll have to agree that the WoW of today is miles above where we were in Vanilla. More specs are actually viable (i.e. Paladin tanks and DPS, Feral tanks, warrior DPS, etc), many features have been introduced, and (dare I say it) the raiding environment is certainly better.
Of course there is still Gearscore, but that's a different animal.
Personally I love the proposed changes, but I'll have to see some revised talent trees before I get overly giddy. I think this will make things easier on new players, and should reduce confusion in veteran players as well. I'm sure there will still be enough math and theorycrafting available to keep EJ's doors open as well.
I'm truly looking forward to the expansion (SC2 first though - and I'll always love the Firebat), and I have some high hopes for what it will bring. Unfortunately I don't see it shipping until November at this rate, though I could be wrong about that as well.