Good news. I was worried for nothing. The games that came out have been holding up. There were two big games that came out this week. One was God of War: Ragnarok and the other was Sonic Frontiers. They are two very different games and yet fun in their own ways which is quite welcome honestly. They seem to know what they are doing and that is great. I just started to think about something because of these games and thought I would do the normal thing I do each week and lay out my thoughts for you to think about once again. While these two games obviously differ quite drastically from each other from a mechanical standpoint there is something they do have in common. That is the fact that they both have skill trees. For those unfamiliar with what those are, a skill tree is a skill window where you can upgrade your character’s basic skills by picking and choosing from branching paths in order to personalize your character’s moveset. That means that in the situation where a skill tree is present in the game, each pathway in the skill tree should be equally viable in allowing for clearing the game. As an example, imagine that you had a skill tree with three branching paths. One for melee, one for range and one for magic. The melee one would probably offer more damage when wielding melee weapons and special melee attacks to keep combos going. The range one would probably increase the number of projectiles that could be fired and boost the capability of ranged weapons. The magic one would allow for different elemental attacks and maybe some healing magic and AOE magic. However there would still be similarities such as a skills that helps take down multiple enemies or has increased chance of critical hits. There could even be branches that don’t even relate to combat and are instead focused on crafting since that is tied to many open world game formats. The increased crafting abilities could be used to craft better armor or weapons to make up for the lack of skills you get.
Now that we have got the idea of what a skill tree is out of the way, let’s talk a little more in depth about it. You see, a skill tree in my opinion, should be a way to allow the character to specialize in a certain field of play. That isn’t to say that they should pick one path and run with it only, but rather they should at least aim not to be a jack of all trades. The reason is because most of the best skills that you can get are reserved for after you reach a certain point in a skill tree. Now, skill points can be earned in multiple ways such as doing quests of leveling up, but they are not infinite. They are a valuable resource used to unlock more of your skill tree and continue to build upon your skills. As you upgrade your skills, it becomes more costly to unlock their superior versions so it means that you could end up with a bunch of half-baked skills if you do not specialize properly. Now you could rectify this by doing every side quest in the game to unlock more skill points, but even then some games don’t even let you unlock the entire skill tree by doing this. Some game almost force you to go through another playthrough to unlock the full skill tree, so by no means should you attempt to do this on the first go. Especially if you can already tell what skills you will find useful to beating the game. Again, the games are designed so that you can invest in any specialty to win so they wouldn’t be too unforgiving and require you to unlock most of the skill tree to win the game. Some skill trees even discourage you from doing this by making other branches more expensive to learn from once you commit to one. The point is to have the option to play things multiple different ways. At least, that should be the intention.
Now the problem with that is that everything I have listed in regards to how skill trees are set up bears a closer resemblance to an ideal rather than reflecting reality. While there are many possible choices, the problem is that sometimes there is the problem of too many and too few choices. Just because there are a lot of choices, doesn’t necessarily mean you will like all of the choices. Certain branches can sometimes be too complicated for their own good and branch out too much so it can feel like a waste. So sometimes you might have to collect other skills you might not care about to get to the ones you really want. This can occur in multiple branches as well if you are unlucky. There can also be a problem that can happen where certain branches are locked until you unlock a corresponding skill in the story. However, sometimes you have no way of knowing when you will get it so you have to ignore that branch for a while. The thing is that by then you may have already develop a playstyle that doesn’t include that branch and may ignore it because of that, despite its usefulness. Truth be told, I think skill trees shouldn’t give you new skills. I think it should be more focused on chaining abilities and skills together and upgrading them instead. To get new basic skills you will mainly get them through story quests or side quests. That way you can use them before deciding whether or not to upgrade them. Instead, usually you are just given a description and a little teaser showing you how it works. Unfortunately, that might not show you how well it chains it actual combat. I don’t think I am alone in thinking that, but this wouldn’t be the first time I was wrong. Maybe people do like being a jack of all trades after all. It’s possible, but unlikely. I am not saying that skill trees are bad, I just feel like you shouldn’t have your cake and eat it too. Otherwise, why bother having the branching paths in the first place? Why not just give us the useful skills from the get-go and have us choose what armor we want to wear instead? That all for now everyone. See you next time!