World of Warcraft: Dragonflight will finally whisk players away to the Dragon Isles, where they’ll be able to roll new Dracthyr characters and play the new Evoker class. But outside of the fancy new content, Blizzard will also be focusing on revamping older systems with Dragonflight. More specially, the much maligned talent tree will see its first major overhaul in nearly a decade.
In a pre-brief session, Polygon interviewed lead narrative designer Steve Danuser and lead combat designer Brian Holinka about what the revamped talent tree brings to World of Warcraft: Dragonflight.
Back in World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard replaced the original tree-based talent system for a small group of very powerful skills players could choose from. While the game gained some readability — especially for new players — it lost some depth, and Blizzard is looking to bring it back into the game.
In Dragonflight, Blizzard will completely overhaul the talent system, and return it to a version of the tree form. When players level up, they’ll unlock points to put in one of two skill trees for their character. The first is a class skill tree while the other is a specialization skill tree. (The specialization tree will change out depending on which spec players have active.)
While players won’t be able to put points into multiple specializations like in the Wrath of the Lich King, the new system does allow for customization and hybridization. Do players want to play into their class fantasy? Or push their unique specialization further? Players will only have so many points to allocate, but they’ll be able to quickly swap to different talent loadouts between activities or raid bosses, with the new loadout system.
With the new trees, players will be able to expand and customize their classes to fit their needs. But Blizzard stressed that while players will be able to stretch their classes in new ways, they’re still the classes they know (outside of the new Evoker class, of course).
“The intention is that players can still feel comfortable playing the classes that they know,” said Holinka. “We don’t want to be overly disruptive and someone logs in on patch day, and they just are like ‘everything on my action bars changed, I don’t even know how to play this class I’ve been playing for 10 years anymore.’”
Holinka made it clear that the team wants to preserve what players know, and players looking for something familiar will be able to craft their character in a “very comfortable and familiar way.” However, the opposite is also true, and players will be able to build out an almost greatest hits list for their favorite class.
“A lot of the talents, you know, we’ve been trying to say ‘hey, what are some of the best things that we’ve created for these classes and specs throughout the years,’” said Holinka. “‘Azerite traits, Artifacts, Covenant abilities. What are some of the coolest things we have, and let’s put it in a talent tree so that players can make some choices and get those cool things back.”
Holinka elaborated that they’ll be picking some of the most popular abilities and traits for each class, although players shouldn’t expect every cool thing they’ve ever been able to do to return. But anything players would label as “iconic” should be a pretty safe bet.
Finally, we asked if the talent trees will be easier to expand in the future, which Holinka confirmed is part of the thinking.
After nearly a decade of very rigid selection process — Holinka said you currently make “about seven choices about your character” — and no major Azerite, Artifact, or Covenant-adjacent system in Dragonflight, the talent rework is looking to be the most significant change in the expansion. As exciting as a new class can be, the new talent system will be the make or break feature for the next era of World of Warcraft.