Disclaimer: This post is a bit of a brain dump, I’ll try to go into more detail in later posts.
Inquisitor: Martyr (IM) uses a system whereby you equip weapons in 2 slots, an armour and a belt. This defines what abilities you bring with you on a mission. You can then optimise and customise your loadout by investing in skills which you feel are relevant.
I feel that this will leave us in a future state where 80% of players use cookie cutter builds. If you bring a Heavy Flamer to a mission you are going to have to put skills in Ranged, Heat, DOT and AOE etc to support the weapon along with what skills are suitable for defence (Suppression, Hit Points and Defence)
In an age of the internet and guides, there will be one build better than the others, and unless you chose to deliberately pick a sub-optimal build, you will invariably end up with the same skill build as every other Heavy Flamer wielding Crusader out there.
What if instead the skills were what drove the class and the weapon became just a focal point, a flavour or personal preference?
Imagine a scenario where you have 4 ability slots on your action bar. The abilities start out, like many ARPGs as move and default attack, but you quickly unlock skills depending on your initial class selection. Later, as you unlock more skills through heroic deeds, you will be able to customise your character in so many different ways.
A heavy Crusader gets access to the AOE skill tree, and the first skill point invested in the skill tree gives you a basic AOE ability.
AOE abilities will have parameters, some will be list based, while some will be integer based
Shape: Cone, Spread, Aura
Range: For a Cone and Spread this determines the leading edge of effect, while for an Aura this is how far from you the centre of the detonation can be placed.
Size of Effect: For cones and spread this is the number of degrees the area hits over, while for an Aura it determines the blast radius
Special: Does it apply a DOT, Stun, Slow etc.?
Skills and item affixes will alter the base ability parameters. There are not affixes, randomly rolled stats you get when the item drops. This is a feature of the weapon type. Some weapons will have larger cones (shotgun) some will have larger Aura’s (grenade launcher) and some will apply Specials (burning from flamer, toxin from needler)
Then you can have skills that alter parameters, single target skills can have parameters in the categories like Rate of Fire, “Can be used while moving?”, and have all the same specials based on weapon type.
At the moment we have skill trees that are sub-optimal and sometimes counter-intuitive. The Single Target tree has both melee and ranged specific skills, and often you have to pick BOTH to get access to the final skill. The Area of Effect tree has skills for both Cone and Aura type attacks. If instead we had a situation where Area of Effect had skills that just increased size, and size worked for both cone and aura skills, then you don’t feel like you are forced to waste points on skills that do not benefit you just to get access to the top tier.
The DOT tree can be a straight line (or zig-zag like Heat) where you increase your dot damage all along the main but you can get bonuses for different types of DOT through off-shoots, so you don’t have to buy “burns stop target from healing” when you use the needler. As for DOT skills, you can augment them in both potency and duration, chance to spread etc.
Now you are faced with decisions. Do you bring DOT skills, or AOE skills? You have 4 slots. If you work with your Cabal, you can focus on trash clearing, so you bring Aura or Cone based AOE skills, and some Party Aura skills. Other Cabal members can focus on Single target abilities, taking out the champions and elites. These characters take high damage single target abilities.
However, there’s no reason why BOTH these players can’t be wielding a Bolter. There’s going to be some weapons better suited for certain builds, but a lot of the time we have the chance to let the weapon determine flavour, not effectiveness. You could have the same build using a grav gun or a flamer depending on the type of enemy you are fighting, what status effects you want to apply, etc.
Melee and Ranged differentiation can mostly go away then, since a cleave is just a different type of cone, and a spin is just an Aura with range 0. This both simplifies the skill trees, and thus makes choosing one point over another much more important as they each have a much greater effect on how you play.
This will also make it easier to plan DLC (Free or otherwise) content packs that include new weapons, as it will be easier to balance them around the skills they support rather than have to balance them against all the other weapons in the game.
I know a lot of this looks like a complete overhaul of the combat system, and I don’t expect something like that to happen. However, there’s some parts of it that can still be applied to the current system, merging cone and Aura buffing skills into one category, or changing the layout of the DOT skill tree to make it more generic with specialisations as optional.
Thanks for reading.