One of the hallmarks of a great RPG is a well-designed system for acquiring new skills and powering up a character. In most games, this is represented as a skill tree, which allows the player to allocate points into increasingly more potent abilities and upgrades as they progress through the game.
Some games have very intuitive and easy-to-understand skill trees, such as the leveling up system in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Some skill trees, on the other hand, are ming-bogglingly massive, and although they may be simple enough to understand, getting the most out of them is a different story.
7 Path of Exile
Path of Exile has perhaps the most notoriously large skill tree of all time. Players new to the game will level up on the beach quickly enough, at which point they get their first skill point. Then, they are brought to their class’s default starting position on the labyrinthian skill tree. It looks small enough until players zoom out.
The skill tree in Path of Exile is so comically massive because of the game’s focus on being able to do anything with any character – even if players start out in the Ranger’s area of the skill tree, they can eventually take on other class’ talents too, as long as they take a path that leads them there.
6 The Witcher 3
The Witcher 3 is lauded as one of the most engaging and deep RPGs to come out in recent years, and its skill tree is just as complex as the game’s multi-faceted storylines. There are five skill trees to level up, being Combat Skills, Signs, Alchemy Skills, Mutagens, and General Skills.
The skill tree in The Witcher 3 is unique as it encourages the player to take on a variety of skills and equip them as necessary for different encounters. Each skill can then be improved with enough investment, but the player doesn’t need to go all-in on one path to get the most out of this tree.
5 Borderlands Series
The Borderlands series features separate skill trees for each playable character, each of which is then separated into a few different sub-trees for further specialization. While each individual tree tends to be no more than 10 lines long, the sheer number of available options in the game is staggering.
In Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, for example, there are more than four main playable characters. If [;ayers consider that each playable character has three separate skill trees in each game, and those trees each contain a dozen or more options, each game features hundreds and hundreds of skill tree options in total.
4 Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla
The Assassin’s Creed games have long been associated with windy, long skill trees that offer a multitude of upgrades for the player. In Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, this is taken to a whole new level, with a skill tree rivaling that of even Path of Exile.
However, the skill tree in this Assassin’s Creed entry has been criticized for not offering enough viable options, leading many players to consistently take the same skills instead of trying new ones. Nonetheless, the game’s skill tree is daunting, but at least the star signs are nice to look at!
3 World of Warcraft Classic
The skill tree, or rather the talent system, in World of Warcraft has gone through many changes over the years. In the retail version of the game, talents are very simple, with a choice offered every few milestone levels. In World of Warcraft Classic, though, it’s a different story.
The skill tree in the vanilla version of the MMO was… sprawling, in a word. Each class had a huge number of talents to choose from as they progressed to level 60, and had the option to choose talents from multiple trees. The amount of classes in the game, and the number of specs in each class, make it one of the largest skill tree systems in any MMO to date.
Rift is a game that takes a more modern approach to the standard MMO model. For its skill tree system, called the Soul Tree in-game, players have the option to choose from dozens upon dozens of abilities and stat upgrades as they level up.
The system allows players to choose talents that would traditionally be more oriented to a different specialization for their class, just like World of Warcraft Classic. Where other modern MMOs simplify much of the talent system, though, Rift revels in the diversity of the Soul Tree system.
1 Salt & Sanctuary
Salt and Sanctuary is an indie RPG that’s far from a walk in the park. It takes a lot of inspiration from the Dark Souls series in its gameplay, but its skill tree system, fittingly called the Tree of Skill, is entirely its own. The game is a 2D sidescrolling game, but that doesn’t mean it lacks complexity in gameplay – if anything, it’s the opposite.
The Tree of Skill in Salt and Sanctuary offers the player a choice of more than one hundred skills and stat upgrades as they progress through the game. The tree is a marvel to behold, beautifully laid out, but the sheer number of options in the Tree of Skill could intimidate even the most time-worn old-school gamer.
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