Best skill trees?

Dec 31, 2022
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What games do you think have the best, most intriguing, most satisfying skill trees?

I'm thinking first of RPG's, but other genres can have ones people like s well, from Civ research to ARPG's like Diablo.

Of course RPG ones range from games like the Fallout series with its SPECIAL system to character builds in Disco Elysium.

Which are best?
 
Civ6 must feature, since it has 2 separate extensive research trees—one for science and one for civics. One of the best things about them is you can earn boosters for almost all of them from various game actions. So they tie in very nicely with the gameplay.

Far Cry 3, 4 and 5 had pretty good skill trees too. No ridiculous over-complication, just a good set of accessible and understandable perks to aim for and choose between, depending on which playstyle you wanted. I miss that in FC6, which seems to have adopted a kind of RPG thing.
 
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Jun 27, 2023
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I feel some can be too big to make me even contemplate playing the game

These types of skill trees are just ridiculous, half the time I cannot be bothered to read most of the notes to see what's potentially on offer.

It's nice to have a tree that is viable in different ways and doesn't just have a META way forward, especially in online games. World of Warcraft did an "alright" job of it, even though it's changed over time. The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim actually had a nice one as well.

As Brian has already stated, Far Cry does a great simple version of them.
 
Civ6 must feature, since it has 2 separate extensive research trees—one for science and one for civics. One of the best things about them is you can earn boosters for almost all of them from various game actions. So they tie in very nicely with the gameplay.

Civ 6's boosters came to mind for me as well. They're like little mini quests.

Skyrim's perk tree gets points for its aesthetics.

It's been a while, but I remember liking Shadow of Mordor's skill tree too. A lot of action games with RPG elements make you unlock abilities that are more like quality of life upgrades and a bunch of skills just make you slightly better at something you could already do. Shadow of Mordor's skills mostly let you unlock new game mechanics instead.
 
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dump skill points into one thing
I haven't played with such a system, but have often wished for it in a game, even as an 'unofficial' game mode. Should provide lots of replay variety.

Old World has this in its 'Action Points', where you can move 10 units 1 tile, or 1 unit 10 tiles, or any combo between those. I'm looking forward to the increased tactical choices that should enable.
 
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Jul 18, 2022
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I haven't played with such a system, but have often wished for it in a game, even as an 'unofficial' game mode. Should provide lots of replay variety.

Old World has this in its 'Action Points', where you can move 10 units 1 tile, or 1 unit 10 tiles, or any combo between those. I'm looking forward to the increased tactical choices that should enable.
Borderlands actually does a great job of dumping skill points into abilities to make them better, giving you variety in your character builds while having that FarCry FPS feeling to it.
 
The most intimidating skill tree I've ever come across is in Path of Exile. Never seen so many skills so haphazardly arranged.

Most confusing is Factorio, a bunch of different skill trees unlocked by advancing previous skill trees.

Airborne Kingdom's is nice. You have, I think, 9 skill trees, but they are very specific about what each one is for, so even though there are many, many things to unlock, they are organized very well.
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
Final Fantasy 10's is my favorite for sure. It looks a lot like Path of Exile's, but FF10 uses it for everything involved in levelling up: skills, spells, and stats. Your characters move around it, paying a number of "spheres" for every move. All the characters use the same grid but start in different locations. It makes for a fun sort of mini-game, going through that maze of a skill tree!

Honorable mention to Sword of the Stars' skill trees (skill forest?). Not only are there a whole bunch of things to pick from, but the trees also change from race to race and from game to game. For instance, some races are good with shields while some aren't. The races that are good with them will have a high chance of being able to research "Shield 1" while the races that aren't as good with them will have a low chance. At the start of the game, hidden dice are rolled to see if the player can research each tech. The races that are good with shields will probably get them and the races that aren't probably won't - but that always won't be the case. Every time you play, even if you stick with one race each time, there will be some techs you won't get that you usually do and some you usually don't see but get to research in this play-through! It makes replays much more interesting.

Another honorable mention to Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain's equipment upgrade tree. Mostly because I didn't expect anything even remotely that deep to be in a game like MGS5:pP!
 
I feel some can be too big to make me even contemplate playing the game

The most intimidating skill tree I've ever come across is in Path of Exile. Never seen so many skills so haphazardly arranged.
Every once in a while I think... I might play POE and then I remember the tree (s) (as there is more than just the massive tree) and think... I don't feel like looking up guides to this game... and stop again.
POE 2 out next year, I might try that one as I have tried game at least 4 times before but always stopped for some reason.
 
Every once in a while I think... I might play POE and then I remember the tree (s) (as there is more than just the massive tree) and think... I don't feel like looking up guides to this game... and stop again.
POE 2 out next year, I might try that one as I have tried game at least 4 times before but always stopped for some reason.
What do you think about the Paragon system in Diablo IV? I saw my wife's and while it isn't anywhere as big as the one in PoE, it did seem a bit excessive, especially since there's also the regular skill tree and now vampire powers you have to take into account as well.
 
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Zloth

Community Contributor
Every once in a while I think... I might play POE and then I remember the tree (s) (as there is more than just the massive tree) and think... I don't feel like looking up guides to this game... and stop again.
Wha? A guide!? What would you do THAT for!? The whole point of a big skill tree is so you can pick your own set out and make the character your own.
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
Do they actually have many of those? Back in the early days, lots of games would let you take skills/powers that worked badly together. These days, they tend to set the systems up so that you can't make a build that's really bad. Maybe it won't be the "best" (i.e. most overpowered) build, but even picking skills completely at random results in something that can get through the game on normal difficulty.

At least that's my impression. Trying to think back through a ton of games' skill trees isn't easy. Hmmm hmmm.....
 
I'm going to say it, but the Path of exile skill tree is a thing of beauty. Despite the complexity the best thing is that you can acquire skills stats typically more closer to other classes. So its quite flexible. In fact play as the scion and you start smack bang in the middle and you can go which ever direction you want.
 
I always look at builds so that I am not wasting time and taking skills that don't work together

Same here, I don't get any fun from spending time discovering rubber bands are weaker than heavy metal bands.

Same with hundreds of weapons—not interested in trying them all. For me, skills and weapons are not the point, they are the means to get to the enjoyable stuff, ie implement strategies and tactics—which cannot be done well if the selection is an Irish Stew of items.
 
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Maybe it won't be the "best" (i.e. most overpowered) build, but even picking skills completely at random results in something that can get through the game on normal difficulty.
You are right but last game I played - Diablo 4 - you could probably play any build to get to 50 but after that its ideal to be on an optimised build or you won't get much further.

I know now that if I played the build I enjoy the most in that game, it will end badly as they have actually nerfed it more now and its pretty much useless. It doesn't matter in that game anyway as I don't have any free character slots or enough bank space now to really play it. I hate being restricted to 10 characters max.

I try to choose builds that can see as much as I can
 

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