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Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #30: Character Progression

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Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #30: Character Progression

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 22 July 2016, 19:45:49

Tags: David Rogers; inXile Entertainment; The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep

Although most of the public's attention is currently focused on Torment, which is set to make an appearance at Gamescom next month, development on inXile's other game, The Bard's Tale IV, continues quietly. Today's Kickstarter update by the talented systems designer David Rogers is a reminder that it's still alive. It's about the game's character progression system, which we now learn will be based on a multi-tiered skill tree structure. Here are the basics of how it'll work:

The original Bard's Tale trilogy had a character progression system closely tied to your starting class, plus the fascinating idea of evolving into different types as you reached higher levels. A budding Conjurer could progress down that track, or change professions and learn to be a Magician, Wizard, Sorcerer, and ultimately an Archmage. We are retaining this strong class-based focus in The Bard's Tale IV. We’re also opening up this more in-depth character progression to all the classes, allowing each class to specialize into their own set of sub-classes. By merging the sub-class concept into a tree structure, we are better able to give each adventurer meaningful and impactful choices each time you level up.

Each class has access to its own unique skill tree. From here, your adventurer is able to learn how to wield new gear, gain attribute points, learn new abilities, and gain passive effects. Basically, your character can be fully described through their skill tree. At a glance, you can tell a Sorcerer from a Wizard, a Thief from an Assassin, and a Vanguard from a Commander, all just by looking at their skill tree. Each time one of your Adventurers levels up, they are granted a single point to spend on their skill tree, with each skill costing exactly one point.

While skill trees can have a lot of options, their complexity grows along with the adventurer. The very first view you might have of your skill tree as a Fighter might look a little something like this, showing only a smaller number of skills to unlock.

In the above image we see the player has a few choices to pick from for their fledgling Fighter: learning to wield more advanced one handed weapons, learning to wield great weapons, gaining access to battle standards, wearing more protective armor, gaining bundles of attribute points, learning a new passive, or learning to craft basic potions. You'll notice that many of those choices also carry along with them some increased attributes as an added bonus.

For those of you thinking that's all there is, don't worry. You'll be able to view your entire skill tree from the get go. For simplicity's sake we set the default view to show you only what you have available at a given level, and what's just beyond the horizon. However, you can always zoom out to see the full number of options available to your adventurers as they grow into heroes of legend.

As you unlock new skills, you'll begin to also unlock the next tier of options in your skill tree. That's displayed by the counter under each tier header, with each tier requiring a total number of skill points spent character-wide. The adventurer above, for example, has so far unlocked seven out of nine skills needed to progress to Tier 3. These tiers play a role in a character's growth in a few ways, some more obvious than others. First, it helps create big milestones in the career of your adventurer. Just as you've advanced your progression towards one or more sub-classes and your options have begun to taper down, you unlock a new tier and your available options explode out again. It also provides incentive to each adventurer to acquire skills they might not have otherwise, encouraging exploration within your build. Lastly, it allows us as designers to deliver a more balanced experience because we can better ensure that at least some minimum number of points were spent towards defensive and offensive skills in one form or another during the early stages of the game. What kind of armor and fighting style you adopt and eventually specialize in later on is entirely up to you.
The skill system isn't everything, however. Many of you will be glad to hear that itemization plays an important role as well:

For those of you looking closely at the skill tree descriptions, which I'm confident many of you are, you might be wondering where you get your combat abilities from. Many of them, in fact, do not feature in the skill tree directly – instead, the place you acquire abilities is actually from your equipment. As you progress down the skill tree you unlock the ability to wield new and more exotic weapons, off-hand items, and trinkets. You may unlock access to a single item, such as a battle standard, or an entire category of items, such as Tier 2 great weapons. These items each have a specific ability or abilities. By wielding a great club you'd be able to use Lumbering Strike during battle, while wielding a battle standard would allow you to rally your allies with the ability "To Me, Brothers." As a certain weapon is used, an adventurer will eventually master its abilities, allowing them to keep using those abilities even without needing the weapon equipped. This will let you naturally unlock a vast amount of tactical flexibility over the course of the game.

And lastly, equipment such as your helm, armor, and boots also play a major role in your character's growth and progression. Through the skill tree you're also able gain access to increasingly powerful and exotic armor, robes, costumes, garbs, habits, and accoutrement. Your gear accounts for a major chunk of your adventurer's attributes. How many blows your character can withstand, how able he or she is to focus the eldritch forces, and their mental fortitude is heavily influenced by what mystic equipment they've found and learned to use throughout their journeys. These items can also grant you unique passive abilities that can help you form powerful combos. Itemization is an important aspect of The Bard's Tale IV and we've only given you a cursory glance, so we'll be touching on it more later.​

Bard's Tale IV will retain the "Review Board" mechanic from the original trilogy, but it'll only be required in order to advance to the next skill tier, not for every single level-up. The skill tree system will also feature occasional "mutually exclusive branches", where picking one skill locks away access to others. See the full update for an example of such a progression scenario, including mockup screenshots.

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