Hey let's do a comparison of some game mechanics between games, namely perks. Let's take this first one from an obscure title, for example:
Here we got a baseline perk that will:
- Massively increase the scaling of your damage/numbers/etc.
- Has no other effects, no intrinsic changes to how the game is played
- Requires a significant dedication to levels, training, etc. to obtain, and gates off access to other perks
- Is redundant - isn't raising a skill supposed to raise your damage already? Why's it necessary to have people pour points into this to basically require them to make their weapon even close to effective?
- Has repeatedly been criticized as the most boring, but also practical, component of the perk tree
- Most insidiously, it's the cause of major balance issues in the game it's from! How do you balance the difference of a character dealing a certain amount of damage at skill-level 100 with and without this perk?
Parallels can be drawn here between this number-inflating perk and how CO's toggles work: they don't really have unique or varied effects, and just bolster your damage/healing/etc to more directly tie you to a specific role. They use a specific mechanic to 'stack' and grant some energy when exploited, but aside from this their main contribution to the game is deeply imbalancing the game by essentially inflating the capabilities of the player. They also dissuade experimentation with other mechanics, too: IDF, for example, is a valid toggle alternative with a different operating style, but nobody takes it because it isn't a toggle that grants its user 120% extra damage - or a perk that grants the user 60% extra damage.
Basically, current toggles are necessary in the current meta. They're boring. They have repetitious effects. And they're required because no alternatives offer a statistical/numeric boost like this on top of the other sources you get them from (role, spec trees, stats, and passive). They're only necessary because they exist, and they only will ever continue to be this way if the norm of having 8 stacks to reach maximum effectiveness is constantly being enforced.
Now, let's compare this to another perk from this same game that's a little more well-received:
Here's a perk that:
- Grants the user a tangible, non-scaling benefit to how their character operates
- Situational. Some characters can benefit it, but it isn't an equivocal requirement everywhere.
- Binary: there's no ranks on this perk. Once you have it, you have all its possible benefits.
- Inversely has no effect on the raw damage/effectiveness/output of the character.
- Introduces new possible ways to play the game with your character (i.e. making kiting easier or making melee/ranged crossovers quicker)
It's a perk that offers no extra scaling or direct boosts to damage or accuracy or anything - so why is this one and similar perks in trees like 'Block' better received than the raw-damage perks? Well, the effects are interesting; they can be exploited in creative ways, and it's something that introduces an action or effect you can immediately see or feel. In CO terms, this is why something like obtaining or ranking up a travel power or attack advantage feels better than ranking up a toggle or passive, because in the latter case that isn't making your attack effects feel any more powerful or introducing new mechanics that can be leveraged. It's just more numbers.
In the case of Skyrim, there's nothing explicit about this issue at all, but the above perk also manages to not contribute to one of the most pervasive issues that exists with that game as well - horrific game imbalance, where there is essentially no middle-ground between a 'weak' enemy being downed in 1-2 hits, and 'boss' enemies that you have to wail on for minutes. The most rudimentary perks that just inflate your damage numbers contribute to this, because you're expected to have these for the playstyle you've chosen, and thereby forsake being effective at anything else.So what would these toggles now do?
Consider a couple of the traits of a 'perk' before we dive too deep in:
- Many have an effect that can be explained with one sentence.
- They don't exist in a void; the benefits are conditional on using the right abilities, but can generally be useful
- Perks can sometimes lead to extra benefits (perk trees)
- Usually perks aren't 'toggles', they just always are on
The last point we can bypass because there's an important balance reason for toggles existing in a sense, and that's to limit the degree to which players can just zerg-rush battles after repeatedly dying. It's a moment of re-activation the player has to do before they re-enter a fight. Granted, there's probably more graceful ways this limitation could be implemented, and certainly the activation of a toggle in of itself should be improved (i.e. not interrupting on move or push), but that's secondary.
Still though, we'll follow the other points pretty closely, which means it's pretty easy to put these ideas out for each powerset. To act like a miniature 'tree', each of these also gets an Advantage or two (though several of these easily could be justifiable as their own separate power instead), with the rule being that only one of them is ever selectable.Electricity - Power Source
Raises your damage output up to 10% depending on how much energy you have.
- Lightning Imbuement: Adds 5% of an attack's damage in Electric type to non-electricity tree attacks. Increases to 15% if the target is affected by Negative Ions.
- Static Barrier: Gain temporary HP whenever you complete circuits at over 80% maximum energy.
- Living Battery: If you generate energy that exceeds your maximum, the spare energy is supplied to allies within 50 feet of you.Fire - Smoldering
Allows you to summon second copies of temporary pets, including flame patches. Applying or refreshing Clinging Flames shortens the cooldowns on these abilities.
- Flame Imbuement: Adds 5% of an attacks damage in Fire type to non-fire tree attacks. Increases to 15% if the target is affected by Clinging Flames.
- Fueled Flames: Flame Patches, Fire Snakes, and Hydras will persist so long as your energy remains over 20% while in combat.
- Explosive Flames: Clinging Flames is changed from A DoT to a PBAoE effect that deals all its damage in an explosive Fire burst.Force - Inertial Dampening Field
Reduces incoming damage by 10% for you and all allies within 50 feet.
- Great Barrier: Blocking will provide targets within your field 20% damage resistance and greatly-boosted knock resistance.
- Shield Spate: Using a PBAoE while you have temporary HP will deal 50% extra damage, but consume the temporary HP effect. This will only occur if you have at least 33% of your max HP.
- Gravitational Control: You no longer take fall damage, and enemies afflicted by your knocks take increased fall damage.Wind - Torrential
Increases the strength of your ranged knocks and repels the closer a target is to you.
- Zephyr Rider: Any powers that normally self-root will no longer do so if you're flying.
- High Winds: Using knock effects will slow the target's fall speed and increase the fall damage they take.
- Stormfronts: Dust Devils will mirror PBAoE maintains you perform at a weaker rate.Ice - Frigid Form
Critical hits on chilled targets slow their recharge rates for 10 seconds.
- Chill Imbuement: Adds 5% of an attack's damage in Cold type to non-ice tree attacks. Increases to 15% if the target is affected by Chill.
- Ice Slick: Ice structures you create will snare and reduce the knockdown resistance of any targets within 10 feet of them.
- Absolute Zero: Chill stacks can build up to 6 stacks and reduce enemy offense strength. If the target is above 4 stacks and is affected by an ice cage, they become held instead of rooted.Archery - Keen Arrows
Critical hits with Archery attacks knock the target down and reduce their stealth rating.
- Huntsman: Deal 20% ranged bonus damage to enemies who have used a ranged attack within the last 3 seconds.
- Imbued Archer: If using a passive energy form, Archery attacks that deal pure piercing damage will instead adapt to the damage type used by the energy form.
- Double-nock: After using any targeted tapped or charged Archery attack, using Straight Shot will redo the previous attack in addition to its normal effect.Gadgeteering - Ingenuity
Improves chances of control effects, such as knocks and interrupts, triggering on all targets.
- Auxiliary Offense: Your debuffs last twice as long, and defense debuffs you inflict stack twice as much.
- Field Research: Gain additional benefits to offense, defense, energy, or healing strength, depending on your character role, the longer you're in combat. Maximum benefits are gained after 5 minutes of combat.
- Innoculate: Healing a target with your abilities will bolster the target's defense, and their DoT resistance to an even greater degree.Munitions - Ammo Cache
Removes the energy cost of a Munitions attack if you use a Non-Munitions ability before it.
- Ammo Swap: Enables Ammo Cache to change the damage type of Munitions attacks when tapped.
- Point-blank: Guarantees a knock and critical hit to targets in melee range when hit by a fully charged or maintained ranged attack, once every 10 seconds.
- Quick-draw: Halves the charge times of all Munitions attacks, and replaces Munitions' self-roots with self-snare.Power Armor - Mobile Turret
Raises knock and hold resistance for each Power Armor slot you are engaging.
- Armor AI: Allows you to use other powers when engaging Eye Beams or Minigun.
- Options: Up to three Technology Pets will mirror your shoulder and chest slot attacks if you're above 50% energy.
- Manual Configuration: All Slotted Power Armor attacks are now maintains or charges and deal 50% extra damage, but can no longer be stacked.Laser Sword - Charged Blade
Expands the range of Laser Sword melee attacks to 15 feet.
- Imbued Edge: Laser Sword attacks now match the damage type of any Passive Energy Form you're using.
- Pure Energy: Plasma Burn stacks automatically rupture whenever applied, dealing extra damage instantly instead of damage-over-time.
- Overdrive: Using an Active ability will reduce the charge times of all Laser Sword attacks by half while in effect.Dual Blades - Dancing Edge
Boosts your avoidance as you land combo hits.
- Oppressive Feint: Opponents who successfully dodge your attacks suffer an offense debuff.
- Savage Butcher: Dual-blade attacks no longer critical, instead dealing more damage scaling off of your Strength and Offense stats (max 40% extra)
- Deflecting Blades: While performing any Martial Arts attack, you absorb a small amount of flat damage.Fighting Claws - Tiger Lunge
Adds a 5 foot lunge to all your Melee attacks.
- Spacing: Landing a fully-charged melee attack at maximum lunge range will add extra knock and damage to the attack.
- Recoil: Expands the lunge range of your attacks to 20 when under the effects of Charged Up or a Travel Power.
- Raptor Talons: Landing a melee attack on a target from above will disable their travel powers temporarily.Single Blade - Clean Cut
Slashing melee attacks that normally would apply bleed automatically rupture on each hit, dealing extra damage in lieu of Damage-over-time.
- Grim Resolve: Reaper's Embrace and Eviscerate will now knock down and deal 33% extra damage by consuming a Shred stack.
- Parrying Stance: Critical hits grant a small temporary health barrier equal to 2% of your maximum HP.
- Deadly Finisher: Upon defeating an enemy with a melee attack, they radiate a 10 ft. PBAoE that deals leftover damage to all surrounding targets.Unarmed - Ukemi
With supernatural balance, you no longer can be knocked down, and are instead repelled by knockback and knockup.
- Practiced Brawler: If you are held or stunned, you gain 10% dodge chance and have the hold duration shortened by 1 second.
- Combo Continuation: Applying a stun with an Unarmed power removes a stack of knock resistance, and applying a knock with an Unarmed power removes a stack of hold resistance.
- Shaolin Spirit: Chi effects that end will generate a 20 ft. heal around you, affecting allies, but not yourself.Telekinesis - Mental Precision
Critical hits with melee damage will boost your movement speed, while ranged critical hits boost your defenses.
- Oppressive Ego: Using TK attacks against enemies afflicted by a mental effect can strip away stacks of knock and hold resistance.
- Object Barrier: Picking up an object now scales with your Ego stat, and will not restrict you from using your other powers. You can no longer throw or wallop with the object, but instead gain the object's HP as a forcefield as it orbits around you.
- Illusory Blade: Your melee Telekinetic attacks deal an extra 66% damage, but this damage is recovered in the following 3 seconds unless Ego Leech is ruptured.Telepathy - Empathic Morale
Your attack power is boosted when you and your allies health is high, while your defense is boosted if health is low.
- Obsession: Using single-target attacks will reduce the target's stealth, dodge, and defense until you use a single-target attack on another target.
- Inspiring Vigor: Healing targets for more than their maximum HP applies half the health healed as a barrier, which will bolster the target's energy generation and offense while the barrier is active.
- Mind read: Boosts your resistances against any foes under the effect of your Mental Effects.Heavy Weapon - Power Stance
Melee attacks that self-root will no longer do so.
- Gigantic Weapon: Expands the range of Heavy-Weapon attacks to 15 feet.
- Massive Cleaver: Heavy Weapon attacks now do Slashing damage in place of their Crushing damage, all instances where Heavy Weapons attacks would interact with Disorient are replaced with Bleed, and knockbacks are changed to knockdowns.
- Pure Weapon: Fire Damage and Clinging Flames effects are removed from Heavy Weapon attacks, with Clinging Flames applications replaced with Stagger, and the fire damage converted to crushing.Earth - Geomancy
Gain extra offense and knock resistance the more attacks you use without moving. This benefit is higher the closer to the ground you are.
- Terrain shift: Using lunges or reverse-lunges will preserve the benefits gained through Geomancy, in spite of movement caused.
- One with the Earth: Heal 20% max health if you become rooted.
- Difficult Terrain: Enemies within 10 feet of you cannot be knocked back by melee attacks and instead take extra damage, are snared, and cannot jump.Might - Great Poise
Massively boosts your knock and hold resistance as you charge up melee attacks.
- Hyper Armor: Provides a one-hit temporary damage shield equal to 5% of your maximum HP, which provides knock and hold immunity while active. This is generated every 10 seconds you're in combat.
- Crater: When taking fall damage, you generate a knockback PBAoE around you that deals damage equal to the fall damage you take.
- Reckless Momentum: Reckless stacks can now reach 5 instead of 3, and persist until you either leave combat or block.
- Master Hauler: Speeds up your ability to pick up objects, boosts the damage deal with them, and expands their moveset to enable you to both block with the object, or to spin the object around for a melee PBAoE.Celestial - Righteous Determination
If you suffer damage that would defeat you, you instantly self-revive with 33% HP, and can only do this once every 5 minutes.
- Heroic Boon: Expands the Righteous Determination effect to enchanted allies. The same time limitations apply to this effect as well.
- Sacred Halo: If you enter a healing rune you summoned, it becomes a PBAoE effect on you that tracks your movement while in effect. The size and healing of the rune remains the same otherwise.
- Enlightenment: Illumination will speed charge times for allies and slow charge times for enemies.Darkness - Nightmarish Visage
You can inflict fear on targets within 20 feet of you when you enter combat and whenever you defeat an enemy with a critical hit.
- Inflict Despair: If you manage to stack 3 different mental effects on a target, they will become disabled for 4 seconds regardless of rank. This can occur once every 10 minutes for legendary, cosmic, or enemy player targets, and more often for lower-ranked targets.
- Panic: Fear will amplify the effects of Confusion and Stun, increasing their duration.
- Void Absorption: Defeating a target resets the cooldowns on threat wipes and teleport.Sorcery - Enchanter
Allows all non-defense-oriented, non-passive buffs and debuffs you generate to stack twice as much.
- Transmutation: Applies 5% bonus Magic damage to all non-sorcery attacks you use.
- Elementalist: Consuming an elemental debuff, such as Clinging Flames, Negative Ions, Chill, Debilitating Poison, or Stagger, will cause your Sorcery Attacks to deal that matching damage type for 5 seconds afterwards.
- Mage Armor: While charging any Sorcery ability you gain a small amount of temporary HP which scales with the amount of energy you have available.Bestial - Natural Savagery
Removes the efficiency debuffs with using Travel Powers in combat.
- Survival Instincts: Raises your dodge chances and movement speed as your health lowers, beginning at 33% HP.
- Improved Regeneration: When receiving healing, you also raise your maximum HP by 5% of your normal max HP, up to 3 times.
- Gluttonous Beast: Life Drain abilities deal 20% extra damage if you're already at full health.Infernal - Scarring Debilitations
Debuffs that stack more than once will retain at least one stack, until the target leaves combat.
- Poisonous Coatings: Adds 5% Toxic Damage to all non-infernal attacks, which increases to 15% if the target suffers from at least 3 stacks of Debilitating Poison.
- Clandestine Marring: Damage-Over-Time debuffs you inflict will not generate threat or break stealth.
- Contagion: Debilitating Poison generates a PBAoE that will spread a single stack of its effect to targets within 6 feet.