For the average player just getting into a game, you never want to present them with too many options, too quickly. It makes the game appear far more confusing and complex than it actually is, and creates a situation where a casual gamer suffers from deer-caught-in-headlights syndrome the first few times they play.
By having all utilities available from the word go, you’re forced to sit down and read every single tooltip to understand what they do, not knowing why one might be better than another. If you’re not a GW1 player, you probably have no idea what wells, sigils, or mantras are. And you certainly don’t know why one might be better than another.
What ArenaNet has done is implement a system that is still far better than visiting a skill trainer to learn one spell or skill every two levels, but retains a proper perspective on the learning curve for average players. Just because many of us spend countless hours obsessing over builds and skills between beta events, I guarantee that is not the case for the vast majority of gamers who will be playing GW2 at launch.
So for all of the reasons outlined above, the tiered utility skill unlock system is absolutely a worthy design decision. And just like the tiered traits, I suspect it will continue to be refined until it reaches a point where even Lewis will see its brilliance.
Here are some of the core benefits this system clearly provides:
1. Learning through progression
“For the average player just getting into a game, you never want to present them with too many options, too quickly.”
Players don’t start out with all utility slots unlocked. Requiring players to purchase 5 different tier 1 skills to use initially exposes them to a broader spectrum of skill types for their profession. For example, it is a massive learning tool to give players a chance to begin understanding the difference between things like wells, signets, or mantras, rather than throwing them in at the deep end before first teaching them how to swim.
From that basic understanding of various skill lines within a profession, you can then more wisely make decisions the further you progress. By the time you have your second utility slot unlocked you will also have enough skill points to progress past the first tier of skills. Again, this forms a very natural progression.
2. Balancing Creature Complexity
Since creatures also become progressively more complex the further you advance through the PvE game, it makes sense to have a system in place to insure that combat abilities between creature and player are somewhat relative.
Think of it this way. Nobody complains that they can’t roll into a dynamic event at level 2 and decimate everything in the area by popping their elite skill. So why should you have access to the most powerful utility skills straight out of the gates?
But if you allow players to use the most powerful options immediately, you necessarily have to balance creature strength to account for it. Then what happens to the players who don’t want to save points to unlock the most expensive things first? They’re suddenly forced to play the game in a way they didn’t choose to keep up with the average strength of creatures. Not fun, or cool.