And in City of Heroes, you get three of them.
This is the sort of thing that raises a few eyebrows, since having a limited number of choices to rectify your already-limited number of choices is not something to inspire confidence. And I'm not going to lie to you: It's certainly not the brightest decision in the world. But the hard limits on the total number of respecs you get doesn't actually mean you're forever locked in to terrible decisions. The fact of the matter is that for a number of reasons, you won't really care.
Reason 1: That count was an awful lie
Three respecs is an easy number to remember; it's the one that usually gets passed around, and it is wrong. It's not a blatant lie, as that was entirely accurate, but times have changed since then.
For starters, players can earn a grand total of six more respecs from the Paragon Rewards Program (in tiers 3 to 8, one per tier). Players can also craft a respec recipe or purchase one from event salvage during the Halloween and winter events. And of course, you can drop money in the Paragon Market to grab one if you feel the urgent need for another respec. Not to mention the free respecs given out whenever the developers change something big (which has occasionally felt like it's every new issue).
Now, all that having been said, if you're looking for respecs that you are given freely by the game without any complications, then the number still isn't too high. You have nine available to you without requiring a rare drop, an event, or real cash. Maybe one more if you've not used up an existing free respec. But then, the fact that you might not use a freebie suggests something else in the structure of the game.
Reason 2: There's not a whole lot a respec will reset
When you respec, you can't choose a new primary or secondary power set, much less a new archetype. The only differences you can make are which powers you take, when you take them, and how you arrange your Enhancement slots.
Not only are these not a lot of changes, but they're even more limited than they sound. You have nine powers in your primary and secondary power sets, and it's honestly not all that common for you to want every single one of them. Some of them are just more useful than others, some of them are useless for the character type you're playing, and some of them are just plain bloat. Odds are good you'll wind up with most of them, but then you find yourself with another batch of powers left to fill up. Grabbing your travel power might take up another selection, but then what?
You probably have more than enough power choices to get everything you want the first time around, in other words. Most of the power pools aren't screamingly useful, and the Ancillary/Patron pool likely doesn't contain a full list of powers you want, either. It is very easy to pick the powers you want from the list to start with, and slotting them is not tremendously complicated either.
Of course, several of these elements do rely upon your making a character and making a couple of missteps with your first character or two before you learn. So obviously the respecs are useful. It's just that not having them on demand isn't a huge deal.
Reason 3: Most relevant decisions don't require respecs
Power selection, which is locked in, honestly doesn't make up a huge part of what your character is capable of. Far more important than that are your Enhancements. Sure, diversification means you can only stack about three of any given type into a power before they get useless, but for most of your important powers you've got six slots to play around with. Most powers can accept at least three different sorts of Enhancements, and the most common sort (attack powers) take four for melee and five for ranged.
There's a lot of leeway there in how you set up your enhancements without full sets. You could aim for a bunch of Range and Accuracy improvements, you could go for Endurance and Recharge, you could stack up multiple types, or you could try to get an even spread. Each change is going to make a big difference in how you play, especially at the level cap when you're walking around in level 50 SOs or IOs.
And none of those changes requires respecs. All of them are simply obtained using some money and potentially a little farming.
Because of the way the game handles progression, in the long run your Enhancements are going to make more of a difference in your power level. And the only thing a respec does is rearrange where those precious enhancement slots go, which generally is not exactly hard to determine on your own. Your most basic and important abilities get six slots, you throw three onto Stamina, and the rest wind up being "flavor to taste."
In other words, the big thing you'll use respecs for is to correct your couple of bad power choices and slightly rearrange your power slots... which is not something your really need to do more than the game allows, unless you're chronically indecisive or you keep six-slotting Sprint by mistake.
So if you're worried about getting into the game because of its limited respecs, fear not! You'll be just fine. Unless, of course, you want to completely change your power set choices, in which case you wouldn't be find even with unlimited respecs. Sometimes we can't have nice things.
As always, feedback on this column is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. In honor of next week's being knee-deep in the release of some other game, I'm going to take a look at how City of Heroes handles its storylines, where they work out well, and where the game could use some notable improvements.
By day a mild-mannered reporter, Eliot Lefebvre unveils his secret identity in Paragon City and the Rogue Isles every Wednesday. Filled with all the news that's fit to analyze and all the muck that's fit to rake, this look at City of Heroes analyzes everything from the game's connection to its four-color roots to the latest changes in the game's mechanics.