If I may air my thoughts?
First of all? I don't like doing this. As a creative myself, with a partner who also is, I know how crushing even light criticism can be. It's awkward, as I'm really fond of all of your games (and Atomic Robo!) so I don't want any of my thoughts to come over as mean, ever. Then again, this could just be me being an empathetic baby.
The thing is? I love Relic, I want to adopt it, I can't. Why? I suck at balancing and there's one thing about it that really disagrees with me and plucks at my mind. I'm sure it has its place, and people like it, it's just that it isn't especially compatible with me which is why I've stuck with Glaive. It's really the only thing, and it's lead to me trying to house rules a patchwork monstrocity hybrid of Glaive and Relic.
How can I put this?
As a roleplayer, my brain is incompatible with hierarchy and grouping. This is why the rules I use have to accommodate for that. As a roleplayer, if I ever feel forced to do something that I feel my character wouldn't do? That takes me out of the game and immediately puts me off the system. Where Relic fails me here are the hierarchical talents which are grouped.
What made Glaive singularly and uniquely awesome was that it seemed to go for the realisation that I'd always had: talent trees suck. That's just my opinion though, and one many might not agree with. I mean, one of my favourite mods for Torchlight was one that removed the tree, rebalancing it so that each option was worth picking, and with only a scant handful of instances of requirements (you need this to get this).
I have a dragonkin character, for example. He's a lovely old eccentric, kind, and gentle. In a pinch, to save a life, he might use his elemental breath. However, the concept of him having the cold, dead stare of a cold-blooded predator is incompatible with my view of him (and chromatic dragons in general, but that's neither her nor there). I grumbled over that and muckled on, but then I found that more and more I disliked having to take talents that didn't fit with my character in because they're grouped in a template.
This is just my opinion alone, solely, nothing else, but I feel that in this regard Relic has become more of a video game and less of a roleplaying game. In a video game, you play the character that's laid out before you, you're not really playing a character of your own, with your agency having any impact on how things turn out. I mean, sure, you have rare gems like New Vegas (sans the very linear DLCs), but most video games aren't especially taken with player agency.
I love that in Glaive, I can pick the elements that I feel are relevant to my character. I can multiclass then by picking other traits. That's really cool, as I can build up something I want to roleplay and be supported by the system's mechanics. That's actually kinda unique. The reason I play rules-lite is that often I struggle against these video game-y elements in crunchier systems. I want to roleplay my character, not someone else's vision of it.
So in Glaive, I can mix and match a whole boatload of traits to really give my character the kind of bulk I'd want. I've even been trying to hack Glaive a bit to add new traits which I feel fit the classes, and that's actually a lot of fun! In Glaive, you have something that's incredibly diverse and something that can be built upon. I feel that Relic really begun to build upon that... and then lost the diversity in favour of video game-y elements.
Here's another thing: I actually really like that you've got lineages as classes, I get why you did that and it's fun. The whole reason is so you can have race traits. I dig it. However, the other side of this is that there's now the loss of a bunch of the cool lineages (like ursinkin and turtlefolk, two of my partner's favourites).
In my opinion, there's something truly awesome to be found in the weird space between Glaive and Relic—where lineages have traits, and there's none of the hierarchy or grouping (you just pick a trait or two every level).
One thing I have to acknowledge though is that I have a faulty dopamine circuit, which is not like a lot of people. I'm neurodiverse. As such, I've found that progression in games doesn't really do a lot for me. I've always preferred upwards rather than sideways. Seeing numbers get bigger is... Well, it's nothing. At least, not to me. It's a means to an end, but it doesn't excite me. However, Glaive did. Its sideways progression meant that my character became more interesting, not bigger number'd.
So, I guess what I'm saying is that a lot of this might just be people like me, and we might be a minority. You might change the hierarchy and grouping of Relic, and it might upset a lot of people. There are people for whom the sense of progression is more important than playing a uniquely interesting character that isn't bound to the rules, the character that you want to play. I'm writing this and I worry that it sounds like an insult, but it isn't. It's just... What it is? I mean, in an MMO, people love progression. The character is a means to an end. For me, the opposite is true. I love the character, and the progression is just a means to an end.
I'm sorry that this was an essay of waffle, but I'm not good at being succinct or explaining my feelings, and I always worry I'll convey myself wrong and cause hurt where that isn't my intent. I just wanted to share to see if you had any input.
Frankly, if you put up an optional module for Relic that was Glaive-ish with its traits (no grouping or hierarchy, you just pick on level)? I'd buy that in an instant. Like I said, I really like Relic but, for me, being bound that way and having limitations on how I can express my character is a bad time, it doesn't feel great. But that aside, I absolutely love Relic. I mean, if I wasn't really fond of it, I wouldn't be writing an essay long comment about it, so I hope that's obvious?
I just hope this doesn't come across as kind of a gut-punch anyway because, hey, like I said, I dig Relic and I dig Glaive. Relic just has that one part that just... doesn't work for me. I don't know what your thoughts on this will be, but I wanted to share mine.
Thank you for reading!