Not sure if this was mentioned in the past and cautious to post anything regarding the skill system considering the rage it tends to generate lately.
What about simplifying the skill talent merger to talent skill tiers. What I mean by this is remove skills linked to talents and simply have different tiered talents that give you access to the skills you want. Such as basic athletics > intermediate athletics > advanced athletics > master athletics. This would allow you to make balanced combat/skill characters, combat focused (no skills) characters, or even a more passive skills based character (with little to no combat talents).
I think it would be simple to implement and allow for varied and flexible builds. Any thoughts?