Cataclysmic Ambivalence

Where most people are frothing at the mouth in anticipation of Cataclysm’s impending release (and in the shorter term Patch 4.0.1 and 4.0.3 – the “Rules” and “World” updates), I am somewhat torn. I say somewhat torn, but what I really mean is “nearly torn asunder by two separate, opposed and irreconcilable emotions”. If you have read any of my previous Cataclysm coverage, you may remember how I’ve classified these: Rabid Anticipation and Vague Dread. As we draw closer to the release and things become clear, my anticipation is less rabid and my dread is less vague. Observe below the cut:

Anticipation

There are many things in Cataclysm that sound like they’ll be ultra-turbo-awesomecharged, and I am looking forward to them.

  • Flight in Azeroth! Never again shall I be separated from my Netherwing Drake! Well, apart from Battlegrounds (for some reason). I never thought it would happen, after all they’d have to remodel the entire world! Oh. Anyway, I am happy with this.
  • Archaeology! This sounds really cool. Durkon shall be an amateur archaeologist, oh yes. I like the idea of a non-mandatory secondary profession that’s really just in there for fun and cosmetic rewards. I also like the fact that it’s non-competitive, having to compete with other players for artefact spawns would make this a real pain, especially for the first few months.
  • New quests from 1-60 incorporating Blizzard’s experience building entertaining quests in the two expansions! Oh Gods this cannot come soon enough. A lot of Wrath quests were really well engineered and fun, I can’t easily overstate how much I’m looking forward to the original content being updated based on everything Blizzard have learnt.

At this point, I have to stop writing as “Last March of the Ents” has rolled around on my music playlist. I seem to have an obsession with soundtracks lately and recently bought the complete Lord of the Rings recordings for the first two films. Six hours of incredible quality cinematic music. I love the Rohan theme, but it’s always this track that strips me completely of my ability to concentrate for at least a good 1:30 or so. The inevitable consequence is the complete derailing of my train of thought and thus completely irrelevant asides like this. My apologies.

Ahem.

  • Harder 5-mans? I can’t completely decide about this one way or another. In one respect, Wrath heroics are rather boring now. Move forward. AoE. Move forward. AoE. Move forward. Boss fight with no tactics (it has tactics, but we just ignore and nuke through). Move forward. AoE. I remember when we had to CC things, observe kill orders and actually concentrate on boss fights and… you know do things. Was it more fun? I can’t really remember, it was a while ago. I don’t see how it can reasonably be less fun. Then again, LFD queue times will be utterly absurd, a leadership role will tend to settle on a Tank’s shoulders if she likes it or not and many people will die. Repeatedly.
  • Focus! Perhaps. Now I’ve had some time (lots and lots of time) to get used to the idea, I don’t think I’ll miss mana management. I think the new resource system and I will get on fine. Well, so long as they haven’t limited focus regen too much…
  • All pet stats scaling! Yayayayayayayayayfinallyahahahaha!
  • People bringing different pets to raids. I have nothing against wolves. They are loyal, noble in their way. I am however sick and tired of every hunter in the entire world having one all the damn time because some numbers say it’s slightly better. Variety will be good. Disappointing that people still won’t be able to bring the pets they feel closest too, but still…

This is degrading into cynicism already. It’s not time yet.

  • Ysera! Malfurion Stormrage! My Druid is going to have trouble finding enough time to revere them each sufficiently. It seems like My Lady Alexstrasza the Lifebinder (Queen of All Dragons) won’t be idle either. I haven’t paid attention to the lore posts too much though, only the mechanics stuff. It’s not that I don’t care about the lore – quite the opposite in fact – but I want to experience it for the first time in-game, like the Wrathgate.
  • Worgen! Goblins! Do I need to say anything further about this? I do not need to say anything further about this.
  • Not getting instagibbed in PvP. There are reasons I might not get on with PvP in the new world, but I won’t miss getting critted for my entire health pool.
  • Interface improvements! There are lots of them. Its interesting to look at a new MMO like Star Trek Online and then WoW – the interface is significantly better in WoW even in the Wrath era and they’re still making substantial quality of life improvements. This is one of the things I like about Blizzard. They lead the way, and constantly work at improving what they’ve got and staying ahead.

Dread

On the other hand… there are some changes I would prefer not to see go live. Changes that I would happily stretch the release date, postpone the patches so that I can continue to live in a world without them for just a little longer. These are things that have really, genuinely made me doubt Blizzard. Things that have actually made me consider whether or not this expansion is for me and particularly if I will still enjoy playing my class and spec when this is through.

  • Permanence of World and Class changes: We can never go back. Being able to explore the world anew and having new challenges to surmount are exciting, but it’s also worth considering that we will never ever be able to play this game again. This is the thing with MMOs: I can go back and play Knights of the Old Republic or Dragon Age any time I want and the experience can be the same as before, slightly different or wholly different depending on my choices. If Blizzard decide to change everything in Warcraft, it is changed permanently and irrevocably. I can’t simply reinstall and patch up to a certain point. If everything in the new world is brilliant and wonderful, it’s not so much of a problem, but if you don’t like something… you’re stuck with it. For example…
  • Bestial Wrath no longer breaking CC. I understand that it is part of the new system design for there to be less ways to avoid stuns and movement impairing effects, but… Ack. The fact that I do not feel pity or remorse or fear and cannot be stopped unless killed is a key factor for why I PvP at all. I love this. I hate being locked down and losing control of my character. I despise dying because my PvP trinket was on cooldown and I’m unable to respond in any way to an attack against me. I enjoy making that priest or rogue work for their kill rather than simply jumping me off a cliff or locking me down until the energy death of the universe. Does it materially affect my survivability? I don’t really think so. I still get killed by Warlocks and Rogues. It’s just more fun. This is what irritates me, that Blizzard are stripping away a feature that is fun, that allows me to retain control of my character and that is absolutely distinctive to Beast Mastery PvP. What do we have left? Intimidation? I’m sure that’ll be really useful when people have health pools measured in HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS. Argh.

Gollum’s Song. This is amazing, I cannot imagine this being more appropriate for its purpose. It’s not like most ‘credits’ songs with have a lyric which might be related in some way to the film, it’s clear that this was written very specifically for the film’s Gollum. Even the inflection and tone of the lines invokes Gollum. Masterful. Well done Emiliana Torrini.

  • Some of the developers choices for pet skills are… questionable. Spirit Beasts have as their exotic ability a tiny heal-on-current-friendly-target on a 45 second cooldown. It’s fortunate that they have Roar of Courage (+1395 Str and Agi) as their special ability as it’s difficult to imagine anything more utterly useless than this. Oh wait, here’s one!

    Quick bit of background: The Warp Stalker is my favourite Tenacity pet. Warp makes this beast an absolute joy to work with when competing for reputation or quest mobs, as he can ‘Warp’ to the next target quicker than it takes for a projectile to travel from me to my target – he tags enemies for me instantly. And again, it’s fun – I enjoy watching him ping about. A slight improvement to dodge chance when he warps is useful for a tenacious beast too.

    So in Cataclysm… Warp is going away to be replaced with a 6-second reduced run speed on target. Warp stalkers can’t warp. The thing that defines them. Instead they have an ability so devoid of any merit that I’m about to lapse into Rilgon-esque levels of ultro-rage. I’M SURE THAT A REDUCED RUN SPEED THAT WON’T WORK ON IMPORTANT MOBS WILL BE REALLY USEFUL ON A TENACITY BEAST! I’m sure that people won’t want to use a tenacity beast for tanking or in PvE where the targeted mob will be standing still and completely unaffected by a run speed reduction. I am equally certain that people will take a lower-damage Tenacious beast into PvP as opposed to let’s say a Dog which is ferocity and can stop an enemy completely for 4 seconds OH GODS WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS AND WHAT WERE THEY THINKING OF…

Aye, I did just fly completely into a rant over the Bestial Wrath change and a pet-skill change. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that they’re systematically targeting and ruining just specifically the things that I love. My spirit beast goes everywhere with me, unless I’m tanking something or doing some daily quests – I bring my beloved warp stalker for this. One of them is now consigned to obscurity and the other is basically indistinguishable from a regular non-exotic Cat. Maybe you think I’m overreacting, but… it’s difficult for me to think of any other mechanical changes (apart from “Beastmastery removed”) that they could possibly make that could be better designed to offend me. I don’t mind having to relearn my class and adapt to a new play style. I encouraged hunters to embrace the challenge when the first hunter changes came out of Blizzcon last year and even now I look forward to playing with the new mechanics. The desire to be about it continues to burn within me.

The reason these changes injure me is not because I fear a change of the status-quo, or I resent them meddling with my spec. It is because these changes negatively affect things that are fun and that add character. One of the reasons I like Pike’s attitude to the game is that I relate to it. I don’t really roleplay with other people, but I know my characters. I have internal stories for them. I’ve spent a lot of time playing Durkon and his affection for Ryoku the Spirit Beast, Nimitz the Spotted Snowsabre and Draigan the Warp Stalker are also mine. The marginalisation of these pet types through mechanical changes deals a very significant blow to his story and character, the very things that keep me playing as a Beastmaster despite everything. The things that keep me playing at all.

This is not good.

There are other things that should probably go in this category, but they are more “things that I’m not sure about and don’t really know if it’ll work for me” than actual dread. Now I’ve written the above, it seems pretty clear to me that the BW+Pet changes are the things I’m actually dreading, that I don’t want to see go live. These are the things that in the end will tip the balance for me.

Is it possible that Blizzard have refined and improved the Hunter design, made it a better and more interesting class overall… but at the same time ruined it for me? Can they have taken the class in a new and exciting direction but inadvertently removed the very things that bound me to this class in the first place? The things that made me a Beastmaster.

We set out to save the Shire, and it HAS been saved… but not for me.

Once again, I’m not in the Beta. I have not played the “new” Hunter. I can’t say how these changes will feel on live. Perhaps you can see why I’m torn though and how a very few mechanical changes that really matter to me can seem to balance an entire truckload of really cool things that I should look forward to.

On balance?

I’ve allowed myself to get a little swept up in the 4.0.1 patch day enthusiasm, so I’m looking forward to this more than I’m not at the moment. Will I feel the same when I log in tomorrow? Will my concerns be justified at all? I’ve waited this long to find out, I suppose can wait another day.

Oh, what the hell.

/cast Anticipation (Rank uh spell ranks are gone!)

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