Wednesday, 6 February 2008

A New Reason to Gank Fandral Staghelm

Extra! Extra! News from Computer and Videogames (and a comment on it at WoW Insider) about the upcoming expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, for millions of WoW fans around the world to devour greedily and, as they lick their bloodstained lips, raise their bloodshot eyes and howl, "MOAR! MOAR! MOAR!"

So what do we have here? More talk about inscription and how it will work, exactly. Great - more ways to pimp our characters. I like it. It's good. Stuff that's already been mentioned, too - the new CoT instance, which I will surely love; the PvP world zone which gives faction buffs... sure, not too interested in PvP, but I might give that a try. New hair styles and dances - gaming gold, people. Gaming gold. Especially if the new dances aren't race-based, so you can have all the races standing next to each other, or perhaps in a circle, and doing the exact same dance move, in sync with each other. I can see the machinima already...
And the mightiest of their warriors did stride forth and, facing off in a geometrically precise line of battle, prepared themselves for the epic confrontation. As one, the warriors of the Horde began to moonwalk. The Alliance clenched their teeth in trepidation. This was going to be a tough one.

Okay, what else? How about a new Hero class? What's that you say? Archdruids? Excuse me while I handcuff myself to the bed so that I do not accidentally throw myself out of the window with glee.

Seriously though - AWESOME. Now, if you haven't read the news that I linked just now, I am going to be an incredibly kind-hearted soul and quote the bit about Archdruids for you. "with any luck, we'll see more Hero classes some time after release, the hot Zitron tip being some kind of Archdruid quest directly connected to Malfurion Stormrage and the much-anticipated Emerald Dream."

I'll give you a few seconds to deal with this. Go on - go shout "ZOMG ARCHDRUIDZ" at a family member, pet, or passing vehicle. I'll wait. Okay, done? Great.

Speaking as a druid, I'm very interested to see what they could give Archdruids that would distinguish them from "normal" druids. Perhaps they will be a kind of further evolution of the class, sacrificing some amount of their versatility for increased prowess in one of their roles- such as becoming more proficient shapeshifters and unlocking different forms, or becoming a bigger, better, faster, stronger oomkin (goes oom 20% faster!), while distinguishing these roles from their main class counterparts even more.

That or they could go the other way and be even more versatile than druids already are, blurring the distinction between them and their animal forms - perhaps being able to cast certain spells in animal form, such as Remove Curse or Barkskin - or even the other way around, such as having Frenzied Regeneration continue to have effect even after you shift out of bear form.

I'd like to just note here that if Archdruids get the ability to customize their animal forms, I would be far more willing to make the Archdruid my main. If they are unable to use animal forms at all - a la Malfurion Stormrage in his Warcraft 3 incarnation - then I will be tempted, but will certainly not abandon Ukwende (Actually, Blizzard are going to have to do something nothing short of earth-shaking to make me abandon Ukwende, so it's pretty much a moot point anyway).

Along the Emerald Dream side of things, perhaps they'll be able to manipulate the real world through the Emerald Dream - that would be very, very cool thematically. In the druid quest for Swift Flight Form, you have to fight manifestations of nightmares that have emerged from the emerald dream. They could, then, become another minion-based class, managing one or more emerald dream manifestations; or even gain the ability to channel the spirit of an emerald nightmare and gain a new Nightmare form or Dream form. I already strongly suspect that druids will be getting a new animal form in Wrath, and that this new form will be in the Feral tree - since the first talented form was the Balance Boomkin and the second was the Restoration Redwood (Okay, I know that tree form isn't a redwood, but I couldn't think of a direct synonym of 'tree' that began with the letter R).

What I really don't want is for archdruids and druids to be homogeneous, with no real difference between them. I can't imagine Blizzard going that far, but it will probably be a fine line to tread between distinguishing them as druids and making them unique. However, Blizzard has shown that they are willing to homogenize with the Burning Crusade adding paladins to the Horde and shamans to the Alliance, eliminating the only real difference between the two factions in terms of gameplay mechanics. Moreover, they have also shown that they don't mind making old content obsolete - really, how often have I seen "LFM MC" in the LFG channel since Burning Crusade was released? Oh that's right, I haven't.

Now granted, they're bringing back Naxxramas in the expansion, but how much of that endgame raid content is never going to be seen again? I've made one foray into UBRS and a few into BRD. I've never set foot inside LBRS, I'm probably never going to see MC, Onyxia's Lair, Ahn'Qiraj 20 or 40, Zul'Gurub... the list isn't endless, but if you consider the amount of time legacy raiders spent in those instances, that is a massive amount of content that's just sitting there not being used. Granted, some of it was pretty terrible - I've heard all kinds of horror stories about Molten Core ("Will you loot the freaking core hounds already?!"), not to mention the infamous Onyxia's Lair attunement quest, as well as C'Thun's eye beam of instant gruesome death.

I would still, however, have loved to see that content - and I bet lots of pre-BC raiders would love to see it brought back and updated so that the rewards for actually doing them aren't completely worthless. Would it be too difficult to retune the encounters for 25 or even 10 players? Heck, MC has been cleared with by three! Of course, that kind of rehashing old content is unlikely, as Blizzard has stated that they aren't interested in it. And I can understand that - it wouldn't be fun to have all the instances in Wrath be like, "Sethekk Halls... but TEN LEVELS HIGHER!" Seriously kids. Say no to Sethekk Halls. And drugs. And deranged, carnivorous, homicidal birdmen who want to KILL AND EAT YOU. Seriously. Common sense here.

Of course, doing the same thing with an entire class would be... very surprising. I don't think that there is a real danger of it happening.

No - Blizzard won't make the Archdruid just an overpowered version of a druid. That would be insane. What I think is a danger is veiled homogeneity. Take my earlier speculation about what the Archdruid's abilities will be. If they took all these different ideas and applied them to the druid formula... what would you get? Perhaps you'd get the Nightmare, Dream and, I dunno, Delusion, talent trees. The Nightmare talent tree - you are able to empower your animal forms using the Emerald Dream; the Dream tree - you can enter a Dream State, in which your healing abilities are greatly amplified; the Delusion tree - the very essence of the Emerald Dream flows through you, allowing you to bring its wrath down upon your enemies.

So you've got a slightly different form of the Feral, Restoration and Balance trees, perhaps with different talents and models for forms, but with essentially the same base class. And there is even room for overlap. For example, I just said "Dream State" - can anyone say shadowform? Can anyone say enraged shadow priests and exploding WoW forums? Then again, this overlap problem is also true of the Death Knight.

How do they get around this? By designing an entirely new class mechanic, as they have done with the death knight's rune system.

I could go on speculating indefinitely, but this post is becoming a tad lengthy, and so I believe I'll wrap it up here and save some of my speculation points until more information on this Archdruid class comes to the fore.

Signing off!

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