Thursday, July 17, 2014

30 Minutes of Beta

img: Blizzard
I freely admit I'm a bad beta tester. My wish for new content is in direct conflict with my desire to avoid spoiling the story before the expansion actually drops. It was the same with with the Mists beta: I played through the entirety of the Pandaren starting experience, logged in on a max-level copied character once or twice, but didn't do much beyond that. This time around, I've reached a compromise: I've played through the starting experience on my max-level Orc shaman decked out in fully upgraded Normal SoO gear, then used the template system to create a max-level Dwarf shaman to play through the Alliance starting zone.

Surely there are game-wide spoilers to be seen with the completion of Shadowmoon Valley, but I'm hoping I'll be able to shield myself from some of the Horde-specific ones until launch. So far, I've only played for about 30 minutes: through the Tanaan Jungle with the Orc, and partway through again with the Dwarf. Still, I've seen enough to share a few observations and opinions.

Squint to See the Squish

I've grown accustomed over the years to playing with combat text turned off; I'm not so much a big numbers guy, more a is-the-raid-alive-and-the-boss-dead guy. Unless you're looking for the stat squish, you won't see it: this change doesn't affect how the game plays one bit. In full-out raid gear mobs vaporized before my shortest cooldowns refreshed. With the templated shaman, it wasn't much slower.

Selectively Enchanted

I saw enchants for necklaces, cloaks, rings, and weapons, and they added secondary stats like Multistrike, Readiness, Spirit, Armor, Haste, etc. I haven't yet seen what end-game professions will look like, but Blizzard being more selective with which armor pieces can be enchanted gives me hope that we might see some really unique (and cool!) enchants at max level. 

UI & QoL Upgrades

There's that glow (red, green, sometimes yellow) that surrounds an NPC when you mouse over them indicating their level of hostility towards you. When I was told to find some guy, he was easily spotted from a distance because of the soft yellow outline that enveloped him. I understand this feature can be turned off if the player desires so.

Quest items no longer taking up inventory space is another welcome change. When I was instructed to put the Iron Horde's huts to the torch, there wasn't an item in my inventory, but when in close proximity to the huts an Extra Action Button popped up in the middle of my screen where it was easily clickable.

The Toybox feature is neat and provided a bit of relief to my overstuffed inventory, but I was surprised by some of the items that were deemed unworthy for the Toybox. Also, if you're super anal about how your bags are organized, take care before you push that "Clean Up Inventory" button. 

See It to Believe It

The visuals so far are stunning. The character designs remind me a bit of what Blizzard is doing with Heroes of the Storm, and that's not a bad thing. My Orc shaman feels like there's more substance, more weight to him when he runs or swings an axe. There are some really nice spell effect upgrades that grant a new sheen to spells many of us have been using for years.

I did bristle at the face Blizzard gave my Orc shaman, and at this writing I'm still not fond of it. It doesn't match up with the way I've come to view my shaman, my main character since the Burning Crusade. It is my deep, deep hope that Blizzard is going to surprise the hell out of all of us by offering a robust variety of face customization options. Given the vast array of choices players are given by Blizzard's competitors, I just don't see how they couldn't.

Hear It to Believe It

At last year's Blizzcon I attended a panel on the sounds of Warcraft; they've not only updated elements of the game visually, but they've also attacked the audio. Part of what I experienced may have came via the sheen of new content, but things sounded more immediate and more chaotic when running through that first zone. Some of the new spell effect sounds are plain badass.

The Ability Prune

Clearly, some classes are seeing much more than others. Enhancement shaman received a few tweaks, but no large overhauls. For enhancement, I feel the changes didn't go far enough, but the ones they've made I completely agree with. However, that's a subject for another post.

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