Sad news, my realm is down for 24 hours today. Happy news, I get to play on the Beta in the meantime!
I must say, in the first week and a bit of trying out the Beta, I must say that I was nothing short of overwhelmed at the amount of things I wanted to look at. Here’s a list of topics I ended up focusing on based on priority.
Old World leveling/solo
Old World dungeons
Mastery System and revamped combat mechanics
Water Elemental mechanics
Frost Mage Talent Tree
Hopefully, to cover all of these, I decided to copy over my gnome mage from the live servers, as well as create a worgen mage and try out the starting zone and alliance-side old world quests. Balancing both have been quite tedious so far, given the amount of time I actually put into the beta. Even more tedious was the number of bugs that I have encountered and were unable to report due to server maintenance today, as well as the inability to use the bug report feature at all in the last beta build. Quite ironic indeed.
That said, I am thoroughly enjoying a lot of the shift in playstyle that has accompanied the major mechanic changes. Let’s take a look at what’s up so far.
41-Point talent system
Here’s a short reiteration of the new system: the trees have been significantly slimmed down to 41-points each, you are locked into one tree for the first 31 points put into it, and only 41 points will be available at the level cap. My favourite feature of this system, however, is at level 10, when you get your first talent point, choosing your talent tree specialization will result in gaining an exclusive spell right away. For Frost, this means a water elemental at level 10. And not any water elemental, but a permanent one that does NOT require a glyph, nor does it forfeit its freeze ability by being permanent.
Freaking awesome. I have no idea if this will be balanced in PvP, but for the most part, it cannot seem to hold its own against another mob without taking heavy damage. At low levels, without talents that help you heal your pet by dealing damage, it is actually VERY squishy, so your best use for it is not as a tank, but rather as a DoT and second Frost Nova. Just set it and forget it. However, at the higher levels, when you gain access to all the major frost soloing tools (extra root via Improved Cone of Cold, Deep Freeze, Shattered Barrier), you have plenty of ways to take on multiple mobs at once with the elemental’s help.
Due to the removal of trainable spell ranks, all ranks have been consolidated into one rank that scales with level. Also, the levels at which spells are first trainable have been shuffled around to reflect these changes. The most notable of these changes is moving Frost Armor and Blizzard to level 54 and 52 respectively. This marks the death of AoE grinding that was made popular from leveling in the 20s onward. While I am extremely sad to see this change, I am going to try and find out if there is a way to AoE small packs of 3 and 4 using Arcane explosion and the rooting abilities of Frost Nova, Improved Cone of Cold, and Freeze.
Fingers of FFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUU-
Fingers of Frost is seriously buggy in the beta right now. The current intended tooltip is to give Ice Lance the ability to hit as if the target were frozen for 2 charges. In the previous build, dummy testing has shown that the FoF charges were often not being consumed by Ice Lance, meaning that I was regularly Lancing about 4 or 5 times until the charges disappeared. In the current beta build, the opposite problem is occuring, where charges are disappearing without casting Ice Lance at all. My testing has shown that the charges can be consumed by Brain Freeze Frostfire Bolts, Frostbolts, and Deep Freeze. they changed the talent to include Frostfire Bolt and Deep Freeze, but apparently Frostbolt is still consuming the charge.
I honestly do like the direction that the tree is going with its philosophy of varying its spell rotation with more Ice Lances and Pet Freeze cooldown management, but there’s still a lot of work to be done for the mechanics to work properly at all. Only until then, and when I get the mage into dungeons, can I make a real judgment on the dungeon PvE playstyle. On paper, it looks promising, so I can’t wait!
The Dungeon Dilemma
Sometimes, I wonder if we have been spoiled by the dungeon finder. In the previous beta build, it didn’t work in the test realms, which made for a difficult decision to hang out in trade and try to manually find a group, or simply go out and quest. Having been a newbie to the game during my first leveling experience, I only skimmed over the dungeons in favour of questing. But with the old world dungeons being re-designed to be more streamlined like those in BC and WotLK with regards to layout and quest implementation, as well as the presumed availability of this feature when the expansion goes live, dungeon crawling is set to become exciting again.
Now only if I could actually GET into a group…
This is the name of my new permanent water elemental. It is also buggy as hell, but in some respects, probably in a good way that won’t ever see live. In the current live realms, Squirtle despawns when entering a new zone via instance portal or teleportation. In the beta, it REspawns when doing so, meaning that it will magically appear in front of you even if you didn’t have it summoned in the first place. Similarly, it will also respawn upon dismount. This respawning is independent of the Summon Water Elemental spell cooldown, so if you find yourself petless while questing, and your spell is still on cooldown, this is the cheap way to get it back without penalty. For obvious reasons, this is an unintended bug, so it’s quite unlikely that it will remain as it is when the expansion is released.
Not Yet Ready
With dungeons barely touched, levels barely reached, and bugs upon bugs to report and exploit until fixed, there’s still so much to do, with supposedly so little time to do it. It’s supposed to be slated for a 2010 release, but considering that there is a glut of bugs to work out and a whole bunch of mechanics to be fixed. Frost Magery is, despite its FoF and Water Elemental bugs, probably not as far from ready as other classes are (see Paladins, Hunters). We’re in good shape, but considering that Cryomancy is but a speck in the giant ocean that is Cataclysm, I wouldn’t be surprised if the release date gets pushed into 2011, possibly into February.