The gates are open!
Warlords of Draenor is going to fundamentally, irrevocably change the World of Warcraft. The changes here are in a word, sweeping. We have major systems being gutted, scrapped, or re-written. We have drastic changes to character and class identities and playstyles. We’re facing changes in loot, leveling and power systems. Individually, none of these changes are anything new — if you’ve been playing WoW for any length of time, you know that expansions always shake something up, somewhere. What’s most surprising here is the number of changes happening at the same time.
The “stat squish” has been long discussed, and now we’re getting it. No more 100,000+ damage numbers. No tanks with three-quarter-million health. Health, healing, and damage numbers are going to harken back to the days of Classic WoW or TBC and I personally think that’s a good thing.
Major systems are being overhauled or cut entirely. Hit and Expertise are gone. Do you remember when Weapon Skill was part of the game, and subsequently cut? The pruning here continues. Attack Power is also changing its contributions, as are Agility and Spell Power (no more +chance to Crit). And let’s not forget Crowd Control, which is being massively tweaked. Many classes are losing entire abilities to make this happen — Hunters, for example, are losing Silencing Shot and Scatter Shot, among others. There are upsides, however — again, using Hunters as an example, their Traps are becoming instant-arm and they can no longer be Disarmed by Rogues. Disarming in general is gone — Warriors and Rogues are losing the ability to bamf your weapons. Crowd Control duration and diminishing returns are all being looked at and changed, too. As are tanking systems, like Vengeance.
Abilities are being pruned. Classes and specializations are having abilities pulled. In some cases, this is to reduce “button bloat.” In others, it is to differentiate specializations more. Ability A may now only be available to Spec Z. Ability B may overwrite Ability C for Spec Y. Racial Abilities are also being revamped. Professional bonuses and perks are shifting toward non-combat benefits.
I can go on and on. And on. The changes here are absolutely massive, and every Alpha player will be effectively testing an entirely new game. The testing phase here, and later in Beta, will be so very, very vital to the future of WoW — I can’t stress enough to the testers coming on board: please play the ever-loving crap out of Warlords of Draenor. It’s inevitable that some systems will go live with bugs or imbalances, but the more thorough your testing is now, the better we’ll be come Beta. And then Release.
I really think this is make-or-break for World of Warcraft. The premium MMO titles keep coming, so there is no end of competition in the marketplace. WoD is facing a challenge in hooking old players and getting them to re-sub, while also attracting (and keeping) new players — if the game doesn’t play like a dream after all these changes go in, the subscription numbers will continue to drop.