If I have to tell you again to back off, you an’ me are gonna go round and round. — Mr. White
One of the buzzwords that floats around our office after every meeting and training seminar is “The Delta.” Basically, what’s the difference between what we know or do now and what we used to know/do. The delta just refers to anything that’s changed or is different. I thought I would do a typical nerd thing and apply that to the new 31pt talent trees that broke last night.
There’s been an expected avalanche of bitchingcommentary on this newly released info, but let’s give Blizzard the benefit of the doubt and take our time to break it down.
- Improved Healing Wave
- Improved Reincarnation
- Healing Grace
- Tidal Force
- Healing Focus (Moved to mastery)
- Tidal Mastery
- Healing Way
- Focused Mind
- Purification (Moved to mastery)
- Earth Shield/Improved Earth Shield (Primary Tree Ability, Level 10)
- Ancestral Resolve – Tier 1 – Reduces damage taken while casting spells by 5/10%.
- Spark of Life – Tier 1 – Increased your healing done by 2/4/6% and your healing received by 5/10/15%.
- Focused Insight – Tier 2 – After casting any shock spell, your next heal’s mana cost is reduced by 25/50/75% of the cost of the Shock spell, and its healing effectiveness is increased by 10/20/30%.
- Nature’s Blessing – Tier5 – Increases the effectiveness of your direct heals on Earth Shielded targets by 5/10/15%.
- Telluric Currents – Tier 6 – Your attunement to natural energies causes your Lightning Bolt spell to restore mana equal to 20% of damage dealt.
- Ancestral Swiftness – Moved up to tier 2 making it accessible to restoration shamans. Improved Ghost Wolf is also rolled into this talent:
Reduces the cast time of your Ghost Wolf spell by 1/2 sec and increases movement speed by 7/15%. This does not stack with other movement speed increasing effects.
The enhancement sub-spec is the same as it was in Wrath of the Lich King, it’s just less talent points.
There still isn’t one for PvE Restoration.
Improved Healing Wave/Tidal Waves
An interesting omission from the new talent tree is Improved Healing Wave (cast time reduction). Heals that take 3 seconds to cast are not fun and tidal waves is very deep in the tree. I can only expect that either Lesser Healing Wave will be given earlier or you will be able to do something to reduce that cast time. Having Earth Shield at an early level will alleviate this issue somewhat until you get Lesser Healing Wave, but that puts a new spin on healing at the end game.
Using Chain Heal and Riptide to have a tidal waves buff available is going to make for interesting healing strategy. The charges still only stick around for 15 seconds, so Riptide is going to step to the forefront as our primary heal purely for setup purposes. There’s no way you want to be caught needing to use a (Greater)Healing Wave with no Tidal Waves buff. Healing Wave is currently our cheapest heal, sitting at 6% base mana and Riptide is only 10%.
Improved Chain Heal
What’s the point of this talent? My chain heal is more…better…er! It sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise clean tree.
During the round table we talked optimistically about what they could do with the new 31pt talent trees. What I realized after actually seeing the trees is that we didn’t really think hard enough about what “trimming the fat” out of the trees really meant. The message coming out of Blizzard is that they wanted to take out all of the “required” and uninteresting talents and make us make some real decisions, some real choices, and get get some fun talents.
Now I’m not completely insane. I don’t expect every single talent to be a fancy new heal or piece of utility, but this is the same tree we already have; it just uses less talent points and haves some things moved around. My vision of “required” and Blizzard’s must be very different. What is the difference between these two scenarios:
- A long talent tree with several +heal and +crit talents used to get deeper in the tree
- A short talent tree with the same path, those +heal and +crit talents are given automatically as you spend more points
Nothing…for an experienced player, and I think that’s where a lot commentators are going wrong whenever they evaluate everything that is coming in Cataclysm.
Cataclysm is not so much an expansion, but a revamping of the game’s core systems. Technically it will be WoW 4.0, but as far as the mechanics of the game are concerned, this is a different game than the one you picked up off the shelves back in 2004. As different as Rugby and American Football.
This expansion wasn’t made for you.
It was made for the guy on the other side of your cubicle wall that hasn’t yet purchased a WoW subscription. For those of us that have been playing the game for 4+ years, all of these changes seem innocuous, boring, ‘meh’ whatever adjective you want throw out, but to a new player each talent point really does matter. The problem comes with the fact that we were told we would have some choices to make. The choice for resto shamans ends up being 1 talent point and whether I want to top off Ancestral Swiftness, Improved Shields, or Ancestral Awakening (or maybe Nature’s Blessing if you aren’t doing a lot of tank healing).
That’s our customization. Instead of giving us more tools to pick from, we had some taken from us. Tidal Force wasn’t that great of an ability (everyone just macros it in with NS), but it was removed and replaced with nothing. Filling out my new Cataclysm build took me all of 10 seconds, but it should for me. I’m an experienced player that’s been playing my spec for over 2 years and have spent a lot of time spec’ing into resto and studying the talents. I also have the added benefit of playing a healing class where spec’ing and gearing is fairly straight forward. In the back of my mind I was hoping, optimistically, that I would need to make more sacrifices.
Still no word about Spirit Link. Still nothing new for Restoration Shamans to play with.
Whenever you start talking about class changes coming in Cataclysm, the discussion immediately shifts to “…when leveling…” and “…but for new players…”. I guess that’s all well and good for the longevity of the game, but the only thing that’s keeping current players interested is more of the same: new zones, a few more levels, new dungeons, new abilities.
Setting up your character, for the first time in MMO history, involves no decision making. If you want to play an Enhancement Shaman in Cataclysm, you can do it and make absolutely no wrong choices. Is that a good thing? Do we want it to be that simple? Maybe we do and I’m just thinking as Old Man Borsk instead of Hipster Borsk.
There are different ways you can make talent trees, but lunch is never free in game design. You will never please everyone.
Short, Single path, 1 correct
The Cataclysm Way. Straight-forward, simple for new players. Old players feel like it’s a bit of the same, but just less talent points.
Long, Multiple path, 1 correct, several wrong
Pre-Cataclysm. A well made spec reflects a player with experience or one that knows where to find the information. Typically they are honed based on a gear set or “flavor of the month.” Lots of pit-falls and “ha ha” talents.
Long, Multiple paths, All correct
Too hard to balance and design properly.
The WoW designers have chosen to move the decision back to the character select screen. It is at this point where you have your choice of 10 classes and 30 total specs. Once chosen, you level and gain power. But what is the point of having a talent tree if all I’m doing is spending points straight down the tree exactly like everyone else? Can’t the game just ask me at level 10 what spec I want to play and then fill out the tree for me? Instead of revolutionizing the system, the designers have accepted that cookie cutter specs exist and just gave everyone the cookie cutter build as their only choice.
This raises a lot of philosophical gaming topics, but the one truism that is being hard-coded into everyone is this: There are two choices in RPGS, correct and incorrect. There aren’t multiple correct ways to play a spec. For DPS the choice is more stark. Flavor of the month (Mutilate vs. Combat, Fire vs. Arcane) will always exist for them.
Maybe I’m just jealous.