I started playing World of Warcraft back in the summer of 2006 after graduating from high school and starting a minimum wage job, so I could afford the subscription. Believe it or not it was my wife (at that time, my girlfriend) who got me hooked on it, not the other way around. I had played in the beta for it but when it released, I never picked it up. Fast forward 6 years, I've been WoW-free for about a year, and a beta code lands in my lap. Of course, I had to start it up. I had the intention of reminding myself of why I'd stopped playing, laughing at the new Pandaran race. 'Lo and behold, I think I might be hooked again. Here's a couple changes in mechanics and systems that have me interested in the new expansion.
The biggest things that have attracted me to the latest expansion is the revamp of specializations and talent system. For as long as World of Warcraft has been released, there have been 3 different talent trees for each class that allowed you to craft a unique character. Recently they moved to allowing a player to select a specialization based on those talent trees and progress into that tree before branching into others. This allowed for a mild revamp that allowed a new player to ease their way into the game. But in my opinion, it wasn't enough to create unique characters as many players chose the 'cookie cutter' build for their class that offered the best damage or healing. Tanks really suffered in this because there was usually only one tree that allowed them to tank. With this new expansion, players select a specialization at level 10 as before but the different talent trees are gone. Instead you have a selection of three talents every 15 levels.
|Clockwise from Top Left: Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Mists of Pandaria|
As you can see, this greatly reduces the number of talents that a player has to pick from and also provides a 'cool' talent to pick from each time instead of boring ones that increase damage of this spell or that ability by 1% for each point you put into it. Each set of 3 talents fit to a theme like a defensive cooldown, a damage ability, or a short-term buff, ensuring that no matter what you pick, it will be just as effective as the other two. With the narrowing of the talent system, it also gives the designers less knobs to turn to balance out classes so there should be less of a roller-coaster of 'nerf rogues!' and 'buff rogues!'.
Looking For Raid (LFR) is also getting some nice changes that are making me interested in getting back into raiding again. While it's already released in the live version of WoW, Mists of Pandaria is changing the loot system. Instead of making bosses drop a set amount of loot that must be rolled on, each player will now have a 5% chance to get loot based on their class and specialization. As of publishing this post, there's no protection to keep you from getting loot you already have and you're not able to trade this gear with other members of the LFR. This is to discourage potential social drama of "I already have this piece, give me that one" behavior and to ensure that players continue to use the system instead of quickly getting all the gear they need and then calling it quits after a few lucky runs.
Primarily, what these two changes mean, at least to me, is that Blizzard hasn't given up on trying to balance and tweak the game to perfection. I'm one of the first people to pick at World of Warcraft, especially over balancing between PvE and PvP, but they've not given up on providing quality content, even if they drop the ball on some things here and there. While I'm still waiting to see what happened to the Ebon Blade faction, and though Blizzard did say they wouldn't ever put Pandaren in WoW, the Mists of Pandaria is looking better and better. I'll be posting more based on my experiences in the beta and perhaps into release.