A Mixed Bag

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Now it is time for me to finally sit down and write the post I have largely been avoiding writing since Thursday.  For those that have been living under a rock this week, or otherwise disconnected from the internet…  Thursday was the time at which Blizzard broke with tradition and announced a new World of Warcraft expansion at a convention other than Blizzcon.  For awhile now I had made the comment that if they had a shot in hell at keeping players interested… they could not afford to wait until November to announce what was coming down the pipe.  Looking at the convention calendar the only slot that really made sense was either GamesCom or Pax Prime…  and since they were planning a significant presence at GamesCom that was my theoretical choice.  The truth is while I said this… I never actually expected it to happy until last week when they actually verified that was the case by posting the moment the announcement would happen.  Thankfully for me it happened over my lunch hour and I freely admit I went into this announcement with a bunch of emotional hype.  Deep down inside of me there is still a player that hopes someday for World of Warcraft to turn into the game I really want to play.  You can’t be engaged in a decade long relationship with a game without having some glimmer of hope.

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A few days ahead of the announcement I posted my list of “serious” predictions… that in truth only had one valid prediction.  After watching the final cinematic for Warlords of Draenor, there was literally only one place this expansion could go.  We were going to be taking on the Burning Legion in a new invasion of Azeroth, and sure enough as the teaser rolled and showed our old buddy Gul’dan pulling another of our old friend Illidan out of some kind of green crystal prison… it pretty much set the tone of the show for me.  At face value the idea of a Burning Legion expansion is pretty cool, but it also has a very “repeating history” feel to it.  In truth this entire expansion is a tapestry of cobbled together ideas left on the cutting room floor from previous games that lore fanatics have been begging for.  We are going to get to see the remainder of the Broken Isles and the Tomb of Sageras as well as finally finding out what is going on in the Emerald Dream.  These are all awesome components on their own…  but just because I love Peanut Butter and I also love Alfredo Sauce…  doesn’t necessarily mean that putting the two together is going to be even more awesome.  I am in this strange place because as much as I did not want to play a “Dances with Orcs” expansion… the Warlords reveal gave me all manner of warm fuzzies up and down my spine in spite of not really wanting them.  This reveal on the other hand, had all of these elements that I should love… but left me not really feeling anything but skepticism.

Demon Hunters

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The biggest feature of the expansion is that we are adding another Hero Class to the game, meaning that they will start somewhere between 95 and 100 according to further elaboration in a similar manner to how Deathknights did in Wrath of the Lich King.  This is a class that I have wanted so badly since I first knew there was going to be a World of Warcraft.  Illidan Stormrage is quite literally the only Elf in the Warcraft universe that I like, in part because he looks badass and runs around with the Twinblades of Azzinoth.  It seems that there is going to be a tank option as well for the class… which should make me even more excited to play them.  I admit the whole angry half demonic tattoo’d elf thing largely works for me, and I’ve always thought the blind fold thing looked badass.  I just feel like I should be more excited than I am about it.

Melee Hunters

I have images of me that I have posted her tanking Scarlet Monastery on my Hunter back in Vanilla.  For better or worse I spent a significant amount of my time meleeing as Hunter, in part because I was frankly too cheap to restock bullets constantly.  When I ground out the faction with the Firbolgs… I did pretty much all of it with a two-handed weapon and my pet.  Is it wrong that the announcement that Hunters are actually getting a melee spec was the point at which I have gotten the most excited for this expansion?  It seems that Beastmastery is going to work pretty much how it works today, and that Marksmanship is going to be losing the pet but essentially getting Lone Wolf like buffs.  The problem has always been that survival did not feel sufficiently different from the other trees other than the reliance on traps.  Now apparently Survival will be up close and personal in melee range while still keeping the pet, which makes it sound a lot like the Beastmaster soul in Rift.  For a long while that was my dps soul of choice, because it let me run around beating on things… while having a really cool cat pet at my side.  This might seriously be the best news for me personally in the expansion, because I love the idea of a hunter…  I just never really enjoyed being ranged dps.

Class Order Halls

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This is another really cool idea, but one that I am deeply skeptical.  Essentially the plan is to create special areas that only members of a specific class can go to.  Inside of it will be the givers of specific class based quests, and a whole new follower system that allows you to go out on adventures with fledgeling members of your class order.  All of this sounds pretty kick ass because I loved Archerus as a Deathknight, and having a specific area I could go to just for my class.  The problem there is that it never really became a “hub” for players, and as Blizzard has moved on past Wrath it progressively became a bigger and bigger pain in the ass to have to keep going back there to Runeforge new weapons.  My biggest fear however is that in WoW 8.0 this will become yet another awesome idea that has been relegated to the dustbin just like the Halfhill Farm, and soon to be Garrison and Shipyard.  The WoW team is exceptionally bad at creating constructs that will leave on with the game past a single expansion.  One of my key frustrations with the game is that it is a series of loosely connected disposable content packs rather than one seamless living and breathing world.  While Class Order Halls might be fun for an expansion, I full expect they are already planning on the next new thing to replace them.

Artifact Weapons

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Apparently the Relic Weapon quest from Final Fantasy XIV is coming to World of Warcraft, but they are taking it further.  If I am reading an interview correctly it sounds like there simply won’t be weapon drops in the Legion expansion at all.  This is honestly not a horrible idea at least from a game design perspective because it means that content becomes so much easier to balance.  Upgrading your weapon in any game tends to be the single biggest power boost a player can get, since it has a function…  increasing your damage/healing/survival rather than simply being a random collection of stat boosts.  By assuring that players evolve this power over time through the completion of content, this gives you a measured gauge to scale against rather than somehow trying to make things doable with crappy white quality weapons… but at the same time not an absolute train wreck when done by anyone with epic quality anything.  Again they are making a stab straight at our nostalgia by having us reforge classic weapons from lore.  The example they give is that we will be quite literally collecting the fragments of Frostmourne and reforging them into a new weapon.  I have to admit this sounds badass…  but the problem once again is… this sounds like a system that they will be all too happy to abandon come 8.0.  If they promised that from this point out, we will be able to keep upgrading our weapons with ever more intricate designs and quests backing them up… then I would probably be extremely amped.  I just lack the faith that this is going to be something that will be around for awhile.

It Could be Awesome

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I freely admit that the raw material of this expansion that was announced on Thursday could end up making an extremely awesome expansion.  The problem being that I just do not have faith any longer that Blizzard will create a game that I want to play for the long term.  I absolutely enjoy playing each expansion and leveling through the content.  I fully expect that I will purchase Legion when it launches and enjoy myself while leveling a few characters.  The problem is that the game doesn’t have enough that I want to do once I have gotten three characters to the new level cap.  Three seems to always be the number, it was the case in all of the recent WoW expansions, and was the case in Rift and SWTOR.  Once I have seen the content that third time… I am just done with it for the time being and ready to move on and do something else.  The systems that are there just are not sticky enough to keep me logging in on a daily basis, and the majority of my time in Warlords was spent logging in for ten minutes to fiddle with my Garrison and then logging right back out.  Now they hinted that they are trying to come up with reasons for us to run dungeons even after we have hit the level cap… and I look forward to seeing more detail on this one.  That was ultimately the thing that kept me going in Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King and the thing that ultimately felt pointless in most of the expansions since.  It honestly feels like they are trying to borrow some ideas from Final Fantasy XIV… which is absolutely a good thing… pending they actually took the time to understand why those ideas work in that game.  Right now I have zero faith…  but there is a tiny fire in side of me that wants to be in love with Azeroth again.  So here is hoping as we move closer to the likely Q2 2016 launch window that something will rekindle that fire.

Myth of Melee Hunter

Long Weekend

Most of this week I have been recovering from whatever flu like respiratory crap I managed to catch along side my wife’s flu.  So now that it is Friday, I have to say I am more than ready for it.  I have been crashing suspiciously early each night, or at least early for me.  Last night it was around 10 pm, and the night before closer to 9.  Granted some of that time was laying in bed watching Netflix, but resting nonetheless.  So when I realized I was heading straight for a three day weekend, I was absolutely pumped.  Not that we have any major plans, but just stringing three days in a row is a pretty glorious thing.

Yesterday during a back and forth on twitter with MMOGC, we both talked about our proclivity for playing melee characters.  For me at least if there is a melee option, I will be playing whatever it is.  My 90s to date…  Blood/Frost Deathknight, Protection/Arms Warrior, Protection/Retribution Paladin, Enhancement Shaman (second spec doesn’t really matter here), Combat Rogue, and the icing on the cake…  Feral/Guardian Druid.  Hell I even consider my Discipline Priest to be “tanky”.  Essentially if there is a tank option I will be doing that, and if there is not I will at least be doing melee in some form of another.  I am woefully predictable in my likes and dislikes when it comes to games.

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I have made this admission before in the past, but I was a melee hunter.  Granted at the time I didn’t realize that survival was NOT a viable melee spec… since back in vanilla it did actually boost your melee damage.  More than that however it was a thing I WANTED to work.  Something about ranged dps just bores me, and on the converse something about standing toe to toe against the boss exhilarates me.  The above is a picture of me playing Lodin, my first real main in World of Warcraft.  My love of the WoW Hunter… initially started as my love of the D&D Ranger.  In D&D I played two things the Dual Wield Melee Ranger, and the Mace and Board Melee Cleric.  When I came into wow I tried to create both of these with limited success in the form of a Survival Hunter and a Protection Paladin.

I love the mechanics of the hunter when it comes to taming pets.  This was the real thing that kept me playing the class for most of vanilla… that and I got sucked into a raid group that needed hunters.  As some point I tired of standing back and firing at things, so midway through Vanilla I began transitioning to Belghast my tanky warrior.  But I never really gave up hope that someday, somehow being a dual wield hunter would be a viable thing.  While leveling and raiding… I was always far more interested in a nifty polearm or twohanded weapon dropping that could viably be identified as “for hunters” than any of the available ranged options.  However I still count getting my Dragonbreath Hand Cannon as one of my greatest raiding moments.  Thanks to getting this awesome drop… I never actually finished the hunter epic.

The Beastmaster

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Funny thing is… there is a game that has a melee pet class that could in theory be termed the “melee hunter”.  The Beastmaster soul in Rift for the Warrior class was essentially a pure melee dps class that also had a pet.  It was one of those specs that I really used to enjoy dpsing in, when the pet was actually behaving.  The problem is that Rift pets are boring.  As a beastmaster you got a large cat… and despite them changing the graphic of it… it is still the same boring pet every single time.  The piece of the hunter that I always found interesting was the ability to switch between pets depending on the situation and your present mood.  If you got bored of a pet, you could run off into the world and tame a new favorite.

So static pet is a major strike against the Beastmaster soul, but in Storm Legion they took another big one.  They essentially transitioned the spec from being a very soloable melee dps, to being pure support.  If you have only played World of Warcraft, then you are used to the holy trinity Tank, DPS, and Healer.  However several other games like City of Heroes, Everquest and Rift to name a few off the top of my head… had a fourth role of Support.  These classes buffed the party in some way or provided some critical crowd control mechanic that overall made the fights go smoother.  With Storm Legion they moved the Beastmaster into one of these roles, and while it is probably my favorite support class next to the Rogue’s Bard soul…  it became something that you just really could not solo as.

Yes I Know I’m Crazy

Yup the sub heading says it all… I realize that this request is crazy.  I realize that Blizzard will never give me a melee hunter.  All that said it doesn’t make me want it any less.  While I am not going to go to the lengths that some players have gone… when I play Lodin I still want to get up close and melee things down.  Initially I think I thought it was just my way of keeping from paying for bullets, but now that bullets are a thing of the past…  I realize I just wanted to get up close and person with the mobs.  For the most part I know that each and every one of my ranged characters will be something I did just to say I had one at 90.  Once I have finished with my Discipline Priest I will likely cycle back around to Lodin and finish leveling him to 90.  However it won’t ever be a beloved character until I can bash stuff in the face with a mighty hunter polearm.