With the World of Warcraft: Legion alpha now four months old and counting, and with no sign of officially named “beta” yet present, there have still been a massive number of changes to the build since our last report. We’ll take a look at one of the most significant updates to Legion’s alpha in today’s column.
Get Ready for Something New
While the World of Warcraft: Legion alpha -- well, technically it’s still called that, though the servers say beta but that’s just nitpicking -- has introduced testers to a lot of new features, zones, the Demon Hunter and some of the lore behind the expansion, those things pale in comparison to the new way of playing that most will encounter both in PvE and in PvP. Blizzard is heavily invested in pruning the skills of every class to both make them simpler, or at least least less micromanagement-oriented, and to fit in the version of the “fantasy” that developers envision for each class and spec.
While there is no question that the number of abilities that players currently have access to for any given spec are mind-boggling and that many skills see use only rarely, there are some that have become embedded in player rotations over the years. In addition, Blizzard has felt that too many skills are cross specialization within a class so that there is little to differentiate them from each other.
From a recent blue post on the Battle.Net forums, we get a look inside the minds of those who make the decisions regarding Legion’s ability pruning:
Along the way, we made what I'll freely admit were design mistakes. The underlying one was probably just committing to adding X new abilities each expansion even when many classes genuinely were complete and functional packages without any need for that many new abilities. But then more specifically, coming up with fun and desirable new abilities is hard, and a bit too often we turned to the easy path of looking for a class's weaknesses and offering solutions to those weaknesses. Paladins lack mobility when Freedom isn't up? Let's give them them an array of passive and active sprints to choose among. Shamans don't really have CC? Let's give them Hex, a stun, and a root. And so forth.
Subjectively, removing those things now feels like a nerf, and objectively, it essentially is one. But in the context of broader CC and cooldown disarmament, it's not coming at the expense of balance. And offering new tools, especially through the PvP talent system, that can accentuate strengths, seems like a better path than continually shoring up weaknesses at the expense of diversity.
For example, I primarily play a Blood Death Knight but have made broad use of Remorseless Winter as my only reliable cc that inflicts minimal damage, but gives me a bit of a break when surrounding enemies are frozen for a few seconds. Because of the cross over use and, to be honest, more appropriate placement of RW for Frost Death Knights, the ability is being removed from Blood Death Knights. As a result, my BDK has now lost her only cc ability. Again, this is not to say it’s a bad thing, just something that will take getting used to when Legion launches and this is just one example for a single class and spec.