Beta Build: 126.96.36.19942
– New features
– Low level class abilities or traits
– General impression of starting areas (no specific lore)
With my beta key firmly in hand, and the client downloaded and installed (after 38 hours), a lot of my leveling now is done in the beta rather than the live, and it’s most likely going to stay that way. I don’t want to leave the blog hanging or go off in another direction with it, so I’m going to keep right on blogging about leveling, just with a Cataclysm touch in mind instead.
I’m going to stay away from spoilers as far as the game itself goes, but I am going to talk about new abilities, where you get them, how you get them, and so on and so forth. There will be some small spoilers in relation to those topics, so if you don’t even want to know what abilities are changing and such, then you’ll probably want to ignore me for a couple more months until it comes out live. I’ve said it since Cataclysm was revealed to us in BlizzCon 2009, that it will launch in November and I still believe that that is true.
Each post that I make in relation to Cataclysm prior to its actual launch will have a disclaimer at the top noting which type of spoilers (if any) you’ll find in the post, along with the beta build number associated with the information in the post.
For this post I’m going to talk about leveling for all of the races and classes up to level 10, just to give you an idea of how they’re going to feel coming right out of the box.
General Changes: Game Features and User Interface
I’m going to talk about some of the new game features in this part which might be considered as spoilers for some people. If you don’t even want to risk having something spoiled, then skip down to the Races section. If you want to skip this part, be sure you don’t look at bold words and such, just keep on looking for the green text to note a new section. For the rest of you, on we go.
Mailboxes: This is one of my favorite changes to the starting zones in Cataclysm. Every race starts with a mailbox in their starter zone. No more having to run to the nearest town to grab your minipets or the gear/gold that you mailed to the new toons, now you can just grab it all a few seconds after the character is created. The same hold true for most of the towns in the game actually.
Flight Paths: Ever been to Goldshire? Brill? Dolanar? Razor Hill? They’ve all got flight paths now. Have you ever seen a small little village out in the middle of nowhere? Well chances are, there’s a flight path there now. With level 60+ characters being able to fly in the old world, low level characters can get a taste of that now by having flight paths strewn out all over the place. Most zones have up to four different flight paths in them now, making it much easier to get around to the various places you need to go. We might have been walking to quests, in the snow, fighting mobs, uphill both ways for the last few years, but the world is moving ahead now. Some of you are going to hate that, but some of you are going to love it. Personally, I’m a big fan.
Profession Trainers: A sweet new addition to the game, which I hope isn’t just a part of the beta, is generalized profession trainers. These are NPC’s that you can talk to and learn about all of the professions in the game. After deciding whether you want gathering or crafting professions you get a lits of all the ones that fit into that category. If you ask about any of them in particular then most of the time you can then train that profession from the same person. If there is a local profession trainer of the one you’re asking about then sometimes you will not be able to train from the general profession trainer and will instead have to go to the nearby specialist. In the 20-something toons that I’ve rolled so far, all but three of them have been able to get both of their professions from a single, general professions trainer. The other three had to go to the specific trainers for what I wanted them to do.
Glyph Vendors: Glyph vendors are something that I hope really are just a part of the beta. There are vendors in Dalaran for each class that will sell you all (or most) of the glyphs for your class for just over 3 silver each. If they make it to the live, then I hope you aren’t planning on making much money from Inscription, because you’re about to be undercut hardcore by vendors with an unlimited supply. Learn all of your glyphs from the glyph vendor because you can now change your glyphs in and out on the fly. It’s not quite as easy as it seems, but at the same time it is. The catch could be a bit of a spoiler, so I’ll leave it out, but glyphs can be swapped out on the fly in Cataclysm.
Power Auras: There’s an in game version of the popular Power Auras addon, though with very little in the way of settings. Certain abilities that you get, such as an Arcane Missile proc for a Mage or an Eclipse Proc for a Druid, will cause certain graphical images or icons to show up on your screen to let you know that the buff or proc is available to you. If you use Power Auras then it’s a familiar feature that you’ll probably like (other than having no control over the look or position of it), but if you’re not then you’ll either love it or hate it depending on your own preference. I like that it’s been included, but because you can’t customize it I hope to still be able to use the addon instead of the UI and hopefully we get some way to turn the default UI’s auras off. Spells related to these auras also have their associated button on your action bars light up to let you know which abilities are related to the given proc and image.
Heads Up Display: Another cool feature, especially for leveling and questing, is that all important NPCs and mobs will show their names above their heads even from a distance so that you know you’re supposed to interact with them. If you need to kill boars, then all of the boars that count for that quest will have their names show up above their heads in the color of text associated with their attitude towards you. If they’re neutral then the names will be yellow, while aggressive mobs will have their names in red and friendly NPC’s will show theirs in green. It’s great for helping you know where to go and what you need to do. 1
I want to talk about the general feel of each of the races’ starting areas. I’m not going to include screen shots here since this is my first post on Cataclysm content, and I’m going to try not to spoil too much in the way of story as I strive to leave out all of the major details. The point here is to just give you a general idea of how it feels and how much or in what ways I did or did not enjoy it.
(A)Human: The human starting area did get some changes to it in the beta, both in how it looks and what quests you do. Blizzard did a wonderful job of bringing quest givers to a more easily accessible area and the quest flow is a bit better than it was. The new quests are all enjoyable and did a good job of filling me in on “new” lore as well as set the stage for what’s coming as we continue on in the story. You’ll get a feel for the changes you can expect in the world from this zone as we’re bringing the War back to Warcraft.
(A)Dwarf: The dwarf area got a few changes as well, but only a few. Quests are just a touch more streamlined so that it flows better, but overall it’s mostly the same as it was. A couple of mobs in the final cave were bugged when I went in there with my Shaman, resulting in my death five times over before I managed to complete the quest. You’ll learn real quick in the Dwarf starting zone that mobs are just dinky little loot piñatas for us to beat on anymore, so you better keep your wits about you. This area will give you a good feel of what to expect from mobs as you level, as almost everything has a special ability now. The most important lesson you learn from the Dwarves though, is to never trust a Gnome. Ever.
(A)Gnome: If you don’t already know that the Gnomes get a new starting area, then you must have been living under a rock or not playing the game during the last year. It’s all new so there isn’t a whole lot I can say about it that wouldn’t be spoiler material. Lets just say that overall I enjoy it, but it’s a big enough change that I probably need to go through it another time or two before I can solidify my opinion on it. I did enjoy it though.
(A)Night Elf: The Night Elf starting zone is almost entirely unchanged, which was disappointing for me because I’ve been through it so many times that I was hoping for something new. There are a few changes here and there, but they’re small ones. There’s nothing wrong with the area or the quests, I was just hoping for more change than we got.
(A)Draenei: Blizzard told us that they weren’t going to make very many changes to any of the content that came out in Burning Crusade or Wrath of the Lich King, and they weren’t lying. And when I say they weren’t lying, I mean they didn’t change a flipping thing. The graphics have been updated and sharpened up a bit, but otherwise it’s business as usual. When I read that they weren’t planning on changing BC content, I was thinking Outlands, not racial starting areas. I’m not going to lie to you, I was more than disappointed that there was nothing new for the spacegoats.
(A)Worgen: Another completely new starting zone for us. I was surprised at how much of the Worgen starting zone revolves around rich lore and kill quests. The vast majority of the Worgen quests starting out are kill quests, actually, so you get started at a fast pace right from the start. I had a lot of fun doing this with the two Worgen that I’ve leveled so far, and now that I can actually see water effects I’m looking forward to leveling a third. The Worgen area is a perfect example of phasing as you’ll see it implemented in Cataclysm.
(H)Orc: Orcs also remain largely the same as they were before starting out. Most of your quests are the same or similar, but with a little difference in the text as to why you’re doing those quests or what they achieve. One thing you’re going to learn from the Orcs early on is to not stand in the bad. As I mentioned up above, mobs have abilities now and they aren’t afraid to use them. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, so they’re starting young with this next batch of players on not standing in the bad.
(H)Troll: The troll starting area is another completely new zone for us. The Echo Isles exist in the current game, but they aren’t at all like what they’re going to become. Quests and lore are both very good here and I actually have a lot of fun playing through this area. I’ve had a few problems with bugs here and there, but for the most part it’s an excellent new zone and for the first time in a very, very long time I’m actually enjoying the troll race. It’s a good place to learn about social agro as well as new mob abilities.
(H)Undead: The Undead have been my favorite race since I first started playing, and in many ways they still are. Quests are a fair mix of old and new very similar to the Humans. Again, you’ll get more lore information that’s related to the overall story rather than a small little piece that you see locally and then never see again.
(H)Tauren: The Tauren area has always been my most hated. I hate leveling cows right now and a huge part of that is their starting zone. Cataclysm came along and did me a huge favor though by changing almost everything in the zone. Expect completely new quests here and a lot of cool features that actually make their starting zone one of my favorites in the beta. There’s a good lesson to be learned in this zone about being careless with what you do as some of your actions can cause a neutral mob to want to kill you.
(H)Blood Elf: Blood Elves are just like the Draenei. Being Burning Crusade material, they receive no changes in Cataclysm other than the obligatory change to graphics. One of those graphics is a useful change I suppose as two types of mobs that you need to kill for a quest that used to look very similar can now be told apart from a distance without having to mouse over them. And just like the Draenei, I was very disappointed that nothing had changed with the Blood Elves besides a few minor changes to graphics here and there.
(H)Goblin: I was very surprised to see the Goblin area centered around social/gathering quests. There’s almost no combat at all in the whole starting zone. At the very least, it’s a fun zone to level in with a lot of cool things to see that make the goblins really stand out from other races. The lore you get is focused mostly on the race, similar to the Worgen area, but there’s more to it as well. There’s currently a bug that prevents you from finishing the last quest, so my goblins are all stuck at level 6.
In talking about the classes here, I’m not going to go over all of the changes to them, and I’m not going to get into a whole lot of detail. What I want to do here is give you a general idea of how the class plays, how I felt about it’s strengths or weaknesses, and some of the changes that really jumped out at me from my experience with the class in the live game. Character copies from live have been a long time coming, so I’ve been leveling nothing but lowbs over and over, and have now experienced every race’s starting zone, and have raised almost every class to at least level 10.
I just barely managed to get some of my characters transferred over to the Beta servers, so I haven’t had a chance to roll a Death Knight just yet, but I’m almost positive that their leveling experience will be exactly the same as it was in Wrath. You can’t roll a Death Knight without a level 55+ character on any server, and beta servers are separate from live servers, so I didn’t qualify until last night.
Druid: You still start out as a Balance Druid whether you like it or not with nothing but Wrath to your name. Luckily, Wrath actually deals some decent damage and has a fairly low mana cost so there’s not much downtime and you kill things fairly quickly. At level 8 you do finally have an option for leveling as you get Cat Form which is a huge boost to your killing speed and survivability. You get a familiar buff in Thorns, but don’t just carelessly cast that sucker, because it’s been changed quite a bit (hint: it used to last 10 minutes, now it lasts 20 seconds). Read up on that one before you cast it. Balance and Feral are both great for leveling in Cataclysm, but I haven’t given Restoration a shot yet. Balance and Feral both get a lot more tools to work with at level 10, especially Balance, so be prepared to no longer be bored with getting through the low levels.
Hunter: If ever there was such a thing as being over powered, Hunter was its name. Hunters can dish out some serious hate right from the start with their new Focus mechanic. The Focus can come back and bite you in the butt though if you don’t take the time to get used to it. You’re sort of like a double barreled shotgun, where you can do a lot of damage real quick, but after that initial big burst you have to “reload” as you use abilities to restore your Focus if you burn through it too fast. I’ve tried all three of the Hunter specs since they’re so easy to level, and all three of them do very well. Agility is a huge factor in their throughput though, as you’ll notice you kill mobs very quick with a Night Elf (highest starting Agility available) compared to relative slowness with a Tauren (lowest starting Agility available).
Mage: Low level Mages change a lot more than I had expected them to because of the Arcane Missile spell. Instead of being a regular spell, it’s now a proc with a 40% chance to activate from any damaging spell, that deals damage without a mana cost. It’s a really cool mana-saving feature, but it completely throws off any form of rotation you’ve ever used as a Mage because it will proc regardless of your spec, and even Arcane Mages can only use it when it procs. Other than that Mages are largely the same as they currently are on the live servers.
Paladin: Paladins are without a doubt the single most boring class to level in the live version of the game, and so far they’ve done a reasonable job of solving that problem. The new Holy Power mechanic doesn’t have an application until you reach level 9 and get a healing spell that uses it, but you do have abilities that you can actually use in combat from level 1 which make it more enjoyable to play. Prot Paladins become very powerful at level 10, and I haven’t tried either of the other two specs yet to judge them though I expect both to be much more enjoyable than they’ve been in the past.
Priest: Priests are similar to Mages in that they did not change very much in how they play. In fact, they’ve changed even less than Mages did, though they do considerably higher damage once you reach level 10 than they do right now in live. The only Priest I’ve bothered with so far in live is Shadow, and I like how it plays up to this point. Unfortunately for Psynexxia, my Gnome Priest, the starting zones were bugged when I was leveling her so she’s not yet reached level 10, but I did do a couple of quests with a level 10 Shadow Priest and have seen some definite improvement in their performance.
Rogue: Rogues seem to do a lot more damage right out of the box than they do in live. I’m not sure if that’s really how it is or if that’s just how it seems after just having leveled a Rogue in live. You don’t see a whole lot of change in how the Rogue plays other than a lot of your spells being available at completely different levels than they were before. While leveling in live a Rogue is often squishy and can be killed easily, I found my Orc Rogue in beta to be extremely durable and strong. So far Subtlety is the only spec I’ve tried, but I’m eager to give both Assassination and Combat a try very soon.
Shaman: Shamans get a nice buff to their combat performance from a new melee attack spell that you get early on. Similar to the Druid, I haven’t tried Restoration leveling out just yet, but both Enhancement and Elemental are exceptionally good at leveling, especially once you reach level 10. Elemental has surprisingly jumped out at me as a very strong spec to play which may become my preferred method, and Enhancement no longer has to wait for 40 levels before they feel like they actually get to play their spec as it should be which makes it very appealing as well.
Warlock: Warlocks get a fairly big change to their style, but we don’t see the impact of that very much in the first 10 levels. For the most part the play style is almost exactly what it is in the live version, except that we lose control of our demon until level 10. Both of the Warlocks that I’ve rolled so far are trapped in bugged starting zones and haven’t gotten past level 6, so I’m going to reroll yet another one so that I can actually progress with a race that I know for sure is working. It could be that I’m influenced by my experience with my Warlock in live, but I’ve found the Warlock to be very good at handling multiple mobs at once even at low levels in the beta, and I’ve noticed that the Imp hits noticeably harder than he does in live right now, so leveling should be at least somewhat easier, regardless of your chosen spec.
Warrior: Warriors are another class that plays very similar to their live version. The main difference is that Heroic Strike has changes from an “on next swing” attack to one that happens when you activate the ability, so it’s a little faster and easier to kill mobs early on. I haven’t gotten the Warrior high enough yet to determine how well Rage generates in beta as opposed to live, but for the most part I’m finding it to be a pretty decent balance in beta where I’m not always starved, but I’m not always full either, so there’s a pretty nice balance right now. That will probably change as I get further in my leveling, but for right now it feels like it flows pretty good.